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Effect of Commercialization on Sporting Events

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 4394 words Published: 6th Oct 2021

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Sponsorship has seen a rapid growth in recent years in both the dollars devoted to it and its prominence as a legitimate element of a company’s promotional mix. As traditional media have become more expensive and cluttered, sponsorship is viewed as a cost-effective alternative. As an element of the promotional mix, sponsorship has been a stepchild when it comes to a careful understanding of how it works and its effect on consumers. While the promotional element of advertising has been carefully researched, sponsorship has rarely undergone systematic study. It is usually mentioned as “war stories” of specific examples which worked well for a company. Discusses the definitional dilemma of sponsorship, and proposes a revised definition. As a step towards better understanding the effects of sponsorship on consumers, develops and empirically tests scales for three attitudinal constructs: attitude towards the event; attitude towards commercialization; and attitude towards behavioural intent. Results show that the three constructs consistently appear across three global sports events.

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The commercialization of sport is not a cultural universal, but a product of unique technical, social, and economic circumstances. Sports in the colonial United States were usually unstructured, spontaneous activities that the participants initiated, coordinated, and managed. Only in the latter part of the 19th century did organized sport cross the ocean from Great Britain and arrive in America. At that time, urbanization forced a large number of people to live in new settings and to abandon traditional leisure activities, which included drinking, carousing, and gambling.The dominant class sought to replace them with activities such as baseball, horseracing, and boxing.

Setting the stage for future commercialization, industry moved to meet the burgeoning desire for organized sports. The most prominent producer of sports equipment was Albert Spaulding. In 1876, he opened the A. G. Spaulding and Brothers Company. Spaulding’s ability to influence the organizers of the various professional sports leagues allowed him to sell his goods and to capture a virtual monopoly on sporting goods by the latter part of the 19th century.But others quickly followed, and by the beginning of the 20th century, began producing their own lines of sports equipment. During the first two decades of the 20th century, the growth in sales of sporting goods and services glittered brighter than ever. Commercial spectator sports attrracted the interest of much of the population. Commercialized sports was one of several male bastions.

However, the by the 1920s,women began to take an interest in both watching sports and participating in sports. Although the commercialization of sports slowed during the Great Depression and World War II, by the early 1950s it had solidly established itself as feature of modern Western culture.

The Commercialization of Sport

The commercialization of sports is that aspect of the sports enterprise that involves the sale, display, or use of sport or some aspect of sport so as to produce income. Some experts prefer the term “commodification of sport” as a label for the same process. Interest in the commercialization of sport has existed for several decades,but only in recent years has the phenomenon has been taken seriously on a larger scale. The first attention came from a small group of critical, mostly leftist writers, who have now been joined by people from all political and social perspectives.

Professional Sports

Professional sports, a big business that has grown rapidly over the last three decades, may be the epitome of commercialization, its influence pervasive throughout. Athletes, support personnel (managers, coaches, officials, media persons, lawyers, and agents), and sports team owners benefit handsomely from the willingness of sports fans to pay to watch their favorite sports and to purchase the commodities endorsed by sports personalities. Hundreds of professional athletes earn well over $1 million a year. Before 1977, $1 million contracts did not exist.By 1994 there were well over 200 professional athletes who earned salaries in excess of $1 million. In 1990, reported average 1989 salaries for athletes in four different professional sports stood at $577,200 in the National Basketball Association, $490,000 in the national baseball leagues, $212,000 in the National Football League, and $156,000 in the National Hockey League.Forbes’s 1994 list of the top-earning athletes included basketball stars Michael Jordan at $30 million and Shaquille O’Neal at $17 million, golfers Jack Nicklaus at $15 million and Arnold Palmer at $14 million, and boxers Micheal Moore and Evander Holyfield at $12 million each. In most cases, athletes’ endorsements make up over 90 percent of their earnings. Owners of professional sports franchises are some of the wealthiest people in the world. They continue to make large profits from their sports teams. In the United States there are about 110 professional sports franchises, including football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. The combined revenues of these four sports leagues equaled $5.1 billion in 1993. In addition to the money from gate receipts and television revenues, owners realize profits through the buying and selling of franchises. Sports franchises are very profitable shortand long-term investments. For example, the Dallas Cowboys football team was purchased for $600,000 in 1960. In 1989 the team sold for $140 million. The profits for the players, owners, and other associates of professional sports come from various sources. One source, the fares paid at the gates for the opportunity to see one’s favorite professional players or teams, continues to increase. By 1998, with good seats, $3 hot dogs, and $15 parking fees, it costs over $200 for a family of four to go to National League Football and National Basketball Association games.

