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Case study
Publication date: 7 June 2021

Muralee Das and Susan Myrden

Resource-based view (RBV) theory (Barney, 1991; Barney and Mackey, 2016; Nagano, 2020) states that a firm’s tangible and intangible resources can represent a sustainable…

Abstract

Theoretical basis

Resource-based view (RBV) theory (Barney, 1991; Barney and Mackey, 2016; Nagano, 2020) states that a firm’s tangible and intangible resources can represent a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA), a long-term competitive advantage that is extremely difficult to duplicate by another firm, when it meets four criteria (i.e. not imitable, are rare, valuable and not substitutable). In the context of this case, we believe there are three sources of SCA to be discussed using RBV – the major league soccer (MLS) team player roster, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to exploit this roster and the league’s single-entity structure: • MLS players: it has been widely acknowledged that a firm’s human resource talent, which includes professional soccer players (Omondi-Ochieng, 2019), can be a source of SCA. For example, from an RBV perspective, a player on the Los Angeles Galaxy roster: > cannot play for any other team in any other league at the same time (not imitable and are rare), > would already be a competitive player, as he is acquired to play in the highest professional league in the country (valuable) and > it would be almost impossible to find a clone player matching his exact talent characteristic (not substitutable) anywhere else. Of course, the roster mix of players must be managed by a capable coach who is able to exploit these resources and win championships (Szymanski et al., 2019). Therefore, it is the strategic human resource or talent management strategies of the professional soccer team roster that will enable a team to have the potential for an SCA (Maqueira et al., 2019). • Technology: technology can also be considered a source of SCA. However, this has been a source of contention. The argument is that technology is accessible to any firm that can afford to purchase it. Logically, any MLS team (or for that matter any professional soccer team) can acquire or build an AI system. For many observers, the only obvious constraint is financial resources. As we discuss in other parts of the case study, there is a fan-based assumption that what transpired in major league baseball (MLB) may repeat in the MLS. The movie Moneyball promoted the use of sabermetrics in baseball when making talent selection (as opposed to relying exclusively on scouts), which has now evolved into the norm of using technology-centered sports analytics across all MLB teams. In short, where is the advantage when every team uses technology for talent management? However, if that is the case, why are the MLB teams continuing to use AI and now the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League are following suit? We believe RBV theorists have already provided early insights: > “the exploitation of physical technology in a firm often involves the use of socially complex firm resources. Several firms may all possess the same physical technology, but only one of these firms may possess the social relations, cultural traditions, etc., to fully exploit this technology to implementing strategies…. and obtain a sustained competitive advantage from exploiting their physical technology more completely than other firms” (Barney, 1991, p. 110). • MLS League Single-Entity Structure: In contrast to other professional soccer leagues, the MLS has one distinct in-built edge – its ownership structure as a single entity, that is as one legal organization. All of the MLS teams are owned by the MLS, but with franchise operators. The centralization of operations provides the MLS with formidable economies of scale such as when investing in AI technologies for teams. Additionally, this ownership structure accords it leverage in negotiations for its inputs such as for player contracts. The MLS is the single employer of all its players, fully paying all salaries except those of the three marquees “designated players.” Collectively, this edge offers the MLS unparalleled fluidity and speed as a league when implementing changes, securing stakeholder buy-ins and adjusting for tailwinds. The “socially complex firm resources” is the unique talent composition of the professional soccer team and most critically its single entity structure. While every team can theoretically purchase an AI technology talent management system, its application entails use across 30 teams with a very different, complex and unique set of player talents. The MLS single-entity structure though is the resource that supplies the stability required for this human-machine (technology) symbioses to be fully accepted by stakeholders such as players and implemented with precision and speed across the entire league. So, there exists the potential for each MLS team (and the MLS as a league) to acquire SCA even when using “generic” AI technology, as long as other complex firm factors come into play.

Research methodology

This case relied on information that was widely reported within media, press interviews by MLS officials, announcements by various organizations, journal articles and publicly available information on MLS. All of the names and positions, in this case, are actual persons.

