Perceived Course Rigor in Sport Management: Class Level, Course Grades, and Student Ratings

During the last half-century, critics of higher education have disparaged institutions for their declining standards and lack of rigor.  The U.S. has slipped in educational rankings while popular culture has glorified the social aspects of college above the intellectual (Arum & Roksa, 2011).  Caught in the middle, particularly as higher education has adopted more business-centric models, are faculty.

By James E. Johnson, Robert M. Turick, Michael F. Dalgety, Khirey B. Walker, Eric L. Klosterman, and Anya T. Eicher. All authors are based at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

During the last half-century, critics of higher education have disparaged institutions for their declining standards and lack of rigor.  The U.S. has slipped in educational rankings while popular culture has glorified the social aspects of college above the intellectual (Arum & Roksa, 2011).  Caught in the middle, particularly as higher education has adopted more business-centric models, are faculty.

While many faculty and administrators strive for high standards, worry over receiving poor student ratings may influence some faculty to lower their expectations/standards.  For example, the grading leniency hypothesis (Marsh & Duncan, 1992) suggests that faculty will inflate grades out of fear of retributional bias (Feldman, 2007) on student ratings. This stress could become amplified when tenure and promotion are at stake and student perceptions are the primary evaluative source for teaching performance.  In sport management, where some programs must combat the easy major label, this issue can become complex.  These beliefs are in contrast to the validity theory (Marsh & Duncan, 1992) that suggests students value a rigorous academic experience and rate faculty accordingly.

Unfortunately, an evaluation of rigor and its potential impact on course/faculty ratings is scarce.  For this study, rigor within individual courses was chosen so that instructor and course could be examined simultaneously.  Predictably, an operational definition of course rigor is elusive.  Removing the subjective nature of the term to objectively define and evaluate this construct is challenging.  Fortunately, Johnson et al. (2019) provided a definition that included the following five components of course rigor.

  • Critical Thinking
  • Challenge
  • Complex Material
  • Time and Labor Intensive (Quantity)
  • Production of Credible Work (Quality)

From those five components, Johnson et al. created seven questions designed to be included in tandem with student rating questionnaires.  Johnson et al.’s work provided the template used to conduct our study of sport management courses.

Methodologically, our study investigated 830 students in 69 sport management courses over the span of four years to determine if course ratings (i.e., student evaluations), course grades, and course level were related to course rigor.  The seven rigor questions developed by Johnson et al. were added to existing student ratings and strongly supported through a factor analysis.  Course ratings were distributed at the end of each semester and included three groups of questions that assessed the instructor, the course, and perceived rigor.

We found that the strongest correlations with course rigor occurred for course and instructor ratings.  Moreover, when predicting course rigor only the overall ratings scores (combined instructor and course scores) and course GPA were significant.  As overall ratings increased so too did the perception of rigor.  As course GPA decreased, rigor perceptions increased.

The pragmatic implications of this work are noteworthy for faculty and administrators.

  • While rigorous coursework may result in lower mean course GPAs, course rigor appears to be appreciated by students. So, the more rigor, the higher student ratings – provided work is appropriate for class level and content area.  This finding supports the validity theory (Marsh & Dunkin, 1992).
  • Because sport management students reported higher instructor, course, and overall ratings when perceived rigor increased (and mean course grades decreased), the grading leniency hypothesis (Marsh & Dunkin, 1992) does not seem to apply.
  • The fear of retributional bias (Feldman, 2007) should be minimized based on our results. This conclusion does not mean that individual students will not provide negative ratings or engage in retributional behaviors on occasion.  Rather, it means at the course level the mean scores over time indicate that if faculty engage in designing and implementing courses with the five elements of rigor, their mean course ratings will likely be improved.

 

Click here for full research article in Sport Management Education Vol. 14, Issue 1.

 

 

References

Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Feldman, K. A. (2007). Identifying exemplary teachers and teaching: Evidence from student ratings. In R.P. Perry & J.C. Smart (Eds.), The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective (pp. 93–129). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Johnson, J. E., Weidner, T. G., Jones, J. A., & Manwell, A. K. (2019). Evaluating academic course rigor, Part I: Defining a nebulous construct. Journal of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness, 8(1-2), 86-121.