Olympic Games

The ideal of the modern Olympic Games stands in stark opposition to the commercialism of sports.However, many commentators have argued that this idealism has been compromised to the point that the Olympics is currently the epitome of commercialism. In the early part of the 20th century 98 percent of the Games’ amateur competitors made no money from their participation. In contrast, today’s Olympic athletes are far from amateurs. The International Olympic Committee recognized the inevitable creep of commercialism and professionalism, and instead of requiring participants to be amateurs they merely ask that participants have an “amateur spirit.”

The Games have also come under criticism because of the movement toward corporate sponsorship.While most Olympic administrators recognize the need for support from the private sector, there is concern about how much help and control should be exchanged.Private enterprises that range from soft drink producers to automobile companies compete to be an official sponsor of the games. For example Coca-Cola paid $22 million for the guarantee that no competitive soft drinks be allowed to display the Olympic symbol for the Seoul Games.

Intercollegiate Sports

Sports at the university and college level, many argue, are big-time entertainment businesses, not collections of students striving merely to achieve physical,mental, and moral health.Over the past 140 years, student control has been replaced,and the commercial aspect of the activities has grown immensely.Many universities have athletic budgets in excess of $12 million, football bowl games generate $30 million for the teams, teams for the men’s intercollegiate basketball championships earn $1.37 million, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association has annual profits of approximately $9 million.

Mass Media

The mass media have been linked to the commercialization of sports. They exist in a symbiotic relationship with sports, each benefiting greatly from the other. Sports employs all forms of the mass media.Books and magazines that specialize in particular sports are published regularly. Newspapers often devote up to onethird of their nonadvertising space to sports coverage. Radio stations all over the country have changed their menu to include 24-hour coverage of sports. However, television has affected sports most profoundly. Television and sports are involved in a relationship in which the economic stakes are very high. Television contracts for the coverage of professional, Olympic, and college events reach billions of dollars. The return on the investment by the major television networks is just as impressive.

Television has altered individual sports in the effort to accommodate larger viewing audiences. In some sports, additional time-outs have been implemented to allow for more commercials. In tennis, the rules regarding play-offs have been changed to allow matches to fit into prescribed schedules. The scheduling of events in the Olympic Games has been modified not to provide athletes with the optimum conditions for peak athletic performances, but to allow large audiences in the United States to view events at more convenient times.


A rise in gambling on sporting events has been an indirect consequence of these phenomena.Great Britain and Las Vegas permit some legal gambling. However, it is likely that more money is bet on sports illegally.According to McPherson, Americans lose an estimated $200 million on sports bets annually.The link between sports and gambling is complex. For example, the profits from legalized gambling are often used to build sports facilities and to operate many youth sports programs.

How advertising impacts the purity of sports

The commercialization of sport has evolved over decades, from the 1950’s advertisements of athletes pitching shaving cream to the multi-million dollar shoe endorsement deals of today. Much like other aspects of capitalism, when a profit is to be gained by promoting a consumer product, sport is not exempt from commercialization. However, even when adjustments for inflation are figured, the astonishingly lucrative field of sport commercialization has become a staple of product promotion and corporate gains.

Beginning as early in life as Little League. youngsters are conditioned by advertising to employ the “popular” brand, those promoted by their favorite athlete or the ones that have national name recognition. These products are imprinted onto the fabric of society as acceptable, via mass commercialization in the structure and implementation of ad campaigns pinpointed at target audiences. Nothing is left to chance in promotion of sport products, consumer research is exactly that, and is approached as a scientific study with definitive direction aimed toward advantageous financial result.

The commercial sponsorship of collegiate athletics is easily one of the most important features of a profitable college athletic department. Without shoe and uniform deals, many colleges and universities would need to suspend sports that are an economic liability, those which do not have large gate revenue or television contracts. An example of this would be a Division I College Football powerhouse that has a number of lucrative endorsement deals. The Football Team revenues generated by commercialization of the sport supports the Womens Lacrosse Team, the volleyball team, and other sports lower in popularity. So at the minimum, all college sports are commercialized by association.

On the level of professional sports, commercialization of sport is undoubtedly the most profitable, for both the advertiser and the fan. Without advertising support, professional sports would not have progressed to the number of franchises present today, and their financial stability would be questionable on an individual basis. NASCAR has taken the commercialization of sport to new levels of unabashed sport profiteering, with race cars that have become 200 mile per hour rolling billboards.

The prevalence of the number and quality of sports on television is directly attributable to the commercialization of sport. Without commercial sponsorship, fans would not be able to follow favored sports as closely as they desire, and at least in this aspect, the commercialization of sport has benefited society in providing entertainment. The question for sports purists may be, at what cost?

