A Case Study of Stakeholder Dialogue in Professional Sport: An Example of CSR Engagement

AuthorLisa A. Kihl,Kathy Babiak
Date01 March 2018
Published date01 March 2018
A Case Study of Stakeholder
Dialogue in Professional Sport:
An Example of CSR
Many businesses, including professional sport teams, are
designing and engaging in socially responsible initiatives
which benefit stakeholders as well as the businesses
themselves. Gaining insight into stakeholders’ expecta-
tions regarding corporations’ corporate social responsibil-
ity (CSR) initiatives through dialogue is important as the
way a business is viewed and evaluated by stakeholders
underlies subsequent interactions. Based on semi-
structured interviews with 42 diverse stakeholders
involved in a professional sport team’s CSR initiative we
found that stakeholders’ expectations of the team’s
involvement in the community related to social and insti-
tutional norms, values, and benefits. The team also
appeared to be meeting stakeholder expectations about
being socially responsible in the community. This study
provides new insights into a firm’s CSR expectations
through engaging in stakeholder management and
Kathy Babiak is Associate Professor at the School of Kinesiology – Sport Management Depart-
ment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. E-mail: kbabiak@umich.edu. Lisa A. Kihl is Asso-
ciate Professor at the School of Kinesiology – Sport Management, University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, MN. E-mail: lkihl@umn.edu.
C2018 W. Michael Hoffman Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University. Published by
Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington
Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK.
Business and Society Review 123:1 119–149
interaction. Future research directions and practical sug-
gestions are offered for organizations attempting to
understand and meet stakeholders’ expectations in the
area of CSR.
Companies (including professional sport organizations) are
implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initia-
tives which involve and benefit both stakeholders and the
businesses themselves (Walters and Tacon 2010). Part of the efforts
involved in addressing the demands of CSR is the need to engage
with a wide range of stakeholders (e.g., customers, beneficiaries of
a program, sponsors, and other partners) by creating opportunities
for different forms of dialogue, interaction, and exchange (O’Rior-
dan and Fairbrass 2008, 2014). Stakeholder dialogue is one form
of socially responsible action that can be adopted by companies to
uncover the array of perceptions, expectations, and experiences
related to CSR. The growing body of literature on stakeholder dia-
logue within the greater stakeholder theory and CSR literature sug-
gests that communication with stakeholders should involve mutual
exchange and interaction (van Huijstee and Glasbergen 2008). Fur-
ther, this approach can be used strategically to create value by
supporting the evaluation of a particular initiative or program to
gain an understanding regarding the stakeholders’ expectations,
priorities, beliefs, attitudes, and experiences relative to the program
and the business (Dawkins and Lewis 2003; Waddock and Smith
2000). Engaging in stakeholder dialogue to gain an understanding
of different stakeholders’ perceptions, values, and views is thus
essential to understanding the problems and opportunities in the
development and effectiveness of CSR in businesses—and perhaps
particularly so in the business of professional sport.
While a growing body of academic literature on CSR and stake-
holders exists, this literature typically examines the relationship
between a company and one stakeholder group in particular (cus-
tomers or employees for instance) (Smith 2003). One of the chal-
lenges of managing a corporate CSR program, however, is the
struggle to satisfy the needs of diverse stakeholders who have

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