Marsh, H. W., & Dunkin, M. J. (1992). Students’ evaluations of university teaching: A multidimensional perspective. In J.C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 8, pp. 143-234). New York, NY: Agathon Press.

Empirical Investigation of Sport Trademark Dilution Using Contingent Valuation Method

By Sungho Cho, J. Lucy Lee, June Won, and Jong Kwan (Jake) Lee (all authors are affiliated with Bowling Green State University)

TM Dilution_Graphics.pngWould any unauthorized use of sport trademarks be harmful to the brand equity of the marks? What if a sport trademark is extremely strong like Nike or Adidas? What if an unauthorized use has happened in a product category totally not related to sport (such as Manchester Moo United milk and butter)?

Without trademark law, people would need to pay attention on so many things when they want to buy sneakers or gym membership. Trademarks help consumers find desirable goods and services without evaluating product attributes in detail. Thus, trademark law protects owners of legally protected marks from unauthorized use that would likely confuse general consumers as to the sources of goods and services. The legal claim is based on the theory of infringement that focuses on trademarks’ crucial function of information delivery in the market. Since the claim mainly intends to protect general consumers rather than mark owners, plaintiffs must show that people would likely be confused between the marks at issue (e.g., Nike v. Nikee).

In addition to the infringement theory, owners of famous marks can bring lawsuits against unauthorized users under the theory of trademark dilution. Dilution is a legal concept designed to protect intellectual property rights of mark owners. Trademark dilution claims do not require plaintiffs to prove that people are likely confused. Therefore, owners of famous marks such as Nike or Adidas may sue some “noncompetitive” users even if the junior marks would not likely confuse anyone. For instance, Nike successfully brought a lawsuit against Nikepal who was selling biochemical lab supplies even though people might not likely be confused between the sport merchandising brand and Nikepal’s business due to their irrelevant product categories. Studies investigated whether noncompetitive use of famous marks would result in serious damage to the them, but empirical results have been inconsistent.

The current study examined four different situations to see if noncompetitive use of sport trademarks would have harmful effects to them: (1) when two marks sound similar (Nike v. Nikepal); (2) when their logos look similar (Adidas v. Herbalife); (3) when one is a service mark while the other is a trademark (Manchester United v. Manchester Moo United); and (4) when marks are used in an exactly same product category, i.e., sport merchandise (Under Armour v. Uncle Martian). 140 participants were assigned to four subgroups where they tried to purchase goods of the famous sport trademarks online. While participants searched product of their interest, junior marks’ popup ads appear frequently and interrupted their virtual shopping. The perceived financial values of the famous sport trademarks were measured before and after the online shopping experience in conjunction with control group settings.

Nikepal and Herbalife did not negatively affect the brand equity of the exceptionally famous sport trademarks, Nike and Adidas, respectively. But Manchester Moo United (against Manchester United) and Uncle Martian (against Under Armour) resulted in harmful effects on the moderately famous trademarks in terms of their decreased brand equity in financial terms.

For academics, it is notable that exceptionally famous sport trademarks (Nike and Adidas) were immune to trademark dilution. The finding affirms that strong schematic properties of the famous marks would not be easily weakened by the introduction of the cognitively dissonant information (Nikepal and Herbalife). Presumably, the junior marks created information processing that just confirmed the extremely strong brand schemata associated with Nike and Adidas in the minds of participants. Future studies may conduct a series of follow-up inquiries relating to this result in the context of brand management as well as consumer behavior.

For practitioners, the findings suggest that owners of exceptionally famous sport trademarks may need to focus on traditional infringement claim in the enforcement of their trademark rights rather than engage catch-all legal actions that would waste various resources for seemingly insignificant harm. In addition, parties in trademark litigation may use the findings to attack the constitutionality of the federal trademark dilution statute on the ground that the regulation of commercial speech under the law might be unnecessarily restrictive under the First Amendment.

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol 34 Issue 3.

