In this paper, organizational perception management is proposed as an alternative approach. This strategy is defined and illustrated using corporate pro-environmental behavior in sport to demonstrate professional sport organizations can protect their images, reputations, and identities and obtain favorable referenda outcomes. From this analysis, the Desired Voting Outcomes Framework is presented, illustrating that effective organizational perception management can interrupt anticipated no-voters’ decision-making processes, leading to a reconsideration of voters’ judgments. Furthermore, the organization’s long-term reputation is sustained due, in part, to the perceived legitimacy of referenda. Implications of this framework and directions for future research are discussed.
In detail, this paper makes two primary arguments. First, organizational legitimacy can be strengthened when an organization seeks the approval of community members by supporting a vote by referendum (i.e., rather than curtailing the efforts of ant subsidy activists). Professional sport teams often seek to avoid referenda out of fear of defeat, as indicated by the lack of sport facility subsidy referenda in recent years. However, this paper’s second major argument is that corporate pro-environmental behaviour (CPEB)—particularly when incorporated in the proposal and design stages of a facility—increases the likelihood of referendum success. Therefore, these two points reinforce each other. On the one hand, CPEB and referenda contribute to legitimacy; on the other, sustainability increases the odds a referendum will pass. More broadly, this paper demonstrates how professional sport organizations benefit from the employment of organizational perception management.
In conclusion, when a professional sport team—or any object of a referendum, for that matter—engages in activities perceived to be questionable, the long-term costs may overshadow the short-term gains. Though the organization may succeed in receiving millions of dollars in public financial support, its enduring reputation is damaged. The Desired Voting Outcomes Framework considers the need to effectively manage organizational perceptions in order to receive the favor of the voting public. In professional sport, CPEB is becoming an increasingly relevant strategy not only because of its obvious environmental benefits, but also because of the predicted economic and social benefits to the team. Despite the passionate and oftentimes contentious debate that arises prior to a facility subsidization referendum, professional sport organizations should approach these instances as opportunities to connect to previously untapped markets in the community, rather than as challenges that can only be overcome with deception. Thus, through OPM, the public referendum represents a welcomed chance to build a facility representing not only the team and its fans, but also the community supporting it.