Authors: Dr. Kelly L. Rhodes
Dr. Kelly L. Rhodes
Department of Communications
Saint Francis University
169 Lakeview Drive
Loretto, PA 15940
Dr. Rhodes is an Associate Professor of Communications and chair of the Communications Department at Saint Francis University.
Impactful Corporate Social Responsibility in Major League Baseball
In an effort to know more about what forces influence Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) decision making, the behaviors of one Major League Baseball team regarding its CSR efforts and the outcomes of those efforts were explored.
A qualitative, single, intrinsic case study methodology was employed. Three sources of data were utilized: annual community reports, newspaper articles, and five personal interviews with purposefully selected members of the organization whose work is related to CSR performance. Institutional Theory was used to provide a foundation for the study.
The results of the study indicate that the organization’s leadership and motivation are significant influences in the direction of CSR efforts, and the organization’s relationship with the community and its approach to implementing initiatives impacts the process. Specifically, it can be seen that the organization’s decision making coincides with Institutional Theory.
The study contributes to the field and this journal by depicting the number of influences on CSR decision making and how understanding those influences allow for more effective impact on communities from the substantial amount of money that teams are spending. The study utilizes Institutional Theory to provide a framework for understanding why and how organizations respond to institutional expectations in their CSR decisions (31).
Applications in Sport
Professional sports will continue to play an important role in society as sport organizations become more like multi-national businesses (8). With the increasing commercialization of sports has come greater scrutiny from both fans and the general public. Sport has to walk a fine line to maintain the traditional elements of the games it plays while increasing its strategic behavior to compete in the business environment of professional sports.
Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Major League Baseball, Institutional Theory, Charity
There is a general belief that corporations bear some responsibility to the markets in which they operate; organizations have the power to affect the lives of their stakeholders and, therefore, should seek to make a positive impact on those who enable them to be profitable (18). In the twentieth century, the practice of engaging in charitable behavior has taken on a strategic focus, making giving back, good business (32). The process has been labeled corporate social responsibility (CSR), and sport organizations and traditional businesses utilize it for both altruistic and strategic purposes (17).
There are various definitions of CSR, but one that seems to apply to sport organizations well describes CSR as “the extent to which an organization meets the needs, expectations, and demands of certain external constituencies beyond those directly linked to the company’s products/markets” (17 p. 543). But sport organizations are different from other traditional businesses in that fans are more engaged than traditional customers because of fans’ high levels of emotional attachment to their teams (5). An analysis of the literature indicated that a team comes to represent its city in a way a corporation rarely does. Teams come to represent more than just wins and losses by building a relationship with the city and its fans through communication and giving back (5). However, what influences teams to engage in the efforts they choose is often not recognized, teams may not receive the results they desire, and too often teams are unaware of the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of their methods.
Each of the four major professional sport organizations, MLB, the NHL, the NFL, and the NBA are spending over $100 million each per year on corporate social responsibility efforts (13), yet the teams often do not know the impact of these efforts (5, 3). Further, it is unclear what influences the leadership of professional sport teams in implementing CSR efforts. This study sought to identify what forces impact the decisions and actions of one MLB team’s leadership in terms of which efforts to engage in, decisions regarding investments of time and money, and with whom to partner. A case study of one sport team’s CSR efforts aids in answering these questions. The research questions were designed to focus on the things that precipitated the team’s CSR actions and what resulted from them. R1: What forces influenced the Major League Baseball team under study in its utilization of CSR efforts between 2007 and 2015? R2: What were the outcomes of these efforts?
One study reported that there are over 100 charities and foundations related to professional sport teams, with donations of over $163 million each year to community-based charities and holdings of over $2.3 billion in assets (6). At least 24 teams in each of the four major professional sport leagues have their own foundations. Major League Baseball’s charitable efforts, including donations and in-kind services, exceeded $100 million, with the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) reporting similar numbers (13). However, by some accounts, MLB does the most CSR of the four major professional sports organizations, and teams experience both internal and external forces that drive these commitments (14).
Sport is uniquely positioned to make good use of CSR methods due to the prominent position sport holds in contemporary American society (28). Sport garners a high level of media attention, so its actions are visible, and audiences are listening and watching. Expectations for CSR in sport are increasing, and stakeholders are more critical of these efforts. If initiatives are perceived as self-serving as opposed to altruistic, the value of the efforts is diminished and may even have a negative impact (23). Therefore, it is imperative that CSR be aligned with an organization’s values and practices in order to be perceived as authentic by its stakeholders.
