Power Play: Sport, the Media and Popular Culture

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Book Review
Power Play: Sport, the Media and Popular Culture

“Sport needs, attracts and must deal with money and power and the backers will always be looking to buy or take their share of the glory. How are we to police the line between the realms of power and play, economic space and social space?” (Goldblatt, 2007, as cited in Boyle & Haynes, 2009). Power Play: Sport, the media and popular culture is written by Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes (2009) and takes a deep look at the central role media plays in the life of sport. These “sports fans and media academics,” (pg. ix, Boyle & Haynes, 2009) discuss how millions of fans around the world invest financially and emotionally into sport and its competitors and how the media play a central and crucial role in portraying and supplying information to the public. Different sports play an important role in the cultural life of countries and people and the media now, more than ever, has taken sport deep into the worlds of business and politics. This book is broken down into three sections which look in particular at the political economy of media sport; the relationship between sport, media and identity formations of gender, race and nation; and the consumption of sport and the role of audiences in the communication process. Television, sport and sponsorship are what is referred to by these authors as ‘a sporting triangle.’ The authors take a look at the complex relationship which has evolved at the centre of national and international sport and how now more than ever, this relationship drives the shape and development of sporting contests. Boyle and Haynes (2009), state that “professional sport today relies mostly on commercial sponsorship and money from the sale of television rights for its financial survival,” (pg.45). They are supported by Polley (1998) and Holt (1989) how argue that sponsorship of sport and athletes has always been present, just not the scale that it is today. They mention even as far back as the first modern Tour de France using the race to promote a local newspaper L’Equipe (Holt, 1989). Companies choose to sponsor sports and athletes for different reasons. They could be looking to achieve an increase in public profile of that company as well as increasing public awareness of the product or services that the company offers. With this view Boyle and Haynes (2009), discuss Whitson (1998) who focuses on North American sport from the early 1980s and he demonstrates the links and the evolution between professional sport and the media industries from the 80s to the 90s. Whitson declares that during this time there was an increase in the media corporations not only providing the television channel to deliver the sport but also owning the sports clubs involved. “Through vertical integration media corporations can control both distribution and content,” (Boyle & Haynes, 2009, pg. 48). The Olympics are arguably the world’s largest sporting events and the relationship between broadcasters, companies and sponsors has developed over time with the constant increase in satellite and video technology. Television networks fought to secure the rights to screen these events and this lead to excessive amounts of money being spent. Organisers soon realised that after the “spiral in television fees were levelling out,” (Boyle & Haynes, 2009, pg 53), they would need to target alternative sources of revenue. This is where companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa began their sponsorship of the Olympics in LA, 1984. With this review of the sponsorship and the Olympics, Boyle and Haynes (2009) conclude that the LA games “were a celebration of corporate capitalism, an arena where human activity was transformed into an economic process that fuelled the consumption of corporate goods and services. Sport has become synonymous with corporate image, television entertainment and consumer capitalism and, for sponsors and marketers, global...
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