Meeting NASSM: Conference Manager Role

In the Spring of 2020, the NASSM Blog highlighted different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoyed getting to know them and learning more about NASSM. For our final feature, we asked Stacey Warner to answer some questions about her role as Conference Manager (Note: These interviews were conducted in early February.):

Current faculty position:  Professor at East Carolina University (ECU)

How long have you been at this institution?:   10

Where are you from?:  Central PA

What are your primary responsibilities in your role with NASSM?  I serve as the conference manager for our annual conference. I oversee various aspects of the event including securing future sites, scheduling, budgeting, event operations, and securing & working with sponsorships, exhibitors, and advertisers.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM?   My mentors (Drs. Dixon, Chalip, and Green) did a tremendous job of role modeling the importance of service to the profession.    The environment at ECU, which has a motto of Servire or “to serve”, only further reinforced that. Success for me in this profession is about being able to balance and contribute strong research, teaching, and service.  NASSM offered an arena where I felt like I could serve and my skill set could contribute to the profession.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? I feel that the NASSM annual conference should be a strong, healthy, and welcoming place for all sport management researchers and educators. I want to be a part of building and contributing to that type of culture and community.  I know there are Sport Managements colleagues out there that have felt like NASSM is their “home conference”.   I’m someone that wants to listen to those that haven’t felt that yet, understand why, and improve/fix what we can to make the annual conference feel like it’s the conference for all who haven’t found that home yet. The NASSM Conference can’t be everything for everyone, but my hope is it continues to be the conference that Sport Management researchers and educators look forward to going to meet new colleagues and exchange ideas.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces?  Leadership, governance, & service.  We are an organization that continues to grow and is very dependent upon voluntary service. We’re very fortunately to have an organization full of gifted leaders and managers who always seem to step up each year, but as the organization grows so do the time demands. So I think restructuring and governance are the biggest challenges (and opportunity!) that NASSM faces.

Dream NASSM destination: Hawaii

Stayed tuned for all NASSM news on Twitter at @NASSM or on the website at nassm.org.

Meeting NASSM Series: Executive Committee Secretary Role

In the following months, the NASSM Blog will be highlighting different individuals with NASSM leadership roles. We hope you enjoy getting to know them and learning more about NASSM.

This week’s highlight is NASSM’s current Secretary, Dr. Leeann Lower-Hoppe.

Current faculty position: Assistant Professor a The Ohio State University

How long have you been at this institution? 3 years

Where are you from? Cincinnati, Ohio

What are your primary responsibilities in your role as EC Secretary? The NASSM Operating Codes provides a helpful comprehensive review of the Secretary role. To summarize, my primary responsibilities include: assisting the NASSM President, maintaining records of all Society meetings and Constitutional and Operating Code changes, recording Society meeting minutes, and serving as a voting member on the EC.

What made you want to get involved with NASSM? Servant leadership as a philosophy guides my research, teaching, and service. I believe it is a responsibility of the membership to serve your national association. Through supporting the internal operations of NASSM I seek to advance our field, professionally develop, and expand our network.

How do you hope to contribute to NASSM through serving? NASSM has a wonderful legacy of leadership. It is a privilege to serve on the NASSM EC with outstanding professionals in the field of sport management. I hope to embody the professionalism of the EC, contribute new perspective and ideas, promote the voice of the membership, support the NASSM President, and increase the efficiency of the Secretary role.

What do you think are the biggest challenges NASSM faces? As NASSM President Bob Heere outlined in his recent holiday message to the NASSM membership, we are in the process of exploring a new governance structure. This has been a significant topic of discussion within the EC and has the potential to produce positive change within the organization. However, I anticipate the process of proposing a new governance structure and potentially moving forward with restructuring the board will be a challenge – howbeit a worthy challenge.

Dream NASSM Destination: Chicago, IL – great city!

Considering Taking Up A Cause? Here are some lessons

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos experienced and observed the plight of Black Americans, they knew they had to do something. So, on October 16, 1968, Smith and Carlos, winning gold and bronze in the men’s 200 meters, respectively, each wore black socks without shoes to the medal podium. They proceeded to extend one black-gloved fist over their bowed heads during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S. “The boos were about as profound as the silence was when we raised our fists and bowed our heads in prayer,” Smith recalled (Zacardi, 2018, para. 36).

Disruption is hard. Some people succeed, able to transform their organizations or institutions in which they operate. Others are not so effective, incapable of unsettling the current situation that exists within their environment. One reason for such “failure” is because people often tend to oppose change that disrupts the status quo. We saw this in 1968. Interested in this story of disruption, we recently set out to better understand this essential yet poorly understood aspect of social change. We gathered and analyzed interviews with 59 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team concerning their reactions (see Agyemang, Berg, & Fuller, 2018).

