Community Relations

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0044803/00001

Material Information

Title: Community Relations Measuring Impact in Professional Sports
Physical Description: 1 online resource (120 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Gerber, Logan R
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: baseball -- basketball -- communications -- community -- csr -- evaluation -- football -- gerber -- hockey -- measurement -- pr -- relationships -- sports
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Professional sports franchises have an extraordinary platform to build lasting relationships with their local communities.  However, there is a lack of public relations literature in professional sports.  Sport management literature has scratched the surface of this topic, but considering every major professional sports team has a community relations department; there is need for more research in the field.  An exploratory study was conducted to examine measurement and evaluation of programming.  Specifically the study attempted to analyze how community relations departments are measuring the strength and quality of their relationships with the community. Data were collected using a structured telephone interview with community relations employees from all four major professional sports.  A convenience sample of 13 participants representing 14 teams form all four sports completed the interviews.  The interviews described the participant’s beliefs on a variety of topics including: the definition of community and community relations, the current relationship between the team and their community, dialogue and two-way communication, community participation, organizational hierarchy, league programs, and measurement. A conceptual content analysis was employed to analyze transcripts from the interviews.  Results included the following findings: (1) Measurement in community relations is neither standardized nor consistent among professional sports franchises.  (2) An effort is being made by most teams to foster dialogue and encourage two-way communication and community participation. (3) Organizational structures and hierarchies in professional sports franchises have placed community relations under the watch and direction of the head of the marketing department. (4) Community is primarily being defined by geographic boundaries. (5) Teams in all four leagues serve a common goal and that was evident from the responses, which included: providing support to the community, being a good neighbor, building relationships, and improving the lives of people. Community relations employees mostly described the relationship between the team and community as being positive, despite the fact that measurement is still focused on outputs as opposed to outcomes.  Overall there is a lack of reliable data on community impacts and outcomes, or the quality of relationships.  However, it was evident employees were focusing on key constructs of relationships despite formal evaluation.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Logan R Gerber.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2012.
Local: Adviser: Molleda, Juan Carlos.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2012
System ID: UFE0044803:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0044803/00001

Material Information

Title: Community Relations Measuring Impact in Professional Sports
Physical Description: 1 online resource (120 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Gerber, Logan R
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: baseball -- basketball -- communications -- community -- csr -- evaluation -- football -- gerber -- hockey -- measurement -- pr -- relationships -- sports
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Professional sports franchises have an extraordinary platform to build lasting relationships with their local communities.  However, there is a lack of public relations literature in professional sports.  Sport management literature has scratched the surface of this topic, but considering every major professional sports team has a community relations department; there is need for more research in the field.  An exploratory study was conducted to examine measurement and evaluation of programming.  Specifically the study attempted to analyze how community relations departments are measuring the strength and quality of their relationships with the community. Data were collected using a structured telephone interview with community relations employees from all four major professional sports.  A convenience sample of 13 participants representing 14 teams form all four sports completed the interviews.  The interviews described the participant’s beliefs on a variety of topics including: the definition of community and community relations, the current relationship between the team and their community, dialogue and two-way communication, community participation, organizational hierarchy, league programs, and measurement. A conceptual content analysis was employed to analyze transcripts from the interviews.  Results included the following findings: (1) Measurement in community relations is neither standardized nor consistent among professional sports franchises.  (2) An effort is being made by most teams to foster dialogue and encourage two-way communication and community participation. (3) Organizational structures and hierarchies in professional sports franchises have placed community relations under the watch and direction of the head of the marketing department. (4) Community is primarily being defined by geographic boundaries. (5) Teams in all four leagues serve a common goal and that was evident from the responses, which included: providing support to the community, being a good neighbor, building relationships, and improving the lives of people. Community relations employees mostly described the relationship between the team and community as being positive, despite the fact that measurement is still focused on outputs as opposed to outcomes.  Overall there is a lack of reliable data on community impacts and outcomes, or the quality of relationships.  However, it was evident employees were focusing on key constructs of relationships despite formal evaluation.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Logan R Gerber.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2012.
Local: Adviser: Molleda, Juan Carlos.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2012
System ID: UFE0044803:00001

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2012 Logan Gerber 2


To my mom, dad, sister, and Lacey, you believed in me when I did not believe in myself I would not be here without you. This is our accomplishment. 3


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my supervisory committee for their patience, understanding and commitment. A special thank you to my c hair, Dr. Molleda, fo r encouraging me and guiding me through this process while accomm odating my shortcomings. I would also like to thank all of my friends and family w ho have supported me. Most importantly my mom, dad, sister, Lacey, and Charlie for cheering me on, providing loving support, sound advice, encouragement, and understanding, which helped me accomplish this goal. 4


TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDG MENTS .................................................................................................. 4LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ 7LIST OF ABBR EVIATIONS ............................................................................................. 8ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUC TION .................................................................................................... 11Background on the Four Major North American Sports .......................................... 11Sports Re venue ................................................................................................ 14Community Relations in Professional Sports .................................................... 15Statement of Problem ............................................................................................. 17Community Relations: A Component of Corporate Social Responsibility ............... 19Significance of Study .............................................................................................. 20Theoretical Foundatio n ........................................................................................... 23Purpose of Study .................................................................................................... 24Research Q uestions ............................................................................................... 262 REVIEW OF THE LITERATU RE ............................................................................ 27Community Re lations .............................................................................................. 27Community Relations in the Organiza tion ........................................................ 30Multicultural Communi ty Relati ons ................................................................... 33Corporate Social Responsibil ity .............................................................................. 35Community Relations and Corporat e Social Res ponsibilit y .............................. 38CSR and Spor ts ............................................................................................... 39Community as a Theor y .......................................................................................... 42Measurem ent .......................................................................................................... 47Outputs and Outcomes..................................................................................... 49Output s ...................................................................................................... 49Outcomes ................................................................................................... 50Measuring Rela tionships .................................................................................. 52Symmetrical M easurement ............................................................................... 56Summary of Litera ture Revi ew ................................................................................ 583 METHODOL OGY ................................................................................................... 60Participants ............................................................................................................. 60Instrument ation ....................................................................................................... 60Procedures and Data Collecti on ............................................................................. 62 5


Data Anal ysis .......................................................................................................... 644 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETA TION ........................................................... 67Respondent Pr ofile ................................................................................................. 67Conceptual Content Analysi s .................................................................................. 695 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIO NS ...................................................................... 86Discussion of Findings ............................................................................................ 86Measurement and Evaluati on ........................................................................... 86Definitions of Community .................................................................................. 88Community Re lations ....................................................................................... 90Measuring Rela tionships .................................................................................. 91Community Participation ................................................................................... 93Two-way Comm unicati on ................................................................................. 95Organizational Structur e ................................................................................... 96Multicultural Elements ...................................................................................... 98Conclusi ons ............................................................................................................ 99Implications for t he Practice .................................................................................. 103Suggestions for Future Research ......................................................................... 104Delimitati ons ......................................................................................................... 105Limitations ............................................................................................................. 105 APPENDIX A COPY OF IRB AP PROVAL .................................................................................. 108 B COPY OF INFORMED CONSENT FORM ............................................................ 109C INTERVIEW QU ESTIONS .................................................................................... 110LIST OF REFE RENCES ............................................................................................. 112BIOGRAPHICAL SK ETCH .......................................................................................... 120 6


LIST OF TABLES Table page 4-1 Respondent Profile ............................................................................................. 68 7


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS Community Relations Strategic implementat ion of objectives to create, maintain, enhance, and repair relationships with stakeholders and stakeseekers whose interests can be aligned with those of the organization (Heath & Ni, 2008, ). Corporate Social Responsibility A commitment to improve community well-being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources (Kot ler & Lee, 2007, p. 3). Multicultural Relations Management of formal communication between organizations and their relevant publics to create and maintain communities of intere st and action that favor the organization (Banks, 1995, p. 21). Social Media Social media Is a grou p of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p. 61). Two-way communications Uses research, listening, and dialogue to manage conflict and to cultivate relati onships with both internal and external strategic pub lics more than one-way and asymmetrical communication (J. Grunig, 2009, p. 2). 8


Abstract of Thesis Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulf illment of the Requirements for the Degr ee of Master of Arts in Mass Communication COMMUNITY RELATIONS: MEASURING IMPACT IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS By Logan Robert Gerber August 2012 Chair: Juan-Carlos Molleda Major: Mass Communication Professional sports franchises have an extraordinary platfo rm to build lasting relationships with their local communities. Ho wever, there is a lack of public relations literature in professional spor ts. Sport management literature has scratched the surface of this topic, but considering every majo r professional sports team has a community relations department; there is need for more research in the fi eld. An exploratory study was conducted to examine measurement and ev aluation of programmi ng. Specifically the study attempted to analyze how community relations departments are measuring the strength and quality of their relationships with the community. Data were collected using a structur ed telephone interview with community relations employees from all four major professional sports. A convenience sample of 13 participants representing 14 t eams form all four sports completed the interviews. The interviews described the participants belie fs on a variety of topics including: the definition of community and community relati ons, the current relationship between the team and their community, dialogue and two-way communication, community participation, organizati onal hierarchy, league pr ograms, and measurement. A conceptual content analysis was employed to analyze transcripts from the 9


10 interviews. Results included the following findings: (1) Measurement in community relations is neither standardized nor consist ent among professional sports franchises. (2) An effort is being made by most team s to foster dialogue and encourage two-way communication and community participati on. (3) Organizational structures and hierarchies in professional sports franchise s have placed community relations under the watch and direction of the head of the marketing department. (4 ) Community is primarily being defined by geographic boundar ies. (5) Teams in all four leagues serve a common goal and that was evident from the responses which included: providing support to the community, being a good neighbor, building relationships, and improving the lives of people. Community relations employees mostly described the relationship between the team and community as being positive, despi te the fact that measurement is still focused on outputs as opposed to outcomes. Overall there is a lack of reliable data on community impacts and outcomes, or the quality of relations hips. However, it was evident employees were focusing on key constructs of relationships despite formal evaluation.


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background on the Four Major North American Sports Four major sports leagues dominate the economic landscape in North America and all four have created global enterprises worth billions of dollars. These four sports, football, hockey, baseball an d basketball and their governing leagues, the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey Le ague (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) reach nearly every country worldwide. The economic impact of these four sports especially in the United States is tremendous. Sport is a unique a nd distinct enterprise and eac h individual team exerts enormous influence on local communities both economically and socially (Mullin, Hardy, & Sutton, 2007). Over the past 50 years the sports industry has evolved into an incredibly influential and economically successful business in toda ys society. Sports are a part of our culture, spectator sport has never been more popular, at least as measured by audience size and ticket prices (Sauer, 2008, p. 5). All 32 teams in the NFL made the annual Forbes list of the 50 wealthiest sports franchises. In addi tion, teams from the four major sports made up 40 of the 50 on the list (Badenhausen, 2011). According to Plunkett Research Ltd. (2010) the sports industry in the United States generated $422 billion in revenues in 2010 and the four major professional sports bro ught in $23.3 billion in revenues in the United St ates alone. The research also showed that the average value of each team was approximately $523 m illion for baseball, $1 billion for football, $369 million for basketball and $228 million for hockey. Howev er, the sports industry is so complex, including ticket sales, licensed products, sports video games, collectibles, 11


sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and facilities income, that its difficult to put an all-encompassing figure on annual revenue (Plunkett Research Ltd., 2). Worldwide, the economic influence of s ports is even greater and the sports industry is growing faster than Gross Dome stic Product both in fast-growing economies, such as the booming nations of Brazil, Ru ssia, India and China, and in more mature markets in Europe and Nort h America (Zygband, Collingon, Sultan, Santander, & Valensi, 2011, 6). Despit e a lack of definitive numbers, there is no doubt about the economic impact that professional sports te ams exert in the United States and around the globe. In addition, sports franchises c ontribute significantly to local economies. Revenue to local communities comes from tourism, sales taxes, game attendance and increased sales in local businesses, espec ially bars and restaurant s during game days (Coakley, 2008). The four major leagues in No rth America have a global reac h as well. Therefore, each team must take into account how thei r community actions im pact their fans and communities in other cities around the c ountry and abroad. Games from these sports are televised in nearly every nation, and milli ons of people participate in sporting events all over the world. In 2010, t eams from all four sports parti cipated in, at the very least, exhibition games in foreign countries. T hese games add to their broad impact on global pop culture. In 2011 the NFL continued its international se ries hosting games in London and Toronto. One of the teams participating, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hosted community events while abr oad in the United Kingdom to engage new fans and help 12


spread the NFL overseas. This is just another example of the glob al recognition that American sports franchises have earned. Because the industry has so much financial and cultural influence, officials from individual teams and the leagues now go to considerable lengths to implement community relations programs. These pr ograms should help establish and maintain lasting and positive relationships with a comm unity of fans, sponsors, and supporters, no matter where they are loca ted geographically. Local communities are paramount to a teams existence and success. Teams rely on their fan bas e for a variety of financial reasons and moral support. If a team shows no interest in the welfare of the local community, they may be faced with hos tile and unwelcoming fans, dissatisfied customers, and decreases in ticket sa les which can affect profitability. It is well established that sports teams exert consider able effort and energy into addressing specific societal issues they deem to be important (Babiak, 2010). From local programs to global initiatives, sports teams have attempted to spread and foster the important life lessons that sports can teach. Most t eams work especially hard to impact children and underserved youth in di sadvantaged neighborhoods. Sports have the power to unify people beyond cultural, so cial, ethnic and religious barriers, Cappato and Pennazio stated (2006, p. 3). Fair play hard work, perseveranc e, and integrity are often terms that sports teams and leagues atte mpt to promote. Sports philanthropy is a dynamic and influential sector emerging in the nonprofit arena with unr ivaled potential to dramatically affect positive change and comm unity development, using the core values embodied by sports to meet the needs of those underserved, Robinson explained (2005, p. V). 13


Sports Revenue Revenue for the four major sports come s from six streams, gate revenue (ticket sales), television-broadcasting rights, me rchandising, sponsorships, ownership, and concessions during games and other events held at stadiums (Williams, 2006). According to Fischer (2010) the business model of the NFL is uniqu e when comparing it to the other three sports in that the teams all share a large quantity of revenue, nearly $5 billion annually: Unlike the NFL, the NBA, MLB, and NHL are more oriented on gate receipts and local media. The NFL generated $1.68 billion in local gate receipts in 2008, which was only 22 percent of its total revenue. The NBA share of gate receipts to total revenue is 32 percent (2008-09), the MLB share is 37 percent (2008), and the NHL share is 42 percent (2008-09) (p. 5). Tickets prices range widely, from more than $200 for teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Maple Leafs to less than $20 for baseballs Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks (Brown, 2011). However, ticke t prices are rarely reflected in the product and prices often increase after a team fields a losing team. The Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) have the second highest average ticket price in baseball and have not made the playoffs since they won the world series in 1993 (McIntyre & Sauter, 2010). Babiak (2010) explained that as a result of enormous team revenues, player salaries, and ever climbing ticket prices, a demand has been placed on teams to implement community programs. Teams meet the demand with efforts to give back to local communities using a variety of tactics. [M]any sport or ganizations turn to community outreach activities to address important social issues, build good-will in their communities, and at the same time, enhanc e their public image and garner other advantages (p. 528). 14


Sports venues also represent consider able economic interests within local communities. During the years from 2000 to 2009, 31 major-league stadiums and arenas opened and the price tag, in public funds from local communities, was approximately $8 billion (Santo & Mildner, 2010, ). This figure does not reflect total cost of the stadiums, but ra ther what was used through sa les taxes and other public revenue sources. For exampl e the Dallas Cowboys new stadium had a price tag of $1.25 billion but owner Jerry Jones privat ely funded more than half of those costs (Badenhausen, 2011). Community Relations in Professional Sports All four professional spor ts leagues and their teams fo cus on community relations through league-wide initiative s and individual team plat forms. In the collective bargaining agreements of eac h league there are mandated community relations initiatives tied into the contracts for pl ayers, coaches, and owner s. In addition, individual players, coaches, and owners o ften have their own personal foundations dedicated to a social cause t hey identify with (Babiak, 2010). Francis (2007) said the NFL, including member teams, players, coaches and families, has served communities across the Un ited States for over 75 years (p. 24). The NFL explains its commitment to community in its mission statement and focuses on serving communities year-round. Through the ac tive involvement of the 32 NFL teams, and long-standing partners, the league is able to make a positive difference in America's communities and connect with millions of fans each year (NFL, 2011). In addition, the NFL focuses on six areas with their community programs: youth foot ball, the NFL Play 60 program, breast cancer awareness, m ilitary appreciation, community outreach (primarily charitable donations), player health and safety, and recognition programs. 15


