Internet Sports Marketing and Competitive Advantage for Professional Sports Clubs: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice
Evans, Daniel M., Smith, Aaron C. T., International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship
This research identifies internet-based opportunities for developing competitive marketing advantages and provides recommendations for the use of the internet in sports marketing. A telephone-administered survey, constructed from an instrument developed by Sethi and King (1994), Caskey (1998) and salient literature, was employed. All 55 clubs participating in Australia's four largest professional sporting leagues formed the sample, with an 87% participation rate achieved. Results lead to several practical recommendations for professional sporting organisations seeking to improve their internet marketing opportunities.
This study attempts to build on previous research and literature in the field of internet sports marketing and offers some insights for international sports managers attempting to build competitive advantage through the medium. Previous research, expert opinion and results compiled by Caskey (1998) reveal seven themes linked to effective internet marketing and strategy: leadership, perceptions of online commerce, assimilation theory, internet strategy and planning, internet project teams, partnerships and alliances, and online communities. These themes have substantial empirical foundations, and provide suggestive theoretical strategies for sports organisations attempting to optimise the advantages they receive through the internet. The paper initially attempts to identify any gaps between these seven empirically derived theories of internet marketing 'best practice', and the activities of Australian professional sports clubs.
The paper subsequently seeks to provide practical recommendations for bridging any identified gaps. To assist in this endeavour, and in an attempt to assess the universal applicability of the results, where possible the data were compared to other available results. The research undertaken by Caskey (1998) and published by Caskey & Delpy (1999) was considered an excellent vehicle for this purpose. In achieving these goals, the paper endeavours to clarify the practical implications for sports organisations hoping to capitalise upon the marketing opportunities afforded by the internet.
The questionnaire employed in this study comprised measures from Sethi & King's (1994) tool "competitive advantage provided by an information technology application" (CAPITA), and was complemented by four questions from Caskey (1998). In addition, seven new questions based on this study's literature review were included. The resulting questionnaire was therefore considered an ideal synergy of extensively tested IT measures, a previous empirical study and relevant literature principles suited to the differentiated environment of this study's population.
Having selected the 55 teams competing in the Australian Football League (AFL), National Basketball League (NBL), National Rugby League (NRL) and National Soccer League (NSL) as the research population and sample, the 87% participation rate (N=48) was highly satisfactory.
Five recommendations stemming from this study are considered: the importance of online commerce information to sports marketers; the need to review organisational internet goals; the emergence of assimilation opportunities; the heightened value of internet forum's given the sports industries' 'peculiar economies"; and the critical nature of online communities in the marketing and sponsorship of sport.
The clear existence of variations between the practices of Australian professional sports organisations and both their US counterparts and the literature highlights the need to refine internet marketing strategy and practices worldwide.
Australia is widely admired for both its sporting culture and its remarkable international success. Despite this success, Australian professional sports clubs are no further removed from ruthless corporate pressure than the wider business community. …