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International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

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Back issue   Volume 12   Number 1   October 2010

Research opportunity beyond the elite

In our original call for papers we included a quote from US President Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech. The credit, Roosevelt said, belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly. We agree. It is the participant who matters, and not the spectator or critic.

Major marathons such as those in New York City, London, Berlin and Paris draw tens of thousands of male and female competitors and participants. For those wanting to run even further, the Comrades Marathon (89km) in South Africa caps entries now at 18,000. Ironman, the ultra-distance length triathlon, has 22 events in 13 countries and draws more than 2,000 people for some events, with entry fees exceeding US$600. The International Cycling Union (UCI) Golden Bike Series has six events in six different countries, allowing the recreational rider to cover distances ranging from 40 to several hundred kilometres in large fields. Finally, here in New Zealand, over the past several years we have witnessed the creation and development of the national Ocean Swim Series, with some events seeing 2,000 swimmers compete. Modern sports events are not just characterised by small numbers of highly paid individuals watched by millions: there are also the millions of people who participate.

We do wish to emphasise, however, that mass participation not only means large numbers but also open to all. Within the US, the State Games multisport festivals, following the Olympic Games format, draw several thousand competitors on a state-by-state basis, with events ranging from arm wrestling and ballroom dancing to football and water polo. These festivals are not limited to the US - the World Masters Games, Gay Games and Special Olympics operate at international level. In each case the opportunity to compete or participate allows individuals to engage in their own dreams and aspirations, be they grounded in reality or Walter Mitty-like in nature.

For many of these sports, and possibly for most sports created before the 20th century, the participants were the focus, not the spectator. James Naismith invented basketball as a means of providing an athletic distraction. Webb Ellis’s healthy disregard for the rules of football was an athlete’s effort to make a game more interesting to play, not to watch. Sports were designed for athletes, not spectators. It just so happened that some sports were also spectator and television friendly.

With such vast numbers of participants, and some willing to spend thousands of dollars in entry fees and travel expenses, it remains somewhat surprising that existing research on events is dominated by studies of spectators at elite sports events (e.g. the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Cups in rugby and football, Super Bowl) or spectators of annual recurring seasons (e.g. NFL, English Premier League). The purpose of this special edition is to promote research on participants in non-elite events, what Roosevelt might have referred to as the athletes in the arena, had he lived in today’s society. Our specific concern is that sports marketing researchers are seduced both by the mediated glitter of elite sporting events and the convenience factor of these sporting spectacles and thereby neglect events that are all about bums in the event, rather than bums on seats or bums on living room sofas. The five articles in this special edition offer a preliminary glimpse into non-elite events from a variety of perspectives. We encourage both academics and practitioners to further explore these types of events and activities. Professor Michel Desbordes, Editor

Development of the mass participation Ocean Swim Series in New Zealand: Interview with Scott Rice, Director, Quantum Events Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand
Paper 1
Measuring attendance: issues and implications for estimating the impact of free-to-view sports events
Larissa Davies , Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Richard Coleman, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Girish Ramchandani, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
A feature of many non-elite sports events, especially those conducted in public places, is that they are free-to-view. The article focuses on the methodological issue of estimating spectator attendance at free-to-view events and the consequences for impact evaluation. Using empirical data from three case studies, the article outlines various approaches to measuring attendance and discusses the key issues and implications for evaluating free-to-view sports events.
Paper 2
The hidden benefits of non-elite mass participation sports events: an economic perspective
Richard Coleman , Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Girish Ramchandani, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
This paper examines the hidden financial benefits that non-elite events are capable of delivering for host cities. The paper provides examples of how mass participation (and other non-elite) events can generate substantial economic impacts comparable to and, in some cases greater than, those associated with elite events. The cost-effectiveness of mass participation events is discussed relative to major elite sports events,
Paper 3
Event image perceptions among active and passive sports tourists at marathon races
Kirstin Hallmann, University of Cologne, Germany
Kyriaki Kaplanidou, University of Florida, USA
Christoph Breuer, University of Cologne, Germany
Sports events are tourist attractions and their image components can relate to the destination image concept and structure. This study examined sports event images held by active and passive sports tourists at four marathon races in Germany. Some differences in the perception of event images were found for active and passive sports tourists as well as for different types of destinations. For active sports tourists, emotional, physical and organisational image associations were clustered closer. For passive sports tourists, social and historical image associations were clustered closer. The type of destination elicited different event images among active and passive sports tourists.
Paper 4
The role of gratitude in sponsorship: the case of participant sports
Yu Kyoum Kim, Florida State University, USA
Robert Smith, Florida State University, USA
Jeffrey D. James, Florida State University, USA
This paper proposes a framework that focuses on instilling feelings of gratitude within consumers. Participant sports events are often funded largely by sponsorship revenues, and their consumer base is considered to represent an identifiably unique market. These conditions are argued to be favourable for integrating a gratitude framework. A model is presented that depicts gratitude as a mediating mechanism within a reciprocal relationship between the sponsor and the consumers. It includes purchase intentions as the behavioural outcome of gratitude. The findings suggest that incorporating feelings of gratitude may prove to be advantageous for potential sponsors within the participant sports industry.
Paper 5
Marketing murderball: the influence of spectator motivation factors on sports consumption behaviours of wheelchair rugby spectators
Kevin K Byon, University of Georgia, USA
Michael Cottingham II, University of Southern Mississippi, USA
Michael S. Carroll, University of Southern Mississippi, USA
This study examines the relationship between spectator motivation and sports consumption behaviours in the context of an adaptive sport. Respondents were spectators from five matches held in the Midwest United States involving registered United States Quad Rugby Association teams. The Motivation Scale for Sport Consumption (MSSC; Trail & James, 2001) was adapted to measure spectator motivation and predict repatronage intentions and online media consumption among wheelchair rugby spectators. Results indicated that two spectator motivation factors, physical skill and knowledge, were related to repatronage intentions. In addition, knowledge and vicarious achievement were found to be related to online media consumption.
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