League commissioner Rodger Goodell, explained the NFL contributes more than $10 million to charitable causes each year, and a total of more than $150 million to youth football programs. In addition during disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the NFL and the players association were able to raise $10 million and $22 million respectively (NFL, 2011). The NHL has chosen to focus on education and childrens health. The league has an established record of charitable financia l contributions and volunteering. The leagues other programs incl ude: Hockey Fights Cancer, Hockey is for Everyone, the Teammates for Kids Foundation, which serves as the official charity of the league and players association, and NHL Green. As a pa rt of this platform the league launched their NHL Green website in 2012 which is dedicated to environmental stewardship and sustainable initiatives such as carbon neutral stadiums, water savings, and recycling (NHL, 2011). The NBA Cares is the leagues communi ty outreach initiative. The program addresses important social issues such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness (NBA, 2011). This platform provides teams with autonomy to carry out their own programs designed to fit the needs of the local community. Additionally the league partners with more than 20 global nonprofits and has volunteered nearly 2 million hours while donating $175 million since 2005. The NBA supports five primary programs: NBA/WN BA FIT, NBA Green, Basketball without Borders, Read to Achieve, and Coaches for Ki ds. The NBA also recognizes the player who best demonstrates a connection and pa ssion for their local community and dedication to the leagues commitment to community relations monthly with the 16


Community Assist Award, with the most recent winner being Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA, 2011). Finally MLB has fifteen community program s focusing on diversity, youth baseball, cancer prevention and other health measur es, education, military recognition, and sustainability just to name a few (MLB, 2011). They focus heavily on bringing baseball to inner-city areas and improving communities through sport. Major projects include building ball fields and providing equipm ent to underserved areas in the local communities (MLB, 2011). There is no in formation available on total donations or service hours, but through a diverse platform and various partnerships with nonprofits, specifically the United Way, the MLB has certainly positioned itself as a strong partner in the community. Statement of Problem Endless revenue increases from sports franchises along with public funding initiatives for stadium construction, increas ed ticket prices, and millionaire athletes have brought a demand on teams to give back. At the end of the 1980s, none of the four major leagues in North America had more t han five teams that supported charitable causes or had foundations of thei r own. In 2010, at least 24 teams in each of the four leagues have their own foundations and ev ery team and league supports some type of community platform (Harrow & Swatek, 2010). Due to an increased demand by stakeholders on the organization for socia lly responsible action and a belief from ownership in community service, sports franchises have taken huge steps in implementing community relations programs. Over the past 25 years, major spor ts teams have begun to serve their communities using a variety of strategies. However, there has been a history of cause17


related marketing tactics used to bolster t eams reputation or repair a tarnished image. Historically organizations have been reactive rather than proactive when it comes to community relations, Francis stated (2007, p. 14). Public relations literature has not extensively examined community relations from a practiti oner standpoint, i.e. what are the most effective strategies and tactics to build long-term relationships with the community. Furthermore, there is no understandi ng of how organizations, in this case, professional sports teams, are measuring and ev aluating these programs and relationships. To put it in plain terms, what are the strategies being adopted to best serve the needs of not only the team, but also the community and society? And how are teams measuring both t he outcomes and outputs that are linked directly to community relations? Community relations programs offer sports organizations a unique opportunity to connect with stakeholders and create positive and lasting relationships (Babiak, 2010). The impact from effective community relations efforts can position organizations to maintain quality relationships and build a strong reputation of service and commitment (Hon & Grunig, 1999). Additionally, Roy and Graeff (2003) explained sports teams are major corporations and ther efore have some responsibility to act as good corporate citizens or good neighbors. Effective co mmunity relations can provide teams with endless opportunities to connect with f ans and supporters and serve underprivileged groups. This service provides benefits to the team and community. Because of the growing financial and societal influence teams have in their local communities this area of research is rich with opportunities. 18


Community Relations: A Component of Corporate Social Responsibility Searches using Google Scholar and Nexis.com for community relations returned relatively few results. Many results tur ned up articles on multicultural communications and communicating with diverse communities. While that is an important component of public relations, it is not wholly encompa ssing of community re lations programming. The small sample of existing research offers scholars endless possi bilities under which to examine community relati ons. The Institute for Public Relations has placed community relations, as a field of research under the function of corporate social responsibility [CSR] (Heath & Ni, 2008). Public relations textbooks have defined community relations as a function of public re lations as well. It is commonly described as activities with local communities t hat enable benefits for both the organization and the community (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 2000; Seitel, 2004; Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). Corporate social responsibility is a rich field of study. It can be broken down to encompass many organizational practices wit h community relations itself, serving as one of those. Review of CSR literature and best practices leads us to two basic conclusions. First, although the scholarly literature and best practices commentary often treat CSR as a singular c oncept with universal meaning, t he reality is that it is a complex quilt cut from differ ent fabrics (Heath & Ni, 2008, 2). Community relations should be thought of as a function or component of an organizations (team in this case) overall CSR practices and polic ies. Within the context of this research, the term community relations can be used to identif y specific practices sports teams are implementing to serve and build relationships with their communities. For which the outcome can be relationship dev elopment and cultivation. 19


In an early review of the literature the term community relations is linked with a variety of other concepts, which include, but are not limited to: corporate giving, strategic philanthropy, social sponsoring, an d corporate citizenship (Lakin & Scheubel, 2010). The decision to implement community relations, as it pertains to CSR, is motivated by many factors. Compani es support communities and nonprofit organizations for reasons ranging from self-interest to altr uism and in a variety of ways ranging from financial support to community relations activities, Hall explained (2006, p. 1). These motives are becoming more widely recognized as being the right thing to do rather than being driven by profits. However, the literat ure on CSR motives is scarce and needs additional studies and more indepth research. Hall (2006) argued that community relations as a function of CSR, along with corporate phi lanthropy, can be used to measure the impact and overall we llbeing of the relationship between an organization and the community in which it operates (p. 2). Many researchers have focused on specific community issues relating to sports marketing communication, but have not looked at it from a broader context related to organizational culture (Chernushenko, V an Der. Kamp, & Stubbs, 2001; Gratton & Henry, 2001; Lussier & Kimball, 2009). Fu rthermore, CSR and community relations are often linked to corporate reputation rather than being evaluated by the social outcomes they have produced, and in return, the im pact on the organization (Coakley, 2008; Kiousis, Popescu, & Mitrook, 2007). Significance of Study Today, it is virtually impossible to find a major participant in the sports industry anywhere in the world that is not contri buting to their local communities. All professional sport organizations currently engage in various forms of community 20


outreach efforts, and many ar e creating foundations to support social causes in their communities, Robinson said (2005, p. 8) The commitment stem s from a shift in corporate America to focus more on respons ible business practices (Seitel, 2004). Motivations aside, sports teams have adopted many practices to engage with local communities and address major societal issues. As profits increase, so too does the dem and for community programs. Hon (1998) called for research on the fundamental conc lusions between public, or in this case, community relations activities, and specific and measurable outcomes. This research seeks to bridge a significant gap and leads to a better understanding of variations between sports and teams in their community relations programs. In addition the research uses that information to det ermine a link between t he programming and its effect on impact and outcomes with community mem bers. Specifically, how, if at all are community relations programs being used to build relationships and what does this mean for these teams long term? This research adds depth to both community relations and sport literature by investi gating and comparing all four major sports through a qualitative conc eptual content analysis. Every team and league has different appr oaches to their community relations programs and how they communicate and impl ement those programs with their targeted publics (Lakin & Scheubel, 2010). However, a ccording to the literat ure, there should be commonalities when talking about the ov erall goals and the ultimate success of community relations programs (Babiak, 201 0; Hall, 2006; Lakin & Scheubel, 2010; Seitel, 2004). In spite of this, there is little academic research in the area of professional sports and community relations. This research explores the types of 21


community relations strategies and tacti cs implemented across these actors in the sports industry in order to identify the common methods used to develop and enhance community programs and achieve maximum impact. Drawing on the constructs of building and maintaining quality relationships set forth by Hon and Grunig (1999), this research seeks to identify how community relations programming is measured using a qualitative in-depth in terview process. One of the most significant challenges for public relations practitioners is trying to quantify the impact of the overall community effo rts of an athlete, team, or organization. For example, how can you put a dollar figur e on the impact of and athlete visiting a sick child, or providing a free flag football camp to a group of disadvantaged youth? These are important questions when attempting to analyze community relations programs and their impact on the overall goals of the organization. Linking programming to organizational goals is import ant and helps in the evaluation phase. The objectives of the organizations communications should work to achieve specific outcomes and meet the goals of the organization (Cutlip, Center & Broom, 2000; Seitel, 2004; Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). Wilcox and Cameron (2009) ar gued it is particularly important that public relations objectives compliment and reinforce the organizations objectives (p. 158). As mentioned above, each league has implemented specific community relations programs that focus on different societal issues. However, individual teams are also free to make choices on their own progr ams as well, or make changes to league programs. One import ant facet of this study will be to find what department handles community relations for a given team and if t hat varies from sport-to-sport or team-to22


team. The results of this study offer practi tioners a chance to reflect and provide a base line for an introspective look at current comm unity programs. Additionally, the research examines differences in strategies bet ween sports and geographic locations which could be expanded on with future studies. Theoretical Foundation Hallahan (2004) argued that community itself is a solid foundation for theory in public relations literature: Despite the ubiquity of the public cons truct, a strong argu ment can be made for positioning community as the conc eptual centerpiece for examining and practicing public relations. Indeed, the field might be better called community relations (p. 5). Kruckeberg and Stark (1988) may have in fact conceived the idea of community as a theory in public relations and argued that the field should be defined by an organizations interaction with the community: Our theory is that public relations is better defined and practiced as the active at tempt to restore and maintain a sense of community (p. XI). Despite being a recognized and important sub field of the public relations profession, community relations receives a sma ll amount scholarly att ention. It is often lumped in as a part of corporate social resp onsibility or ignored all together as a viable area of study. Similarly, al though community relations rema ins a critical part of the public relations practice, community relations receives comparatively little theoretical attention from scholars, Hallahan pointed out (2004, p. 7). J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) defined the parameters of community in two ways, as a locality people grouped by geographic lo cation and a nongeographic community of interest people with a comm on interest (p. 266). In t he context of sports teams 23


community can serve both purposes. Team s must focus directly on the local communities in which they operate, but fans serve as nongeographic communities and can be located anywhere throughout the world because they share the common interest in the team. Within the context of this rese arch it is particularly relevant because sports franchises rely so heavily on building long-te rm fans. One way to do that is through continued community relations efforts t hat positively impact the fans and the surrounding communities. Furthermore, using community as a t heoretical foundation strengthens the idea that community relations programming will have an impact on social issues within a community. This means that an organization s existence will go beyond simply carrying out business objectives, but acting as an inte rested member of the community. Aligning the team interests with thos e of the community enhance t he ability to build quality relationships that benefit both parties. Purpose of Study Sports literature often focuses on community relations as a par t of the reputation building strategy. This definition more clos ely resembles cause-related marketing than public relations, corporate social responsibilit y, or community relations. The literature in sport marketing often re commends that athletic organizations need to engage in some form of community image building ac tivities as a way to increase appeal, attractiveness and attendance, Francis argued (2007, p. 19). The purpose of this study is to examine the community relations programs in the four major sports in the United States: National Football Lea gue (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA). This research uses a conceptual content analysis to examine exis ting programs and relationships between 24


the team and community. This research investigates measurement procedures to better understand the formal and informal eval uation of the constructs of quality relationships and whether tracking outputs is the only method of evaluation. Additionally, the research examines the types of community relations programs utilized by each team, definitions of community, organizational structures, community participation, multicultural communication s, and two-way communication, and finally how programming serves the overall goals of the team. 25


26 Research Questions This study addressed the following research questions. 1. How do professional sports franchises define community and community relations? 2. What strategies and tactics are profe ssional sports franchises using in their community relations programming? a. Do community members [publics] and partners [co-sponsors] participate in the decision-making process of community relations programming? 3. How do professional sports franchises evaluate community relations programs? a. Are there similariti es between sports (i.e., NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB)? b. Does the community relations programming of professional sports franchises contribute to the over all goals of the each team/league? 4. What are considered to be the most important outcomes of community relations programs for professional sports teams? 5. Do community relations departments in professional sports franchises utilize twoway communication strategies to facilitate programming? 6. How do professional sports franchises char acterize their teams relationship with the community? a. How do professional sports fr anchises measure or quantify their relationship with the community?


CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Community Relations Despite the fact that community relations is a well-establis hed area of study and practice within the public relations field, contemporary literature and theoretical analysis regarding community relations is scarce. Much of what is available typically focuses on multicultural relations, community building, both domestically and abroad, or corporate social responsibility [CSR]. According to Hallahan (2004) other articles have focused on case studies rather than empirical research (such as Mitchell & Schnyder, 1989; Tilson & Stacks, 1997). In an online search using LexisNexis of the Journal of Public Relations Research dating back to the year 2000, there were fewer than 10 articles dedicated specifically to community relations. Practitioner literature did not turn up many articles rela ted to community relations either. The popular trade publication PR Week included no articles specifically focused on community relations over the past 10 year s. Those that did mention the topic approached the subject as cause-related marketing and reputation or issues management. These articles pointed out ways to bolster or repair an organizations image, especially during times of cr isis (Maignan & Ferrell, 2004). In order to better understand community rela tions it will first be helpful to review several public relations textbook definitions. Then by examining some of the scholarly work that has focused on the community as both a theory and a primar y public of focus in public relations (Hallahan, 2004; Kru ckeberg, 2006; Kruckeberg & Starck, 1988; Starck & Kruckeberg, 2001) a clear picture of community relations will emerge. Other scholars have focused on community relations as an essential function of the 27


organization (Coakley, 2008; Hall, 2006; H eath & Ni, 2008) and that conceptualization serves as the framework for this research. Public relations textbooks offer a plethora of definitions on community relations, but some themes emerge and remain consis tent. Arnoff and Baskin (1983) defined the term as an organizations planned, acti ve, and continuing participation within a community to maintain and enhance its env ironment to the benefit of both the organization and the community (p. 238). More contemporary texts have actually regressed when attempting to explain the c oncept. Seitel (2004) defined community relations as positively putting forth the organizations messages and image in the community (p. 10), a concept much further removed from the idea of relationship building. Still yet another definition provid ed by Wilcox and Cameron (2009) defined community relations as, planned activity with a community to maintain an environment that benefits both the organization and the community (p. 10). Parsons (2004) examined the topic internally and stated that it is public relations contribution to an organizations social responsibility requirements. This is an important concept when examining organizational structure and wher e community relations fits in regarding goals and objectives. Recently however, the most useful and a ccurate definition has come from Heath and Ni (2008) in a contribution to the Institute for Public Relations at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The authors explai ned community relations as the strategic implementation of objectives to create, ma intain, enhance, and repair relationships with stakeholders and stakeseekers whose inte rests can be aligned with those of the organization (). This definition is both thorough and sufficient to explain community 28


relations as it pertains to this resear ch and will serve as t he primary operational definition moving forward. Public relations professionals have, over time, increased emphasis on building and maintaining relation ships with their publics (J. Grunig & Hunt 1984) which has resulted in more extensive efforts to implement community relations programs (Arnoff & Baskin 1983). Other scholars have attempted to expand on these conceptual foundations and to truly examine the role of community within the field of public relations (Berkowitz & Turnmire, 1994; Hallahan 2004; Kruckeberg & Stark, 1988). Berkowitz and Turnmire (1994) offered an analysis of the contribution of community re lations programs, stating, community relations programs need to focu s on facilitating communication between an organization and its community p ublics (p. 107). In addition, the authors found that the long-term success of an organization can be great ly influenced by community relations programs: The community is an especially important level of environmental linkage for an organization because successful organi zational operations are closely linked to the effectiveness of community relations on an almost daily basis (p. 106). Lakin and Scheubel (2010) bu ilt on this idea and ex plained that community relations relies on organizational in volvement. The authors found community programming extends beyond just a small loca l group or public. It seems to have a broad reach in terms of its potential effects. The authors said community relations is about active community partnership pr ojects between your company and/or governments and/or NGOs in the countries/regions/communities where you operate (p. 4). The authors also argued community relations strategies should take into account three things. First is the needs and current state of their local communities, where 29


understanding your local community is paramount. Second, are the available opportunities the organization ha s to contribute, such as financial resources and time. Finally, the goals that the organization wants to achieve within the community. These goals should align with the overall busi ness goals in order to measure success effectively. These considerat ions allow the organization to provide a greater benefit to themselves and society. Community rela tions, therefore, should be addressed with specific goals in mind. Achieving goals will forge strong relationships and address societal needs based on the demands and understanding between the organization and community publics (Lakin & Scheubel, 2010). Other scholars (Burke, 1999; David, Kli ne, & Dai, 2005; Heath & Ni, 2008) have focused on community relations as a part of a broader strategy of corporate social responsibility [CSR]. H eath and Ni (2008) contend that companies who engage in effective community relations can have m any positive outcomes well beyond marketing impact ( 6.). David, Kline, and Dai (2005) also made t he argument that corporations have various options when considering adopt ing a community relations platform. Community Relations in the Organization We now have established an operational def inition for community relations and explored a few basics of concepts of effect ive community relations programs. This subsection will examine some characteristics community programs often share. Seitel (2004) found that gaining community support is difficult for organizations, primarily because communities and community publics expect support from the organization but often object to any dominance on its part in co mmunity affairs (p. 291). Seitel (2004) also argues that communities expect four intangible attributes from organizations and are listed as follows: 30


