Research Summary: This article brings together the competitive dynamics and strategy‐as‐practice literatures to investigate relational competition. Drawing on a global ethnography of the reinsurance market, we develop the concept of micro‐competitions, which are the focus of competitors’ everyday competitive practices. We find variation in relational or rivalrous competition by individual competitors across the phases of a micro‐competition, between competitors within a micro‐competition, and across multiple micro‐competitions. These variations arise from the interplay between the unfolding competitive arena and the implementation of each firm's strategic portfolio. We develop a conceptual framework that makes four contributions to: relational competition; reconceptualizing action and response; elaborating on the awareness‐motivation‐capability framework within competitive dynamics; and the recursive dynamic by which implementing strategy inside firms shapes, and is shaped by, the competitive arena.
Managerial Summary: Competition is often seen as war: “attack,” “retaliation,” and “dethronement.” Yet competition can also be relational, incorporating collaboration and reciprocity. We show these dynamics in a syndicated financial market, reinsurance, where multiple competitors get the same price for a share of the same deal. Our competitors have rivalrous motivations to win business and relational motivations to ensure buoyant pricing, maintain market health, and enable long‐standing client relationships to persist. These motivations are grounded in the strategizing practices with which firms implement their strategic portfolios and compete on deals. Competitors’ rivalrous or relational motivations are highly dynamic, shifting throughout the competition on any deal and across the multiple deals on which they compete. Cumulatively these practices shape the entire market for these volatile, uncertain financial products.