Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

The Superstar Effect in 100-Meter Tournaments

Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

The Superstar Effect in 100-Meter Tournaments

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


At major track and field events, footrace events are typically set up as multiple-stage tournaments with runners advancing according to relative performance. The winner of the tournament is also determined by competing in a rank-order competition in the final stage. As is well known in economic theory, and recently described in Brown (2011), rank-order tournaments with heterogeneous competitors work best when the competitors are relatively equal in abilities. If an extremely high-ability competitor (superstar) is present, then other competitors might reduce their efforts.1 Alternatively, the presence of the superstar could induce competitors to put forth greater effort. Competitors might also pursue more risky strategies in the presence of a superstar because this is the only option for winning. Also, given the high probabil- ity of losing in the presence of a superstar, a more risky strategy may not substantial- ly increase the probability of losing the competition.

If the presence of a superstar does decrease the effort from competitors, then the use of a rank-order tournament might be suboptimal in certain cases. Brown (2011) uses data from the Professional Golf Association (PGA) to examine the performance of golfers in tournaments with the presence of Tiger Woods. She finds that, on average, golfers shoot higher scores (perform worse) in tournaments with Tiger Woods. She also finds that the adverse superstar effect is greater for higher-ability competitors rel- ative to the effect for lower-ability competitors. Tanaka and Ishino (2012) also consid- er the presence of a superstar in golf. Using data from the Japan Golf Tour, Tanaka and Ishino (2012) find that the presence of Jumbo Ozaki is related to worse scores from competitors.

Other investigations have also found that superstars have significant impacts. Matthews, Sommers, and Peschiera (2007) investigated the impact of Karrie Webb on performance during the 2000 season of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), when she won 6 out of 16 tournaments that she entered. In their baseline model, Matthews, Sommers, and Peschiera (2007) found a positive relationship between the financial prize and player scores. However, during tournaments where Karrie Webb was not present, the relationship between financial prize and perform- ance was negative. This was taken as evidence that the presence of a superstar alters the incentives and performance of competitors. While not directly a test of superstars, Sunde (2009) found that more heterogeneity between competitors decreases effort in professional tennis tournaments.

In addition to superstars, other work has investigated the role of non-superstar peers on performance. Hill (forthcoming) examined the relationship between tournament structure, peers, and performance using data on the major 5000-meter IAAF events from 2001-2011. Hill (forthcoming) finds that an individual runner's ability is the most consistent predictor of performance and qualification, but a runner's times are positively affected by the abilities of runners within their heats as well as the abilities of runners competing in the other heat. This is in contrast to Guryan, Kroft, and Notowidigdo (2009), who found that a playing partner's performance has very little impact on a player's own performance in professional golf tournaments. Brown (2011) found that peers do matter, as the results in her paper show that golfers consistently perform better (shoot lower scores) in tournaments with higher quality peers.2

Research on tournament theory has also investigated the relationship that tourna- ment structure has on a competitor's behavior, including effort and performance. Syzmanski (2003) reviews much of the research on tournament theory (building on Lazear & Rosen, 1981) and how the research has evolved into applying the concepts to questions of sports economics. Much of the work on tournament design in sporting contests has been concerned with the relationship between the prize structure of the contest and participants' efforts. …

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