The commercialization of sports is that aspect of the sports enterprise that involves the sale, display, or use of sport or some aspect of sport so as to produce income. Some experts prefer the term “commodification of sport” as a label for the same process. Interest in the commercialization of sport has existed for several decades,but only in recent years has the phenomenon has been taken seriously on a larger scale. The first attention came from a small group of critical, mostly leftist writers, who have now been joined by people from all political and social perspectives.
The commercialization of sport is not a cultural universal, but a product of unique technical, social, and economic circumstances. Sports in the colonial United States were usually unstructured, spontaneous activities that the participants initiated, coordinated, and managed. Only in the latter part of the 19th century did organized sport cross the ocean from Great Britain and arrive in America. At that time, urbanization forced a large number of people to live in new settings and to abandon traditional leisure activities, which included drinking, carousing, and gambling.The dominant class sought to replace them with activities such as baseball, horseracing, and boxing.
Professional sports, a big business that has grown rapidly over the last three decades, may be the epitome of commercialization, its influence pervasive throughout. Athletes, support personnel (managers, coaches, officials, media persons, lawyers, and agents), and sports team owners benefit handsomely from the willingness of sports fans to pay to watch their favorite sports and to purchase the commodities endorsed by sports personalities. Hundreds of professional athletes earn well over $1 million a year. Before 1977, $1 million contracts did not exist.By 1994 there were well over 200 professional athletes who earned salaries in excess of $1 million. In 1990, reported average 1989 salaries for athletes in four different professional sports stood at $577,200 in the National Basketball Association, $490,000 in the national baseball leagues, $212,000 in the National Football League, and $156,000 in the National Hockey League.Forbes’s 1994 list of the top-earning athletes included basketball stars Michael Jordan at $30 million and Shaquille O’Neal at $17 million, golfers Jack Nicklaus at $15 million and Arnold Palmer at $14 million, and boxers Micheal Moore and Evander Holyfield at $12 million each. In most cases, athletes’ endorsements make up over 90 percent of their earnings.
The ideal of the modern Olympic Games stands in stark opposition to the commercialism of sports. However, many commentators have argued that this idealism has been compromised to the point that the Olympics is currently the epitome of commercialism. In the early part of the 20th century 98 percent of the Games’ amateur competitors made no money from their participation. In contrast, today’s Olympic athletes are far from amateurs. The International Olympic Committee recognized the inevitable creep of commercialism and professionalism, and instead of requiring participants to be amateurs they merely ask that participants have an “amateur spirit.”
India’s biggest success in this concept is the IPL. With millions of dollars being spent on players, management team, auctions, the cricket doesn’t seem a sport any more. Its business. New deals being struck in every match, some with players, some with business mens and some with film stars. Profit making is the sole purpose in every game with no or very little nationalist or regional fever involved.
At last it’s not only that players gain from it. The sport at whole are the gainers. Take for example the PHL hockey, which has, risen from ashes, just like the bird phoenix. Commercialization of games infuse money into these sports and its cash starved associations which altogether lead to improvement in the game as a whole. More money means a career opportunity for players and thus sports being more professional.
A rise in gambling on sporting events has been an indirect consequence of these phenomena.Great Britain and Las Vegas permit some legal gambling. However, it is likely that more money is bet on sports illegally.According to McPherson, Americans lose an estimated $200 million on sports bets annually.The link between sports and gambling is complex. For example, the profits from legalized gambling are often used to build sports facilities and to operate many youth sports programs.
How does this commercialization affect the individual and society? Proponents of modern sport argue that capitalist systems have made more sports available to more people. They contend, too, that the owners, producers, and distributors of sports are simply responding to the demands of sports consumers. Critics of commercialization reject this view and argue that in reality only a small segment of society—the wealthy—have access to many sports. In addition, some critics also argue that commercialization via television especially has turned sport yet another form of passive entertainment. In addition, it is argued that commercialized sports, when used to display social status, effectively divides society. Finally, critics complain that commercialized sport is another way of defining life in terms of the purchase price rather than an inner sense of meaning and achievement. Despite these criticisms, there is little doubt that sports continues to become more and more commercial and the process is spreading to the non-Western world.