Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Lars Dzikus

Committee Members

Robin L. Hardin, Sylvia A. Trendafilova, Candace L. White

Abstract

Since 1967, Israel’s image has been dramatically deteriorating, partly because of not having clear strategies regarding soft power and public diplomacy (Gilboa, 2006). The purpose of this study is to analyze how Israeli sports organizations have used sports for nation branding and public diplomacy. The research question was: How do Israeli sports organizations use sports for nation branding and public diplomacy? For the conceptual framework I drew mostly from theories in place branding research, public diplomacy, sports diplomacy, and soft power. Coming from a constructivist ontology and epistemology, I used qualitative methodology. During December 2017, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 members from Israeli sports organizations and three members of Israeli governmental agencies. After analyzing the results, five themes emerged from the data: (a) The Conflict, (b) Hosting Sports Events, (c) Representation, (d) Relations with the State, and (e) Challenges and Opportunities. This study is significant and contributes to existing knowledge on two main levels: (a) the specific case of Israel and (b) theories and conceptual frameworks on public diplomacy, nation branding, and related fields. Based on the findings of this study, I came up with 12 practical recommendations to practitioners in Israel, that some of them can apply to other countries that face similar situations. The recommendations : (a) Develop a sports diplomacy strategy, (b) Brand Israel as a “SportTech” Nation, (c) Acknowledge the conflict and prepare for escalation, (d) Improve inclusion and emphasize diversity, (e) Use athletes and organizations for public diplomacy, not advocacy, (f) Focus more on participation-sports tourism, (g) Aim beyond commemoration, (h) Develop the Maccabiah Games further, (i) Encourage representation in international federations, (j) Emphasize ethical policies, (k) Improve and expand collaborations with foreign countries, and (l) Consider the themes found in this study. This study also shows that even in a country that is going through one of the most complicated prolonged conflicts in the world, whenever there is formal collaboration between the state and sports organizations, sports can still be useful tool for soft power purposes.

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