Enhancing sport business performance through innovation

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There is an emerging interest surrounding performance innovation in sports business, with the breadth of literature in this field relatively limited. However, it is an area of growing interest with numerous innovative products and services now reaching the market to enhance performance. Laura Bradshaw, a PhD candidate with Loughborough University London, has been working on a research project looking at how innovation enhances sports business performance. In particular, Laura is researching how performance innovation can enhance sport business by seeking to understand organisational performance innovation in other sectors through a series of case studies of elite organisations. This article summarises that work for the benefit of professionals within the field. 

Sport is an industry that is rapidly evolving, with innovation and change becoming fundamental elements of sport. Human performance is an area that has seen exponential growth within sports over the past decade. Advances in sports science, psychology, nutrition, sports medicine and technology have allowed performance to improve beyond expectations, the evolution of performance in sports such as Extreme Action Sports has changed the way organisations are viewed commercially. Brands such as Nike, Red Bull and Under Armour lead the field as innovative sports enterprises. Yet organisational performance in sports enterprises, has not seen the equivalent growth in terms of organisational results. The debt that many Football Clubs have perhaps reflects the way in which these enterprises are financially managed, with many clubs running at a loss. This raises such questions; how do we improve organisational performance in sports enterprises? Can sports enterprises streamline organisational processes and practices, and innovate through the intersections of policies and procedures to improve organisational results?

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Academic literature is limited on performance innovation in sports enterprises and whereas vast amounts of literature are published on business areas such as performance management, organisational change and development, innovation within sports enterprises is still an emerging area. Literature concerning sports innovation focuses on advances in sports technology and sports science and medicine but there are limited applications of these advances to sports enterprises and innovation. Not all business literature can be applied effectively to sports enterprises with similar results. This suggests there is a need for specific research on innovation and its application to sport enterprises. This paucity of academic literature suggests further research is required to understand how sports enterprises can become innovative. This research seeks to address this gap by connecting sport, space, business and neuroscience disciplines together. By taking this perspective the research can investigate in more detail how innovation, leadership and culture within elite organisations underpins organisational success.

The research serves to investigate how we improve organisational performance by focusing on elite organisations such as NASA, Military: Special Operations Forces, The Royal Ballet, Red Bull and Silicon Valley Technology companies to understand whether elite performing organisations have similar performance characteristics that can be applied to sport enterprises. In doing so, this research will, critically analyse the impact of organisational innovation on performance in sports enterprises.

There is a need to understand why some organisations are highly innovative while others are not. In the past the answer seemed clear. Successful organisations simply recruited the best people and invested in the most innovative ideas. Today however merely having great talent, ideas and capital no longer works. When you look at successful organisations today, their willingness to take risk may not be greater. Just understanding the relationship between a willingness to take risk and innovation has limited applicability. To understand how to create a highly innovative organisation an analysis of NASA, The Royal Ballet, The Juilliard School of Music, Red Bull and Mars One, who have all developed innovative practices, will be undertaken. Through this analysis, this research will develop, an exploratory organisational innovation model that can be applied to sport enterprises. It is anticipated that this will allow sport enterprises to set emerging trends and create new market opportunities.

Photo credit: Frank Da Silva

This research extract is by Laura Bradshaw, a PhD student at Loughborough University London studying under the Institute for Sport Business. Hear Laura's story of life as a PhD student here.

Loughborough University London is an ambitious and distinctive postgraduate campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - home of the celebrated London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Launched in September 2015, Loughborough’s newest campus offers postgraduate taught and research programmes to meet the rapidly-developing needs of the design, digital, enterprise, media and sport industries. For more information, visit: www.lborolondon.ac.uk


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