In general, and as you may imagine, Smith and Carlos’ teammates did not approve of the protest. Based on the interviews, we identified four main reasons why teammates disliked their activism: (1) the sacred spirit of competition should supersede all else; (2) the Olympics should be apolitical; (3) the Olympics should be cherished as an entertainment spectacle; and (4) nationalism and representing the U.S. team is more important than any sociopolitical viewpoint. Building on this and other research, I address the following question: how do change leaders harness and manage the negative perceptions they encounter concerning their disruptive activity? Here are some takeaways and how they may apply to people working for change:

Become an expert in the area which you seek social change.

At the end of the day, change leaders cannot force people to believe in the same social causes they do. This is why people working for social change should focus on the things they can control. One way is to be an expert in the area in which you intend to disrupt and desire social change. Occasionally groups resisting may lack essential information and not understand the social cause. In other cases, those opposing the social change frequently attempt to obscure a change leader’s message. Based on reading and observation, sometimes this is easier to do because change leaders do not fully understand what they’re doing. As a result, they are unable to generate empathy from the broader public because their message is unclear. For instance, Colin Kaepernick said that he had considered taking a stand for a while, but before he did, he wanted to make sure he was well read on the subject matter. Though he has faced criticism for his actions and his beliefs, it is clear he is strong in his convictions and is able to back them up given his understanding of the issues.

Not all causes are seen the same.

In 2016, I spoke with a renowned sports journalist about the current wave of athlete protests. Comparing the likes of LeBron James to Colin Kaepernick, the journalist noted how there is a fundamental difference between calling for an end to gun violence (i.e., James at ESPY Awards) and calling for systemic change to social institutions that have historically wronged racial and ethnic minorities. He contended that the former is much more likely to gain consensus (or at least close to it) from the public than the latter, which is much more divisive. Regarding the latter, opposition may even dispute the social issue even exist. The biggest challenge here is to articulate how and why the change you are calling for will benefit those who are not yet onboard. Human nature is to operate from a “what’s in it for me?” mentality. If change leaders desire commitment from others, they should consider what these groups want and need.

Anticipate resistance.

Related to the point above, I think one of the more obvious takeaways is that change leaders should always anticipate resistance. This occurs for many reasons, including dominant groups are more prone to uphold the status quo and not champion change, because they benefit from societal norms. Contrasting to that, peripheral actors who are often less privileged members of society and are less favored by the status quo are more to desire change. We saw this in 1968 during Smith and Carlos’ time, and we see similar scenes today. For example, Colin Kaepernick’s silent gestures beginning in 2016 has received backlash both for his tactics (i.e., kneeling during the national anthem) and the causes he’s bringing attention to (i.e., police brutality against Black people).

Embrace the challenge.

Sure, people resisting a social cause you believe strongly in can be a frustrating and oftentimes agonizing experience. However, as cliché as it may be, it is important for change leaders to not withdraw from the resistance, but embrace it. One piece of advice I received was to think of resistance as strength training. We use resistance (e.g., dumbbells) to build muscle and endurance so that we can gain strength. The same could be said for the opposition change leaders face when attempting to bring attention to a social cause. So, keenly listen. Attempt to understand why they are resisting. This seems to be a lost art in today’s divided political climate. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to concur with every single criticism; but listening to opposition criticisms can open your eyes to blind spots you may have not considered, and serve to ultimately strengthen your cause when you respond to these blind spots.

Social position matters.

A person’s social position is based on various social groups they belong to (e.g., profession, gender, race, culture, relationships) and provides them consent to perform certain actions and enter certain spaces. One of the more interesting observations from the study is that Smith and Carlos’ protest may have been viewed differently if they had the support of their teammates and people in positions of power. Based on this, it would behoove change leaders to seek ties with people with access to resources and “clout” they need to make change. For instance, recently, professional athletes have established relationships and met with Congressional leaders about issues related to race and policing, among others. These relationships could provide your change effort more legitimacy.

Final remarks

When we consider what is necessary for social change to take place, it regularly demands some type of disruptive act. Change leaders can play an integral role in this process. The challenge is this is often complex, and will often entail resistance to both the change and the tactics a change leader will use. Yet, I’m reminded of what John Carlos recently told me: If anyone ever calls you a troublemaker, rest assured you’re in damn good company. Don’t let them [opposition] intimidate you and scare you away from doing what you feel is right.”

