Much needed and well-developed book on business and management approaches to innovation in sport

Anne Tjønndal
Faculty of Social Science, Nord University

Vanessa Ratten
Sports Innovation Management
127 pages, paperback.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2018
ISBN 978-1-138-03732-8

In her new book, author Vanessa Ratten aims to address the research gap between sports management and innovation management. Ratten is an Associate Professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Department of Management and Marketing at La Trobe Business School (Australia). Ratten has previously published extensively on entrepreneurship in sport and has become a household name in the research field of sports management and entrepreneurial aspects of sport innovation (see for instance Ratten, 2011; 2012; 2015; 2016).

Addressing the gap between research on sports management and innovation management, as this book aims to do, is both timely and needed. There are several factors that indicate the need for such a book. First, while innovation influences sport in a number of different ways, there is still limited empirical research on the link between innovation and modern sport (e.g. Duret & Angue, 2015; Hyysalo, 2009; Tjønndal, 2018). On a more practical level, managers and leaders of sport organizations who are interested in improving their organizational activities through innovative new ideas need guidance on how to approach the innovation processes (pp.2). Third, Ratten highlights that innovation can offer sport organizations a new way of tapping into new markets by offering creative new products and services (pp. 3). “Sports Innovation Management” addresses the gap between sports management and innovation management research in a fruitful and comprehensive way, fulfilling its aim and making a valuable contribution to the research field.

Another goal of the book is to introduce readers to emerging issues of sport innovation, focusing on the role innovation plays in the sports context. To some extent, the book achieves this goal. However, the emerging issues discussed here are primarily related to the management and business side of sport. To say that it addresses ‘issues of sport innovation’ and ‘the role of innovation in sport’ in a more general sense is an excessive claim. Throughout the book, Ratten presents a number of descriptions of sport innovation. The one I find most useful for the contents and purpose of this book is presented in chapter one: “Sports innovation involves the creation of a process, product or service that leads to increased competitiveness in a sports context” (pp. 11). Furthermore, sports innovation management is described as “how innovations in sports can be managed in a way that improves performance”. Together, these descriptions of ‘sports innovation’ and ‘sports innovation management’ are best suited as guidelines for the types of sport innovation that this book explores.

“Sports innovation management” is structured in nine chapters. Chapter one, “Sports innovation management: an overview”, discusses the increasing importance of innovation in sport and how it influences competitiveness in the sports industry as part of the global economy. In chapter 2, “Creativity and innovation”, Ratten describes the role creativity plays in sport and innovation, with a particular focus on knowledge sharing and co-creation. Chapter 3, “Transformational leadership”, focuses on the importance of leadership in innovation processes in sport businesses. The fourth chapter, “Innovative marketing”, investigates the relationship between different types of innovation and marketing efforts towards sports. Chapter 5, “Culture, social and sustainable innovation”, is about organizational culture and creating innovation ecosystems in a sports business context. Chapter six, “Open innovation”, discusses the role of open innovation and distributed innovation systems in sports contexts. Chapter seven, “Corporate entrepreneurship”, reviews the link between sport, entrepreneurship and business. In chapter eight, “Technology innovation”, the author investigates technological innovation in sport. The final chapter proposes some future directions for sports innovation management.

What Ratten does brilliantly in this book is to familiarize readers with the management and business perspective of sports innovation and describe relevant issues in this research area of sport management studies. The chapters I found most rewarding to read was chapters two, three, four, seven and nine. At times the book can be somewhat repetitive as several of the chapters provide descriptions of the relationship between ‘sport’ and ‘innovation’, without breaking free from the business and management aspect of sport studies. In some chapters, it feels like the books tries to convey a broader perspective on sport innovation, but these are not as successful as the chapters where there is a clearer business and management approach to innovation in sport. This particularly applies to chapter five, six and eight.

To summarize, this book provides a helpful contribution and expansion of the knowledge on innovation management in the sports management field. It is most suited for sport scholars with an interest for economics and business studies, as well as leaders in commercial sport organizations and sports businesses. Finally, broader perspectives on the social, organizational, practical and political aspects of sport innovation are needed in order to introduce readers to emerging issues in sport innovation research in a more general sense.

Copyright © Anne Tjønndal 2017


Duret, P. & Angue, K. (2015). Two norms for innovation in outdoor sports: Technical and social innovation. Society and Leisure, 38:3,  372-382.
Hyysalo, S. (2009). User innovation and everyday practices: micro-innovation in sports industry development. R & D Management, 39 (3), 247-258.
Ratten, V. (2011). Sport-based entrepreneurship: towards a new theory of entrepreneurship and sport management. International Entrepreneurship Management Journal, 7: 57-69
Ratten, V. (2012). ‘Sports entrepreneurship: towards a conceptualisation’, International journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1–18.
Ratten, V. (2015). Athletes as entrepreneurs: the role of social capital and leadership ability. Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 25, No. 4, 442-455.
Ratten, V. (2016). Sport innovation management: Towards a research agenda. Innovation Policy Management and Practice, 18(3): 238-250.
Tjønndal, A. (2018). Sport Innovation – Developing a Typology. European Journal for Sport and Society, vol.15, issue 1 (in press).
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