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Sport participation from sport events: why it doesn’t happen?

Marijke Taks (School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
B. Chris Green (Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA)
Laura Misener (Western University, London, Canada)
Laurence Chalip (Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 2 October 2017

Issue publication date: 13 March 2018




The purpose of this paper is to present and use an event leveraging framework (ELF) to examine processes and challenges when seeking to leverage a sport event to build sport participation.


The study used an action research approach for which the researchers served as consultants and facilitators for local sports in the context of the International Children’s Games. Initially three sports were selected, and two sports were guided through the full leveraging process. Prior to the event, actions were planned and refined, while researchers kept field notes. Challenges and barriers to implementation were examined through observation immediately prior to and during the event, and through a workshop with stakeholders six weeks after the event, and interviews a year later.


With the exception of a flyer posted on a few cars during the track and field competition, none of the planned action steps was implemented. Barriers included competition and distrust among local sport clubs, exigencies associated with organizing event competitions, the event organizers’ focus on promoting the city rather than its sports, and each club’s insufficient human and physical resources for the task. These barriers were not addressed by local clubs because they expected the event to inspire participation despite their lack of marketing leverage. The lack of action resulted in no discernible impact of the event on sport participation.

Research limitations/implications

Results demonstrate that there are multiple barriers to undertaking the necessary steps to capitalize on an event to build sport participation, even when a well-developed framework is used. Specific steps to overcome the barriers need to be implemented, particularly through partnerships and building capacity for leverage among local sport organizations.


This study presents the ELF, and identifies reasons why sport events fail to live up to their promise to build sport participation. Necessary steps are suggested to redress that failing.



This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada/Sport Canada Research Initiative under Grant No. 862-2010-0006.


Taks, M., Green, B.C., Misener, L. and Chalip, L. (2018), "Sport participation from sport events: why it doesn’t happen?", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 185-198.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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