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Sports in Society: Issues & Controversies. Chapter 11 Sports and the Economy: What Are the Characteristics of Commercial Sports?. Conditions for Emergence & Growth of Commercial Sports. A market economy Large, densely populated cities

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Sports in society issues controversies

Sports in Society:Issues & Controversies

Chapter 11

Sports and the Economy:

What Are the Characteristics

of Commercial Sports?

Conditions for emergence growth of commercial sports
Conditions for Emergence & Growth of Commercial Sports

  • A market economy

  • Large, densely populated cities

  • People who have time, money, transportation, & media access

  • Large amounts of capital

  • Culture emphasizing consumption and material status symbols

Class relations and commercial sports
Class Relations and Commercial Sports

The preferences and priorities of people with power and wealth often influence which sports are commercialized – for example:

  • Golf is enjoyed by wealthy and powerful; it receives much TV coverage despite low ratings

  • Football reproduces an ideology that privileges men & celebrates masculinity

Why have sports become so popular in society today
Why have sports become so popular in society today?

  • The quest for excitement

  • Emphasis on success ideology

  • Widespread organized, competitive youth sports

  • Widespread media coverage

Economic motives and the globalization of commercial sports
Economic Motives and the Globalization of Commercial Sports

  • Sport organizations look for global markets

    • FIFA, the NFL, the NBA, etc. seek global media exposure and expansion

  • Corporations use sports as vehicles for global expansion

    • One goal is to make money

    • Another goal is to sponsor enjoyment and pleasure to establish ideological outposts in the minds of people around the world

Sports in society issues controversies

Figure 11.1 CEOs and owners often play games that ignore athletes

Ideological outposts in action branding sports
Ideological Outposts in Action: Branding Sports

  • Sport places have been branded

  • Sport events have been branded

  • Athletes have been branded

    -Corporate branding is now accepted by many people as necessary, non-political, even “natural”

    Question: Isn’t that sure sign of outposts in action?

Commercialization and changes in sports
Commercialization and Changes in Sports

Changes may occur in the:

  • Structure and goals of sports

  • Orientations of athletes, coaches, and sponsors

  • Organizations that sponsor and control sports

Changes in structure and goals
Changes in Structure and Goals

Rule changes are made to make action more exciting, understandable, and profitable by

  • Speeding up action

  • Increasing scores and scoring chances

  • Balancing competition

  • Maximizing dramatic moments

  • Providing commercial breaks

    GOAL: Total Entertainment Experience

The origins of heroic action in sports
The Origins of the right kind?Heroic Action in Sports

Commercial sports are ENTERTAINMENT

  • Commercial entertainment depends on attracting a mass audience

  • Members of a mass audience lack technical knowledge about a sport

  • Entertaining people without technical knowledge requires heroic action actions

Commercial sports involve a shift from aesthetic to heroic orientations

Aesthetic the right kind?


Beauty and pleasure of movement

Emphasis on mastery of technical skills

Willingness to explore limits

Commitment to staying involved



Danger & excitement of movement

Emphasis on style & dramatic expression

Willingness to go beyond limits

Commitment to success of sponsor

Commercial Sports Involve A Shift From Aesthetic to Heroic Orientations

The promotional culture of professional wrestling
The Promotional Culture entertain a mass audienceof Professional Wrestling

  • Events are dramatic spectacles

  • Players display carefully constructed personas

  • Emphasis is on heroic action

  • Storylines are simple; they emphasize domination, gender differences, & capricious bosses

Spectator appeal in sports depends on
Spectator Appeal in Sports Depends on: entertain a mass audience

  • The uncertainty of an event’s outcome

  • The stakes associated with an event

  • The anticipated display of excellence, heroics, or dramatic displays by participants

Sport organizations
Sport Organizations entertain a mass audience

With commercialization:

  • Control shifts away from athletes; decisions are less likely to reflect their interests

  • Control shifts toward owners, corporate sponsors, advertisers, media personnel, marketing & publicity staff, professional management staff, accountants, & agents

    • Athletes accept the decisions of these people, because their financial interests are at stake

Owners sponsors promoters of professional sports
Owners, Sponsors, & Promoters entertain a mass audienceof Professional Sports

When the diversity of professional sports is taken into consideration:

  • Owners are a diversified collection of people – usually white men.

