Expanding beyond the core. An investigation of the approaches adopted by professional sport clubs (PSCs) into the development of product portfolios

  • Adrian Pritchard

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD by Publication


Research question: The ability of professional sport clubs (PSCs) to diversify and add additional product lines to the staging of matches, such as conference and events facilities,received little academic attention until the second decade of the twenty first century. The inability of some PSCs to generate sufficient income from match attenders, broadcasters and sponsors means there is likely to be a need to diversify and add products unrelated to sport in order to maintain professional status. What this body of research sets out to do is to investigate the range of products offered by PSCs, how they diversify beyond sport and the
marketing techniques used to market their portfolio of products.

Research methods: Drawing on the body of literature related to sources of income, product lines, brand extensions and brand architecture, the work incorporates seven published articles.
The initial work investigates a reconfigured version of cricket (T20), by using semi-structured interviews with seven industry experts (output one). Output two investigated the same sport but in a different country (India as opposed to England and Wales); to quantify the importance of investment from broadcasting, sponsorship and franchise owners in the organization of a new league (output two). The research returns to the context of PSCs in football and cricket in England/Wales using semi-structured interviews with twelve industry experts (output three) and 21 industry experts (outputs four and five) to examine
diversifications from sport. Additional product lines were then investigated using secondary sources in the area of a tourist resort (output six), a context used because of the similarities in
the hedonistic nature of the purchase. Output seven uses an online survey with 632 consumers of cricket in England and Wales to examine product consumption over the course of a season.

Results and findings: The main findings of the research are that PSCs should not be viewed as purely providers of sports matches (their core business), it is too narrow a definition of what they do. Matches form only part of their business, in effect they are stagers of events. All of the organizations, interviewed, who had the right to use their stadium outside of matchdays, market a portfolio of product lines that extend beyond sport targeting both
business to business (B2B) and consumer markets (B2C). They capitalise on their ability to stage sport matches and transfer this skill to the more generic field of events. It is also a recurring theme that when clubs invest in the infrastructure of a stadium, or move to new venues, they design the stadium with diversification in mind and the ability to offer a range of events in addition to sport. Most of the events staged by PSCs are targeted at markets in close geographical proximity to the stadium, leading to clubs evolving as regional brands within the area they are located. Those that have larger stadiums and budgets have invested in their facilities in order to target a wider geographical market and stage events with larger capacity.

Implications: The originality in the work lies in the incorporation of product lines with low perceived fit to sport into a typography of product lines. The construct of brand architecture is used as a framework to examine how different names and logos are used (e.g. using different names for conference and events centres and teams). This helps in the marketing of products that are not directly related to sport but are involved in the production of sporting matches (e.g. stadiums to stage matches). The research extends previous work that had not examined empirically product lines with little fit to sport. However, when diversifying these
organizations are still likely to be perceived by consumers as a sports team because of their history and this is difficult to move away from. Tourism resorts are in a similar situation as perception is always likely to be linked to their natural / cultural attractions. This means for both types of organizations additional product lines need to be aligned strategically with their original product range(s). For generic businesses the removal of any product lines is likely to be far easier.

In terms of the applicability of the findings to organizations outside the sport industry PSCs offer lessons to businesses in how to build a brand that operates within a small geographical
area. They do this by utilizing the resources they use in the production of sport in other areas (e.g. staging social events). Additional product lines to sport are often co-created and co-branded with other organizations, who operate outside the field of sport, targeting both B2B and B2C markets in the geographical area where their venues are situated. The success of this
commercial approach is evidenced by their survival and history which in many instances extends to nearly a hundred years.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorNigel Berkeley (Supervisor) & Rui Biscaia (Supervisor)

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