Sport holds a place of authority for its fans and often for youth in particular. Therefore, its messages carry greater weight than if those same messages were conveyed by another type of organization. Sport teams receive a great degree of public support, both financial and behavioral, from fans, communities, and government; therefore, sport teams may be more motivated to engage in CSR to demonstrate their appreciation and to maintain fan support (3). Consequently, sport organizations receive more benefits from implementing CSR efforts than other businesses in general (4). Consequently, there is a stronger expectation for sport organizations to engage in CSR than for other businesses (8).
Institutional theory asserts that related organizations influence the actions of other organizations much as a peer group can influence the behaviors of individuals. This influence through social processes and obligations create a rule-like status that organizations feel compelled to oblige (21). Sport organizations are unique in comparison to traditional institutions; however, the consistent social influence of sport over time creates an institutional representation (33). Campbell (10) argued that institutional elements may influence why an organization acts in a socially responsible manner. Matten and Moon (20) suggested that institutional theory would be helpful in understanding why organizations engage in socially responsible behavior given the relationship between the institution and its society. Therefore, Institutional Theory provides a framework for understanding why and how sport organizations make the decisions that they do in their CSR behaviors. Trendafilova et al., (31) suggested that further research was needed to understand how sport organizations respond to institutional expectations.
The role of CSR in sport organizations is different from in traditional organizations because sport has several positive factors that assist in the effectiveness of CSR methods, including: the presence of media coverage, communication avenues, appealing to youth, positive health associations, and social impacts. The sport industry also benefits from the passion its fans hold for its product and the protections sport enjoys from the government (26). CSR is “institutionalized in professional sport” (5, p. 436) due to pressures from customers and the unique resources that sport possesses over other industries, such as “ticket donations, signage, facilities, events, access to media, suite holders, vendors, sponsors, and professional staff” (5, p. 436). Because sport has the power to attract large numbers of viewers, followers, and customers, it provides a platform for other organizations to positively influence society (11). These distinguishing characteristics make it worthwhile to investigate CSR in sport in order to better understand how it is practiced.
Organizations do not always effectively communicate their good deeds, and therefore, are not maximizing the positive impact of those efforts (12). Because sport organizations’ actions are very transparent to the public, teams often do not put enough effort into communicating their philanthropic efforts, perhaps believing they are already known through current avenues of exposure (8). Effectively communicating with external stakeholders builds a relationship that transcends the simple exchange between customer and provider to a connection that can be based on positive feelings and loyalty.
Additionally, there is a lack of measurement of the effectiveness of CSR efforts to determine which efforts produce the greatest good. Studies have noted that MLB executives wonder how many fans attend games because the team demonstrates social responsibility (3). It has been observed that “although sport organizations have been involved in their local communities for decades, we know little about the relevance, importance, and impact of socially responsible practices to the organizations themselves, to the individuals they intend to benefit and to their governing bodies” (23, p. 484).
The issues outlined above strongly suggest the need for research to address this void. Research is needed to assess the impact of, and motivations for, CSR efforts (4). Unfortunately, however, CSR research is often not regarded as a scholarly pursuit, and most recent scholarship lacks a critical perspective (8). Simultaneously, there is a great need to make future research accessible to those in the field by publishing results in media utilized by practitioners, which do not typically include scholarly journals.
Since the goal of this study was to understand the forces that influenced CSR decision making, how efforts were implemented and measured, and what outcomes occurred from those efforts, a qualitative, single, intrinsic case study was conducted to explore a Major League Baseball team’s corporate social responsibility efforts from 2007 to 2015. Case study research has a long history of contributing to knowledge in sociology, business, and anthropology, which are all relevant to the context of CSR in sport (34). The case study method allows investigators to maintain the meaningful and complete details needed to describe real-world events. This method and design are appropriate for studying the use of CSR within a sport organization.
The Major League Baseball team selected is located in the Mid-Atlantic region in a mid-size market in a city of approximately 300,000 people. The city is also home to two other major, professional sports franchises. The team was founded in the late 1800s and has played in the city since the early 1900s, so the franchise’s history with the city is rich and extensive. A new ballpark was built in 2001. The team was selected purposefully because of its community presence, leadership-driven CSR, and a time period under study that included both losing and winning seasons.
Ravitch and Carl (24) suggested selecting a case that provides a different perspective than other cases afford. This team is an interesting case as the organization experienced 20 consecutive losing seasons, which ended in 2013. The period under study begins following a change in ownership, one that changed the way CSR was performed. The study covered the bridge between losing seasons (2007 through 2012) and winning seasons (2013 through 2015). Thus, this organization was selected for its ability to provide a compelling perspective that other organizations did not offer.