AppearanceThe community expects t hat the [organization] will contribute positively to life in the area. ParticipationAs a citizen of the community, an organization is expected to participate responsibly in community affair s, such as civic functions, park and recreational activities, education, welfar e and support of religious institutions. StabilityCommunities prefer stable or ganizations that will grow with the area. PrideCommunities want [organizations] that are proud to be residents in the area (p. 290-291). Of these expectations, participation is a ve ry important concept and can be found throughout public relations literature (Bur ke, 1999; J. Grunig, 2008; Hallahan, 2004). These expectations can assist in planning and incorporating community programs into the overall goals of the organization. Burke (1999) argued that the goal of the community relations function in public relations should be for organizations to become the neighbors of choice In order for the organization to take on this role it: Requires building relationships, est ablishing practices and procedures that anticipate and respond to community expectations, concerns and issues; and focusing on support programs that respond to community concerns and strengthen the quality of community lif e (as cited in Hallahan 2004, p. 7). Additionally, community relations practiti oners should be focused on objectives that address important social issues in the co mmunity, not only those that align with business strategy (Burke, 1999). As Pratt (2010) explained, the objective of community relations programming should not simply be getting involved in a co mmunity project but ra ther, it requires setting up a system for community input we ll before major proj ects are underwayand it requires that business and community inte rests be aligned for their mutual benefit (). Burke (1999) takes this argument a step further and explai ned that there are 31


three primary objectives when interacting with the community and detailed them in his neighbor of choice strategy which is fo cused on building a relationship of trust between the organization and the community: One is to build trust relationships in communities; another is to identify and monitor issues and concerns that have a likely impact on the company; and the third is to design the community support programs so that they respond to community and company needs (p. 101). The idea of building trusting and lasting relati onships is linked closely to measurement (Ferguson, 1984; Hon, 1998; Hon and Grunig, 1999) and will be discussed in detail later in this chapter. It is evident from the literature that in order for organizations to be successful, they must go beyond simply impl ementing a program under the banner of community relations. The programs must ta ke into consideration the needs of the community and work to serve those needs usi ng a variety of strategies (Burke, 1999; Pratt, 2010; Seitel, 2004). Heath and Ni (2008) also found that effective community relations programming should tie in closely to the overall busine ss goals and objectives of the organization. The authors focused on the concept of relati onships in their definition of community relations [provided above and paraphrased here] as the implementation of objectives to create, maintain, enhance, and repair rela tionships (). Furthermore, Lee and Higgins (2001) found that community relati ons programs that do not link their goals and objectives with that of the community will be less successful often due to a lack of support from key decision makers. In additi on, programs that ar e not linked with the goals of the organization may be viewed by stakeholders as desperate attempts to bolster image. There is a view that an effe ctive business response to societal issues and a meaningful contribution to a civil society require more than ju st piecemeal, ad hoc 32


interactions with the community (Lee & Higgins 2001, 4). In other words, community relations will only be successful if it has the support and approval of the entire organization from top to bottom. In the case of sports te ams, it includes the owners, players, coaches, administration, and business staff (Babiak, 2010). Much of the textbook literature devoted to community relati ons mentions the importance of a detailed community relati ons plan (Burke, 1999; Seitel, 2004; Wilcox and Cameron, 2009; Yarrington, 1983). The planning phase gives what Yarrington (1983) referred to as direction and c onsistency, and also engages management by providing them with a deta iled agenda of the purpose of the community relations programs. Wilcox and Came ron (2009) noted that when engine ering specific objectives three things should be kept in mind. (1) Do es it really address t he situation? (2) Is it realistic and achievable? (3) Can success be measured in meaningfu l terms? (p. 158). All of the concepts mentioned above shoul d be addressed when mapping out objectives and goals for a community program. Multicultural Community Relations One area of community relations that has become increasingly relevant and is important to this research is multicultura l community relations. Managing multicultural content has become commonplace for many organizations because of the diversity of their stakeholders and [m]ulti cultural external publics also are found across geographic locations (Banks, 1995, p.73). All four sports leagues interact with various cultures and diverse populations in the communities in wh ich they operate. Seitel (2004) explained that serving diverse communities is an import ant aspect of community relations. The number of discrete communiti es with which organizations must be concerned with continues to increase (p. 307). Seitel go es on to include, Latino, African American, 33


Asian, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and tr ansgendered groups as well as seniors and other ethnic groups who will all bring their own perspectives on community issues. Diversity and multicultural communicati ons are again very broad terms and one can find various definitions for each. Ban ks (1995) discusses, in detail, the issue of multicultural community relations by defining key terms, calling for s pecific theories to be incorporated in the research. Furthermo re, the author developed concepts, primary functions, and responsibilities when communicating with diverse publics. Banks (1995) defined multicultural public relations as the management of formal communication between organizations and their relevant publi cs to create and maintain communities of interest and action that favor the organization (p. 21). In addition, the author explained the concept of culture as being: Defined and bounded by the subjective experience of communities of persons who share an underst anding that some important aspect of their lives differentiates them from other gr oups and diversity is a way of referring to the varieties of populations that are on the scene at any given time (p. 21). This idea is particularly important for t eams to consider when reaching out to underserved audiences who may have members of many different backgrounds and cultural beliefs. Incorporating multicultural elements in community relations platforms should not be overlooked. Tsetsura (2011) explained that publics, communities, and people will vary based on their level of awareness, past experiences, their exposure to different cultures, social status, and their ability and desire to assimilate to the local culture. As a result, incorporating multicultural elem ents into programming can help to enhance relationships by improving the satisfac tion the community has with the organization (Banks, 1995). 34


L. Grunig (2008) argued the attention giv en to multiculturalism should go well beyond political correctness and should be approached with lofty goals of accountability and social responsibility (p. 128). The author also argues that diverse and multicultural publics bring with them the need for new methods of communication and evaluation. When including diverse comm unities into programming organizations must consider how the message and program im pacts each culture or audience. Public relations and in this case, community relati ons, practitioners must then as Banks (1995) argued advocate positive communi ty building through effectiv e communication (p. 21). The author views community not as a label for others but a way of referring to a relationship that includes the self, the other and a set of communi cation principles (p. 69). Banks (1995) goes on to explain the role of community relations stating that it is the public relations program that enhances a particular kind of relationship that is inclusive, self-reveling, genuine, personal and emergent (p. 70). As with any programming, the inclusion of multicultura l elements should be carefully planned and researched. However, it is certainly a concept gaining traction and importance in business and especially sports. Corporate Social Responsibility As mentioned in the introduction, comm unity relations can be considered a function of corporate social responsibility [CSR]. Under t he umbrella of CSR are other functions and concepts. Currently there is a considerable amount of literature dedicated to the social obligations organizations have to society at large (Burke, 1999; David et al., 2005; Heath & Ni, 2008). Kotler and Lee ( 2007) defined CSR as a commitment to improve community well being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources (p. 3). While Wilcox and Cameron (2009) argued 35


that CSR is now high on the priority list of executives and their public relations staffs who are charged with improving the reputation and citizenship of their employees (p. 445). Heath and Ni (2008) said consideration of corporate social responsibility is as old as organizations themselves (). Additional ly, David et al. (2005) postulated that businesses have both the responsibility to make money, but also have the social responsibility to comply with standards, both legal and ethical, that local communities and society as a whole deem appropriate. For the past six decades there has been a debat e over the role of the corporation (Lakin & Scheubel, 2010). The authors point to the argument of famous economist Milton Friedman (1962) who expl ained that the only responsibil ity any corporation has is to make profits and not serve anyone but shar eholders. In addition, business experts and those who strongly believe in capitalism, claimed that it wa s the right of the individual, outside of work to decide whet her or not to become involved in the community (Lakin & Scheubel, 2010) This way of thinking is not as common today, as many major businesses have adopted socially responsible programs. As the World Business Council stated, [b]usiness cannot su cceed in societies that fail (as cited in Lakin & Scheubel, 2010, p. 1). The authors also said recently that the business first theory has been highly scrutinized. Now scholars from many different fields such as, business, economics, and communications have argued for and conducted researched on the benefits of CSR. W here there were once only shareholders (Friedman, 1962) many scholars now focus on stakeholders (L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002; J. Grunig 1992; J. Grunig & Hunt 1984). Alsop (2004) identifies community members as stakeholders of the organization and said c ompanies are paying more attention to 36


certain stakeholder groups because of the gro wing importance of corporate citizenship in the reputation equation (p. 45). He c ontinued, stating some organizations have neglected their local communities and failing to connect and build relationships with the communities in which they (organizations) operate can be very dangerous (p. 45). Corporations are now being held to higher moral standards than in the past and must position themselves to not only make pr ofits but also, at the very least, not do harm to society. Heath and Ni (2010) explained companies who engage in effective CSR can have many positive outcomes well bey ond marketing impact ( 6.). Maignan and Ferrell (2001) argued corporations and or ganizations have a responsibility as citizens, and therefore corporat e citizenship is the extent to which businesses assume the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary responsibilities imposed on them by their various stakeholders (p. 459). However, it is, for the most part, no longer acceptable for corporations to simply do what is legal ly required of them and many corporations have therefore taken on what Maignan and Fe rrell (2001) refer to as discretionary responsibilities designed to reflect soci etys desire to see businesses participate actively in the betterment of societ y beyond the minimum standards set by the economic, legal, and ethical responsibilities (p. 459). Corporate social responsibility requires action (Heath & Ni, 2008; Maignan & Ferrell, 2001). The actions have to be in place for the right reasons and can be designed to fit any organization or community. The important concept to consider is that CSR programs will be most effective if they are accepted by management and imbedded in the corporate culture as a way to benefit the organization and society at large (Heath & Ni, 2008). 37


Community Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility As mentioned, community relations can be th ought of as a part of a teams overall CSR strategy. One notable difference that has been ment ioned in the literature about CSR versus community relations is that C SR communication initiatives generally fall within the purview of the press agentry or pub licity functions of public relations David et. al explained (2005, p. 296). Community relations, on the other hand, has been supported as being more successful when it uses the two-way symmetrical model (L. Grunig, J. Grunig & Dozier, 2002; Ledi ngham & Bruning; 2000; Yarrington, 1983). Banks (1995) postulated that genuine di alogue between communicators and their publics is one of the most effective ways to build relationships as well. The underlying principles, motives, and values that are nece ssary for effective community relations are established in dialogue (p. 74-75). DeTienne and Lewis (2005) pointed out organizations can create value by creating so cial networks within their local community that add value and contribute to the success of the organization. Heath and Ni (2008) found a large portion of liter ature is devoted to CSR as one singular idea and use community relations and CSR interchangeably. However, they make the argument: Our continuing review of CSR literatur e and best practices leads us to two basic conclusions. First, although the sc holarly literature and best practices commentary often treat CSR as a singu lar concept with universal meaning, the reality is that it is a complex quilt cut from different fabrics ( 1). Furthermore, they contend scholars and publics mu st be aware of cor porations that are using CSR as marketing or image repair strat egy versus a community centered strategy focused on addressing societal needs. Another pervasive gap in t he literature on CSR and community relations relates to participation. Scholars contend community rela tions requires direct participation from 38


the community in order to be successful, but a CSR strategy may not require the active participation of the community on all fr onts (Banks, 1995; Burke, 1999; Melkote & Steeves, 2001; Seitel, 2004). The organization is expected to participate in and support ongoing community initiatives in addition to participating responsibly in community affairs. However, there are also some ex pectations held by the organization, including support for the business and the products or services they produce, (Burke, 1999; Seitel, 2004). J. Grunig and Huang (2000) expanded on this argument and added twoway communication and relationship building is the primary component for community relations to foster and grow mutually ben eficial relationships, and requires active participation on behalf of both parties. Furthe rmore, Banks (1995) argued organizations must allow some level of participation on behalf of their publics in order to avoid stereotypical and hegemonic dominance. The idea of direct participation is a key difference when examining CSR and community relations programs and their impact on the organization. CSR and Sports There is a small but growing body of literature on CSR in spor ts. Babiak (2010) argued CSR in sport is different from other industries and t hat previous CSR research may not be sufficient to expl ain motivations and impacts in the sport industry. The author found this especially true regarding pr ofessional sports franchises. Sheth and Babiak (2010) said one look at a pr ofessional sport teams webpage and other communication vehicles indicates that CS R has become an integral part of these organizations business functions (p. 435-436). Babiak (2010) therefore argued [p]rofessional sport is a rich context in wh ich to study CSR because a great majority of the organizations in the industry are involved in such efforts (p 52 9). The author also 39


found CSR includes more than just doing good for fans and people in the community. She argued [t]hese functions are of vital importance to sport leagues and so while CSR may not always directly impact the bottom line, it appears to be a strategy employed to enhance a number of aspects of the business of sport (p. 544). Babiak and Wolfe (2009) explained som e stakeholders have higher (or different) perceptions of the role and responsibility of professional sport teams and leagues to provide social benefit and give back to the community (p. 7) Furthermore, the authors provided four major reasons why CSR in sports differs from other industries. First, is the passion and interest of the product (teams, player s, coaches) from the community, which is leading to increased awareness of socially responsible messaging (p. 8). Second, the economic struct ure and impact each team has on its local community. Including the special protections profe ssional sport leagues/teams receive from the government (p. 7). Third, is transparency, when team dec isions and mishaps are placed into the media and public spotlight honesty, trus t and transparency become increasingly important. Finally, stakeholder management, because relationships with stakeholders such as the media, players, various levels of government, sponsors, suppliers, fans, and local communities, can benefit from CSR activities (p. 8). The authors also explained the social and le gal benefits, both perceiv ed and actual, that teams are granted leads some stakeholders to hav e higher (or different) perceptions of the role and responsibility of professional sp ort teams and leagues to provide social benefit and give back to the community (p. 7). Sheth and Babiak (2010) examined professional sport executives to determine how they define CSR, and how they priori tize CSR activities. The authors found professional sport executives approach CS R in a community-oriented, collaborative, and strategic manner in order to achieve their ethical, philanthropic, and legal 40


responsibilities (p. 446). The authors also found that CSR platforms implemented by sports teams benefit both internal and exte rnal stakeholders that is, employees, athletes, fans, customers, corporate s ponsors, and local communities (p. 446). Furthermore, the authors found the executives placed an emphasis on the local community. While sport executives felt that philanthropy was a signi ficant part of their CSR efforts, respondents also strongly felt that a community-focused approach was important in the practice of their CSR (p. 442). The au thors explained identifying the local community as a focal point of CSR effo rts could help the team strategically with a stronger and more loyal cu stomer base (p. 442). Sheth and Babiak (2010) also found a significant link between a teams performance and the importance pl aced on CSR by team executives. A team that is successful on the playing field (or perhaps in other aspects of their business) may not need the image-enhancing or relationship bu ilding function that provided by CSR activities (p. 447). The authors suggest good performance by a team will supersede CSR efforts in terms of benefits provided by the organization. However, they did point out a losing team might want to mainta in their name and brand in the community in which they operate, and may us e the CSR function to do so (p. 447). These findings support the argument by Maigna n and Ferrell (2004) that CSR in sports is still thought of as a cause-related marketing strategy. The authors did not indicate a cause-related marketing strategy was prevalent, but rather that CSR could be used for that purpose if necessary (Babiak, 2010; Babiak & Wo lfe, 2009; Sheth & Babiak, 2010). Corporate social responsibility in sports offers unique opportunities for scholars to examine how the organization directs and influences CSR behaviors. Furthermore, it 41


