Corporate sports hospitality (CSH) is a relationship marketing tool whereby customers and other stakeholders are invited by a company buying CSH from a club to attend a sports event. The CSH product involves premium seating and optional services such as catering. This industry has been perceived to be in decline, especially in times of economic downturn. The purposes of this paper are a quantification of the CSH industry’s value and the development of a formal CSH management process for both companies and clubs.
A case study from the highest division in Belgian football (soccer) is conducted, involving interviews and quantitative data collection as the primary data source, in addition to secondary data and insights from the literature. As opposed to literature, this paper uses a holistic approach, combining the perspective of the club and the CSH buying company with attention for customers.
CSH returns account for an important share of club revenues (>10%), despite the smaller market compared to the American major sports leagues. Since a club experiences the strongest competitive impact from substitutes and other clubs in the league, and CSH is often managed on an ad hoc base, disposing of a formal management process is crucial for both clubs and companies. For companies buying CSH, not only return on investment but also return on other objectives matters. Moreover, CSH is at least as effective to deepen existing business relationships as to create new ones.
The paper provides clubs and companies with a theoretic background and practical key performance indicators (KPIs) to base their managerial decisions on. Although external validity to other Belgian venue-based sports can reasonably be assumed, translating the findings to other countries or non-venue based sports requires caution.
Little academic research about the CSH industry is available. Specific KPIs to define objectives and measure output, as well as feedback loops for clubs and companies, are developed. The proposed CSH management process follows the same high-level steps, but with different specific actions per actor, leading to a better understanding of similarities and differences of both processes, and a better co-creation of the CSH event.
First, the authors would like to thank the people and companies who participated in this research and the clubs who showed us around in their facilities, also on match days. They also thank all participants and speakers at the CSH colloquium at the University of Antwerp in June 2017 for their valuable input. A special word of thanks goes to Nikolas Andries (Panama Events), the sponsor of this event. Finally, the authors are very grateful to Tom Vermeire, Wilfried Parys, Patrick De Pelsmacker, Editor Wesley Johnston and three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions to improve previous versions of this paper. All remaining errors are the authors’.
Balliauw, M., Verlinden, T., De Croocq, L., Fobe, A. and Van Den Spiegel, T. (2020), "A strategic managerial approach to corporate sports hospitality: the case of Belgian football", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 61-75. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-06-2018-0200
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