This article is an excerpt from the author’s paper on “Athletes beyond sports: A research proposal to explore the determinants of sport entrepreneurship in the Philippines” that she presented at the 7th National Business and Management Conference.
Opportunities abound to develop or exploit underdeveloped industries such as agriculture and technology, given the right enablers and government support. Sport is one such sector that is gaining increased attention, especially with the recently concluded Southeast Asian Games 2019.
We can trace the phenomenon of the modern-day Olympics as having precipitated the commercialization of sports, which today impacts various businesses such as broadcasting, fitness, tourism, and retail. According to KPMG, the global sports industry is estimated at $600 to 700 billion, with compounded annual growth rates upwards of 4.3% since 2014, with the largest share from participatory sports. In 2017, the sports sector accounted for roughly 3% of the US economy, comprising sport consumption, sport investments, government expenditures, and net exports.
No other industry is probably as socially intertwined as sports is, due to the deep, at times, irrational and emotional attachment of fans to their athletes and teams — truly, a veritable marketer’s dream. A Social Weather Stations survey in 2019 reveals that “95% of Filipino adults feel proud when the Philippines does well at international sport competition.” Even the UNESCO has acknowledged the developmental role that sport participation plays in health, education, and inclusion in at least six of the 17 goals crafted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
But despite the avowed enthusiasm and untapped consumerism of Filipinos toward sports, one wonders why sport management remains nascent or limited to stereotypical images of sport agents and basketball. While one may rationalize that “management is management” regardless, any particular sector necessarily operates within a different set of contextual factors.
Hence, there is an imperative to professionalize sport management and boost sport management education. By definition, sport management involves the business and management of products and services related to sport and physical activity in its various organizational settings. It has given rise to evolving specialties in the areas of sport marketing, sport law, sport finance, as well as sport entrepreneurship — with unparalleled innovation that puts mainstream businesses to shame.
Formal sport management education began in 1966 at the Ohio University, in response to the growing demand for managing sport. In 2011, the Commission on Higher Education, through its Memorandum Order No. 23, outlined the policies and standards for a “hybrid” physical education degree with sports and wellness management (BPE-SWM). To date, at least 10 local schools offer this degree, albeit a pale comparison with the United States’ 521 schools offering bachelor’s degrees in sport management, and with the likes of ASEAN neighbors such as Thailand, which have master’s and doctorate programs.
Great athletes — even Michael Jordan — cannot become great coaches without osmosis and technical know-how. Uninitiated sport leaders who have assumed positions through privilege rather than through merit run the risk of making decisions based on hubris and self-interest rather than on stewardship, discernment, and proper governance. As the euphoria surrounding the 149 gold medals that our country won during the SEA Games 2019 is slowly dissipating, we are jolted by discoveries of excesses and opportunity losses that even the unprecedented budget could not hide. As in any venture, sporting events should be strategic, not only for the collective “feel-good” but also for long-term value creation.
The socialization value, economic significance, and psychic income of sport legitimize its importance in the spheres of public and private agenda. Therefore, sustainable and lucrative success will depend on our having the skill sets for, and the knowledge of the nuances of, managing sport. Otherwise, we will set ourselves up for colossal blunders.
Geraldine Go-Bernardo lectures on Sport Management and Strategic Management at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She is a businesswoman as well as a former team captain of the National Women’s Dragon Boat Team and Executive Director of the Philippine Sports Commission.