offers insight into how professional teams engage in community activities to both fulfill stakeholder expectations and to remain compet itive (Babiak, 2010, p. 547). Finally, corporate social responsibility in the sport industry seems to be a business priority, but also appears to be distinctive from other organizations and industries with similar economic and social impact (Sheth & Babi ak, 2010). The uniquene ss of the industry offers many research opportunities for scholar s with a multitude of va riables to examine. Community as a Theory To better understand the public relations and community relations function, the construct of community must be examined. Community is broadly defined and Hallahan (2004) found 11 definitions for the term. Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) also found difficulty when defining the te rm, but argued that it may be a result of the loss of community resulting from new means of comm unication and transportation (p. xi). J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) noted th at the term was often a ssociated with a variety of meanings in previous public relations literat ure, but two primary meanings seem to have presented themselves. The authors make the ca se that community can be thought of in two ways, either as a locality or as a nongeographic community of common purpose, interests, or beliefs, such as the scientif ic community or the business community. In todays society the addition of many online co mmunities exist as we ll (Nair, 2004). J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) expl ained, "Nearly all communi ty relations programs are designed for the first kind of community. The second definition of community is essentially the definition we have given to a public--a group with a common problem or interest, regardless of geographic location" (p. 286). Etzioni (1996) argues that t he first kind of comm unity, as a locality, is insufficient and community should be thought of as a set of attributes rather than as a concrete 42


place such as a neighborhood or city. Hall ahan (2004) arrived at the same conclusion as previous scholars (J. Grunig & Hunt, 1984) and postulated that two distinct types of community exist, the first is a geographic comm unity based on location, such as a city, town, state or country. While sports teams are probably more focused on local communities the second type of community, sym bolic community consisting of fans is also important to consider. Drawing on the work of Cohen (1985), Hallahan (2004) explained Cohen argues that a community exists exclusively in people's minds and is rooted in its symbolic constituents--without regard to place (p. 9). In fact, Kruckeberg an d Starck (1988) said a fundamental reason why public relations practice exists today is the loss of [geographic] community resulting fr om new means of communication and transportation (p. xi). This conclusion is, perhaps, truer today because of the global nature of our society and the connections we have created over the Internet, especially through the use of social media. Furthe rmore, the authors postulated that public relations is better defined and practiced as t he active attempt to restore and maintain a sense of community (1988, p. XI). The relationships created in a community are regarded as the outcomes of public relations programming. Hallahan (2004) further explai ned Cohens work by arguing community is built by the experience of its members and if the members of a comm unity comes to feel they have less in common with one another t han they do with members of another community, the integrity of t he community becomes impugned (p. 10). Sports fans fit uniquely into this description as they define their community by the team they support. Hallahan (2004) also explained that community -as-a-locality builds the foundations for 43


much of the early research in American soci ology, notably the work of sociologists at the University of Chicago in the 1890s. Ho wever, he noted that this early research determined this theory of community was inadequate. Subsequent community research steadily has shifted away fr om a geographic basis to emphasize cultural aspects of community (p. 9). Additionally, the author la id out his argument for why community fits as a public relations theory: Pragmatically, as a concept for the pr actice of public relations, community links the field to an idea and an ideal t hat is widely and positively accepted in the everyday world. Community st rikes a resonating chord among most individuals, particularly contrasted with sterile alternatives such as market, publics, or audiences. People want to feel they are part of a community (p. 12). Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) explained also that using community as a theory produces an alternate approach to community relations that directly stimulates and actively attempts to restor e and maintain a sense of comm unity (p. 26). And according to Hallahan (2004), [c]ommuni ty nurturing involves foster ing the economic, political, social and cultural vitality of communities in which people and organizations or causes are members beyond mere involvement ex pected of an organization as one of many community members (p. 49). Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) go so far as to argue that public relations primary function should be to return a sense of community that has been lost on society. The author s conclude that through the use of community relations programs, businesses would r ealize their organizational goals through such activities (p. 25). Most of the literature pertaining to comm unity as a theory expl ains commitment to community should be carried out for mutually beneficial reasons. The result of this programming are outcomes t hat positively impact bot h the organization and the 44


community (Seitel, 2004; Halla han, 2004). Communities can be thought of in terms of complex relationships between groups and s pecifically organizati ons and individuals (K.A. Leeper, 1996; R. Leeper, 2001). This idea is also brought forth by Etzioni (1996) who said [c]ommunities are often viewed as social webs, in which people are attached to one another by crisscrossing relationships ra ther than by one-to-one relationships (p. 123). This idea is common and discussed in deta il in public relations literature (Cutlip, Center and Broom, 2000: J. Grunig, 1992; Seitel, 2004). Culbertson and Chen (1997) have establishe d six tenants, thr ee of which help increase the understanding of community as a theory within the public relations field and include: Community requires a sense of in terconnectedness and social cohesion. Community requires that all citize ns have a feeling of empowermentof involvement in making and implementing decisions that bear on their lives. Community requires a broadening of ones so cial worldones array of significant othersso as to reduce fragmentation and enhance breadth of perspective (p. 3641). The authors explained one of the best ways fo r organizations to successfully create trust and empowerment among citizens can be accomplished by providing information to the community. By doing so, the organi zation fosters dialogue and participation with the community. As a resu lt, community members and publics can make their own informed decisions concerning their relation ship with the organization. Culbertson and Chen (1996) added that taking this approach m eans that the organization does more than ask the community to tr ust it. This approach means helping the community to develop resources and institutions so that it can rely on itself, not on the organization (p. 102). 45


A significant amount of literature exists dedicated to discussing the links between the two-way symmetrical model of public relations and community. As discussed, participation is essential in community relati ons. Seitel, (2004) explained [r]esearchers have found communication is most persuasive when it comes from multiple sources of high credibility. Credibility itself is a multidimensional concept that includes trustworthiness, expertise, and power (p. 185). J. Grunig (2001) came to the conclusion that a symmetrical practice of pub lic relations embraces and reinforces the values of community. The aut hor also explained the public relations function should promote the value of collectivism in what typically are individualistic organizationsespecially in countries with individualistic cult ures like the United Stat es (as cited in L. Grunig, J. Grunig & Dozier 2002, p. 322). Culbertson and Chen (1996) were also champions of the theor y that the model of analysis shou ld be the community rather than the individual. The authors said two-way symmetrical communication is necessary for that construction and for the development and analysis of community (p. 104). Furthermore, J. Grunig, L. Grunig, and Do zier (2002) argued the community model of public relations shares the same presumptions as the symmetrical model (p. 321). The two-way symmetrical model proposed by J. Grunig (1992) and L. Grunig, J. Grunig, and Dozier (2002) is explained as: Symmetrical public relations occurs in situations where groups come together to protect and enhance their self -interests. Argumentation, debate and persuasion take place. But dial ogue, listening, understanding, and relationship building also happen becaus e they are more effective in resolving conflict than are one-way attempts at compliance gaining (p. 321). Examining community as a theor y in public relations provides an alternative view, but one that can also be incorporated into the practice today. It may be particularly relevant to sports teams who must deal with both a geographic community and a community of 46


fans and supporters who connect from around the world. This perspective provides a unique understanding of potential publics and shareholders with which an organization depends on for success (Hallahan, 2004; Kruckeberg, 2001; Kruckeberg & Starck, 1988; K.A. Leeper, 1996; R. Leeper, 2001) Measurement In order to understand the contributions of community relations, programs should be measured against existing objectives and goals. Measurement provides data and analysis of the success of a teams comm unity programs and the impact they have on the community and organization. The purpose of evaluation is, according to Lakin and Scheubel (2010) to prove that your community projects are making a real difference in society. Stacks (2002) explained measurem ent occurs when we observe something. Formal measurement requires t hat as precisely as possible we state how we are measuring what we observed (p. 128). Measurement has long been a c hallenging area for public relations practitioners and scholars (Ferguson, 1984; Hon 1998). However, measurem ent and evaluation provide practitioners with reli able data that express both value to the organization and understanding of audiences. Wilcox and Came ron (2009) explaine d that there has been a great shift and focus on systematic m easurement of public relations programs in order to explain to clients and employers exactly what has been accomplished (p. 195). Furthermore, measuremen t links directly to the or ganizations goals and mission. Van Ruler, A. Ver i and D. Ver i (2008) described much of the research performed by practitioners in t he field of public relations as lacking in formality. The authors noted there is very littl e scientific or statistical anal ysis going on in day to day business and argued that many practitioners are simply using their instincts or 47


experience to tell them if the program has been a success. Despite overwhelming numbers that support thorough evaluation techniques, the authors explained, a common measurement tool for doing research is the eyes and ears method (p. 1). In addition, the authors explained that conclusions in the professional field are often drawn without systematically planning t he research or analyzing the results (p. 1). The focus on evaluation comes from the broad question originally postulated by Pavlik (1987) [w]hat can public relations contribute to overall organizational effectiveness (as cited in Van Ruler et al., 2008, p. 1). Particularly re levant to this research is another idea from Pavlik (1987) that there should also be a measure of [w]hat can public relations contribute to society as a whole? (p. 2). In order to answer both those questions many scholars (Ferguson, 1984; L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier 2002; Hon, 1998; Hon & J. Grunig, 1999) have spent decades contributing to the development of effective tools and instruments. The research has uncovered items that measure more than how many media impressions or Internet hits are accumulated. Thes e questions can be answered by measuring something deeper and more meaningful to t he organization. Ferguson (1984) called for relationships to be the primary unit of measur ement in the field. Additionally, after a review of prior public relations resear ch, Pavlik (1987) argued that measuring relationships would help to determine public relations value and contribution to the organization. Since that time, many sc holars (Bruning & Ledingham, 1998; J. Grunig & Huang, 2000; L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002; Hon & J. Grunig, 1998; Hon & Ki, 2007) have focused on developing reliable scales to accurately measure relationships between organizations and their stakeholders. A key part of the definition of both public 48


relations and community relations is creati ng lasting relationships with targeted publics (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 2000; Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). Outputs and Outcomes While it may seem basic, it is particularl y important to this study to understand the difference between outputs and outcomes. Spencer and Jahansoozi (2008) explained that measuring and evaluating ou tputs is the most basic le vel of analyzing the success or failure of a campaign. These meas ures are necessary and often used as the programs visible results (p. 183). With regards to community relations Lakin and Scheubel (2010) argued that the project will not be co mplete with out proper measurement and evaluation. The authors explained that you cant manage what you dont measure (p. 195) this in cludes both outputs and outcomes. Outputs Outputs can be thought of as anything in cluding but certainly not limited to; advertisements, news releases, newspaper clippings, news stories, other media mentions, Internet hits, re turn on investment (ROI), adv ertising equivalency, and any other tracking techniques used to specifically measure the quantity of items produced. Practitioners often measure what these item s could be worth in advertising dollars, known as advertising equivalency (Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). J. Grunig (2008) stated that ROI has received a great am ount of attention in the profe ssional world. He pointed out that some practitioners and scholars fi nd outputs can best dem onstrate the benefits of public relations programming to managem ent in financial terms, something many CEOs are more familiar with. He argued, however, ROI can only be assessed at the organizational level and does not account for two-way symmetrical communication practices. Therefore, using ROI as the only measurement technique may not be 49


enough to adequately evaluate the communications programming or in this case community relations programming. Outputs should not be t hought of as invaluable and there are benefits to measuring them. Wilcox and Cameron (2009) argued measuring outputs, or the production approach (p. 196) helps specify w hat practitioners and professionals should accomplish in terms of media coverage. Furthermore, evaluation of production can provide incentives, and are a t angible criteria for evaluating employee performance (p. 197). These items are typically measured quantitatively, si mply in terms of numbers, without producing any further understanding. Measuring t hese items can also help provide the organization with evaluati on of resources and time spent. Wilcox and Cameron (2009) also ex plained that the most widely used and practiced form of evaluating public relations programs is the compilation of print and broadcast mentions (p. 197). Furthermo re, the authors ment ioned tracking the distribution of messages is as important as tracking the producti on of publicity materials. This literature suggests that there is a gap between theory and practice but does not examine why professionals do not undertake more in-depth evaluations of programming. Based on the Ferguson (1984) theory that long-term relationships with key publics should be the goal of public rela tions programming, measuring outputs does very little in terms of showing the organi zation or the stakeholders how well those relationships are being built or maintained. Outcomes In order to gain a deeper understanding and provide evidence of value in the form of long-term relationships, outcomes, also known, as impacts mu st be measured. J. Grunig (2008) argued that using qualitative methods to analyze and interpret 50


information helps form public relations progr ams. In addition to quantitative measures that can be used in survey research, we also have developed qualitative measures for the indicators that can be used both in fo rmative and evaluative research on the quality of relationships (p. 109). Additionally Spencer and Jahansoozi (2008) pointed out measuring and evaluating outcomes [such as attitude and behavior change] provides a far more sophisticated look at weather the persuasive communication message was successful (p. 183). While co mmunity relations is often more about actual events and programs than messages, the importance of relationships should still be examined. Measuring outcomes is the best way to su ccessfully provide tangible evidence of the value that public relations and community relations programming bring to the organization (Hon & J. Grunig, 1999; Lakin & Scheubel, 2010). Specifically, it can provide reliable data about c oncepts often thought of as in tangible or immeasurable. Lakin and Scheubel (2010) argued the collection of data should be as comprehensive as possible and the purpose is to capture a ll areas in which your company runs or funds programs, projects, and activities t hat affect your communities (p. 204). Additionally, the authors explained that out comes are about the difference that the programming made which will require baseli ne assessments, formative research and usually requires a qualitative assessmen t. This should be done in addition to quantitative research, in order to fully evaluate the programming against stated goals and objectives. Outcomes can be thought of as impac ts, which Lakin and Scheubel (2010) described as the potential longe r-term effects for beneficiaries and in society overall (p. 197). The authors pointed out that measurement and evaluat ion is a planning tool to 51


help management both prove and improve outcomes and impact of overall Community Involvement and specific programs, in te rms of both societal results and business benefits (p. 195). This tool will be more effe ctive if it measures the community impact as it relates to the goals and mission. Most scholars have accepted that while measuring both outputs and outcomes is necessary, it is more difficult to measure outcomes, but is also more comprehensiv e (Cutlip, Center, & Broom, 2000; Hon & J. Grunig, 1998; L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002; Lakin & Scheubel, 2010; Wilcox & Cameron, 2009). Measuring Relationships Public relations scholars have advocated systems that measure relationships in order to better understand the overall impac t on stakeholders. Kl einnijenhuis (2008) explained that relationships between the or ganization and the stakeholder publics are useful and can provide measurable component s. The author described, in terms of research that the key dependent variable [in public relations] is relationships (p. 60). As this theoretical perspective has gained support and attention from many scholars (Bruning & Ledingham, 1998; J. Grunig & Huang, 2000; L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002; Hon & J. Grunig, 1999; Hon & Ki, 2007) several scales, designed to measure the relationships between publics and the organization, have been designed. Starting with Hon (1998) and in subsequent studies both the re liability and validity of those constructs has been evaluated (Bruning & Le dingham, 1998; J. Grunig & Huang, 2000; Hon & Ki, 2007). J. Grunig (1992; 2001; 2006; 2008) highlighted the import ance of supportive and positive relationships in public relations. The argument for providing value to the organization and subsequently the impact of public relations has come down to 52


measuring positive relationships with publ ics. J. Grunig (2008) described the foundations of the evaluat ion of relationships: Since the value of public relations to an organization and society exists in the relationships developed with strategi c publics, objectives should consist of strategies to cultivate relati onships (independent variables) and the relationship outcomes (dependant variables) that the organization strives to achieve with these strategies (p. 104). Furthermore, he explained that there are two types of objectives. Cultivation strategies can be specified as process objectives whil e relationship outcomes can be specified as outcome objectives (p. 104). If organizati ons and practitioners are going to practice effective public relations, then they should begin by evaluating programs and public relations functions by their success in produc ing quality relationships (J. Grunig, 1992, p. 105). The long-term relationships are necessary for organizations to succeed and have become the foundation for success of publ ic relations programs (J. Grunig 1992). Bruning and Ledingham (1998) id entified five dimensions that can be measured (open communication, the level of trust, t he level of involvement, investment in community, and long-term commit ment). These dimensions have an influence on a publics perceived relationship with an organiza tion and are particularly important when talking about evaluating community programs. Additionally, the authors explained that long-term commitment can be thought of as long-term relationship management. According to Ledingham (2006) mutually beneficial relations hips can generate economic, societal, and political gain both for organizations and publics (as cited in Levenshus, 2010, p. 315). Expanding on the work of Bruning and Ledingham (1998) Hon and J. Grunig (1999) identified six indicators of quality long-term re lationships (control mutuality, trust, satisfaction, commitment, exch ange relationship, communal re lationship). Additionally, 53