In addition to interviews, this study utilized analysis of Community Reports from the team’s charity organization, the separate arm of the team that handles community outreach efforts, and newspaper reports. The Community Reports were analyzed first because they provided background information that was valuable to understanding the other two data sources. Second, the newspaper reports were reviewed to determine public perceptions that were useful in providing context for the interview questions. Newspaper articles were retrieved from online archives, using search terms to target community events, reputation, and public opinion to assess how the community regarded the team’s efforts. The interviews were the final data collected because they were the most personal, and the researcher benefitted from the knowledge and context gained from analyzing the other sources prior to performing the interviews.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with purposefully selected members of the organization based on their position, experience, and knowledge of social responsibility initiatives. The initial interview was with the senior vice president for community and public affairs and executive director of the charitable arm, and thereafter, participants were recommended by her. Two subsequent follow-up interviews were conducted with her to clarify information. All recommended participants were contacted by email. Those who subsequently agreed to be interviewed and were available held the following positions: the director of community relations, the manager of the charitable arm, the manager of youth baseball initiatives, and vice president for corporate partnerships.
Phone interviews were conducted with each member ranging in length from 40- to 60-minutes and occurred over a period of three months. Follow-up questions were answered via email. The time period over which the interviews were performed allowed for analysis of each interview to occur and refinement of the questions to better obtain specific information from each subsequent interview.
Each interview was audio recorded with extensive note taking during the interview and a transcription completed afterwards. Hand-written notes from the interviews were typed into a Word document immediately after concluding the interview. The interview questions are the result of a field test in which feedback was solicited from two contacts within the team’s organization. The team contacts evaluated the questions for consistency with the study’s purpose, effectiveness at eliciting information that will answer the research questions, and clarity in the phrasing of the questions. The overall number of questions was reduced from 13 to 9, repetition between questions was eliminated, and questions were reworded to focus specifically on the influences on the team’s CSR actions. The iterative process of vetting instrument questions is directly related to the quality of the data collected (24).
Although the author of the study finds the influence of sport in society to be compelling, the author is not a baseball fan. The author has not followed Major League Baseball in general nor the team under study. The distance from the sport and team proved useful in minimizing bias toward the organization and its practices.
In this study, both categorical aggregation and direct interpretation (29) approaches were utilized as categorical aggregation resulted, for example, when patterns were identified in the letters written by the team owner and when shared themes were seen among all of the interviews. Direct interpretation was also utilized to address a particular event that yielded some key realizations regarding how CSR is practiced by the team, for example the identification of particular partnerships, campaigns, or responses from an individual interviewee.
Extracting meaning from qualitative data is a reflexive process that must be related to the purpose of the research (30). Therefore, the researcher went over the data multiple times, relating the data results back to the purpose of the research. Interview transcriptions and documents were read the first time to focus on the overall idea of the content. During a second reading, the researcher’s annotations were added to identify key elements. Codes began to emerge from the annotations and were organized in Word documents. From these codes, categories were created using similar phrases and keywords. Manual, thematic coding was performed on the transcripts using the constant comparative method. Coding progressed from open coding to analytical coding until categories were formed that answered the research questions.
The concept of “getting it right” while performing case study research is imperative (29, p. 107). This objective was achieved through triangulation. Seeking points of commonality or contrast among the multiple sources – in this study, Community Reports, newspaper articles, and interviews – increased the validity of the conclusions drawn.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Several themes were found to be consistent throughout all of the data sources. Several overarching ideals transcended people, offices, and events to hold true throughout the organization. Each theme is detailed below and connected to the literature.
Theme One – CSR is performed for both strategic and altruistic motives; the organization believes it is the right thing to do and it is good for business.
When the owner was speaking to the public at a charitable event, he described the two-fold purpose of giving back and community service as “not just buzzwords. We receive a tremendous amount of support from the community and we have a platform to give back. It makes us an outstanding facilitator.” This quote supports the concept that the leadership of the organization perceives CSR performance as both strategic and altruistic. The owner also noted that “a critical part of what the [team’s charity] can do is to help support organizations in our community,” which demonstrates the sense of responsibility to doing the right thing.
