Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Challenges of Producing Popular Sports Contests: A Comparative Study of Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Challenges of Producing Popular Sports Contests: A Comparative Study of Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article analyses how different configurations of stakeholders create opportunities for the production of popular TV sports contests. Based on qualitative methodologies, biathlon and cross-country skiing are used as contrasting cases. The paper concludes that the relative success of the International Biathlon Union is due to a favourable network position in relation to stakeholders. By comparison, the International Ski Federation suffers from a weak position within a dense stakeholder network.

Keywords

International Biathlon Union (IBU)

International Ski Federation (FIS)

stakeholder

events marketing

Executive summary

The aim of this article is to analyse how different configurations of stakeholders create opportunities for the production of popular TV sports contests. The key to financial success is attention in the media, and particularly on TV. In recent years, the competition between sports has grown fiercer and it has become important to identify stakeholder settings that are favourable to producing popular TV sports contests. This paper contributes to existing knowledge by comparing the developments of biathlon and cross-country skiing as TV products.

The paper combines qualitative and quantitative data. The qualitative data is based on two case studies of the respective developments of cross-country skiing and biathlon as media sports. Within each case, central stakeholders such as presidents, board members, athletes and journalists have been identified and interviewed. Various sources of secondhand data, covering consumer surveys, TV ratings and data on TV rights fees were also collected. This served to establish the relative success and development of the two sports.

The international governing bodies for cross-country skiing and biathlon have both tried to increase their sport's popularity among TV viewers. However, the internal processes within the two sports have been different.

Being in possession of the TV rights, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) has had a central role, with freedom to construct a portfolio of contests that the media and TV viewers have found attractive. The athletes and the media have been involved in this innovation process. This has given them and the stakeholders a sense of ownership of new competitions that has been a part of the innovation process.

Cross-country skiing has more established traditions than biathlon as a competitive and a commercial sport. Powerful event organisers with a long history already existed when an official World Cup was launched in 1982. Over the years, the event organisers have developed mature relationships with commercial actors such as the media and sponsors, and they have therefore been unwilling to hand over power to the International Ski Federation (FIS). In contrast to the biathlon, the TV rights for the World Cup competitions are sold by the event organisers, not by the international sport governing body (FIS). This seems to have reduced the ability of the FIS to promote cross-country skiing as effectively as the biathlon is promoted. In addition, interviews with representatives from the FIS and athletes document that the athletes have stood up as powerful stakeholders and resisted innovations in the competition programme. On occasion, athletes have even used boycott threats to have their own way. The paper also reveals that different attitudes between nations within the FIS have had a similar effect.

This paper uses a stakeholder network approach to shed light on the differences between the IBU and the FIS. It concludes that the IBU is in a situation of low density/high centrality, a favourable network position in relation to its stakeholders; the FIS has a position of high density/low centrality and suffers from a weak position within a dense stakeholder network.

Introduction

Sports contests have a number of characteristics that distinguish them from other goods and services. …

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