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19/12/2018

Stay on the ball! CSR strategies in football

Marc Werheid

posted before 19th December 2018 by Dr. Alexandra Hildebrandt, Blogspot

Original source: https://dralexandrahildebrandt.blogspot.com/2018/12/am-ball-bleiben-warum-es-nicht.html

Mr. Werheid, what do you personally associate with the topic of corporate social responsibility and football

For me, the answer to the question begins in the overarching context: “What makes football special to me? football has the power to inspire and unite people across generations. football is passion and togetherness, pride and courage. Originating from success and failure and the love for the club. football brings people of different ages, backgrounds and views together and thus creates a unique interaction - for me a unique fascination. For me, CSR as a key element of responsible and impact-conscious corporate management, which includes all areas of a company, represents the overarching concept of a successful football club. Based on the emotions generated by football, I know of no other industry that could give such great importance to the topic of sustainable management.

For me, the enthusiasm of this sport for those who are most important for our future must also be emphasized: children. The idea of being able to make a contribution to the fascinating world of “football” through my scientific and practical work and to carry the important paradigm of sustainability through football into the new generations is a matter close to my heart.

What was the occasion for you to publish such a book right now?

Through the joint scientific work of my co-editor Matthias Mühlen (CSR manager VfL Bochum 1848) and myself at the Center for Advanced Sustainable Management (CASM), we quickly became aware of the increasing relevance of the topic in sport in general and in football in particular. In our previous master’s theses, we had already researched the direct and indirect links between strategically implemented corporate social responsibility approaches and the effects on key factors such as reputation, identification and ultimately the impact on the sporting success of a football club.

Although there was a great deal of skepticism at the time - even among many clubs - about the possible interactions, a different picture soon emerged. Thus, our study was able to reveal even then that fans have strong moral and ethical expectations of the various decisions made by their favorite club that go far beyond the sporting sphere. These results, which were surprising for us in this clarity, formed the starting point of our work. The fact that we were able to present a scientific volume at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in the context of a panel discussion with prominent speakers shows the current relevance of the topic.

What was the occasion for you to publish such a book right now?

Through the joint scientific work of my co-editor Matthias Mühlen (CSR manager VfL Bochum 1848) and myself at the Center for Advanced Sustainable Management (CASM), we quickly became aware of the increasing relevance of the topic in sport in general and in football in particular. In our previous master’s theses, we had already researched the direct and indirect links between strategically implemented corporate social responsibility approaches and the effects on key factors such as reputation, identification and ultimately the impact on the sporting success of a football club.

Although there was a great deal of skepticism at the time - even among many clubs - about the possible interactions, a different picture soon emerged. Thus, our study was able to reveal even then that fans have strong moral and ethical expectations of the various decisions made by their favorite club that go far beyond the sporting sphere. These results, which were surprising for us in this clarity, formed the starting point of our work. The fact that we were able to present a scientific volume at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in the context of a panel discussion with prominent speakers shows the current relevance of the topic.

What challenges had to be mastered?

For us, it was the first anthology of our own, and of course the first thing we had to do was gain the trust of the authors and entrust us with their contributions. This requires a convincing concept and a clear objective. We didn’t just want to publish something, we wanted to advance the topic in terms of content and create a platform that would enable an exchange of know-how. I think that ultimately convinced the authors.

The Springer Gabler publishing house and the series editor Dr. René Schmidpeter were also immediately convinced of the feasibility of the concept and supported us in the publishing process.

What criteria did you use to select the authors?

From the very beginning, we have endeavored to give equal weight to theory and practice, in order to provide the readers of the anthology with a holistic and authentic insight into the subject matter. The basis for this is formed by the exciting contributions of CSR managers from a wide variety of Bundesliga clubs, which enable us to understand the daily work and current challenges in this field. In addition, there will be a large number of contributions from business and science. When selecting authors, our main focus was always on a shared proactive and opportunity-oriented understanding of sustainable management in football. Each contribution follows this understanding, albeit in different forms and manifestations. Every club has a different brand image, different regional conditions and, above all, a unique fan base. We wanted to take these differences into account to make each contribution unique.
Where does professional CSR management reach its limits in football?