It was shared by many that the owner and president understand that though their business is baseball; they have a greater responsibility to the region. The president is committed to doing the right thing in the community. The senior vice president for community and public affairs stated, “[the owner and president] feel strongly about giving back to the community. It is also “good business;” it makes sense to work with other community-minded businesses to give back. Fans appreciate that the organization does this work, so it builds a positive relationship. The vice president for corporate partnerships sees the owner and president’s “level of involvement as rare in professional sports.” They are not there just for the photo opportunities. The manager for youth baseball concurred, stating the president will spend hours at a local field being hands on, engaging with community members. The director of community relations describes it as “the [team name] way” a way of supporting each other’s events and giving back to the community because it is the “right thing to do.” It is a two-fold commitment, she stated: it is the right thing to do, and it builds the brand, the image the organization wants to project, of a team that takes its responsibility to the community seriously.
The owner was described by the vice president of corporate partnerships as a smart businessman who is very philanthropic. He does a lot that people never know about because his motivation is altruistic. “It [giving back] is who he is; it is the right thing to do.” The owner understands that the industry has a larger responsibility than winning baseball games. The manager of the charity stated that the goal of the team’s charitable efforts is about more than just writing checks; they want to “make a difference.” The charitable arm seeks to be “good stewards” of the donations they receive, to “provide programs that are needed.” The key word in the organization is “impact.”
This dual purpose is consistent with the literature asserting that organizations give back for both altruistic and strategic purposes (17) and those suggesting that giving back is good business (32). The two ideals are intertwined in the planning and decision-making process for the team studied, but it is the former motivation, it is the right thing to do, that truly drives the why behind the commitment. The team studied is in opposition to some studies, which suggest that CSR efforts should always be both strategic and altruistic, but that efforts should be strategic first (11).
The owner and president have a strong belief that it is the responsibility of the organization by virtue of its visible role in the community to be a leader in giving back and engaging in responsible practices. Elements of Institutional Theory (21) are recognizable, as the leadership felt compelled to give back by the very nature of the business of sport. These beliefs are consistent with literature that suggests that business owners often have a sense of obligation to do the right thing that drives the organization’s efforts (18, 22). This mindset creates authentic efforts that consumers find credible. Authentically driven efforts designed to benefit society resonate with stakeholders (28). The owner believes in the power of baseball to bring people together to do great things.
For CSR in professional sports to be authentic, it has to be aligned with the organization’s values and practices (23). The new owner and the new president that the owner brought on board set about creating a genuine culture of doing the right thing. This was accomplished internally through the restructuring of player development to include the player Community Commitment Program and investment in its international player development facilities within the baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. The owner and president sought to increase player involvement in charitable work by supporting player driven initiatives and integrating them into the organization’s efforts. Each of these initiatives demonstrates through practice how the leadership is committed to doing the right thing; the belief is authentic; therefore, efforts are sincere and credible.
There is not a lot of research on the influence of community service on MLB players, but a preliminary study of minor league baseball players’ perceptions of their participation in community service work found that working with children especially helped players to manage the challenges of playing baseball (25). For players coming from another culture, community service work was especially helpful to them in adapting to a new culture, combating loneliness, and better assimilating to their new environment by reclaiming their social status that is lost when they leave their native culture behind. Helping kids to learn the game gave the players a different perspective about their role in baseball (25). These findings are consistent with the goals the team studied had in mind when it implemented the Community Commitment Program for minor league players. The team believed that by providing players with the opportunity to give back, they would gain a new perspective on their own situations by helping others. It seems there is great potential for more research in this area.
Theme Two – Knowing the community, understanding its needs, and being connected to the people are imperative for performing charitable work that makes an impact.
All of the interviewees related that it was important for the organization to engage with the community. The organization’s goal is to make fans on and off the field. The manager of the charity stated they their office seeks to be connected to the community, to know what is happening and how the organization can be part of it. When her office learns about a need in the community, the staff discusses how the charity can help. The director of community relations, who has been with the team for 18 years, is well connected to the city and knows the people and organizations to partner with to make an event a success. The senior vice president for community and public affairs stated that interacting with the fans and the community at large helps the organization to have an awareness about what is important to people and where help is needed. “It is a bit intuitive,” she admitted. It is often about “going with your gut” on where to get involved and what projects to do. The organization encounters many people, so they are able to have a sense of connection to the community.
Two additional causes were added to the charity’s mission statement based on the needs of the community as perceived by the organization’s leaders. “In addition to helping our youth, [the charity] provides assistance to military families and veterans, and offers support to those in our community who are fighting cancer.” Support for those in the military and veterans was designed to align with a city that has a large military and veteran population. The addition of support for those fighting cancer was adopted after noting how the fans responded to the MLB Stand up to Cancer initiative. The community is a critical influence in shaping the organization’s outreach efforts.
