Dr. Aubrey Kent, Chair of Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) and founding director of Temple’s Sport Industry Research Center (SIRC), is the winner of the 2016 North American Society for Sport Management Garth Paton Distinguished Service Award.
The award, the highest service honor within NASSM, recognizes a member with outstanding dedication to the promotion and growth of the sport management industry. Kent, a NASSM member for more than 20 years, credited the organization for providing him with exceptional mentors, including Paton, for whom the award is named.
“Garth was one of my mentors and a dear, dear man. It is special to receive this honor,” said Kent, Professor of Sport Management at STHM.
Kent’s commitment to the NASSM is strong. A past president of the organization, he helped establish the Janet B. Parks NASSM Research Grant, awarded at NASSM’s annual conference, as well as the Commission of Sport Management Association (COSMA) inaugural board of directors, which is dedicated to sport management education at the collegiate level.
Kent received the NASSM Student Research Award five years after joining the organization as a graduate student at Canada’s University of Windsor. In deepening his NASSM involvement, he served on several student committees and, in 2006, was recognized as a Research Fellow. He followed up that recognition with a highly successful stint as an Executive Board Member-at-large, which included several chairpersonships across various committees.
During his tenure, Kent has served on the editorial board for NASSM’s Journal of Sport Management, the leading academic journal in the field. He also has published more than 10 peer-reviewed articles within the journal.
“NASSM promotes the field, facilitates scholarships, and brings together academics to trade best practice ideas around teaching and research,” Kent said.
Kent will receive the Paton Award this June at the 2016 NASSM conference, to be held in Orlando, Fla.
After the jerseys have been washed and the grandstands have been cleared of clutter, a professional sports teams’ work is just beginning. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or a team’s efforts to use its impact for the greater good of its community, is no longer a secondary concern to the product they assemble on the field.
For Dr. R. Aubrey Kent, Professor and chair of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, CSR is an integral aspect of a sports team’s contribution to the community.
“CSR is important to a double or triple bottom line that includes social and environmental impacts,” said Kent, whose extensive research into CSR has produced multiple published articles and international presentations. “Sports teams are trying to grow a brand that goes beyond performance by being committed to the community.”
Kent’s work with the Professional Golf Association (PGA) in Florida spurred on his research interest in CSR. The PGA is widely known as one of the most-charitable professional sport leagues and organizations. In 2015, the PGA added 10 non-profit charities to its already lengthy roster. In his research into CSR and sports, Kent said he’s seen other sports leagues and organizations follow in the PGA’s footsteps in adopting a community-centric approach to business management.
Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles are known for their socially responsible and sustainability work, hosting “Go Green” games each season. But, as Kent found, the Phillies are less known for their efforts at reducing childhood hunger, or the Eagles for their work providing optometry services to children from low-income families. The fact that these ventures remain relatively unknown is what differentiates CSR from more-familiar marketing campaigns, Kent explained.
“Every single team has separate charitable organizations with very little publicity or fanfare,” Kent said.
As teams’ efforts maintain a low profile and provide the team with little to no financial benefit, Kent said identifying a team’s motivation for giving back can be difficult. Aside from the most-obvious altruistic intentions, Kent said other reasons include a team’s eagerness to satisfy intrinsic value systems and its hope that such values could appeal to more conscientious fans.
“The motivations have to be ingrained and value-laden because the financial incentives aren’t there,” Kent said. “Today, we care more, as a consumer class, about things that aren’t purely economic.”
Though CSR won’t change consumer opinion too greatly, as fans remain more concerned with performance on the field than corporate responsibility off of it, Kent said consumers have taken notice to team’s or a player’s CSR. Or lack thereof.
“Athletes are held to a higher standard because of the impact they have on youth,” Kent said.
The social impact athletes have as heroes among children can produce positive results in education and anti-drug campaigns, he said. Similar results are seen with negative behavior. When news broke of a 2007 investigation into National Football League player Michael Vick’s involvement in a dog-fighting ring, his team – the Atlanta Falcons – made a considerable donation to local humane shelters and animal societies. Fans reacted negatively, accusing the Falcons of making a reactionary donation.
The difference between a genuine and an insincere response, Kent said, is for teams to find that “sweet spot” between performing their social duties and publicizing their efforts. Kent found that teams are facing a more complex branding system, as they attempt to promote their social values while maneuvering daily amid a conscientious fan base.
“Sports are much more engaging emotionally, and there’s an ability to forgive bad deeds,” Kent said. “Ultimately, CSR is about sending positive societal messages.”
Aubrey Kent, chair of Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and founder of the Sport Industry Research Center (SIRC), knows that in a resource-constrained environment, community organizations often struggle with the day-to-day.
Kent recently served as a facilitator of the Beyond Sport Summit’s Urban Communities Symposium, a full-day event to discuss how sport can address youth violence in Philadelphia.
The Sept. 10 symposium, at the Lowes Hotel, attracted attendees from different areas of the world — from Philadelphia to Chicago to the United Kingdom — as well as from a variety of organizations, including the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, Philadelphia Police Athletic League (PAL), Eagles Youth Partnership and others.
Kent urged attendees to work with one another to gather resources and engage in “long-term strategic planning.
“We face all of these common challenges, and it’s really daunting when we’re in our office on our own, not realizing that there are many other stakeholders – and others who do so much like us,” Kent said. “We need to learn from each other’s challenges and mistakes and know that we’re not in it alone and in some ways make partnerships strategically to get ideas.”
SIRC has done just that.
Founded in 2008, SIRC, serving as a collaborative research network, has provided opportunities for academics, students and professionals to explore how sport positively impacts communities.
Much of the center’s work has been applied to research collaborations with groups and organizations focused on youth, such as Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, the Starfinder Foundation for youth soccer, and Students Run Philly Style, a mentorship program that uses marathon training to help youth succeed in life. Students Run Philly Style, a strong SIRC partner, won the Barclays Philadelphia Impact Award at the Beyond Sport Summit, which the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management sponsored. Students also volunteered at the summit.
Before its partnership with SIRC, founders of Students Run Philly Style understood what kind of impact they wanted to have on the youth they served but were only able to provide anecdotes to explain the organization’s life-changing power.
Through research on the correlation between running and positive academic outcomes, increased self-esteem and other metrics, SIRC uncovered data that supported the organization’s efforts. SIRC Director Jeremy S. Jordan plays a leading role in the research partnership with Students Run Philly Style.
Although SIRC provides research to nonprofits, Kent highlighted why such organizations should continually strive to obtain resources on their own.
“I encourage those of you who work or volunteer in these organizations to push for resources to enable you to focus on the long-term, which allows you to articulate to your staff why you are doing the day-to-day,” Kent said. –Alexis Wright-Whitley