Over the last few decades sport has moved from solely amateur to a professional era. I will be writing an essay that will weigh up the arguments on both sides and come to a judgement as to what extent sport has been abused by commercial interests. I will also talk about how commercialisation has given to sport as well as increased participation, and the various steps taken to bring sport from the amateur era to the professional era.
The word amateur comes from the Old French word for ‘lover of’ and this is clearly the main reason why people play amateur sport. Because they love the game that they play, as oppose to it being their job to play the game. Whereas, a professional sportsman is someone who gets paid to play sports, and often contracted to some sort of club or team. Professional sport has become more and more common, and one of the main reasons for this is because of commercialisation. Commercialisation of sport is the involvement of the media, and sponsors who seek a financial reward through sport.
Commercialisation of the Olympic Games first really came about in the run up to the 1984 games in Los Angeles. For marketers, the Olympic Games are really a great target to promote products at. It is watched all over the world, so effectively being one of the chief endorsements of the games gets product recognition all across the globe. The first person to really capitalise on the advantages of commercialising the Olympic Games, was Peter Ueberroth. He intended to create an Olympic Games that did not cost the city a penny. He spread the cost for the Olympics by using sponsors to fund it. He, in a sense ‘Americanised’ the Olympics. It is generally acknowledged that Ueberroth saved the Olympic Games, at least in the financial sense.
Commercialisation can be seen as a bad thing in sports, the Olympic Charter itself states ‘Sport is precious…it should not be abused by commercial interests’. And to some extent this is true; commercialisation can bring about a number of bad aspects to sport. Many would argue that Roman Abramovich being able to buy Chelsea Football Club for that amount of money is wrong and essentially just turned Chelsea into a super-team, with little to none competition, and this would be fine if Chelsea had earned their way to the top by winning matches but they didn’t so essentially the game can be unfair because of commercial interests in sport.
Another point is that, with extreme commercialisation as we can see in sports such as American Football, Soccer, and NBA Basketball, the sport becomes essentially a battle of the sponsors. We associate different players with different brands, and younger grass roots level players idolise these players, and to all intents and purposes get brainwashed by this branding. This is probably the main reason why different firms sponsor players, to get a financial return from the younger players who play the game at an amateur level. In the Olympic Games, athletes are not allowed to wear sponsored items of clothing; however this makes little difference to the companies who sponsor the players. They will still appear god-like in the Nike adverts or the Adidas adverts in the run up to the Olympics.
However there are advantages of commercialisation of sport, and to some extent it can be seen as a good thing. When sport is commercialised there is more money being given to the clubs and the athletes, this allows for more competition between players because they want to get recognised by a well paid sponsor. It increases the competitive nature in sport. In the 100m sprint final of the Olympic Games (or in any Olympic final) there is no direct financial reward for the winner. But rather an opportunity to earn lots of money by gaining a good sponsor, all of the sponsors will be looking for the best athlete to endorse, so there is only the real cash prize for the winner. Therefore, commercialisation and sponsorship increase competition in sport.
In my opinion I don’t think that sport is abused by commercial interests, and if anything, commercial involvement is good for sport. It means that athletes earn lots more money from playing, and with this comes an increased desire from younger players to aspire to become professional. If athletes, weren’t getting paid enough then there would be less participation as getting a regular job would seem just as viable.
In conclusion I think that perhaps there are some aspects that make commercialisation a bad thing in sport, but I think that the good that comes out of it by far outweighs the bad. I think that sport is precious, but will not be spoiled by commercial interests. Contrary to this, I think that commercialisation makes sport appear more of an attractive career and therefore t attracts a larger amount of people to play professionally. And I think that the quality of athletes has greatly increased due to the incentives that sponsorships bring about.
There could be an argument to say that this increased competition has spoiled sport, because it does incite cheating in sport in order to win. Again, using the 100m sprint final as an example. The margin for error in this race is so small, and the huge difference between the prize for second place and first place makes the race so much more competitive, that cheating is becoming more and more common. So perhaps to some extent we could say that the increased financial gain from being a professional athlete has spoiled sport to some extent.