The team is currently considering adding another pillar to its efforts: environmental sustainability. The organization received high praise from MLB when it was one of the first teams to adopt green practices and a comprehensive implementation plan. In a newspaper article, the mayor of the team’s city noted the importance of the team’s actions to the overall revitalization of the city. The mayor stated that having a baseball organization who models environmental responsibility was critical to changing the city’s reputation from a smoky, industrial city to one that is sustainable and focused on green practices.
The power of partnerships is leveraged by the charity. It is also important, she noted, not to assume that the organization knows what is needed. The staff continually asks for feedback and input. After each event is held, her department members meet to review what went well and what could be improved. They seek feedback from other departments and their external partners to see if expectations were met.
Selecting appropriate partners is a key element of effective implementation of CSR efforts (2). The team makes great use of corporate partners in its charitable and community efforts. Some external partners want to generate exposure for their own good works and the team provides the platform for publicity and increasing employee engagement. These partners work effectively with the team because they share the organization’s desire to give back to the community while simultaneously supporting their business initiatives. Other partners are connected to a particular project of the team’s charitable efforts; therefore, they are selected based on the alignment of the partner’s business with the team’s charitable goals. Partnership are not randomly accepted, which allows the team’s efforts to remain focused.
The organization’s leaders and all of the members of the community relations and charity staff are well connected with the community, so they are aware of the needs that exist and what fans care about. The term social entrepreneurship describes the uniting of sports organizations with non-profits to accomplish good works (19). The team studied here seeks the same kinds of partnerships that meet it pillars. The team also seeks similar relationships with for-profit businesses whose goals align with its own. These community partnerships enable more good works to be performed by working together.
One example, makes clear the influence of the Institutional theory (21) as MLB requires all teams to be involved in an effort to support those who battle ALS (often called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous, former MLB player), but instead of the team doing a general campaign, it tied its efforts to a local man who was a lifelong fan of the team and was battling the disease. The man’s family created a foundation to raise awareness about the disease. The team became aware of their efforts and partnered with them. The foundation founder was asked to speak to the players during spring training to convey the organization’s desired message that players can make an even bigger difference off the field when they commit to community outreach initiatives that impact lives. This example illustrates the kind of creative partnerships that the organization seeks to build. The foundation founder has since passed away, but the partnership with the team continues, so his legacy lives on.
This example illustrates what the literature argues is the institutionalization of CSR in sport (3) and aligns with Institutional Theory (21). The efforts become more than public relations efforts, but embody the identity the organization seeks to convey and truly live out what it means to give back to the community and make a positive impact on the lives of people in need. The term corporate community involvement has been used to describe the efforts of organizations aligning themselves with community based initiatives that provide benefits within a community (15).
Theme Three – Both internal and external influences impact the direction of charitable initiatives.
Conveyed in the Community Reports, newspaper articles, and interviews, it became clear that both internal and external influences are part of setting the direction of CSR efforts. The efforts are not the result of one person or even a small group of people; rather, there are multiple influences that change over time as new needs arise and opportunities present themselves. The pillars themselves were created from both types of influences: external influences include MLB, the fans, corporate partners, and the community itself, and internal influences consist of the owner, president, board of directors, the senior vice president for community and public affairs, the staff of her department, players, coaches, and other employees.
The manager of the charity explained, that an idea for an effort can come from someone the owner or president knows, the leadership itself, from a corporate partner who seeks the organization’s participation, or an outside partner. An idea may arise from a community member who brings the idea to the charity or the charity department learns of a need in the community through its own involvement. All of these inputs may contribute to the direction of initiatives. The efforts of the other professional sports teams in the city may share some similarities, but they each serve different demographics and fan bases, so they mostly do different things. Each team supports the other’s work, but each works mostly independently from the others.
Recently, the organization started more organized surveys of players to determine their charitable interests. The senior vice president for community and public affairs explained that they wanted to get players more invested in doing charitable work, for it to matter more to them. The charity worked with its analytics department to create a survey that was given via tablets. From the responses so far, they learned that some of the causes listed were ones they expected, such as children, the military, and domestic violence, but one surprise was animals; another was hunger and homelessness. Therefore, the charity has started to fund service dogs for soldiers suffering from PTSD. Efforts were increased to support backpack programs that are operated through local schools to provide backpacks of food for children over the weekends during the school year. These initiatives fit the pillars of the charity and build on player involvement. These examples illustrate how internal influences can generate ideas.
