How Expectations and Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility Impact NBA Fan Relationships

Russell Lacey and Pamela Kennett-Hensel

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities have the ability to impact the image and reputation of professional sports franchises, and ultimately, their relationships with the respective fan bases. The National Basketball Association (NBA), in particular, utilizes CSR as part of its marketing and public relations strategy. Based on field survey data collected with the assistance of an NBA team in the Southeastern United States over three consecutive seasons, this study expands our understanding of CSR by exploring how fans’ expectations and perceptions of CSR initiatives impact the quality of their relationship with the team. The findings show that when fans expect their team to exhibit social responsibility and it is closely matched by the team’s perceived CSR practices, the combined impact improves the quality of the fan relationships with the team.