Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The New Role of Sports: The Use of Sport in Place Branding Activity of the Local Government of Debrecen (Hungary)

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

The New Role of Sports: The Use of Sport in Place Branding Activity of the Local Government of Debrecen (Hungary)

Article excerpt


Beginning in the 1980s, in the United States and later on also in the Western part of Europe as well, there has been a gradual transformation in the attitude of the mainly municipal local authorities, which happened on two levels. On the one hand, local authorities started to put more emphasis on the environmental issues, the processes taking place there, as well as the analysing the influence of these on the future. On the other hand, while before the 1980s local authorities considered the development of services and infrastructure, as well as the control and regulation of the development generated by them as their main tasks, from about this time they started to realise that they should take more of an initiative in shaping the future of the area they are in charge of (Leitner, 1990).

Researchers in the field of urban and regional policy and development also turned their attention toward these changes, and because many elements of the new activity resembled the traditional marketing of consumer products, they started to talk about the "selling" and "marketing" of geographical units. By the end of the decade, certain authors (e.g. (Ashworth & Voogd, 1987) talked about geographical marketing, while the expression "place marketing" becoming much better established widespread in the English-speaking world. This term refers to marketing activities pursued by certain areas, and thus it includes the marketing activities pursued by of settlements, counties, regions and even counties countries, but it means more than just these activities of the local authorities, as it also covers the measures taken in this respect by other stakeholders, such as representatives of the private sector, local residents, etc. From late 1990s on, the keyword "place branding" started to appear with increasing frequency in the writings of researchers (e.g. Anholt, 2007; Kavaratzis, 2005; Moilanen & Rainisto, 2009), which is due to the fact that they began to realise the significance of "image" as a factor influencing the decisions of both potential and existing target groups.

While engaging in their place branding activity, i.e. the creation of a powerful and coherent place brand, local authorities concentrate on different areas (such as culture or medical tourism), sports being one of the possibilities that can be put in the centre. While this statement may sound somewhat surprising at first (since one may ask why we should spend on sports when other areas such as education, transportation or social services suffer from major financial problems), it can be supported with the following arguments (Gratton, Shibli & Coleman, 2005; Jun & Lee, 2007; Maenning, & du Plessis, 2009; Rosentraub, & Joo, 2009):

- sports events create a significant and direct economic revenue;

- if they leave with positive impressions, participants of sports events (e.g. athletes, spectators) may later return to the given settlement as tourists;

- the media interest that accompanies sports events is capable of giving the settlement much visibility ("putting it on the map") very quickly, which may be important in raising the interest of tourists and investors alike;

- infrastructural developments related to sports may contribute to the competitiveness of the city in other fields, such as cultural tourism;

- successful sports events may raise the self-consciousness and add to the pride of the local residents: the emotional link created between participants and spectators symbolises the energy, vitality and strength of an emerging society (e.g., cultural or eco-tourism are not really capable of the same);

- the higher popularity of sports may play a major role in the promotion of healthy lifestyle in society;

- sports may strengthen the link between the private and the public sectors;

- if sports events become more popular, the public usually accepts them better than the other types of events. …

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