The city itself provides an important influence on the organization’s efforts. The senior vice president for community and public affairs believes that the charity is a reflection of the city’s community-oriented nature. It is a city that believes in supporting one another. The senior vice president related that when she is in the community at charitable events, she sees the same faces from all of the major organizations because they are all vested in the same efforts. The nature of the city provides a positive influence in encouraging good corporate citizenship.
This study demonstrates that the drivers of CSR efforts are more complex than many might imagine. As was discussed earlier, the leadership of the organization is an important driver, but there are a large number of other internal drivers from several aspects of the organization, including baseball and front office operations. There were also a myriad of external drivers: MLB, the other professional sport teams in the market, fans, community members, and the city itself. This diversity of influences is consistent with the literature (21,1,7,22).
There are four categories of CSR efforts: (a) peripheral, (b) constructed, (c) dispersed, and (d) strategic (9). Peripheral efforts are based on external stakeholder demands, perhaps sponsorship of an event or a donation to a particular cause. These types of actions may or may not make an organization appear more attractive to customers and employees, but they often look self-serving or superficial. Participation in such efforts often do not provide any distinction to the organization. The team studied here limits such efforts because they do not view them as aligned with the core pillars they have established. For example, sponsoring a table at a charity dinner comes from funds allocated from the organization itself, not the charitable arm. While a certain number of these events are expected of the organization, these are not considered a key element of its charitable or community outreach efforts.
Constructed efforts are based solely on core competency criteria and are not centered on meeting external stakeholders’ needs (9). An example of a constructed effort of the team studied would be offering the use of its field to high school or community teams for championship games. The team does indeed offer its facilities for community use, but it does not consider such actions to be key charitable efforts, but are rather actions of merely being a good community member. Dispersed efforts are uncoordinated actions that have no criteria for electing to participate or not (9). Some organizations make donations and sponsorships based more on the whim of the leadership. By having a community and public affairs office that manages the charity and community outreach activities and supporting only efforts that align with the pillars of the organization, the team studied helps to avoid these types of uncoordinated activities.
Finally, strategic efforts are the most effective philanthropic efforts (9). These types of efforts integrate internal and external stakeholders needs, considering both market and core competency orientations. These efforts align philanthropy with an organization’s core competencies but also listen to the community. Therefore, these efforts can achieve sustainable results for both stakeholders and the organization’s own competitive advantage. The team studied here engages in strategic efforts that employ its core competencies of being a baseball team to engage in activities that benefit youth health and fitness. The team’s participation in Miracle League Fields, which enable children with disabilities to play baseball and all of the Youth Baseball Initiatives that provide funding and training to community baseball efforts designed to increase baseball and softball participation directly relate to the team’s core competency. These efforts combine the core competency of baseball with community needs to construct fields, provide grants for field maintenance, create and manage leagues, recruit and provide training for coaches, provide equipment, and make informational resources available to those running their own community programs. These programs are sustainable because they are a natural fit with the organization’s core efforts.
The other pillars of the organization’s charitable activities that are not related to youth and baseball: support for those battling cancer and support for past and current military members and their families are in response to community needs. The team connects to these efforts through baseball game night promotions and awareness nights. For example, every Thursday night home game is military night where the players wear camouflage jerseys to show their support for military members, and a community agency that supports military families and veterans is selected from a pool of applicants to receive the proceeds of the evening’s 50/50 drawing which can range from $1,000 to $10,000. So the core competency of playing baseball is connected to the charitable effort, which enhances the sustainability of the initiative.
CONCLUSIONS AND APPLICATION IN SPORT
The goal of this study is to provide valuable insight for both sport and business institutions as they seek to implement effective CSR practices. The practitioner focus meets a critical need in sport management studies by presenting this research with an eye to reaching business professionals (27). There is clear value in sport studies as models for businesses in general (16), and this study is designed to bridge those two worlds.
Professional sports will continue to play an important role in society as sport organizations become more like multi-national businesses (8). With the increasing commercialization of sports has come greater scrutiny from both fans and the public. Sport has to walk a fine line to maintain the traditional elements of the games it plays while increasing its strategic behavior to compete in the business environment of professional sports. Sport is unique in that it contains both social and economic elements in its operations, and stakeholders expect ethical behavior from its teams (7). The what, how, and why of a sports team’s CSR behaviors are integral to the organization’s overall credibility. With so much riding on the effective use of CSR, sport organizations should manage their CSR efforts with the same intensity as their other business functions.
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