Towards Strategic and Authentic Corporate Social Responsibility in Professional Sport

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The rise and institutionalization of CSR in sport is captured in a growing body of work in sport management; however, this research tends to highlight trends across teams, obscuring the opportunity to learn from positive outliers. In particular, we need a better understanding of the evolution of CSR in sport towards more strategic approaches that are smart, thoughtful and genuine. The purpose of this paper is to present and analyze a case study of a professional sport team in the U.S. that has reinvented, and reorganized around, a significant component of their CSR – their community relations approach. We use qualitative data to explore the case of the Detroit Lions as they evolve their community relations approach from a broad philanthropic model to a more strategic and authentic partnership-focused model of economic development. We draw out themes around the Lions’ approach, process, and partnerships, and highlight best practices. In doing so, we hope to stimulate discussion and future research in the areas of CSR in sport, sport-community partnerships, and sport and city revitalization.


Human Performance

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Academy of Management Proceedings