  • Profits may be great in leagues where monopoly control and TV revenues are high; but losses may be great under other conditions.

Advantages of monopoly
Advantages of Monopoly entertain a mass audience

Team owners in the major men’s pro sports have established monopolies enabling them to:

  • Control athlete movement

  • Negotiate high media rights fees

  • Prevent the formation of new teams

  • Share revenues

Forms of public assistance for team owners
Forms of Public Assistance entertain a mass audiencefor Team Owners

  • Use of public funds to construct and maintain facilities

  • Deduction loopholes to use on tax returns

  • Tax breaks and rebates

  • Control of revenues in public facilities

Stadium subsidies arguments for
Stadium Subsidies: entertain a mass audienceArguments For

  • A stadium and team create jobs

  • Stadium construction infuses money into the local economy

  • Team will attract other businesses

  • Team will attract media attention that boosts tourism, product sales and economic development

  • Team will create positive psychic and social benefits

Stadium subsidies arguments against
Stadium Subsidies: entertain a mass audienceArguments Against

  • Stadium jobs are seasonal and low paying except for athletes & execs

  • Construction materials often are purchased outside the local area

  • New businesses often are franchises headquartered in other cities

  • Discretionary money is limited and may be shifted away from other businesses

  • Promoting macho orientations does not benefit everyone in a community

Sources of income for team owners
Sources of Income entertain a mass audiencefor Team Owners

  • Gate receipts/ticket sales

  • Sale of media rights (TV/radio)

  • Stadium revenues

    • Leases on club seats and luxury boxes

    • Concessions/parking/leasing spaces to others

    • Sale of naming rights and site advertising

    • Special events/concerts/meetings

  • Licensing fees and merchandise sales

Sports in society issues controversies

Figure 11.5 entertain a mass audience

New stadiums resemble shopping malls.

Amateur sports
Amateur Sports entertain a mass audience

  • Are self-funded and dependent on corporate sponsors, or funded through a central government sports authority

  • Are controlled by organizations with an interest in two things:

    • Power

    • Money

Legal status of athletes in pro team sports
Legal Status of Athletes entertain a mass audiencein Pro Team Sports

  • Forms of the “reserve system” have been used to restrict the freedom of athletes to play where they wish

  • Players’ associations and unions have challenged this system and struggled for “free agency”

    • Free agency has been achieved to varying degrees in major team sports

    • Labor rights for athletes in minor sports are limited

Legal status of athletes in individual sports
Legal Status of Athletes entertain a mass audiencein Individual Sports

  • Varies greatly from sport to sport and athlete to athlete

  • Status often depends on what athletes must do to support their training and competition

  • Status may be partially protected by professional associations formed by the athletes

Income team sports
Income: Team Sports entertain a mass audience

  • The large majority of pro athletes make limited income

  • The super-contracts and mega-salaries of a few athletes have distorted popular ideas about athlete income

  • Income among top athletes has risen recently because

    • Legal status and rights have improved

    • League revenues have increased

Sports in society issues controversies

Professional athletes in the major men’s spectator sports did not earn exceptionally high salaries until after 1976 when they could become “free agents” and sell their skills to the highest bidding team. In 1950 an average NBA player was only slightly more than the median U.S. family income; in 2004 it was 84 times higher than the median US family income! At the same time, the average salary of a WNBA player was nearly two thousand dollars lower than the median family income.

Sports in society issues controversies

Athletes salaries don’t affect ticket prices; owners charge whatever people will pay for tickets regardless of what they pay athletes.


“I make $20 million a year, and I don’t feel guilty!”

Income individual sports
Income: Individual Sports charge whatever people will pay for tickets regardless of what they pay athletes.

  • Many athletes do not make enough to pay expenses

  • There are increasing disparities between top money winners and other athletes

  • Top male heavyweight boxers have traditionally made the most money

    • Question: does this mean that athletes are rewarded for reaffirming certain ideologies?

Amateur athletes
Amateur Athletes charge whatever people will pay for tickets regardless of what they pay athletes.

  • Rights depend on the governing bodies that control various sports

  • Income depends on

    • The rules of governing bodies

    • Endorsements that vary with celebrity status and corporate interest

  • Most intercollegiate athletes in the U.S. are controlled by the NCAA; they have few rights

Sports in society issues controversies

Tickets for NFL and Notre Dame games cost the same, but college players make a fraction of what the NFL players make