As we all know, boundaries are there to be overcome! At the moment, I see one hurdle that we need to work actively on: the trade-off between sustainability and profitability, which is still widespread. True to the motto: Either I profit as a company/association economically or in the form of reputation, or I do something good for society. However, CSR is increasingly seen as a business case: The club should profit economically from the club brand by interpreting the sustainability strategy, sharpen its own brand profile and increase the identification of its most important stakeholders - the fans. At the same time, however, a club should also create added value for society and overcome challenges that arise along its own value chain. Football can do both, if strategic decisions are based on brand DNA. I believe this is also how we can counteract the current trend in football - alienation through commercialization. Credibility and transparency - that’s where sustainable management in football works. Clubs that recognize this and implement it consistently create active competitive advantages.

What role do sponsors play in CSR management in football?

An extraordinarily large one, although one that has been underestimated in some areas up to now. It is important to understand that companies worldwide are undergoing a transformation.

Almost every successful large company already has what is known as “sustainability management”. This means that various social and ecological sustainability issues are addressed, negative impacts on society are minimized and a positive corporate image is created. As a result, these companies are increasingly demanding that they select sponsorship partners who are also perceived as sustainable and whose strategic decisions are in line with their own defined values.

In connection with the expectations of fans described above, there is a double-sided pressure for clubs to continue to position themselves attractively for sponsors in the future through the integration of sustainability management, but at the same time to examine carefully with whom the club wants to work together. A misjudgement can have serious consequences for the reputation of companies and clubs, especially in view of the high level of emotionality in football.

In your opinion, where is the topic correctly implemented and what are negative examples?

“Correct” implementation occurs where the topic is strategically understood and implemented, when it is closely anchored in the core business and the values of the company/association and is lived by all those involved. This includes, of course, and especially the management. There are a few examples of this in the German first and second national leagues, such as VFL Wolfsburg or SV Werder Bremen and many more. It is not about the quantity of activities and projects, but about the quality, which can be measured above all by the effect that is created. Associations should have the courage not to try to solve all the problems of this world or to orientate themselves only according to social trend topics, but first to solve the challenges which can be caused or influenced by the association itself.

How does your book differ from others dealing with CSR and football?

Our book is clearly based on the understanding of CSR as a management approach, which clearly distinguishes it from many other, specialized books. It is not about writing about football, but about presenting perspectives from within football itself. To this end, we have deliberately chosen to focus on the people behind the clubs, institutes and associations and to present their work, courage and visions.

What has to change in order for the topic to be effective in the future?

Effectiveness always occurs when a measure taken leads to a change at the end of the day. What we need for this, you yourself have wonderfully described in your new book “Visionaries of today - Shapers of tomorrow”: People who […] courageously deal with new beginnings, opportunities and change” (Hildebrandt & Neumüller, S. V, 2018). This targeted examination and highlighting of personalities, their individual life stories and above all their own motives for challenging and improving the status quo of our world every day has inspired me and is exactly what we need. People who take responsibility and are prepared to make the previously unthinkable possible. This is where your new book provides an important food for thought. Furthermore it says: Stay on the ball! It is not enough to draft a CSR strategy and leave it at that, to carry out isolated projects and activities. CSR is much more than just social commitment; it is the examination of all the responsibilities that a company or association faces on the way to creating products and services. It has long since ceased to be about pure philanthropy, but rather about recognizing the potential that arises from addressing social, economic and ecological challenges in the implementation and pursuit of the core business.

Literature:

Werheid, Marc, Mühlen, Matthias (Hrsg.): CSR und Fußball. Nachhaltiges Management als Wettbewerbsvorteil – Perspektiven, Potenziale und Herausforderungen. SpringerGabler Verlag, Heidelberg, Berlin 2018.

Hildebrandt, Alexandra, Neumüller, Werner (Hrsg.); Visionäre von heute – Gestalter von morgen. Inspirationen und Impulse für Unternehmer. Verlag SpringerGabler, Heidelberg, Berlin 2018.

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