Case overview/synopsis

MLS started as a story of dreaming large and of quixotic adventure. Back in 1990, the founders of the MLS “sold” the league in exchange for the biggest prize in world soccer – the rights to host the 1994 Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup before they even wrote up the business plan. Today, the MLS is the highest-level professional men’s soccer league competition in the USA. That is a major achievement in just over 25-years, as the US hosts a large professional sports market. However, MLS has been unable to attract higher broadcasting value for its matches and break into the highest tier of international professional soccer. The key reason is that MLS matches are not deemed high quality content by broadcasters. To achieve higher quality matches requires many inputs such as soccer specific stadiums, growing the fan base, attracting key investors, league integrity and strong governance, all of which MLS has successfully achieved since its inception. However, attracting high quality playing talent is a critical input the MLS does not have because the league has repeatedly cautioned that it cannot afford them yet to ensure long-term financial sustainability. In fact, to guarantee this trade-off, the MLS is one of the only professional soccer leagues with an annual salary cap. So, the question is: how does MLS increase the quality of its matches (content) using relatively low cost (low quality) talent and still be able to demand higher broadcast revenues? One strategy is for the MLS to use AI playing technology to extract higher quality playing performance from its existing talent like other sports leagues have demonstrated, such as the NFL and NBA. To implement such a radical technology-centric strategy with its players requires the MLS to navigate associated issues such as human-machine symbioses, risking fan acceptance and even altering brand valuation.

Complexity academic level

The case is written and designed for a graduate-level (MBA) class or an upper-level undergraduate class in areas such as contemporary issues in management, human resource management, talent management, strategic management, sports management and sports marketing. The case is suitable for courses that discuss strategy, talent management, human resource management and brand strategy.

Details

The CASE Journal, vol. 17 no. 2
Type: Case Study
ISSN: 1544-9106

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Book part
Publication date: 18 November 2015

Benjamin Rosenthal and Flavia Cardoso

This paper discusses the evolving nature of the symbolic meaning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Exploring the kratophanous power of soccer in Brazil, we seek to…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper discusses the evolving nature of the symbolic meaning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Exploring the kratophanous power of soccer in Brazil, we seek to explain how the relationship that Brazilians had with the 2014 FIFA World Cup reflects profound changes in a mutating society that has deep emotional connections with soccer but at the same time has started to reject the misuse of public resources and struggles to see corruption as a fact of life.

Methodology/approach

The authors conducted a netnography on Facebook communities and on Instagram, reviewed documentaries and short films, as well as press articles on the subject. Data was collected both retrospectively and concurrently. Analysis used open coding, moving up from the emic meanings extracted from the texts to an etic account of the phenomena (Cherrier & Murray, 2007; Thompson, 1997; Thompson & Haytko, 1997).

Findings

We argue that the duality of the Brazilian culture and the kratophanous power of soccer help understand the evolving nature of the relationship Brazilians had with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. We sustain that soccer in Brazil is viewed both as a sport – representing democracy and the hope of social mobility – and as an industry – echoing dissatisfaction with the status quo. Even if ideologically opposed to what the event represented, consumers were bound by very strong cultural connections built around soccer as a sport, a national passion. This changing nature of feelings and attitudes echoes marketplace tensions of a country passing through a democratization maturity process and of a culture in which its citizens find it easier to attempt to be many things at the same time than to take a stand.

Research limitations/implications

This research analyzes the role of social tensions and national passions in relation to a global industry (soccer) and a mega event (the FIFA World Cup). We have looked at the influence of macro cultural forces and tension forces in a sporting event as our findings cannot be understood outside the context of network-based power (Labrecque, vor dem Esche, Mathwick, Novak, & Hofacker, 2013) with Brazilians mobilizing the structure of social networks in favor of their contextual interests. The tense and dynamic political environment in which this research was conducted shed some light on why the #naovaitercopa changed its meaning overtime.

Originality/value

The context of this research contributes to the literature on boycotting (Kozinets & Handelman, 2004; Lee, Motion, & Conroy, 2009), considering that most previous studies had not extensively explored situations where protests arise, obtain significant engagement, yet end up being unsuccessful. We answers the call made by Izberk-Bilgin (2010) for understanding how and why consumer attitudes toward certain types of consumption may change overtime and we demonstrate how the FIFA World Cup possesses kratophanous power in Brazil, and how this characteristic, which is strongly rooted in local culture, contributed to the failure of the boycott.

Details

Consumer Culture Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78560-323-5

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Article
Publication date: 14 July 2020

Pedro Garcia-del-Barrio and Francesc Pujol

The main goal of this paper is to evaluate the players' contribution and economic value in the soccer industry. Media visibility records provide us with comparable metrics…

Abstract

Purpose

The main goal of this paper is to evaluate the players' contribution and economic value in the soccer industry. Media visibility records provide us with comparable metrics to identify talent and make hiring decisions – these records can jointly capture sport (on-field) skills and other attractive (off-field) abilities.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents a valuation method that applies media visibility appraisals to estimate “theoretical values” of the transfer fees paid for hiring soccer players. The estimations are performed by analysing the evolution over time of the media exposure of about 5,000 individuals of more than 200 clubs.