Click here for full research article in Journal of Sport Management Vol. 32, Issue 6.

 

 

Author note: another version of this blog appears at: https://kwameagyemang.com/considering-taking-up-a-cause/

Agyemang, K. J. A., Berg, B. K., & Fuller, R. D. (2018). Disrupting the disruptor: Perceptions as institutional maintenance work at the 1968 Olympic Games. Journal of Sport Management, 32(6), 567-580.

Zacardi, N. (2018, October 3). Tommie Smith, John Carlos remember Olympic protest on 50th anniversary. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2018/10/03/tommie-smith-john-carlos-black-power-salute/

The Experience of a Sport Management Instructor-Practitioner

A common practice among sport management programs, having practitioners as adjunct instructors are opportunities to provide particular expertise or more offerings than the current pool of professors and lecturers can provide on their own. This interview with Nikki Stewart from East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Athletics provides insight into that experience as a practitioner-instructor.

What is your current role, both as a practitioner and as an adjunct?

Currently, I am the Assistant Athletics Director of Academic Services at ETSU, and Issues & Trends in Sport Management adjunct instructor for both the graduate and undergraduate ETSU Sport Management programs

What do you most enjoy about having both of those roles?

As an assistant AD of Academic Services, I enjoy having a direct line to kids, my previous role (as a professional academic counselor), I only saw my advisees twice a year, but in this role, I see kids all day long. I enjoy investing in those students on a daily basis. In my role as an adjunct, I enjoy being able to teach again. I taught sport management at my previous institution, and while I’m currently teaching only online, it has allowed me to get back to teaching. I love having conversations with students. I get to hear their perspective on what is going on in sport. Every four or five years, the ways students think about the issues changes. I enjoy listening and discussing those issues with each group of students.

How do you see being an adjunct intersecting with your role as a practitioner?

It allows me to give first-hand, real-time, fluid opinions on what’s going on, because I deal with it on a daily basis. The students respect that. It’s great also to speak to non-student-athletes as well. A lot of the issues in sport are happening in college athletics. Whether it is TV rights, getting people through the gate, the different ways inventory is created, the laws being created in California, to all the crises in sport. All of that affects me day to day. While they can read an article about what’s going on, I also can say, “this is what happened to my team yesterday, this is what I’m dealing with right now.” I think that brings a unique perspective to the students.

What efforts do you make to bring your knowledge in as a practitioner to the classroom, and vice versa?

Like I said before, bringing in that real-time knowledge helps inform a class such as issues & trends. There is that insider real-time understanding I have that can help students understand how these issues are affecting the sport industry, because I’m living in it. In terms of the classroom to my role as a practitioner, I have to say I get really excited about to talk about these issues. I am a big nerd, so the classroom is a fantastic way to engage with these issues. It’s an avenue I don’t get as a practitioner, to have the time and space to discuss these issues with an engaged audience. We can get very narrow-focused on the athletics side, but by being both a practitioner and an instructor, I can see both ends of the higher education and athletics perspective. And by doing that, I think it helps our ability to best serve our student-athletes.

What do you wish sport management programs knew better or more about in regard to the sport industry?

That programs would understand how fluid everything is, how much things change. Week by week, things can change substantially. How quickly you have to adapt. It’s hard to convey until you are in it. Any opportunities to have field experience, even in each class, some opportunity to experience how adaptable you have to be. Experiencing failure, and learning how to grow from it while in the field can really help students. Articles and books are great, they give a great foundation, but taking that knowledge and “getting your butt kicked” in the field is what will help in the long run.

 

The interview was conducted by Dr. Natalie L. Smith, Assistant Professor in the Sport & Recreation Management Program & Graduate Programs Coordinator at ETSU. You can find her on Twitter @NatalieLSmith. She is always looking for blog post ideas and writers for this blog.