the authors identified these constructs as two separate types of relationships, (symmetrical and asymmetrical) and four relati onship outcomes (control mutuality, trust, satisfaction, commitment). The authors explained: In a communal relationship, both par ties provide benefits to the others because they are concerned about the welfare of the other even when they get nothing in return. The role of public relations is to convince management that it also needs communal relationships as well as exchange relationships with customers (p. 22). The authors argued that by measuring relati onships using these constructs, public relations professionals can contribute insight s such as this to the management of their organizations and demonstrate the value of st rategic public relations (p. 35). Additionally, Hon and J. Grunig (1999) cr eated a seven-item scale to measure communal relationships with organizations. Hallahan (2004) reviewed these items and explained that while communal relationshi ps are ideal importantly, communal relationships are not altogether altruistic (p. 39). This suggests the motives behind relationship building may not always be in the best interest of the community. However, Hon and J. Grunig (1999) found that when communal relationships exist, they serve as a strong indicator of overall success in relationship building. The authors said developing communal relationships with key c onstituencies is much more important to achieve than would be developing exchange relationships (p. 6). Ledingham and Bruning (2000) closely exami ned five relational dimensions that revealed themselves as effective predictor s for future relationships. Among their findings the relationship between citizens in a small community and a large organization were examined. The study examined individ uals perceptions of organizations in the context of the community (trust, invest ment, commitment, involvement, and openness). The authors found these items were particu larly important in understandings of 54


perceptions of relationships with the organizati on as related to community relationships. Therefore, in order to measure the impact of comm unity relations programming implemented by professional spor ts teams, it seems logical that relationships should be one of the major units of analysis. Hon and Ki (2007) expanded on the cons tructs measured by Ledingham and Bruning (2000). Their findings suggested a publics perception of a satisfying relationship with an organization will predict their attitudes towards the organization and, ultimately, behavioral intentions (p. 4). These behavioral intentions are most likely based on past interactions with the organization and the perceived relationship with key publics including community members and citi zens in local communities and can be positive, negative, or neutral. The type of relationship is up to the organization and will ultimately affect behavior as well (Hon and J. Grunig, 1999; Hon & Ki, 2007). Hon and J. Grunig (1999) suggested that past experiences have an enormous effect on what type of relationship is built between an organization and its key publics, in this case community members and team. An exchange relationship ex ists when one party gives benefits to the other because t he other gave benefits in the past or expects to do so in the future, (p. 3). Therefore, community relations programs should adopt strategies that allow for relationship cultivation over an extended time period, directed at creating benefits to both society and the organization (Ledingham & Bruning, 2000). In order to increase the reliability of the measurement, Kl einnijenhuis (2008) argued that simply measuring whether or not a relationshi p between the organization and the publics exists does not provide reliable data. The author suggested that three 55


additional aspects of measuring relationshi ps should be incorporated in the qualitative analysis: Frequency, the average degree of positiv eness/negativity of an interaction within a given time-span, the ambigu ity (within variance) of those positiveness/negativity of interactions within a given time-span, as well as the inconsistency, also labeled as divergence (between va riance), of these interactions (p. 66). This suggestion creates more reliability and validity of measur ement data for the programming and will also provide more deta il for future planning and benchmarking. Symmetrical Measurement Community relations programs, just as public relations programs, are most effective when there is symmetry in the communication and implem entation process (L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002). This is not a new concept; nearly three decades ago Yarrington (1983) argued that organizations have become aware that their success is directly linked to that of the communi ty. The good relationships created between one another can determine the success or failure of a company. In addition, the author stated those good relationships rest on two-way communication-the organization talking to the community and listening to the communitys responses (p. xv). J. Grunig (2008) agreed and ar gued that not all public relations strategies are equally effective when it comes to cultivat ing relationships. Accordingly, not all programming will produce equally effective and quality relationships. In this way he pointed out that the communications pr ogramming should be symmetrical because symmetrical cultivation strat egies are generally more effect ive than asymmetrical ones. J. Grunig (2008) defined symmetrical communi cations to be symmetrical means that the public relations staff communicates in a wa y that helps to balance the interests of both organization and publics (p. 104). The author also stated at the functional level of 56


analysis, a public relations department should conduc t research to evaluate itself-how it is organized and what it does (p. 111). Addi tionally, the structure and behavior of the public relations function should make it possible to contribute maximally to both organizational and societal effectiveness. Lakin and Scheubel (2010) supported his claim and postulate that participation is necessa ry. They said participative approaches are about doing research not only on peopl e, but also with people, involving beneficiaries in designing and understanding the research (p. 198). The authors supported the argument by addi ng that participatory strategies may increase accuracy of programming assessments and that it can al so help uncover the very experiences that were most important to [your public] (p. 198). J. Grunig (2008) described the hierarchy of communications objectives in terms of symmetrical, two-way communications in the following way: Exposure to the message becomes mutual awareness. Both management and public are aware of the effe ct they have on the other. Message retention becomes accuracy. Both can accurately remember and repeat what the other said. Cognitive effect becomes understanding. Both have similar cognitions about a problem or issue or pur pose of the organization. Effect on attitude becomes agreement. Both have similar evaluations of what the organization or public wants and intend to behave in a way that enhances their relationship. Effect on behavior becomes symbiotic behavi or. Both behave in a way that serves the interests of the organization (p. 106-107) The author explained these measures can be used as indicators or the overall quality of the relationships they have created and built with strategic publics, including community members. 57


Hallahan (2004) determined that measuring relationships is a viable unit of evaluation. He explained, based on literature from Hon and J. Grunig (1999), that public relations is in fact striving to create lasting communal relationships as opposed to simple exchange relationships: Besides explicit calls for a communi ty-based focus, researchers now address community indirectly under t he aegis of symmetrical, dialogic and transactional communications; collaboration, collectivism, and social corporatism; and relations hip management (p. 54). Bruning, Langenhop, & Green, 2004, conducted research showing tactics will be more effective for practitioners when they: Must design relationship-building pr ograms that (a) engage public members and the organization in a highly interact ive process, (b) fulfill the needs and expectations of both the public and the organization, and (c) provide benefit to both the public and the organization (p. 341). In order to understand what impacts each individual team or league is achieving, measurement and evaluation of the strategies are necessary and should be performed regularly. The staff should conduct regular ev aluative research to assess the effects of its communication programs on these relationshi ps with strategic publ ics J. Grunig said (2008, p. 107). The ultima te goal J. Grunig (2008) argued of communication programs such as community relations is a quality relationship with a strategic public (p. 105). Symmetry provides practitioners with a better understanding of the publ ics they serve. Incorporating symmetrical practices in t he planning, implementat ion, and evaluation phases of community relations programs may help to enhance relationships with stakeholders. Summary of Literature Review The review of this literat ure centered on community rela tions, CSR in professional sports, community, and measurement in public relations. The emphasis on community 58


59 as not only a public but also as a basis for theory in public relations (Hallahan, 2004; Kruckeberg, 2006; Kruckeberg & Starck, 1988) represents a well established, if not widely accepted foundation for analysis. Meas uring relationships has been established and accepted as the most effective way to demonstrate the value of public relations to the organization (Bruning & Ledingham, 1998; Bruning, et al., 2004; Ferguson, 1984; Hon, 1998; Hon & Grunig, 1999; Leddingham & Bruning, 1998). Using these public relations theor ies and protocols for evaluation and measurement will provide a usef ul foundation to examine community relations programs in professional sports. Community relations research has only been examined briefly in the field of professional s ports. Research suggests much of the programming is being used as cause-related marketing or as a t ool for image and reputati on repair strategies (Maignan & Ferrell, 2004). Furthermore, there is only a small amou nt of literature dedicated to community relations in both spor ts and public relations literature. Because of the lack of relevant research and data on professional sports and community relations, this study will add to the body of literature on a broad topi c. Hopefully, the study creates a better understanding of this subject in academia and the professional world.


CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Participants Participants were selected using a convenien ce sample from what is considered to be the four major U.S. sports leagues (National Hockey League NHL, National Football League NFL, Major League Base ball MLB, and National Basketball Association NBA) consisting of a total population of 122 sports teams. Of the 122 existing professional sports franchises, the researcher was able to contact the community relations departm ents of 67 teams through email or by phone, using team websites to obtain contact information to recr uit potential participants. Participation was limited only to employees of community relations departments on each team. Based on a preliminary review of team w ebsites it was determined that community relations departments are often involved in their teams charitable and nonprofit foundation activities as well. However, foundation employees, directors, or board members were not recruited if they had no official employm ent position with the team. The study targeted community relations directors and managers as they have more decision-making powers within the organization. However, due to scheduling and time constraints, any available employee in t he community relations department who was willing to participate was included in the study. As a result participation was completely voluntary and participants represent commu nity relations departments from their respective teams. Instrumentation The instrument used in this research was a questionnaire administered through indepth interviews conducted via telephone. Interview times averaged 41 minutes and 60


were used in a qualitative analysis to help determine how community relations programming is evaluated and what metrics are being used to measure relationships between the team and local community. Th e interview instrument (Appendix C) consisted of 23 questions and was designed to prompt comprehensive responses from participants. The target number of intervie ws was set at 20, which equated to 16.3 percent of the total population. However, only 13 participants (representing 14 teams) responded during the recruiting process. The telephone interview required participants to define community and community relations and describe what is included in their teams programmi ng. Additionally participants were asked to respond to: One question about motivation for community programming One question about standardization One questions on recent changes to the program One question on organizational structure Four questions about the importance of community relations to the team Three questions related to the teams evaluation procedures Two questions about participation and two-way communication One question about the strengt h of the teams relations hip with the community One question about multicultural relations One question about social media One question pertaining to community partnerships Four demographic questions Based on a review of the relevant literature on community relations, CSR and sports, multicultural relations, and meas urement, several specific themes have emerged. These themes offer an idea and loose framework to begin creating an inventory of best practices and traits of su ccessful community relations programs. These practices aim to build mutually ben eficial relationships between an organization and their local community. The questions for the in-depth interview are based on the theories, concepts, and ideas of tw o-way communication, participation, 61


community/collective good, measuring rela tionships and outcomes, as well as relationship building. These pervasive themes provided the baseline for the questionnaire. Additionally, several questions have been adopted from a previous study which investigated community relations and college sports (Francis, 2007). The questions were designed to create a bette r understanding of community relations programs in professional sports franchises. Procedures and Data Collection The interview questions were submitt ed for IRB approval on April 1, 2012 and approved on April 20, 2012 under protocol number 2012-U-0452 (See Appendix A). Participants were recruited beginning May 21, 2012 using contact information available on team websites. Potential participants were recruited either through phone calls or email depending on available co ntact information. Direct email was the preferred method of contact. However, a majority of teams did not list individual email for employees. In those cases phone calls were ut ilized to recruit participants. If neither email nor phone numbers were available, a general submission to the teams email was sent. This method was used to contact a to tal of 15 teams, but with no responses from that group a decision was made to stop using that method to re cruit participants. Out of 122 teams 67 were contacted to recruit par ticipants and 13 responded representing 14 total teams and 13 cities across the country. One participant was the director for both NHL team and NBA team with same owner in their specific city. Based on a preliminary review of all 122 teams, the researcher determined that the teams are located in 47 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Of the 122 teams, nine franchises are located in C anada (seven hockey teams, and one each in basketball and baseball) but no Canadian teams participated in this study. While some 62


teams ownership groups own multiple fr anchises including minor league affiliates and other professional sports such as soccer and lacrosse, the study does not include any teams other than those in the four major professional sports. Interviews took place between May 30 and June 22, 2012. Respondents participated voluntarily without receivin g any benefits and were recruited using a convenience sample. As soon as the informed consent (Appendix B) form was accepted by the principal investigator, parti cipants were able to select their interview time and date and the participants contact in formation was collected. This included name, phone number, and email address. An em ail requesting confirmation of the date and time of the interview was sent to parti cipants. Email reminde rs of the upcoming interview were sent to participants prior to t he interview date, four days (first email) and one day (second email). To ensure the participants privacy and increase the likelihood of open responses, the names of participants and team s, as well as locations, were not included in the data collection or analysis. This approach allo wed respondents to be mo re forthcoming and provide open-ended answers. However, it may have negatively impacted the presentation of results and findings. A llison, Okun, and Dutridge (2002) explained open-ended style of questioning helps investi gators to identify motives that may not arise or are difficult to test for on a fixedchoice rating scale, which is one of the primary reasons for this method. More than half of the respondents st ipulated that their participation was based on the ability to review the questions prior to the interview and that request was granted. This provided more time for participants to reflect on the answers and gain a better understanding of the goals of the study. 63


In an effort to increase the accuracy of the interviews, a member check was performed throughout each interview to ensure that proper interpretation of the answers was recorded. By reviewing the answers with the respondent, the researcher ensured more accurate results and eliminated any er rors or misunderstandings. Each interview was recorded using a digital voice recor der and hand written notes. Following the conclusion of the interviews, each conver sation was transcribed by the principle investigator and again reviewed for accuracy. The target number of participants for the study was between 20 and 25. However, due to a high level of saturation of common trends and themes, as well as a lack of resp onses during the recruiting process, the number of participants who elec ted to participate in the in the phone interview was only 13 (14 teams). Data Analysis A conceptual content analysis was selected as a measure of qualitative analysis of the in-depth telephone interviews. Stacks (2002) explained content analysis allows researchers to review qualit ative data in a quantitative m anner (p. 112). Additionally, Walizer and Wiener (1978) defined content analysis as any type of systematic procedure devised to examine the content of recorded information. Kripendorf (1980) defined it as a research technique for maki ng replicable and valid references from data to their context and the application of this res earch technique is practical for the current study. Stacks (2002) explained content analysis is particularly appropriate for the analysis of documents, speeches, media releases, video content and scripts, interviews and focus groups (pp. 107-108). The in-depth interview data were analyzed using a 64


conceptual content analysis and in accordance with guidelines for categorizing content as explained by Stacks (2002) which included: 1. The categories reflec t the research purpose. 2. Second, the categor ies are exhaustive. 3. The categories are mutually exclusive and a category for other has made this possible. 4. The placement in the categories is independent from other categories. 5. The categories reflect one classifica tion system, i.e. everything can be included under the community relations function and definitions provided in the literature review. Carley (1993) also introduced eight steps of conceptual content analysis (as cited in Francis, 2007, p. 51) which include: 1. Decide the level of analysis. 2. Decide how many concepts to code for. 3. Decide whether to code for ex istence or frequency of a concept. 4. Decide on how you will distinguish among concepts. 5. Develop rules for coding your texts. 6. Decide what to do with "irrelevant" information. 7. Code the texts. 8. Analyze your results. The unit of analysis for this research is the transcripts and recordings from the 13 in-depth interviews with employees of comm unity relations departments. Following the interviews the recordings were transcri bed, reviewed, and edited for accuracy. The transcripts were reviewed for phrases rather than single words as the level of analysis. Concepts were most often represented by these phrases. However, there was no predetermined number of concepts to examine in the content. Preliminary reviews of team websites and familiarity with the subj ect brought forth some ideas for concepts, but a system of emergent coding was utilized. This process provided more flexibility and freedom when reviewing the transcripts for common themes. Sele ctive reduction, a 65


66 system of identifying recurring words, phrases and concepts was utilized during the process to ensure accu racy and understanding. To account for any inconsistencies in t he coding, phrases utilizing similar words and concepts were maintained among every transcript and recording. Interview transcripts were reviewed three separate times to increase both the validity and reliability of concepts and to manage inconsist ent ideas. Following the review of the recordings and the transcripts it was determi ned that all of the information contained in the transcripts including incomplete and no -response answers were relevant to the present study and provided valuable insights to providing answers to the research questions presented above. The results from this conceptual content analysis are used in a descriptive manner in order to convey important ideas and trends within community relations departments in prof essional sports franchises.