Findings

The study’s empirical results reveal that, along with sport performance, the players' media status also affects their economic valuation, which explains why the clubs – in search of greater economic returns – fiercely compete for the most popular players. The paper also identifies the main factors determining the players' economic value. In predicting the players' transfer fees, some variables are statistically significant: individual media visibility, media visibility share of the player within his team, contract duration, status of the hiring team, years of experience, player's age at the end of the contract and the domestic league of the hiring team.

Originality/value

Professional sports provide reliable measures on individuals' performance that may help in the hiring process of workers. This paper identifies gifted soccer players while taking into account their skills as media leaders and the economic implications. Insofar as players' talents determine their teams' sport and economic achievements, the transfer fees paid for players must then be seen as a crucial factor. Measuring individual talent and being able to translate this talent into productivity levels entail serious methodological and empirical challenges.

Details

Managerial Finance, vol. 47 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0307-4358

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Article
Publication date: 6 July 2020

Emanuele Lettieri and Carlotta Orsenigo

This paper aims to shed novel light to further the ongoing debate about the relationship between traditional sports and eSports by gathering empirical evidence on the role…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to shed novel light to further the ongoing debate about the relationship between traditional sports and eSports by gathering empirical evidence on the role that eSports play on the consumption of traditional sports (i.e. live matches at the Stadium, TV matches spectating, merchandise or sponsor purchase), in the peculiar context of soccer.

Design/methodology/approach

An extensive literature review on both sports and eSports consumption has informed the creation of a novel dataset through the design and administration of a structured questionnaire to Italian citizens 18+. Questions were about eSports and soccer consumption, information-seeking behaviour and psychometric factors. All constructs have been measured against validated scales. A total of 279 high-quality responses have been analysed through a prediction model based on regression trees in the Machine Learning domain.

Findings

Results show that soccer consumption is predicted by the degree of vicarious achievement (positive effect), the degree of playing sport-related eSports (positive effect) and the degree of playing non-sport-related eSports (negative effect). Vertical analyses have been on sub-dimensions of soccer consumption (attending live matches at the Stadium, spectating TV matches, buying merchandise or sponsors’ products).

Originality/value

To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to offer empirical evidence to bridge two main limitations: the lack of studies about the eSports-soccer consumptions relationship and the reduction of soccer consumption as just Stadium attendance. Our results have both theoretical and practical implications.

Details

Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, vol. 10 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-678X

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Article
Publication date: 9 May 2016

Timothy D. DeSchriver, Daniel A. Rascher and Stephen L. Shapiro

Two of the primary growth strategies for Major League Soccer (MLS) have been team expansion and the construction of soccer-specific stadiums. Therefore, the purpose of…

Abstract

Purpose

Two of the primary growth strategies for Major League Soccer (MLS) have been team expansion and the construction of soccer-specific stadiums. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to determine the relationship between these factors and game-specific MLS spectator attendance.

Design/methodology/approach

Two multiple regression models, one using multi-level mixed effects linear regression and another using interval regression, were developed to explain the variation in attendance utilizing the two factors of interest along with other control factors that have been identified as attendance determinants in previous literature. Game-specific data were collected for five MLS seasons, 2007-2011.

Findings

The two regression models explained approximately 40 percent of the variation in spectator attendance and the results showed that expansion teams and soccer-specific stadiums were significantly related to attendance. However, the effect of soccer-specific stadiums was minimized due to the extreme success of the Seattle Sounders in drawing about twice as many fans as the next highest drawing franchise, yet playing in an American football stadium.

Research limitations/implications

While many of the standard factors such as the presence of holidays and novelty players, competition from other professional teams, and day of week, competition from other professional teams; team quality failed to show significance. Expansion teams drew better than incumbent teams and the impact from soccer-specific stadia is weak given the success of the Seattle franchise (and possibly negative when excluding Seattle). Censoring of the dependent variable had a discernible impact on many of the attendance factors.

Practical implications

These findings may be useful to managers of MLS and their teams along with other professional teams and/or leagues that are investigating the use of either team expansion or the construction of new facilities to increase spectator attendance.

Originality/value

This is the first study to investigate the relationship between expansion and new stadium construction in MLS over multiple years. The results indicate that MLS’s decision to use team expansion and the construction of soccer-specific stadiums has been beneficial with respect to spectator attendance.