Sport Management Academic Job Listings

Here you will find the current academic postings for Sport Management and sport-management-related positions (this list is updated weekly):

Role: Assistant/Associate Professor of Sports Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Concordia University Irvine; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Limestone College; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant/Association Professor; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Southeastern Louisiana University; Deadline: 6/2/2020; Application & Posting

Role: Sport Management Instructor; Start Date: Fall 2020 (potentially Spring 2021); Institution: Colorado State University; Deadline: Open Until Filled or 12/31/2020; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant/Associate Professor, Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Lasell University; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor of Sport Analytics; Start Date: Fall 2020: Institution: Syracuse University; Deadline: 3/22/2020; Application & Posting

Role: Continuing Lecturer in Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Purdue University; Deadline: 2/24/2020 ; Application & Posting

Role: Clinical Assistant/Associate Professor of Sports Management (non-TT); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: New York University (NYU); Deadline: 3/1/2020; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor of Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020: Institution: Tennessee Tech University; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor of Sports Administration/Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Grambling State University; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant/Associate Professor of Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant & Assistant/Associate Professors of Sport Management (2 positions); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: SUNY Oneonta; Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Teaching Professor of Sport Management (non-tenure track); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Syracuse University; Deadline: 11/15/19; Application & Posting

Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Sport Management (non-tenure track); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Southern Methodist University; Deadline: 1/5/20; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor, Sport Management (Recreation & Sport Administration); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Western Kentucky University; Deadline: 10/30/19; Application & Posting

Role: Teaching Instructor Faculty Position (non-tenure track); Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Rutgers University – New Brunswick; Deadline: Did not list; Application & Posting

Role: Assistant Professor, Sport Management; Start Date: Fall 2020; Institution: Sacred Heart University (CT); Deadline: Open Until Filled; Application & Posting

 

Open Adjunct Roles:

Role: Adjunct Faculty; Institution: SUNY Cortland; Application & Posting

 

 

If you have additional postings you would like to be added, please email communications@nassm.org

Observations from the WWC Part 2: Interview with Current Sky Blue FC GM

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

A continuation from last week, we followed up with someone who has been dedicated to women’s sport, and women’s soccer specifically, for years. In a practitioner insight interview to compliment last week’s blog, I interviewed a long-time friend, Alyse LaHue. She is the current Sky Blue FC General Manager & Adjunct Instructor at East Tennessee State University. Here’s the interview:

How has the WWC in France impacted Sky Blue FC attendance, media and sponsorship interest?

I would suggest it’s less so the general World Cup and more so the USWNT’s success during it that has driven this interest. It always seems to become a national cultural moment when the USWNT plays in the World Cup. You see media coverage on all outlets: online, tv news, newspapers. Everyone covers it and with that comes enhanced interest in women’s soccer in general. The victory is the major icing on the cake in that you then have a long extension of the WWC through parades, talk shows, and general ongoing appearances via everything you could imagine.

We’ve certainly seen a surge in attendance with two sellouts and a third on the horizon out of our 6 post-WWC games. We even just moved one to Red Bull Arena to accommodate demand. Sky Blue has never played there before. It allows us to engage more media and sponsors by playing in a venue like that, a bit closer to NYC.

What questions do you and others who work in women’s soccer have that you can’t answer right now?

A major item for me is the measurables. There has been an instinct that women’s sports in general have that intangible emotional connection with fans, which I won’t deny. But as front offices we have to operate on data and numbers. Sponsorship ROI and impressions are areas that we typically have not been able to afford on the teams I’ve worked for. Those analyses can be very expensive but it’s something that would be intriguing to me. How many impressions on average does the jersey front get during the course of a season? How can we further measure the actual ROI for our partners instead of just treating their sponsorship like a donation?

What role do you see academics playing in women’s soccer? Have you collaborated with academia in your organizations?

I wish we had more collaborations! During my time in Chicago we had a group of students from Canada work on a semester-long project then come down and present it to us. It included many outside-the-box marketing ideas, many of which we actually ended up exploring

 

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Observations from the FIFA Women’s World Cup – Part 1

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research.

By Dr. Natalie L. Smith (@NatalieLSmith)

Natalie is an Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University, a former Sky Blue FC & MLS employee, and is currently recruiting a Graduate Assistant for Fall 2020.

For many former and current sports business professionals and academics, attending sporting events are often simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating. Here are a few academic-professional observations from my 5th live Women’s World Cup, and suggestions for research. Watch for Part 2, an interview with interim GM of Sky Blue FC, Alyse LaHue.

