Hatzigeorgiou, A. (2016). Can Sports Promote Exports? The Role of Soccer Matches in International Trade. Global Economy Journal, 16(1), 1-32. DOI: 10.1515/gej-2015-0029
Sports can help to increase foreign trade and promote global economic integration. Engaging in sports can provide visibility opportunities for countries and may spur the interest of firms as well as consumers in the respective foreign market. Sport could also help to infuse trust into cross-country business relationships. While previous studies have investigated the role of sport events on trade, this study analyzes whether countries can increase trade between them by engaging in sporting activities with each other. We use soccer, being the world’s most popular sport, as an example when investigating this potential bilateral sport-trade link. Our empirical strategy builds on the fact that many soccer matches between countries’ national teams are the result of a random drawing procedure. Thus, they are a possible source of exogenous variation. Using a gravity model framework, we test the proposed link for approximately 4,800 soccer matches that were played between 209 countries during the period 1995 through 2001. We also analyze the hypothesized underlying impact channel by estimating the impact on trade for goods that are likely to have different elasticity with respect to information and trust friction. The results are indicative of the hypothesis that countries that engage in sporting activities with each other enhance their bilateral trade. These results could have potentially interesting policy implications. Governments may want to consider actively promoting sporting activities together with countries with which they want to enhance their trade.