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Corporate Social Responsibility Strategies for Korean Professional Sport Leagues

Jaedeock Lee (East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania), Robert P. Fleischman (East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have been actively implemented by professional sport leagues and franchises in the United States (Walker, Kent, & Vincent, 2010). Many professional sport properties engage in various types of CSR initiatives for the purpose of enhancing community relations, building positive brand associations, and generating incremental revenue streams. Successful and well-known CSR initiatives by United States (US) pro sport leagues include: NFL’s Play 60; NBA Cares; MLB’s Stand Up To Cancer; and the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer.

With growth in CSR efforts in sport, sport management scholars have examined the uniqueness of CSR in sport and conducted conceptual and empirical research in an attempt to better understand the phenomenon. Sport is considered one of the ideal vehicles through which non-profit organizations can engage socially responsible initiatives in partnerships with sport organizations (Smith & Westerbeek, 2007). In effect, CSR programs create fertile landscape for growing public-private sector partnerships, with trends indicating that the wave of CSR programs have extended beyond professional sport properties in the US to professional sport markets abroad (see Hamil & Morrow, 2011; Misener & Mason, 2009).

For example, in Korea the sport-related CSR trends have been expanded to include several individual athletes and professional team sport franchises. However, Korean-based CSR initiatives in sport remain in relative infancy as sport organizations in that country engage strategic efforts to implement a variety of CSR initiatives. Given the growth of CSR trends in the global sport industry, Korean sport leagues and franchises should consider designing more deliberate CSR programs. Thus, the goal of this study aims to offer viable recommendations for Korean professional sport leagues to consider based on a comprehensive review of literature that identifies causal factors relating to successful CSR initiatives as well as presenting a prototype CSR model for use by Korean professional sport athletes and franchises.

From the literature review and case study analyses, suggestions relative to CSR strategies for Korean professional sport leagues are as follow: a) Commissioners and team owners need to understand importance and value of CSR initiatives to attain multiple benefits; b) League-wide CSR campaigns and programs should be developed with a long-term perspective; c) Branding CSR programs might help pro leagues expand and promote their efforts vis-à-vis social responsibility; d) Given important roles that government plays in the Korean sport industry, awareness needs to be raised among professional sport leagues and franchises regarding their need to work closely with central government and local municipalities.