Strategically Releasing Control: Navigating the Complexities of Enabling Category Captains

Sean Sands, Michael Beverland, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt

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Many retailers seek growth by strategically enabling a category captain to manage a category on their behalf. Past research assesses the efficacy of category captaincy from a retailer perspective, with results showing effective categorycaptain arrangements depend on the respective abilities of actors to effectively operate in such a network structure. Less is known about what and how manufacturers become successful captains or how challenger manufacturers unseat an incumbent captain. With this research, we contribute to the growing but still small literature on category captaincy in two main ways. First, we re-orient the focus from the retailer to the manufacturer (both captain and non-captains) to uncover the enabling strategies and underlying capabilities captains and non-captains require when operating in category captaincy networks. Second, we contextualize the captaincy lifecycle in terms of three stages; consideration, captaincy, and renewal. Drawing on interviews with retailers, category captains, and non-captains from six sectors we develop propositions whereby capabilities are contingent on actor goals across the captaincy lifecycle. In so doing, we extend existing research by identifying the capabilities necessary for different actors to gain benefits from category captaincy arrangements.
TidsskriftIndustrial Marketing Management
Sider (fra-til)181-193
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2020


  • Category captaincy
  • Category management
  • Strategic enablement
  • Enabling strategies