Details

Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, vol. 6 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-678X

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 2003

Elizabeth Jowdy and Mark McDonald

This case study demonstrates how a start-up professional sport league, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), successfully incorporated an interactive fan festival…

Abstract

This case study demonstrates how a start-up professional sport league, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), successfully incorporated an interactive fan festival into its inaugural Championship Weekend. Prior to revealing the details of the WUSA event, the history and rationale of interactive fan festivals is outlined. Also highlighted are the key marketing concepts applied (relationship marketing, brand management, experiential branding) in order to assist sport properties interested in using the interactive fan festival as a marketing tool in the future.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 4 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Article
Publication date: 11 July 2016

Fahri Karakaya, Peter Yannopoulos and Margarita Kefalaki

– As an exploratory study, the purpose of this paper is to examine the underlying motivations for attending soccer games.

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1003

Abstract

Purpose

As an exploratory study, the purpose of this paper is to examine the underlying motivations for attending soccer games.

Design/methodology/approach

Attendees at two soccer games in Athens, Greece were surveyed about their frequency of attendance at soccer games and their attitudes toward soccer. In total, 252 people from five randomly selected sections of the stadiums participated in the survey.

Findings

The results indicate that there are three major motivations – emotional excitement, socialization, and soccer atmospherics – and two identity salience factors – ardent soccer fans and rational soccer fans – for attending soccer games. The most important factor for attendance is being an ardent soccer fan closely followed by the emotional excitement factor. Among the demographic factors considered, only gender significantly affects soccer game attendance.

Originality/value

In contrast to previous studies that are somewhat descriptive, this research explicitly introduces factors related to social identity theory and attempts to predict soccer game attendance on the basis of a scale of factors that focus on the major motivations for attendance of soccer games, identity salience reasons, and demographic factors. The inclusion of social identity theory as a factor in the attendance of soccer games is a major contribution of this study. Contrary to most of the earlier studies, this study showed that the socialization factor is not related to attendance at soccer games.

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Article
Publication date: 6 February 2017

Tyreal Yizhou Qian, Jerred Junqi Wang, Winston Wen-hao Chou, Euisoo Kim, James J. Zhang and Bo Gong

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of Chinese youth’s attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and its professional league, the Chinese Super…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of Chinese youth’s attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and its professional league, the Chinese Super League (CSL), on their level of satisfaction.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey study was employed to test the hypotheses. Research participants (n=948) were students from five major universities that represented each of the five main geographic regions of China. Data were randomly assigned into two halves: one half for CFA (n=474) and the other half for structural equation modeling (SEM) (n=474). Mplus 7.0 was used to conduct both the CFA and SEM.

Findings

The findings of this study indicated an overall lack of attention to and involvement with Chinese soccer and CSL among Chinese youths. Discussions have been presented on the causes of the lack of youth passion for Chinese soccer and suggestions have been articulated to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of policy formulation, business operation and marketing strategy.

Originality/value

The present study built on the extant sport management literature, demonstrated the complexity of consumers’ cognition and conation in the professional soccer setting, and revealed counter-intuitive relationship between attitudinal traits and behavioral patterns, which in turn provided unique insights for Chinese professional soccer marketers, managers and administrators.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 2006

Sven Theysohn

Global reach, together with rapidly increasing broadband coverage, makes the internet a potentially interesting distribution channel for video highlights and full-match…

Abstract

Global reach, together with rapidly increasing broadband coverage, makes the internet a potentially interesting distribution channel for video highlights and full-match viewings. This study investigateswillingness to pay as well as consumer preferences for type of report to derive marketing implications for soccer clubs. Survey results from more than 12,000 respondents supporting seven soccer clubs in the German first and second divisions underline the potential of this new distribution channel in finding a high average willingness to pay.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 8 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2007

Mauricio Ferreira and Gonzalo Bravo

This study examined the determinants of attendance at the Chilean national soccer tournaments between 1990 and 2002. A multilevel model approach was taken to estimate the…

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120

Abstract

This study examined the determinants of attendance at the Chilean national soccer tournaments between 1990 and 2002. A multilevel model approach was taken to estimate the effects of several factors, including unobserved sources, hypothesised to influence attendance in Chile. Results regarding team success, team division, population, stadium size and habitual persistence were found to influence professional soccer attendance; other factors such as admission price, age of team, international success, availability of soccer teams in the same vicinity and stadium ownership did not.

Details

International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, vol. 8 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1464-6668

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