Effect Of Media On Sports

influence of mass media on sport :   Influences of Mass Media in Sport When communication is spread not just between two individuals but rather between tens of millions of people it is known as mass media. Mass media is known as the central nervous system of society. “Mass media has many different purposes, such as providing information, entertaining, persuading and also by carrying a vague general function of culture to millions of people. In order for mass media to exist, there must be an audience. Today’s society is very selective; each receiver reacts differently through his or her own experience and orientation according to mass media. Therefore, mass media exists in many different forms such as magazines, television, newspapers, internet, motion pictures, and even plays. Some examples of these forms of mass media are cosmopolitan magazine for young modern women and TSN television network for sports fans. With such extreme varieties of mass media existing in today

Commercialization And Media In Sports

Sports have exploded across the globe in every aspect to the game.   The author says that commercial sports have become global in scope for two reasons.   First, those who control, sponsor, and promote them seek new ways to expand markets and maximize profits.   Second, transnational corporations with production and distribution operations in multiple countries can use sports as vehicles for introducing their products and services around the world.   Many professional organizations now have games played in other countries and their merchandise is sold all over the globe.   Kids that have never even seen a professional American sport on television can own a Chicago Bulls shirt, I believe that this shows how powerful sports can be.   Commercialization has also given many different people the chance to fulfill their dreams, without the sponsors covering many costs some people will not be able to participate in the big events to be noticed.   Players’ salaries have been one of the biggest positive impacts, for players at least, since commercialization has become big.

While there are probably more positive than negative impacts of commercialization in sports, there are still some negatives worth mentioning.   Personally, the biggest negative aspect of commercialization is the craziness of advertising in sports.   Racing is the biggest; you can barely tell the color of some of the cars because of all the decals on the cars.   I believe that advertising and sponsors are necessary, but it gets carried away in some instances.   The author mentions that commercialization changes the ways that sports are controlled.   When sports depend on the revenues they generate, the control center in sport organizations shifts away from the athletes and toward those who have the resources to produce and promote sports.   Players have started to learn that they must answer to the sponsor first.   

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Basic contradiction

The fact is that competitive sports do not create a culture of physical fitness and health. As a prominent Chinese artiste Ai Weiwei has pointed out, despite China’s record 51 gold medals, the country’s health standards especially for children are not up to the mark. Australia has soared to the top of the obesity chart in the world after the Sydney Olympics of 2000. The United States, which leads in the commercialisation of sports and has created a huge sports industry, is notorious for growing obesity and a healthcare system which is beyond the reach of most of the poor people. Michael Moore’s award-winning documentary film Sicko is a vivid indictment of this system.

A recent survey in England has shown that emphasis on competitive sports covers only a few students and leaves out most others who are denied facilities for basic physical exercises which can help achieve health and fitness.

So there is a basic contradiction here. While huge amounts are spent on imparting superlative athletic skills to a minority, the majority is deprived of the most basic amenities to exercise and even breathe fresh air.

Expensive and scandal-ridden

The three Olympic medals and the recent world billiards championship won by Pankaj Advani of Bangalore suggest that India’s best performances are in individual events and that we are severely wanting in games which need team spirit. The Olympic medal tallies in the last several years show that countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) or totalitarian countries are on top. But India, with all the talk about being an emerging superpower, has done worse than poor African and Caribbean countries. Even in cricket, India with all its disproportionate investment in the game has fared poorly and was knocked out of the World Cup at a preliminary stage in 2007. And this in a game played by only a handful of countries in the world, mostly former British colonies.

We need to look afresh at our sports policy. Unfortunately, even the left parties do not seem to have any alternative view of sports. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders in West Bengal show the same fascination for the expensive, time-consuming, scandal-ridden game of cricket and seek to control the Cricket Association of Bengal.

Pumped-up bodies and egos

Ironically, it is the market forces which sponsor cricket that are grabbing the public grounds. Ordinary citizens do not have enough space to breathe, let alone play. Mumbai, India’s most market-dominated city, has 0.03 acre space per 1000 people, the lowest ratio among cities in the world. Even the few available open spaces are grabbed by the clubs of the rich.

In Bandra (east) in Mumbai, citizens have been waging a prolonged battle against the grabbing of a large ground by the MIG Club (which is very upper class, though its name stands for middle income group). The ground is situated in a prime location. At the same time there is a proliferation of gyms — privatised, expensive places for largely macho, narcissistic, artificial body building. The cult of the gym has spread rapidly, fuelled by the equipment industry.

It is an irony that the treadmill, the symbol of monotony which Karl Marx criticised for its deadening impact, is now a status symbol and even corporate offices now have a treadmill if not a full-fledged gym. Actually, some of the machines (if not handled properly) can cause serious injury if not death. George Bush, the US president, carries a treadmill even on his tours.