CHAPTER 4 DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate how community relations programs in professional sports franchise s define concepts such as community, evaluate the success or failures of community relations programming, and how they measure the relationship between the t eam and the community. The study also examined other distinct ive characteristics of community relations. Those included twoway communications, dialogue, community parti cipation, and multicultural relations. This chapter contains the analysis and in terpretation of the data collected during qualitative interviews with 13 participants responsible for community relations programming for 14 different team s in the four major professional sports. The results are presented in order by research question. Respondent Profile The study collected demographic data including job title, head of department, position tenure and education level. The re spondents represented te ams from all four major professional sports including: five NFL, five NBA, three NHL, and one MLB. The results are presented in Table 4-1. The majority of respondents (61.5%) identif ied themselves as either directors or vice presidents. Two res pondents (15.3%) reported they we re assistant directors with another two (15.3%) stating they served as community relati ons coordinators. Finally just one reported they served as a manager accounting for 76 percent. Nearly 77 percent of respondents (N=10) i dentified themselves as the head of the community relations department. The remaini ng 23 percent were not in charge of the community relations departments. 67


Just over 15 percent of respondents (N=2 ) reported they had been in their current position with the team between two and five years. Five more (38.4%) reported they had served between 6-10 years and finally 46 .1 percent (N=6) reported they had been with their team for more than 10 years. The average reported l ength of time in respondents current position was 9.2 years. Only 10 respondents provided answers to this question. Seventy percent (N=7) responded they had attained a bachelors degree. Two res pondents (20%) had earned a masters degree and one par ticipant (10%) indicated they had competed junior college. Table 4-1. Respondent Profile Respondent Characteristics Frequency Valid Percentage Position Title (N=13) Director/Vice President 8 61.5 Assistant Director 2 15.3 Manager 1 7.6 Coordinator 2 15.3 Department Head (N=13) Yes 10 76.9 No 3 23.0 Position Tenure (N=13) 0-1 Years 0 0.0 2-5 Years 2 15.3 6-10 years 5 38.4 10 + Years 6 46.1 Highest Level of Education Attained (N=10) Bachelors 7 70.0 Masters 2 20.0 Junior College 1 10.0 68


Conceptual Content Analysis A conceptual content analysis was used to analyze the transcripts of 13 structured telephone interviews. The results of the content analysis revealed many recurring responses in the data. The results are pr esented in order by research question. RQ 1. How do professional sports fr anchises define community and community relations? Responses for this question varied and abou t half of participants had more than one response. Responses fit into three categories which were defined by geographic boundaries and included: greater metro areas, state boar ders, and broadly defined geographic areas. One responde nt mentioned that the t eam catered to a large community: We work with a variety of communities not just in [our community] but also around the world. A lot of our progra ms are designed to serve the people in the city and greater [city] area. Our fans are not s pecific sets of people so we try to reach out as far as we c an to impact as many people as we can (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). Another team mentioned their community crossed the border into Canada, We have a trip going to Canada and Alaska next week (Phone Interview, June 17, 2012). Every respondent defined community by some sort of geographic location. Two respondents mentioned the groups of people who make up a community in their definition but still identified community by geograp hic area. Eleven of the fourteen teams came from states with only one team in their respective sport. Ea ch of these teams defined community as the entire stat e, but most did not menti on programming anywhere but the city or metro area where they were locat ed. One respondent also included their own team in the definition of community. Our fans live for this team, we helped rebuild this 69


city and you can see that in our fan base. In a lot of ways the team is the community, but we serve a huge geographic area as we ll (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). The respondents definition of community relations also elicited a variety of responses, which exposed four dominant t hemes and included: meeting the needs of fans, supporting the community, participatio n with the community, and improving the lives of people. One respondent said: Our players, coaches and staff are ac tive participants in the community, dedicating over 1,000 hours of their time to visiting schools, hosting youth sports clinics, lifting the spirits of young patients in the hospital and attending fundraising events that benefit the community (Phone interview, May 30, 2012). Another respondents answer did not fit into these categories and said that ownerships definition was more team centered, explai ning, New management feels like community relations is having the community know and love your players, staff, owners, and coaches and [that is] kind of how moving fo rward, the organization defines community relations (Phone Interview, June 6, 2012). Some respondents also explained in their responses that it is important for teams to be socially responsible, and act as good corporate citizens or good neighbors in the community Another NFL respondent said: Professional sports provides us with a tremendous platform to bring awareness to causes and provide assist ance to our community, from player involvement to our entire business staff, if you ask anyone community involvement is a big part of who we are (Phone interview, June 21, 2012). The responses indicate a good level of under standing of the benefits and outcomes of community relations. RQ 2 What strategies and tactics are profes sional sports franchises using in their community relations programming? 70


Respondents were instructed to list major ar eas of focus that their programs fit in to. Eight categories emerged including: education, health and fitness, military appreciation/support, cancer awareness, pl ayer health and safety, eco-friendly programs, player visits to hospitals, schools, and events, and youth sports participation. Two responses included military appreciation/support and in both cases the teams were located in areas with military bases. A few respondents mentioned player health and safety and all three were NFL teams. One partic ipant stated, the bi g one now is the NFL with concussion and brain injury stuff, keeping the players safe, and focusing on the health of alumni (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). One participant from the NBA mentioned or green initiatives and said, Eco-awareness is one of our big three platforms, we have a program called heal the bay, and another called energy night at the [stadium] (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). The final category, youth sports participation, was also a very common resp onse. Participants mentioned programs such as player camps, outreach, and equipment donations as examples. One participant said, Our alumni ca mps are a free program through the city that allows kids to come to the arena. We do 10 per summer and it allows them to get basketball skills from some former players (Phone interview June 12, 2012). Every team mentioned youth as the primary participant and target group in community programming. However, it was ev ident programs reach a variety of publics and demographics and are desig ned to achieve broad impacts on many groups such as; families, teachers, senior s, and those with disabilities or fighting illnesses. We have a couple of our big areas of focus, but y outh is our number one goal. Anything with the children, we want to try and be a part of it (Phone interview, June 12, 2012). 71


Additionally, community relations pla tforms also all included programs mandated by the league. Every respondent r epresenting the NFL and NBA cited league mandated programs as part of their platform These programs are those that every team must participate in. The NBA Cares pr ogram and NFL Play 60 program were both cited frequently as examples. Partici pants who mentioned leag ue-mandated programs indicated they were successful and well rece ived by the community. One participant representing the NFL noted, Play 60 that is a great platform to use and the NFL has done a great job with it (Phone in terview, Jun 6, 2012). RQ 2-a. Do community me mbers [publics] and partners [co-sponsors] participate in the decision-making process of community relations programming? The majority of respondents answered yes. However, about one third of the total population, and more than half of those who answe red yes, explained that there is not a formal or official process of participation in place. It was evident from the responses that there were not a lot of programs specifically des igned to include community members. The respondent r epresenting two teams NBA and NHL explained, While we dont have an official community board parti cipation process, we do get feedback (Phone interview, May 30, 2012). Four respondents simply answered no to this question. This was most often explained by the teams corporate structure, with many participants listing owners, board member s, and managers as being the primary decision makers. The responses indicated most of t he participants community relations departments implement less formal methods of participation such as getting feedback and input from community partners. Most teams explained feedback typically comes 72


from nonprofits and co-sponsors of community events that the team works with on a regular basis. One respondent explained: One of the programs we had started, Health in Hockey, we worked with our partners at YMCA, we were going off of t he statistics or thoughts of our partners. So it wasnt involving co mmunity leaders or members but it is coming through other organizations that are active and know these people (Phone interview, June 7, 2012). About half of the participants provided exam ples of participation from community partners that were utilized to improve progr amming including: meetings, in-game kiosks, and a variety of requests online. In some cases teams were able to create tailored programs to fit specific community needs. Some respondents who answered yes cited taking part in planning meetings, onli ne voting, and filling do nation requests and focus groups with community members as examples of direct participation in the planning process. One respondent said comm unity leaders from nonprofits around the city and state would gather for monthly meetings to plan upcoming events. We get people in here all the time, community leaders fr om all over the state, we want to hear their ideas so we have meetings with them about once per month (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). A few respondents said that they thought t here should be more participation from the community when designing programming. They mentioned that they would like to see more formative research based on the opinions and needs of fans and other community members. O ne NFL participant said: I believe all that would need to start with more formal methods to recruit community participants in the planning pr ocess. Right now we dont but I think they should, and I think thats important. Its better than working on one specific cause. If thats going on then you are reaching and impacting a lot of different issues and spreadi ng it around in the community (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). 73


Other respondents stated be tter programming and achie ving greater impact as the reasons for needing more formative res earch. Additionally, respondents indicated that greater levels of comm unity participation would bolste r existing relationships and were aware of the need to include more participation in their pr ogram planning. One respondent representing the NBA explained, I f there was more participation from the teachers we have relationships with, then we can ask them what they need. We are working toward that all the ti me (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). RQ 3. How do professional sports fr anchises evaluate community relations programs? This question also elicited multiple responses from each participant, with all of the respondents providing more than one met hod of evaluation. Some respondents mentioned three or more methods of evaluation. The focus of measurement was output based and media placement was a common res ponse. Six themes emerged from the responses as indicators of success and in cluded: tracking funds raised/money donated media placement/coverage, program or event attendance, player participation, repeat participation, and follow-ups wit h grant recipients. Many participants indicated that media coverage was the primar y measure of success for pr ograms. A respondent from the NBA said: We have a service that tracks media and lets us know how much viewership weve had and how many people saw a newscast or how many publications the article or coverage w ent out to. Thats kind of how we measure those things when it co mes to community and community programs (Phone interview, June 12, 2012). Two respondents, both from the NBA, mentioned the use of a third party media monitoring service to track coverage of t he team including on social media. One participant from the NBA expl ained, I guess you could gauge success by the fact that 74


everyone always seems to want to come ba ck, whether its our community program participants or our season ticket holders (P hone interview, June 6, 2012). Only two respondents explained that they consistently use measurem ent techniques such as surveys and focus groups with participants, donors, and community par tners in order to formally evaluate community programs. An NFL team said, We track all appearances and submit a survey to partners and participants (Phone interview, June 16, 2012). RQ 3-a. Are there similarities in meas urement techniques between sports (i.e., NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB)? In regards to this research question, respondents were grouped by sport and then analyzed for major themes existi ng in all four. There were similarities with most of respondents citing media placement as a pr imary unit of analysis. This number included three of five NFL teams, all three NHL teams, and three of four NBA teams, two of which used third party media monito ring service. The only baseball team that participated did not cite media tracking as a source of measurement. The only two teams that used surveys and focus groups as a form of evaluation and measurement were from the NFL and NBA respectively. Also, as one could expect, every team tracked the amount of money donated, citing the fact that it was easy to track from year-to-year a nd it is, in fact, required by law. One NBA team even mentioned that, Tracking money donated to causes or charities, when it is applicable, is important and we share that info rmation with our staff, the community, and media (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). This response indicates a high level of openness and trust with communi ty stakeholders. Additionally, teams from three of the four s ports mentioned attendance num bers as another form of evaluation. This was explained by the fact that those numbers are also easy to track 75


and compare each year. Again the only respondent representing baseball did not mention event attendance as a method of eval uation. The analysis indicates there are many similarities not only among teams, but also among sports. With such a small sample we cannot make generalizations to a ll teams, but there is some interesting evidence to support these similarities. There were other similarities in the responses and it was evident there were some forms of evaluation that were absent. Most notably, a consistent theme existing across all four sports was a lack of formal planning or evaluation techniques. As mentioned above, only two teams utilized formal survey re search consistently in their evaluation of all programming. One participant from the NBA alluded to the lack of formal planning and evaluation and said, A lot of what these teams do with these programs is trial and error (Phone Interview, June 12, 2012). One other participant representing the NFL mentioned the team had very recently conducted its first formal research and that a survey was used to help measure awareness of their community programming. Results were not positive and the respondent said, O verall there is a very low level of awareness of our efforts (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). While there is a notable absence of these types of fo rmal planning and measurement, it was evident from the responses that participants were aware of t he impacts they are trying to achieve. RQ 3-b. Does the community relations programming of prof essional sports franchises contribute to the ov erall goals of each team/league? Respondents unanimously answered yes to this question. However, there were a variety of responses as to why it is im portant and every team cited at least two outcomes and reasons for the benefit of community relations. In fact one team provided four responses. The answers were placed in to four categories; the most common was 76


that a strong presence in the community is re ciprocated in the form of support for the team regardless of wins and losses. Support comes via ticket sales and attendance to events such as fundraisers for team foundations The other three ca tegories included: it is the responsibility of t he team, creating a connecti on with the community, and community relations helps humanize athlet es. The lone MLB participant mentioned a connection with the community and said, We w ant to win championships. But our next goal is to provide a family friendly enterta inment source and something the fans and community can be proud of (Phone interview, June 18, 2012). Many respondents cited humanizing athletes includi ng one NBA team, who explained, It helps humanize the athletes and express a commitment to the surrounding community which invests money in the team (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). In addition to the categories above, severa l teams mentioned that their community programs also involve the business staff in the community and at events. One team respondent from the NBA said: Weve started an employee campaign known as team up where we partner with different nonpr ofits, and staff goes and helps at two events per summer to show that we are still her e out in the community. Even though its the off-season it helps get people get out of the office and makes our staff feel good (Phone inte rview, June 6, 2012). Another respondent from the NHL said it serv es the goals of the organization but also improves job satisfaction. When you look at what we do behind the scenes everyone is working to get people in the building. Comm unity involvement makes us all feel good and it makes us feel better about our jobs when we help in the community (Phone interview, June 7, 2012). The responses indicate community relati ons employees are linking the intangible outcomes of community relations to the goals of the organization. While there is little 77


formal evidence of goal setting, it is clear that the community programs do seek to address broad social issues. At the same time they benefit the organization in a variety of ways. RQ 4. What is the most important outcome of comm unity relations programs? Answers to this question were broad. T he pervasive theme among all the answers was that respondents viewed intangible conc epts as the most important outcome. One example provided by the respondent from MLB captured this idea. If we can change one life or affect one person. Its the little things, t he positive things. Can they boost the image? Yes, but its less about ticke ts and more about the right thing to do (Phone interview, June 18, 2012). Some team s did mentioned financial support they provide to the community as being an important outcome. Five major categories emerged from the data representing some of the most important themes from the literature. They in cluded: funding to support underserved populations, making the community better, be ing a good neighbor, relationship building, and creating an organizational cu lture that fans and the co mmunity can be proud of. Most respondents cited a specific program as an example of their impact on the community to reinforce their answers. One NHL team said the mo st important outcome was: The funding we are able to provide to various organizations for children in need whether its funding cancer res earch, providing sc hool supplies or providing food for kids who would go hungry over the we ekend. Many organizations rely on granting and pr ivate funding to function and continue their mission and we are able to contri bute to that (Phone interview, June 15, 2012). The two respondents who did not provide examples of specific programs explained that their track record of success in the community was part of the reason they were able to 78


have an impact. Both respondents mentioned thei r teams history of community service dating back more than 40 years. One respondent from the NBA explained, Our team was founded in 1968, and we have a long-standing tradition when it comes to being the first major team in this state. Every year we build something that we think will have a high impact and thats what we build for and what we look to (Phone interview, June 12, 2012). These responses support the i deas or relationship building, commitment, and satisfaction which can be f ound throughout the literature. RQ 5. Do community relations departments in professional sports franchises utilize two-way communication strategies to facilitate programming? Almost every respondent explained that fe edback from fans and the community is encouraged but not always common. Only a small number said that there were not any measures for community members to prov ide feedback. Five respondents mentioned they had experienced negative feedback usi ng those communication channels. Most respondents explained that they felt fans and community members were more likely to speak up if something was wrong, rather t han to provide constructive criticism or dialogic discourse. An NBA participant ex plained, Often times we dont hear a lot unless they feel we have done something bad, and you get t he angry email or phone call (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). Five categories emerged from specific examples: a large majority mentioned personal correspondence (including email and phone calls), social media, scheduled meetings with community partners [schools and nonprofits] and sponsors, informal conversations with participants, fans, and co mmunity partners [schools and nonprofits], and surveys. One NBA/NHL par ticipant said, Because of the popularity of social media, we get immediate feedback (Phone interview, May 30, 2012). Another 79


respondent from the NHL explained how important two-way communication is and said, We can always assume what the needs are out in the community, but if youre not listening then you dont really know (Phone interview, June 7, 2012). The small number who used surveys di d not provide examples, with one NFL participant stating, We use our survey to obtain feedback and information (Phone interview, June 5, 2012). The teams that ci ted surveys indicated that surveys were a part of the evaluation process. One NBA team mentioned t he use of surveys would be improved if there was better baseline in formation available and indicated a need for more formative research to improve progr amming. We are open to more feedback and we did focus groups at one point in time. We know that our par tners know best, but more research in the planning process would be helpful (Phone interview, June 19, 2012). In all, only two respondents (one from the NFL and one from the NBA) mentioned formative research. This indicate s that while teams ar e attempting to utilize two-way communication, there is a need for more reliable data collected during preprogram research from community stakehol ders. More dialogue and symmetrical communications could enhance both program planning and outcomes. RQ 6. How do professional sports franchise s characterize their teams relationship with the community? Twelve respondents explained the relationshi p between their team and community was positive and a few also mentioned the desire for continued improvement. We support our community and they support us. Ou r fans are the heart of the team and we rely on that on the field said one NFL respondent (Phone interview, June 17, 2012). Most teams used terms such as great, fantastic, while c haracterizing the relationship. One NBA team said We are well embraced by the community and weve really had that 80


long-standing relationship. Now kids have grown up with our basketball team and we can see the impact we have (Phone interv iew, June 12, 2012). Only one respondent said that the relationship was not strong and said, Currently our team roster is fair ly young and amongst them, few are well known. Individually, the athletes ca re about the community, but it would be fair to say that the relationship is not a strong one due to significant roster turnover and rebuilding product on the court (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). About half of the participants also cited tic ket sales, fan support, and attendance at community events as proof of the positive relationship. One NHL/NBA respondent said, As the saying goes everyone loves a winner Our department is always important, perhaps even more so when the team scores ar e not positive. We are truly creating fans at a very grassroots level (Phone interview, May 30, 2012). A few participants mentioned media coverage and c onstant media requests as indicators of positive relationships. Some of the responses inclu ded how much the players enjoy serving the community. These participants explained pl ayer commitment was what drives the teams success in the community. One NFL team said, Our relationship is very positive. Our players are always willin g to support the community by making appearances or serving in positions with nonprofits (Phone interview, June 5, 2012). Two respondents also cited players and progr ams that have been recognized by the league with awards or dist inctions as evidence of positive relationships. Furthermore, a large majority of respondent s explained that positive relationships with the community were most notic eable and beneficial during periods of poor performance. In other words the better the relationship in the community, the better the support from the community ev en if the team is losing. One respondent said, Although 81


we have not made the playoffs in four years, the [team] still are a pr ominent figure in the local community (Phone interview, June 18, 2012). In one instance a respondent mentioned that recent research indicated the community was largely unaware of most of the teams communi ty programs. As a result major changes were under way due to the lo w levels of community awareness. However, she explained that the teams relationships with community members and partners that have received benefits from the programming we re good. She explained, Our relationships with the groups that know about us are very positive. In the last four years weve done a little better job, and Ive talked to people and heard some really complimentary things over what weve done in the past few years (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). A number of respondents al so mentioned the importance of the relationship being mutually beneficial. One participant explained, The community owes any franchise nothing. And for you as sports franchise, you need to come in and embrace the community and in turn get them to embrace you. They dont owe you anything (Phone interview, June 12, 2012). RQ 6-a. How do professional sports franchises measure or quantify their relationship with the community? Once again there was unanimous agreem ent that quantifying relationships between the team and community was the most difficult measure in any community relations programs. One respondent argued, Its difficult to put exact numbers on it (Phone interview, June 12, 2012). While another said, I dont know if we have an exact measurement tool (Phone interview, June 6, 2012). Respondents also all mentioned that it is a huge challenge to produce quantifiable or measurable results from certain programs or events such as hospital vi sits or participat ion in a program. 82