Creation of liminal spaces

Many fans I spoke to felt a lack of atmosphere in most of the French cities, something I also felt in Winnipeg 4 years earlier. They strongly desired a feeling of togetherness, celebrating women’s soccer as a group. While there were fan zones, most whom I spoke to thought they were solely children focused. This may not be what the event organizers intended, but it is how many people felt. Once finally inside the stadium however, the feelings of community and atmosphere were different. USA-France was a magical combination of European fan culture and USA supporters. It was the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. Exploring women’s sporting events as liminal experiences may be a wonderful opportunity for academic-organizer collaboration.

Understanding your fan base

Regarding the 2011 WWC, Hallmann (2011) is a good read. I wonder do those findings apply to France? Or those who travel internationally? Thanks to a summer research grant from Clemmer College at my university, East TN State University, I conducted a small exploratory project regarding coaches who traveled to the WWC, and an interesting point came up: It isn’t just about the sport. These individuals who have dedicated their lives to soccer, also spoke of seeing the cultural sites, drinking good wine, and spending time with friends and/or family in a foreign country. It also included a focus on learning, it was about conversation with each other during games. Similarly, in my informal conversations with fans across the English-speaking spectrum, I noticed while they came for a variety of reasons, none of them traveled alone. Those who research this space are probably thinking, “yeah duh, Natalie,” but is that research translating to organizer decision-making?

Level of play differences

For all the press the 13-0 game received, no one seemed to notice that on average, the level of play has improved dramatically since 1999. While there is a great deal of Uncertainty of Outcome research related to various aspects of men’s sports, works such as Valenti et al. (2019), only recently published, addresses the dearth of generalizability for women’s sports. What will happen when the women’s game moves to 32 teams?

Sponsorship bundling

IMG-4623
WWC Commemorative Cup Collection

Some of the conversations around the games this summer was the “value” of women’s soccer, and finally someone pointed out what I’ve known since working at Soccer United Marketing, women’s soccer national teams are mostly bundled with their male counterparts. Anecdotally, there are vastly different approaches to this bundling paradox. Most of my supervisors in business development could’ve cared less about women’s soccer back in 2010 and sold it as an afterthought, however I’ve seen this bundling used intelligently to provide value for the whole National Team or international federation brand. Exploring those differences, a hybrid sponsorship-organizational behavior research exploration could provide valuable insight for sport organizations seeking to maximize all their properties.

 

Effect on domestic situations & leagues

Some previous work (Feng et al., 2018) in Chinese men’s soccer found Chinese Super League attendance actually went down after the men’s World Cup. However, the presence of star players can positively impact attendance after an event like the men’s World Cup. Indeed, an entire issue of Soccer & Society considered this issue, but as the editors themselves note the issue was entirely about men’s events. For the 2011 WWC, research indicated attendance improved dramatically at Women’s Professional Soccer games, however the league folding that year left many unanswered questions. The appearance of stability for the NWSL and other domestic leagues around the globe could provide a better opportunity to understand this relationship. Which is why I asked a current NWSL GM to update us on the situation, which you can read about in Part 2 next week…

In conclusion, so many questions remain about how our current management theories relate to the realities of women’s soccer, and perhaps women’s sport more generally. Fortunately, this seems to be a growing area of interest for scholars. In the past year alone, we have seen a book published on the business of women’s sport (co-edited by Drs. Nancy Lough and Andrea Geurin), and a call for papers with the International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing for a special issue on marketing in women’s sports (submissions due in December). This increased academic focus on women’s sport is needed and welcomed. Clearly those in the women’s sports space want more collaboration with academics, what an opportunity for us to provide much needed research.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, right here at nassmblog.com…

New to NASSM Conference: Guide to Maximizing Your Time

By Natalie L. Smith (East Tennessee State University) & Kerri Bodin (University of Ottawa)

Great choice! You are headed to NASSM’s Annual Conference for the first time, and we’re sure you’re excited to learn new things and meet new people. But we’re guessing this is also somewhat intimidating. As one of the largest and oldest conferences in our field, the NASSM Annual Conference can be somewhat overwhelming for first time attendees. Here is a friendly guide to the conference itself:

First thing first, read the program schedule ahead of time. Pre-plan what presentations you want to go to. Make sure to build in breaks to let your mind process all the information. You do not have to try to go to every session available. When you do go to sessions, ask questions during the sessions, this is an opportunity for researchers to hear suggestions or new ideas that may improve or build on their current research. If you want to speak to the presenter afterward, make sure to go outside the room to do so, as the presentation timeline is tight.

