More Effective Sports Sponsorship—Combining and Integrating Key Resources and Capabilities of International Sports Events and Their Major Sponsors

by Ragnar Lund and Stephen A. Greyser

Overview — This field-based study of the Union of European Football Associations and its main international sporting event, the European Championships, explores key organizational capabilities that underlie value creation and enhancement in an event’s portfolio of sponsorship relationships. Developing and employing these capabilities--collaborative, absorptive, adaptive, and learning--have positive results for the event as well as for its sponsors. When effectively undertaken and coordinated, the activities can lead to ongoing renewals of the sponsorship program and open the door for new sponsors. The study’s perspective is that of the event, unusual in research on sponsorship.

Author Abstract

Organizations in the field of sports are becoming increasingly dependent on sponsors for their value creation and growth. Studies suggest that sports organizations (rights-holders) often fail to exploit the full potential of such sponsorship partnerships. The aim of the case study reported here is to explore key dimensions of value creation in sponsorship relationships from the perspective of a sports organization. The case study was constructed on the basis of interviews with an organization in the administrative structure of European football, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and its major international sports event, the European Championships (EURO). Interviews were also conducted with two of its sponsors and five independent experts. The interviews were conducted beginning in 2003, over the four EURO project life cycles starting in 2000, with a primary focus on the tournaments taking place in 2016. We explore different types of sponsorship relationships based on their direct and indirect value creation function for the sports organization and propose key capabilities that are required for the sports organization to successfully integrate, coordinate, and combine resources with its major sponsors. Key capabilities that are explored in this context are collaborative, absorptive, adaptive, and learning capabilities. The ability of sport organizations to share and absorb knowledge from their partners and to integrate this knowledge into their planning and management processes was critical. The study shows how knowledge-sharing routines supported resource integration between sponsorship partners. There are few in-depth case studies on sponsorship management from the perspective of sports entities.

Paper Information

  • Full Working Paper Text
  • Working Paper Publication Date: June 2016
  • HBS Working Paper Number: 16-139
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