Many respondents referred back to other ev aluation techniques, such as media tracking and attendance. Five respondents di d mention that thos e measures do not show the positive or negative im pacts on the teams relationship with the community. One team from the NB A said, We report public appearances to TMBO at the league office, however this does not quantify the positi ve or negative aspect of the relationship (Phone interview, June 22, 2012). These re spondents commented that these measures dont do a sufficient job providing quantifying t he impact, but were unsure of how to quantify intangible outcomes. There were no respondents who mentioned an e ffort to measure the strength or quality of their relationships. It was also evident that te ams were not using any of the dimensions such as trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, commitment, communal relationships or exchange relationships as defined by Hon and Grunig (1999). However, while none of the dimensions were used to measure relationships, there were many positive responses regarding relati onship evaluation. Several respondents touched on the concepts of co mmitment, communal relationships, and satisfaction. One respondent said, [Our team] is committed to improving the lives of families and children. Any time we achieve that we ar e successful (Phone interview, May 30, 2012). Some of the respondents felt quantifying and measuring relationships was more of an informal science. One participant from the NF L explaining, Specifically in community relations, Im not sure. It is based on conv ersations with people; its not really that quantifiable (Phone interview, June 7 2012). While the teams may not be formally ev aluating the constructs of quality relationships, it is clear that these relationships do exist in professional sports. There is 83


plenty of evidence to support string relati onships between the comm unities and teams. Furthermore, despite a lack of quantifiable and rigorous relationship evaluation it is easy to see that the intangible concepts discussed produce last ing moments and long-term, positive outcomes for many people in the community. In summary the results of the in-depth interviews uncovered many themes and some interesting similarities Numerous programs were mentioned with most teams focusing on youth in the areas of education, health, and fit ness. But there was evidence of very diverse groups being served by communi ty relations programming. Every single respondent supported the benefits of comm unity relations and defended the contributions of community relations to the overall organization as having a significant impact. One respondent said If you can take so me time out of your life to give back or help someone out every once in a while. That is something that can really last a life time, especially with kids, if they see us out there cleaning up tras h or whatever, that hopefully will stick with them and I think that influence we can have over young kids is the most important thing we c an do to impact the community. Generally participants answers were pos itive but there was an overall consensus regarding the questions on measurement and ev aluation that measuring the quality of relationships is difficult, if not almost impossible to do and intangible impacts are the most significant contribution from the team to the community. While teams conceded that they had difficulty measuring the qualit y of relationships all but one mentioned that they were well received by their community Mechanisms for feedback and participation ranged widely. Some respondents explained t hey had no systems in place for feedback and no participation from the community, while others provided examples of direct 84


85 participation such as programs specifical ly chosen by fans and community members and detailed surveys or frequent m eetings as evidence of feedback.


CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS The purpose of this exploratory st udy was to examine measurement and evaluation techniques as they relate to community relations in the four major professional sports leagues. More specifical ly, the research addressed the problem of identifying specific methods of research measurement, and evaluation in order to quantify the impact of community programs and the value it pr ovides to each franchise. This chapter discusses the results of the in -depth interviews, their relevance to the literature and professional sports areas for further study and fu ture research, as well as limitations. Discussion of Findings This section reviews and summarizes the original research. Findings on the measurement and evaluation procedures of community relations programming, definitions of community, community relati ons in general, measuring relationships, community participation, tw o-way communications, organi zational structure, and multicultural elements are discussed. The teams that participated in the qualitative study represented a diverse group of sports cities and covered nearly every geographic region in the United States however no Canadian teams from the four leagues were represented. Despite the di versity there were many commonalities among responses to the interview questions. Measurement and Evaluation Every respondent provided a fairly deta iled response regardi ng measurement and evaluation. However there were very few ex amples of formal evaluation especially as defined in the literature, formal measurement requires that as precisely as possible we 86


state how we are measuring what we observed (Stacks, 2002, p. 128). Even more surprising was that there was really no me ntion of stated goals or objectives for community programs. One respondent did refer me to the teams community development report to review the mission statement, which also contained goals and objectives. Interestingly this was the onl y team that was found to consistently use formal evaluation methods including surv eys and focus groups. These findings contradict the literature. Lakin and Sc heubel (2010) mentioned that measurement against set goals and objectives proves that co mmunity projects are actually making a difference. This study found that participants generally did not mention goals and objectives for community relations. Often ti mes, lofty missions and taglines were used to describe programs. Interestingly, some respondents did mention a need for more formative research, which would facilit ate setting goals and objectives during the strategic public relations planning process. Another common trend among respondents was that in most instances they explained many of the th ings they were trying to measure are thought of as intangible. These concepts should be categorized as outco mes and relate to the overall goals of the program and team. Nearly all of the respondents menti oned these outcomes (intangibles) as being the most important result of the teams community programming. Despite that fact, there were hardly any m entions or mechanisms in place to measure those outcomes. The categories that were quantifiably measured should be thought of as outputs, such as; funding participation, attendances, and media coverage, were not mentioned as being as import ant to the impact on the co mmunity as the intangible concepts. Spencer and Jahansoozi (2008) explained measuring and evaluating outputs 87


is the most basic level of analyzing the su ccess or failure of a campaign and are used as the programs visible results (p. 183). While there was consistency among all teams in all four leagues in this regard, it was evident measur ement in community relations programs is still failing to prov ide solid data on the most important impa cts of that programming. Respondents did indicate loca l communities were, for the most part, satisfied with the teams effo rts but also many pointed out there is always a way to help more people and grow the program However most did not present any data to support their opinions or perceptions. It was ev ident during the conversations that strong relationships do exist between the teams and their communities. Furthermore, there is great value placed on these relationships by both the team and the community. This indicates that while the measur ement of the relationships is not formal, practitioners are working to build and enhance relationships through community relations programming. Definitions of Community Defining community is an im portant step in the community relations process. Without proper conceptualization it is hard to adequately convey how the programming benefits the team and those t hey serve. Respondents were very thorough in their definitions and it was evi dent some thought and consideration has been put into the process of defining community by ev ery team. The respondents unanimously mentioned physical geographic b oundaries as a part of their definition of community. These geographic boundaries ranged fr om small, localized cities to greater metro areas, then on to territories within states, then sa te boarders and finally large multi-state regions. One respondent explained their community extends across the boarder into Canada and foreign military bases includi ng trips to the Middle East while another mentioned that the team ca ters to a global fan base and have implemented events 88


around the country and world. Other than these specific examples, many teams mentioned they serve large areas, but it was evident from the responses that programming is focused primarily in the loca l community (city/metr o area) in which the team operates. All the teams mentioned a global or nationa l fan base as an important part of the team. However, fans were not typically in cluded in the definition of community. Sports teams serve two distinctive commu nities. The first is a geographical community with which the team interacts with on a consistent basis, most likely the city where the team plays. The other is the community of fans, who can be found anywhere in the world, who support t he team. Hallahan (2004) expl ained defining community in terms of geography is no longer sufficient and public relations research and practice have steadily shifted toward a more cultural definition of community. This concept is important when consideri ng the community of fans. However, it does not apply to the local community for which the team relies dire ctly on for support. In this way geography can be the most important description of co mmunity for a professional sports team. Demographics such as race, age, gender, and ethni city may all play a role in how teams communicate with the communi ty and implement programs. But these descriptive characteristics do not impact who the team impacts or who might support the team. Geography often has more influence on what team a person supports as a fan, and conversely how the team chooses to intera ct with the community. Therefore, sports may be a unique context with which to exam ine community, because teams dont only serve specific groups. Rather most t eams reach out broadly to anyone in the community who can benefit from co mmunity relations programming. 89


Community Relations Respondents were also asked to define community relations. The definition provided for this research by Heath and Ni is strategic implementation of objectives to create, maintain, enhance, and repair relati onships with stakeholders and stakeseekers whose interests can be aligned with those of the organization (2008, ). Participants all found community relations to be beneficial to their franchises. Every respondent provided examples and stories to reinforce those benefits for the community as well as the team including; the owner s, executives, coaches, players, and business staff. Respondents mentioned a variety of initiatives that fit into their community platform in their definitions. All respondents consistently referred to giving back and supporting the needs of the community. Another prevalent them e among respondents was the idea that community relations is very individual based on t he needs of the local community. Every respondent was against having a set of standar dized, league wide programs for every team. All respondents cited the difference between community populations as the most important factor. As expl ained in chapter one, all four leagues do have specific initiatives they try to tackle and those ar e often changing and evolving. However, the most successful programs, or at least the most popular programs amongst respondents were those that allowed for autonomy and individuality based on the current needs of the local community being served. Reviews of team websites indicated t he primary focus of community relations efforts were directed towards youth and this research confirmed that. While many programs are carried out each year, youth ar e certainly the primary beneficiaries. Participants mentioned youth programs during every interview and mentioned the 90


interactions the players have with kids as having a great impact on the community and team. This serves as an indication that wh ile measurement is important it is evident from those connections that the programs are successful and have a lasting outcome. Measuring Relationships One of the primary purposes of the study was to fi nd out if, and how, teams are measuring the impact and quality of their relationships with the communities they serve. Positive relationships are perhaps the most im portant indicator of successful public and community relations programs. Therefore, it is essent ial to understand how community relations programming impacts those rela tionships. Respondents had difficulty answering this question during the in-depth interviews. Most simply mentioned the same measurement tools they used to trac k other areas of the programming such as; attendance, money raised/donated, and news m edia coverage. One respondent did mention the use of surveys, but did not elaborate on what the surveys measure specifically. Most of the participants re sponded that their community relations programs were well received by the community. All but one respondent characterized their relationship between the team and community with words such as strong, fantastic, and great. However, none of the respondents alluded to formal research or data to support their statements. Rather, most respondents provided examples of successful programs and repeat attendance as indicators of long-te rm relationships. Upon reviewing the transcripts the responses cert ainly pass the eye-test as i ndicators of success. There are plenty of examples that provide good insights into the importance each team places on its relationships with the community. Teams also, almost unanimously focused on concepts of quality relationships as the most important outcome of community relations 91


programming. It should be noted however, without formal data on those relationships, it is difficult to track progress, improve from year to year, or dem onstrate the value of community relations to the t eam. Additionally, only one t eam referenced a community report. After a review of team websites, less than 50 percent of all pro teams had published reports on their community activities While this is not an indicator of successful relationships, nor is it necessary to measure relationships, community reports do provide more detailed analysis of community programs. Responses indicated there is typically a positive reaction from fans and community members toward community relations programming. Especially at charitable events where members of the community receive some benefit from the franchise without having to commit anything in return. This is a good example of w hat Hon and J. Grunig (1999) referred to as a communal relationship. This might be one way to explain the positive responses during the interviews. However, there was no evidence that any of the respondents teams are attempting to actua lly measure of the strength or quality of the relationship that exists between the teams and communities. There was also no indication any of the teams had developed specific tools to measure the constructs of relationships. Using the conceptual content analysis to analyze the interviews there were no mentions of key indicators of quality re lationships such as trust, commitment, satisfaction, control mutualit y, or communal and exchange rela tionships. While there were no questions that specifically addresse d these constructs t he structure of the interview did allow for elaboration on the qua lity of relationships and the analytics and evaluation of those relationships. Some c onclusions that could possibly be drawn from 92


the answers provided indicate strong relation ships do exist. For example the conclusion can be drawn that repeat participation year a fter year is a good indicator of satisfaction on the part of the community. Additionally, long-standing pr ograms, major projects, and donations to local nonprofits show commitment from the organization to the community. Many respondents also mentioned that a strong community presence can help with season ticket sales, thereby increasing revenue for the franchise. This indicates the presence of an exchange relationship (H on & J. Grunig, 1999 ). Based on the literature, this mutual benefit is an important aspect of community relations but not necessary. Also, it is clear that there is some reciprocation from the community in the form of support financially, primarily through ti cket sales. Most respondents only briefly alluded to the connection between the communi ty programs and ticket sales. Rather, they mentioned that the two might be re lated, where a strong presence in the community is reciprocated by a passionate f an base and strong support of the team. This outcome more closely resembles a co mmunal relationship as described by Hon and J. Grunig (1999), which the author s argued important for any organization. Overall with regards to measuring relations hips sports teams seem to have a good grasp of the concepts that produce quality relationships. At this point though there is still a need for better evaluation including fo rmal techniques such as surveys of community members. Implementing more formal measures will only improve what appears to be a generally successful rela tionship between teams and their communities. Community Participation A key to building strong relationships thr ough community relations programming is including the community in the design and anal ysis. This topic and research question 93


provided interesting results. Participati on fosters trust and shows commitment to the community. As a result participation c an enhance relationships with community members (J. Grunig, 2001). Most respondents we re aware of the benefits of community participation. In fact mo st respondents mentioned that more participation would be beneficial and probably enhance some programs. The literature provides examples of the benefits of participation in the planni ng and research phases, as well as the evaluation of community relations. Arnof f and Baskin (1983) explained community relations works effectively if there is par ticipation from community members in the planning process. Lakin and Scheubel (201 0) supported that claim and insisted on involving beneficiaries in designing and understanding the progr ams. The authors supported the argument by addi ng that participatory strategies may increase accuracy of programming assessments. Participation also helps to balance the interests of both organization and publics Grunig (2008). During more than half of the interviews the respondents initially explained community members did not participate in the planning or evaluation phases. However, once respondents began to think about it, they were able to provide examples of community participation. Some responde nts mentioned meetings with partners and sponsors during both the plannin g and evaluation phases. Ot hers listed examples such as community leaders serving on boards, online requests for donations and auction requests, and kiosks set up at games to provide forums for discussion and suggestions. The most unique example provided was a form of direct participation from citizens and fans in the community. One of the NBA teams set up an online poll where fans could vote for potential nonprofits to receive grants with the winner and runner-up receiving 94


monetary grants for their organization. Still, four respondents answered no to this question and mentioned that decisions we re made primarily based on the vision and direction that ownership felt was best. Overall, the research did not uncover any groundbreaking results regarding participation. While many respondents did prov ide examples of participation it is mostly informal. This should not be overlooked ho wever, as any community participation can help to increase trust and commitment between the community and t eam. Allowing the community to participate in the planning pr ocess ensures community needs are met. While including them in the evaluation phas es allows teams to track and analyze the impact of programs. As it pertains to this research teams do seem to be making an effort to include the community in both phases. Two-way Communication Also known as symmetrical communicati on, two-way communication is a key component of excellent public relations and can enhance the constructs of quality relationships. Based on a review of the literature two-way communication is the most effective communication model for public re lations programming. Open dialogue with community members is imperative to pr oduce effective outcomes during community relations programming. Dialogue and feedba ck from community members can help prevent issues and manage crises, aid in res earch and evaluation, and increase trust, commitment and satisfaction. Respondents we re asked about measures of feedback and dialogue and several respondents cited soci al media as a source of instant and constant feedback. Social media is being used by many businesses as a channel to foster participation and engage community members in community relations programming. Previous research on social m edia sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, 95


indicate that the features promote more dynamic commu nication and more closely resembles an ideal model of two-way comm unication (Coombs, 2011). User-generated content allows publics to be involved in the communication process, rather than simply being fed information from t he organization. The majority of respondents mentioned examples of two-way communi cation. Interestingly, many of the methods that respondents cited as forms of participation were also good examples of feedback and two-way communication. Respondents mentioned feedback from phone calls and emails, comment sections on team websit es, meetings, and game kiosks as examples of two-way communication. Respondents also all said that informal conversations with participants, parents, doctors, teachers, and sponsors were common and serve an important part in the process as programs are planned and evaluated. The examples provided by respondents i ndicate that many teams are working towards a model of two-way communication. Once again there are many informal practices being implemented but the conver sations certainly provide a number of examples where two-way communication is common and effective in enhancing relationships specifically with community partners such as schools and nonprofits. Organizational Structure Organizational structure can have an impac t on community relations programs. The literature indicates the goals of communi ty relations should align with the goals of the team. Giving back to the co mmunity is a part of every ma jor sports franchise. Most respondents estimated that their teams hav e formally had staff and departments dedicated to community relations since someti me in the 1980s. According to a review of the literature, community relations can often be confused as CSR or lumped in with cause-related marketing Maignan and Ferrell (2004). 96