Reach Out Early: If a topic or a person really sparks your interest from the program schedule, reach out to them and ask for a meeting or simply say you look forward to seeing them at the conference. Those scheduled break times are a great time to chat for 20 minutes in a centrally located area. Be flexible about it, some of these more senior NASSM members have dozens of old friends to reconnect with as well as committee or leadership responsibilities.

Add the app. Be sure to download the Attendify app then search NASSM for the official 2019 NASSM conference app (sponsored by Sports Travel Academy. Event Code: nassm19) or click here.

Practical Tip: If you are presenting, bring a flash drive and presentation remote (via @DocJamesWeiner)

What Are All These Events? (This only covers events with a social component or opportunities to learn more about NASSM)

Past-President’s Workshop (Wed 4:00-6:00pm, Nottoway, 4th Floor) – Every year, the past-president hosts a workshop on a different topic.

Opening Reception (Wed 7:00-9:00pm, Armstrong Room) – The first event of the evening, this is the time to chat with someone new. You see your colleagues and friends all year long, now is the time to engage with peers elsewhere in the field. Use the drink line as an excuse to chat with the person behind you. Meet new people in groups of 2 if you’re too shy to go on your own. This is a very unstructured time, so use it to have new conversations. Dress code: Business casual usually.

NASSM 101 (Thurs 8:30-9:15am, Napolean A1) – A great way to learn about NASSM itself and  how to get involved.

NASSM Annual General Meeting (Fri 4:00-5:00pm, Napoleon BC) – Learn about the state of NASSM, keep informed of changes, updates, and general concerns. Become more familiar with NASSM’s Executive Council. Every member is welcome to attend!

WIN (Women in NASSM) Meeting (Fri 5:30-7:00pm, location TBD) – An unofficial but long-standing event that brings together any woman in NASSM interested. A great way to meet new people.

Diversity Breakfast (Sat 7:00-8:00am, Napoleon B1) – Hosted by the Diversity Committee, an informal breakfast to network and chat with those interested in diversity topics. Everyone is welcome, even if you don’t do diversity research. Again, another great way to meet new people.

Founders’ Awards Night (Sat, Cocktail Reception 6:15-7:00pm, Dinner 7:00-9:00pm, Napoleon Foyer & Ballroom) – A more formal affair that includes a cocktail reception beforehand. The cocktail hour is another great opportunity to meet people (seeing a trend?).

What are all these committee meetings on the schedule?  Sounding a bit too much like a mafia boss, “eh, don’t worry about it.” Maybe you’ve noticed on the event schedule a few meetings such as “Executive Council Hand over” or the “SMEJ Editorial Board Meeting.” They are for folks on those boards or committees. Go ahead and ignore those parts of the schedule (unless you are on that board or committee!), but also take note of any committee that sparks your interest. Reach out to the chair and ask about opportunities to get involved. You can find standing committee chairs’ contact information here and the Executive Council here.

What do I wear? This for me, is always the toughest. Maybe as a former sports business professional or maybe as a woman, I always stress about dress code. I’ve found NASSM attendees dress in a range from full business to, what I call, outdoor recreation business casual (outdoor shirt short-sleeved button down). The Founders’ Awards Night tends to be more formal, the opening reception not as much. Everyone has a different opinion on this, but I will say, wear things that make you feel confident and comfortable, so you can focus on the exchange of ideas.

What is happening for students? That student board works hard for you, so take advantage of their efforts. I found student events is where I met future collaborators, new friends, and I’ve heard for some, future colleagues. Check out the student events here.

One last piece of advice: Not every conversation leads to a collaboration or a job offer, but every conversation at NASSM is worth having. Your To-Do list will always be there and your presentation will never be perfect. Instead, use this time to be curious, to engage, and to be inspired. The combined intellect, passion for research, teaching and/or service, makes for an invigorating several days.

Authors: Natalie is an Assistant Professor of Sport & Recreation Management at ETSU in Johnson City, TN. She attended her first NASSM conference as a PhD student in Austin in 2013. Kerri is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario. She attended her first NASSM conference as a Master’s student in Denver in 2017.

Thank you to @Matt_Huml, @markaslavich, @morrsport, @ChadMcEvoy, @TimDeSchriver for your assistance in providing advice to first-timers!