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Small Sports Clubs Need to 'Up Their Strategic Game'


Caption: Professor Audrey Gilmore, Dr Damian Gallagher and Alina Stolz

Many small sports clubs will struggle to survive if they don’t adopt the right marketing tools, according to research by University of Ulster experts.

The research was carried out by Dr Damian Gallagher in partnership with Professor Audrey Gilmore and PhD student Alina Stolz, and has just been published in the prestigious Journal of Strategic Marketing .

Dr Gallagher, MSc Marketing course director, said: “This work highlights that, although the major sports industry was once considered to be recession-proof, many elite/professional sports organisations are now feeling the consequences of the economic downturn, as are non-professional sports associations and small sports clubs.

“Our research highlights that a lack of funding can be attributed to insufficient marketing activities. Sports organisations need to secure their survival, not only on a short-term but also on a long-term basis. They need to generate and develop relevant resources such as time, money and knowledge (often via volunteers), which is collectively understood as fundraising, in order to tackle their main problems.”

The study adds to the existing body of literature on sports marketing and to the important issue of fundraising in the context of small sports clubs.

It highlights that most fundraising activity in these clubs is informal and offers some direction on how clubs could become more professional in funding their activities and planning for their future development.

The authors argue that with sustained help, over time small sports clubs can develop strong company images built on their ability to provide a valuable offering and one that key stakeholders can be associated with in a positive way.

The contribution that small clubs make to the social capital of a society and the impact that these clubs have on regeneration, fostering better public health and creating safer, more cohesive and inclusive communities can be further enhanced.

Dr Gallagher added: “The research, which was carried out via 19 in-depth interviews in Northern Ireland and Germany reinforces the role played my each member of a small sports club. and argues that their personal competencies do much to strengthen a small club in the short-term.

“Although the large clubs and organisations get the headlines, it is the small clubs and organisations that are the lifeblood of sport and a short-sighted approach to their marketing and management can only be to the detriment of all sports clubs.”

Notes for editors

Next year Dr Gallagher will travel to the University of South Carolina as the recipient of the Fulbright Northern Ireland Public Sector Scholar 2013-14. Whilst there, he will continue to build a body of knowledge that will develop and aid current understanding in the area of marketing management in SSCs – a key contributor to the socio-economic future of a post-conflict Northern Ireland.

Full details of the paper are available at: http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/bes/key-themes-in-marketing-part-two/sports-marketing.

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