The face of sport has changed radically over the last 35 years. What was once just a local Saturday afternoon activity for both participants and spectators now takes place on any night of the week and can be intrastate or interstate, with the fan experience live or mediated. In increasing numbers, supporters are demonstrating their allegiance to sport via the merchandise they buy, the literature they read and the television they watch. Sport in the 2000s is a multifaceted, multimedia industry, with growing appeal to an ever-increasing number of stakeholders and supporters. What was once a clearly defined, stable activity is now a complex technologically oriented and constantly changing industry. This is the environment in which the current generation of sport marketing practitioners must operate.
The sport experience can present a host of problematic consumer preferences for the sport marketer to target—compounded by the fact that sport no longer faces competition merely from within its own ranks. With decreasing amounts of leisure time and discretionary income being judiciously allocated, sport now has to compete for the consumer dollar with a vast array of both sport and non-sport activities. The various branches of the arts, the increasing proclivity toward short-term tourist activities and the growth of passive recreation all provide viable alternatives to the sport experience for the modern consumer. Sport is now just one component—albeit a very important one—of the entertainment milieu.
Given this cluttered environment, sport attracts consumers not through serendipity, but rather through carefully structured planning, creativity and perseverance. Successful sport marketing is the implementation of clearly defined strategies which are rooted in both perspiration and inspiration. The notion 'if we build it they will come' is no longer appropriate. Planning processes are now required that view sport not merely as an athletic endeavour, but as an activity in which multiple individuals and groups can engage.
There is little doubt that sport is changing, both on and off the field. While athletes have become fitter, stronger and faster to cope with the demands of the modern game, the management of sport has, at the same time, become a highly professional endeavour. To facilitate this process, and enhance the expertise of those charged with its effective management, education and training are vital components of the sport environment. Increasingly, both the sport industry and educational institutions have realised that sport can no longer be managed by individuals or groups who do not come equipped with certain skills.