Research question: The societal impact of elite sports attracts increasing attention in academia and sport policy. In this paper, we show how public value management theory enhances the understanding of the way social impacts can be created and supported. We answer the research question: how do policy makers in the Northern Netherlands develop a public value proposition in order to legitimise investments in the elite sports management environment?
Research methods: Data for this article were gathered from January 2019 to February 2020 using a qualitative fieldwork approach and from the study of policy documents. The first fieldwork phase entailed an exploratory study using focus groups and one-to-one meetings (n = 24). In the second research phase, the focus shifted towards an action-based design, employing four focus group sessions (n = 22). For the final phase, a group of civil servants and decision makers convened in four working sessions.
Results and Findings: We show that (1) the funding of elite sport in the Northern Netherlands incorporated within broader talent development opportunities legitimises investments, (2) these investments need to go hand in hand with active stakeholder management and (3) these investments hold particular significance in regions with peripheral characteristics.
Implications: This study provides public sector sports managers with a framework in which they can increase the societal impact of elite sports by developing public value propositions. This article contributes to the concretisation of public value theory by detailing how public value propositions are drafted and re-drafted to engage a coalition of supporters in the authorising environment.