Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Perceived Corporate Social Responsibility and Donor Behavior in College Athletics: The Mediating Effects of Trust and Commitment

Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Perceived Corporate Social Responsibility and Donor Behavior in College Athletics: The Mediating Effects of Trust and Commitment

Article excerpt


"It is for a great cause and is a reminder to our fans and alums that we need to help those less fortunate and give back to our communities..."

-Jim Johnson, MIAA commissioner

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an important marketing and communication activity for organizations around the world. CSR is believed to create a significant and positive impact on the image and long-term success of sport organizations (Becker-Olsen et al., 2006). Davis and Blomstrom (1975) define CSR as "the managerial obligation to take action to protect and improve both the welfare of society as a whole and the interest of organizations" (p. 6). CSR is a significant theme underpinning moral, financial, and ethical judg- ments of corporate activity (Lockett et al., 2006; Windsor, 2006). CSR begins where the law ends, and a firm is not being socially responsible if it merely com- plies with the requirements of the law (Davis, 1973). CSR implies bringing corporate behavior up to a level where it is congruent with the prevailing social norms and values of corporate performance (Sethi, 1975).

In response to the expectation for social responsibili- ty, many sport organizations, including college athletic programs, have implemented CSR activities over the past decade (Babiak & Wolfe, 2009). Additionally, most professional sport teams have even fostered CSR participation through their charitable foundations (Babiak & Wolfe, 2009). Various levels of CSR activi- ties have been implemented within the sport industry. For example, at the league level, CSR activities include a wide range of activities such as the National Basketball Association's "NBA Cares" initiative and Major League Baseball's "Reviving Baseball in the Inner City" (RBI) program to support social causes. Additionally, teams/franchises have their own CSR programs focused on the connection between the team and the local community (e.g., Rays Baseball Foundation). Many athletes also take part in CSR pro- grams, or encourage others to participate, by donating through their own foundations (Kott, 2005; e.g., Annika Foundation, Peyton Manning's PeyBack Foundation). According to Porter and Kramer (2006), CSR activities should be viewed as building shared value rather than as a PR campaign. Four prevailing justifications for CSR include moral obligation, sus- tainability, license to operate, and reputation. To link corporate social responsibility and competitive advan- tage, an organization should identify the particular set of societal problems that it is best equipped to help resolve and from which it can gain the greatest com- petitive benefit.

The enhancement of positive image and reputation through well-planned CSR activities is equally impor- tant for organizations such as college athletic depart- ments. Many college athletic programs currently utilize various types of CSR activities to (re)build positive images of the organizations among key stakeholders, particularly donors. In fact, college athletics have multi- ple levels of CSR activities that involve numerous initia- tives. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has the Achieving Coaching Excellence Program. This initiative promotes racial and ethnic diversity in the coaching ranks of the NCAA (NCAA, 2011). The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association launched multiple food drives as part of their philanthropic efforts (Moses, 2010). Additionally, student athletes participate in CSR initiatives available in their local communities. For example, they volunteer for summer reading programs and food drives, and work with law enforcements to educate youth delinquency.

Researchers across multiple academic disciplines have attempted to measure the effects of implementing CSR activities. Marketing researchers have provided empirical support for the benefits CSR creates, such as enhanced organizational perceptions (Brown & Dacin, 1997; Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001), brand image, and purchase behavior (Becker-Olsen, Cudmore, & Hill, 2006; Luo & Bhattacharya, 2006). …

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