In the highly competitive sports with high financial stakes, sportspersons — be they cricketers, tennis players, athletes or gymnasts — are forced to stretch their bodies beyond limits. That is why players in their teens require frequent surgery and many have to retire early. Among the most tragic victims are the champion athletes of the former German Democratic Republic who were fed drugs for performance enhancement by government in pursuit of gold medals. The athletes won the medals but at a great cost to their health. Athletes in their 40s now have bones like those of 80-year-olds. Some have got compensation for the damage caused by state-sponsored doping but in the case of several athletes the records have been destroyed and there is little they can do


The sporting events like the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup, the European Champion League and the Tour de France , are becoming even more commercialized then it used to be in the past. Thus, the commercialization of sport is an old and obvious phenomenon . In fact, they are, in particular, a fantastic marketing advertisement opportunity for several companies which have enough money to sponsor this kind of events. Taking into consideration these events, it is likely to say that the sporting industry is a growing area for three reasons.

In the first place, sport is an emotional thing. Hence, it involves everybody. In fact, during the Football World Cup fans feel a great involvement . Furthermore, people supporting a team are completely faithful to it. As a consequence, emotions and sense of attachment generated by sport play such a relevant role in the marketing strategy. Secondly, sport is a good thing because it is extremely important for health and mind and, in fact, sport is advised by every doctor. So, the association of health and sport may be a perfect combination for those companies which, sponsoring a sporting event, want to become more appreciated by the large audience. As a matter of fact, sporting events can change the image of products, thus it may modify the perception of brands in the global audience. In the third place, nowadays, tv advertisement is not effective enough because audience is getting far more fragmented . Because of the variety of audience, it is important to find a way of reaching the mass audience. Sport is one of the few instruments, sometimes the prime, which is able to gather millions people together . For instance, during the Super Bowl in America the average view is 97.5 million fans.

Social Consequences

How does this commercialization affect the individual and society? Proponents of modern sport argue that capitalist systems have made more sports available to more people. They contend, too, that the owners, producers, and distributors of sports are simply responding to the demands of sports consumers. Critics of commercialization reject this view and argue that in reality only a small segment of society-the wealthy-have access to many sports. In addition, some critics also argue that commercialization via television especially has turned sport yet another form of passive entertainment. In addition, it is argued that commercialized sports, when used to display social status, effectively divides society. Finally, critics complain that commercialized sport is another way of defining life in terms of the purchase price rather than an inner sense of meaning and achievement. Despite these criticisms, there is little doubt that sports continues to become more and more commercial and the process is spreading to the non-Western world.

The need for Studying the commercialization critical analysis

Since its formative years sport has had a commercial component to its operation. As early as 590 BC Greek athletes were financially rewarded for an Olympic victory .However, in no previous time period have we seen the type of growth in the commercialization of sport, that we have seen in the last two decades. Today, sport is big business and big businesses are heavily involved in sport. Athletes in the major spectator sports are marketable commodities, sports teams are traded on the stock market, sponsorship rights at major events can cost millions of dollars, network television stations pay large fees to broadcast games, and the merchandising and licensing of sporting goods is a major multi- national business. These trends are not just restricted to professional athletes and events, many of them are equally applicable to the so-called amateur sports.

In some ways parallelling the increased commercialization of sport has been the emergence of academic interest in the business and management of sport. Much of the work in this area, including some of my own, has been concerned directly or indirectly with issues of effectiveness and efficiency and has the implicit or explicit aim of improving managerial practice and the functioning of organizations. From this perspective, sports goods and services are commodities which, like other goods and services, are subject to market forces. The managers of sport organizations are presented as purveyors of rationality and the management of a sport organization is considered to be a socially valuable technical function that is carried out in the general interest of athletes, employers, sponsors, and spectators alike.

However, such approaches do little to challenge the virtue of commercialization and the managerial actions that have portrayed this process as a socially desirable and unproblematic practice. Also, they do little to demonstrate the negative side of this drive towards rationality, or to present new and challenging ways of thinking about the business side of sport. Rather, such uncritical views are actually concerned with the preservation of established privileges and priorities such as maintaining hierarchical control and generating profit. The commercial trends that are occurring in sport are far too important and wide ranging to be accepted unquestioningly and it is here that I would like to think there is a role for the sport sociologist; to challenge some of these practices. While the organizational and managerial changes we have seen take place as sport has increasingly become a form of commercial activity can be enabling and beneficial for sport and sports people, they can also be constraining and, as such, should be the subject of more critical analysis than occurs at present. In this brief paper, I look critically at the use of marketing in voluntary sport organizations. I focus specifically on these organizations not because they are exemplars of marketing practice, but because as governments in many countries have reduced funding for amateur sport, marketing has been presented as the solution to financial problems. I offer a brief critique of this practice and show that while there are certainly benefits to the effective marketing of sport there are also a number of concerns which emerge about its use.


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