This research found a large majority of the teams community relations departments reported to the marketing depar tment. Most respondents said they reported to the chief marketing officer, the vice president of marketing and promotions, or the vice president of ma rketing. Only one team expl ained they reported to public relations. This NBA team mentioned that t hey work closely with the public relations department in order to comm unicate their community ob jectives. A few teams answered that they do not report to market ing, however, one of t hose teams community relations department had previously been under the marketing umbrella until as recently as one week before our interview. The same respondent also mentioned community relations had operated under the directi on of several different departments and managers. In contrast one respondent explained that ownership had recently changed the corporate structur e within the team. The change mo ved community relations under the marketing umbrella in an effort to im prove perceptions of the team and boost ticket sales. The literature defines community rela tions as a function of public relations. Therefore the ideal corporate structure would place community relations either as its own department with complete au tonomy or under the directio n of public relations. Some respondents explained their teams corporate structure was impacted by relationships with sponsors. Several respondents provided examples where corporate sponsorships certainly had an impact on the types of programs and nonprofit partners that the team could work with. These responses came from both small and large market teams and teams with histories of success and sellouts and teams that have struggled to fill their stadiums. Some re spondents also mentioned that they did not agree with their teams corporat e structure. This would s uggest that owners, marketing 97


managers, and other leaders on t he business side are still focusing on exchange rather than communal relationships. Respondents were also asked about owner ships involvement with the community relations programming. Most teams indict ed high levels of interaction and commitment from owners. However the two teams that reported having a weak er relationship with the community cited ownership as a potentia l explanation. One mentioned a change in ownership that was still in it s early stages. The other team cited a lack of commitment from the owners to embrac e the local community and a team-centered focus of community relations programming. Multicultural Elements The literature review indicates that mu lticultural relations are an important component of community relations. L. Gr unig (2008) advocated serving multicultural publics and found it brings a need for new me thods of communication and evaluation. This research does not intend to explore the importance of content designed for minority or diverse publics or draw any conclusions about the use among teams. However, because each team and league operates in di verse communities, it is important to examine whether or not any mu lticultural content exists. Serving diverse audiences is a part of any business. Sports teams operate in communities with many different ethnic grou ps and people of all demographics. While some teams may have more diverse populations than others, incorporating multicultural elements in community relations pr ogramming is becoming commonplace. Respondents were asked about multicultura l elements because the literature explains multicultural relations can improve the construct of satisfaction in a relationship. A review of team websites f ound that many teams are incor porating multicultural elements 98


in their overall communication strategies Examples included foreign languages, and programs directed toward specific minority groups. Responses were mixed with about half sayi ng they do have some multicultural elements included in their programs. So me respondents explained they adopted league initiatives such as Hispanic heritage games and Football Americano. Another team explained they celebrate Cesar Chavez da y and incorporate other Latin American components into some of their school progr ams. Regardless of the teams geographic location (some respondents worked for teams in areas with large Hispanic populations) every respondent explained they serve di verse groups from many backgrounds and cultures. As a result most participants did say they make tweaks to programs depending on the audience. Overall the data revealed most team s were still in the early stages of incorporating any multicul tural elements in their programming. Conclusions Several conclusions can be drawn from th is study. First it is evident that measurement in community relations is neither standardized nor consistent among professional sports franchises. However, there was remarkable consistency in the answers across all four sports. At least one team in each sport mentioned news media coverage or tracking funds donated/raised were the most common form of evaluation. Participants indicated that tr acking these two variables was a way to provide hard data to ownership, such as adverti sing equivalency, traffic on w ebsites, and ROI. All of these measures of outputs are necessary, but do not adequately describe impacts and outcomes between the team and community. Furthermore, none of the participants provided any evidence that would suggest they are formally measuring the constructs of quality relationships. Rather, all respondent s viewed the intangibles as something 99

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beyond quantifiable data. The outcomes and the good they are doing in the community can be experienced at each event but not captured by data. That being said, the interviews revealed that communities ar e generally responding well to the community relations programs and teams as a whole. Furthermore, community relations employees are enthusiastic and committed to serving their communities. There were two instances in which the relationship was characterized as not being as strong. In both cases respondents mentioned young play ers without a history of community involvement and major front office changes as factors pertaining to lower levels of awareness of community programs. This mi ght indicate the importance of player involvement as a part of enhanci ng relationships and could be explored further in future studies. Second, there is an effort being made by most teams to foster dialogue and encourage two-way communication and communi ty participation. While community participation levels varied greatly from team-to-team, some having none and others had high levels of community involvement; all of the respondents were open to receiving feedback and comments from the community th rough a variety of channels. Several teams mentioned a significant increase in the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook to respond to questions, post content, and communicate with the community about programming. Specific strategies varied but participants were cognizant of the importance of two-way communication and co mmunity participation. The benefits of community participation incl ude improved evaluation metr ics and enhancing both trust and satisfaction dimensions of the respective community relationshi ps. While a more formal structure of participation would provide fu rther benefits, it is cl ear that teams feel 100

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involvement and dialogue from the community strengthens the values and commitment of the team. Third, organizational structures and hierarchies in professiona l sports franchises have placed community relations under the dire ction of the marketing department. Most teams who participated ment ioned the head of the mark eting department was their direct report. Reinforcing the literature (Francis, 2007; Maignan & Ferrell, 2004) that argues community programs, espec ially in sports, are often thought of as cause-related marketing. Community relations programs should be mutually benef icial, rather than being used as a tool to help sell products or services. Negative perceptions of the team and lack of trust can lead to unfavorable relationships. Respondent s all agreed that the goals of community relations programming shoul d not be to sell tickets or improve the teams image. However, most of them did concede that those can be benefits of good relationships, but should not serve as motives of a teams community efforts. Several respondents disagreed with their teams organizational struct ure and felt the community relations department should work more closely with public rela tions. This indicates that these decisions are probably made on behalf of ownership and other upper-level management on the business side of teams. Community relations employees should council other department managers to ali gn business goals and objectives, while promoting the benefits of co mmunity relations. Fourth, community in the context of sports is defined by geographic boundaries. But there is a symbolic community of fans t hat the team also caters to. Respondents had detailed descriptions of the areas they served. The responses partially support using community as a theory of public rela tions (Hallahan, 2004; Kruckeberg & Starck, 101

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1988). The theory posits defining communities geographically is insufficient because of new communication channels, increased connecti vity, interactivity, and the importance of shared or common experiences. As ment ioned these communities can be thought of as the fans around the world that support the team. However, the teams also seek to create a strong presence in their local community. They reach out to many audiences and many demographics without cornering a specific group of people. Some respondents mentioned their teams cater to a global fan base and a large community, but generally used physical explanations of the areas they served. Community relations should foster and engage the structures of a community including the political, cultural, social, governmental, and economic systems that people are a part. There was evi dence that these systems and st ructures are an important aspect of the programming itsel f. One note of importance on the teams definitions of community is that leagues do define specific territories or areas based on geography and this may contribute to each teams idea of their own community on the map. For example, Florida has three NFL teams while Colorado has one. The team in Colorado can serve the entire state while the teams in Florida are relegated to smaller, more localized areas. Finally, teams in all four leagues serve a common goal and that was evident from the responses. Despite different locations, pa rtners, platforms and programs, it is clear that the community relations programs in all four sports do positively impact the community. Even without exhaustive efforts to evaluate relationships or measure impacts, there is merit and dedication on behalf of community relations employees. As the sports grow so too will the impact on the community. While it is important for 102

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community relations department to recogni ze the need to move towards measuring relationships, there is plenty of evidence to support the benefits of these programs. Responses were overwhelmingly positive and numerous examples provided evidence that there is an effort to bu ild relationships. The unique bus iness of professional sports has allowed teams to implement highly successful programs and truly make positive impacts. Having said that, better comm unication, and more formal planning and analysis will only help educate the rest of th e organization on the mutual benefits for the team and the people who make up their communities. Implications for the Practice These findings suggest there are some gaps between existing literature in public relations, community relations, and sport management and the practice amongst employees in professional sports franchise s. While the findings cannot be generalized to all teams or sports, seve ral implications do exist fo r professionals in community relations. It should be noted however; that many implications refer to the primary decision makers in the organization may be out of the hands of the community relations department. First, practitioners should take more time to understand the constructs of quality relationships in order to better quantify and measure impacts and out comes that result from community programming. Second, ther e are obviously challenges presented to community relations department s from major corporate s ponsors and partners. These sponsors contribute to both the team and community and may have different goals or priorities in the community In order to communicate more effectively and enhance programs, community departm ents should strive to set measureable goals and objectives year after year. These goals and objectives should be based on research 103

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and data so that there is more continuity and fewer conflicts of interest within the organization. Third, while news media coverage is an important output measure, an emphasis should be made to council management and move towards tracking relationship indicators more thoroughly. Media coverage in todays sporting world is dictated by results and does not indicate favo rable or unfavorable attitudes towards the team. Finally, employees of professional sports teams should seek to continually improve both participation and di alogue between the team and co mmunity. Any effort to become more open and accessible, within reas on, can increase trust and satisfaction with the community. This wi ll enhance the quality of exis ting relationships, and could help the team achieve business objectives. Suggestions for Future Research This study was a preliminary investigati on into a small sample of professional sports franchises community relations departments. While seeking to better understand how programs are be ing measured, there are m any possibilities to enhance the literature and build a foundat ion for community relations and sports in academia. There is a need for more data because the industr y of professional sports is only going to grow in the future. The following suggestions are made. To expand the study community member s who have participated in community programming or received benefits fr om the team should be recrui ted to participate. This would enhance the understanding of the impacts of community relations. It would also be useful to measure relationship constructs such as trust, comm itment, satisfaction, and control mutuality. Analyzing the people in the community would provide a better picture of the quality of relationships and levels of community participation. An 104

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intriguing concept to explore would be to fi nd out if communities shared the same views as those offered by the professional teams. A quantitative study investigating motive s, measurement, attitudes, and beliefs about community relations in professional sports would increase the understanding of the programming. Including ownership, upper level exec utives, and managers from multiple departments in the population sample would create a better understanding of the impact community relations has on the entire organization. It would be interesting to see the difference between community relations employees and employees in other departments. Delimitations The purpose of this study was to examine measurem ent and evaluation techniques as they relate to community relati ons in the four major professional sports leagues. More specifically, the research ad dressed the problem of identifying specific methods of research, measurement, and evaluat ion in order to quantify the impact of community programs and the va lue it provides to each franchise. The study was delimited to NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB employees whose names appeared on team website directories and currently work in t he community relations departments of their respective teams. Therefor e, the results of this study can, in no way, be used to generalize or make inference to the entire popul ation of professional sports teams. Nor can they be generalized to ownership, other departments within t he team, or other sports teams (college, soccer, minor league teams, etc.). Limitations This study provides insight into communi ty relations and provides a baseline to continue further research. Ho wever, there are numerous limit ations. Firs t, the sample 105

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itself is small, only 13 total respondents repr esenting 14 teams makes it impossible to generalize the findings. Recruiting was difficu lt and posed challenges as three of the four leagues were playing in season during t he recruiting process, one of the reasons only one MLB team participated. Professional sports franchises rarely have a slow time of year and the busy schedules made it difficult to recruit. Another limitation in this study was to include only community relations employees in the analysis. It is a fairly obvious conclusion that the managers, directors and coordinators in community relations departmen ts are going to consider their programs with some bias. Interviewing some of the other departmental managers, owners, or general managers, may yield different results when trying to examine the role that community relations has in a professional sp orts franchise. However, those potential participants would have less knowledge of im portant information such as measurement and evaluation, partnerships, f eedback, dialogue and participation. Third, the interview itself was lengthy wh ile it provided good insight the time frame did not fit into the schedules of many pot ential participants limiting the number who elected to participate. A shorter survey that specifically targeted constructs of relationships may have been more effective, provided better data, and increased the overall participation. Lastly, the anonymity of respondents takes away some of the impacts of the findings. This research could have been completed with a quick survey and then candid, open interviews. The impact of the interviews is lower because of the lack of identifying characteristics in the examples. Utilizing a survey and then interviews would 106

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107 have answered the same questions but added depth to the data. Unfortunately the condition of anonymity was included and often requested from the participants.

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APPENDIX C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Instructions: Please answer the questions to t he best of your ability. Social responsibility is defined as the obligation your team has to benefit society. Interview Questions: 1. How does your franchise define co mmunity and community relations? 2. What programs are considered to be a part of your teams community relations department? 3. How would you characterize the re lationship between your team and your community? How do you quantify or measure that relationship? 4. How do you feel that your local community responds to your teams community programming? 5. Do you think community relations is beneficial to a professional sports franchise? Why or why not? 6. Do you believe your teams communi ty relations program sufficiently meets community relations and social re sponsibility needs se t forth by the standards of your league and your ownership? Why or why not? 7. Do you think community relations should be standardized in your league? Why or why not? What about across all sports? Why or why not? 8. How do you measure t he success or failure of your teams community relations programs? Please provide specific details. 9. Are there any measures in your comm unity relations programs that allow for feedback and dialogue fr om the community? 10. Have you made any changes to the community relations programming in the past 12, 18, 24 months? Were these changes made because of evaluation or community feedback? 11. Who do you report to on the outcomes of community relations programming? 12. Do you feel ownership is supporti ve of current community relations programs? Why or why not? 13. Does your community relations pr ogram have any multicultural elements, for example foreign languages, spec ific minority programs etc.? 110

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111 14. Do community members participate in the design, or planning process of community relations programming? Why or why not? If so, how? 15. Why was your community relations program established? How long has it existed? How much money is budgeted for your community relations programming and where does funding come from? 16. Do you believe community relations is important to the overall success of your team? Why or why not? 17. What do you consider to be the mo st important result of community relations programming? Why? 18. Does your team use social medi a to communicate community programs? 19. Does your community relations pr ogram partner with other organizations, companies, non-profits? 20. What is your current position in the community relations department? 21. How large is the community relations staff for your team? 22. How long have you worked for your team? In your current position? In community relations? 23. What is your highest level of education completed? (High School, bachelors, masters, PhD., Law)

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Logan Gerber was born in Gunnison, Colo rado and moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado at the age of six. He grew up with a love for sports and began skiing at age three and ski jumping at age seven. He was a member of the Unit ed States Ski Team from 1998 until 2003 and competed inte rnationally until 2006. He tried out for the U.S. Olympic team in twice, in 2002 and 2006. In 2002 he graduated from the Lowell Whiteman School in Steamboat Springs, Co lorado. Following the 2006 season, he decided to attend college at Colo rado State University in Fort Collins. An interest in writing and a lack of math skills led him to major in journalism and ultimately into the field of public relations. He graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and technical communication and a minor in business. Following graduation, Logan wa s accepted to a Master of Arts in Mass Communication program in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Du ring his time in Gainesville he focused his research on relationship management and so cial media, crisis communication, and corporate social responsibility. He al so held an internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the community communica tions coordinator. This broadened his understanding and interest in a career in professional sports, and motivated him to pursue a thesis in the field. In August 2012, Logan was awarded Master of Arts of Mass Communication with an emphasis in public relations. 120