Social Responsibility in Sport: What is it worth?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Conference Track

Sport Marketing

Publication Date



Many critics of sport are quick to point out issues resulting from excessive financial competition among college and professional sport organizations. The primary criticism is that most sport organizations strive for profit maximization too often at the expense of the greater good of society (Smith & Westerbeek, 2007). To this end, Zeigler (2007) states the sport industry “is obviously charging ahead, driven by a capitalistic economic theory that overemphasizes ever-increasing gate receipts” (p. 298). He further argues the sport industry is “structured by the nature of society” (Zeigler, 2007, p. 303); therefore, a reciprocal relationship exists in which sport organizations are obligated to give back to society the so-called “good” that is received. In the world of corporate business, this realm of action is called corporate social responsibility. Over the years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a catchall phrase for several different types of altruistic actions. As a result, different claims of CSR activities in the business sector make it hard to ascertain CSR’s true impact on society. Meanwhile, the worth of CSR programs to the participating organizations has recently come into question, as many believe the resulting benefits from such programs do not exceed the costs involved. Much of the current debate over CSR efforts is focused on the question raised by organizations that focus on long-term strategies with CSR activities in mind: “Is it worth it?” This research contributes to this debate by analyzing the extant literature on CSR and shedding light on the various approaches organizations use to evaluate CSR programs. The findings show that CSR is best evaluated by focusing our understanding of the term using four theoretical approaches: (a) economical, (b) political, (c) social, and (d) ethical. Brief assessments of these approaches are made in terms of CSR’s worth to the sport organization, and an integrated framework of the four theoretical approaches to CSR is proposed.

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