Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

Built to Last: Relationship Quality Management for Season Ticket Holders

This article is a collaboration with Mi Ae Lee, Daniel Funk, Adam Karg, and Heath McDonald and is published in the European Sport Management Quarterly.

Research question

Long-term relationships between customers and organisations can benefit both parties. The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of service-related actions provided by a professional sport team on relationship quality (RQ). The current study is aimed at answering two research questions:

(1) “what are antecedents of RQ?”

(2) “how do the composition and quality of services provided by sports organisations impact customer perceptions of the quality of their relationship?”

Conceptualization of relationship quality

Research methods

Over 3,300 season ticket holders (STH) of a professional Australian Football team were surveyed. The predictive ability of the antecedents and RQ was examined by testing the direct relationship between RQ and STH behavioural intentions, including intentions of remaining a STH and referral intention.

Results and Findings

Four key service and performance-related antecedents (service quality, communication, administration and on-field performance) had a positive influence on RQ. RQ was a significant predictor of intentions to remain a STH and referral intention. 


This study contributes to sport management literature by highlighting the importance of developing high quality relationships. Areas team management can directly control, such as good administration and communications efforts, improve perceptions of the relationship between STH and team, providing a potential buffer against unpredictable on-field outcomes that are a feature of professional sport. Our findings should encourage sport managers to use strategic service-related actions within their operations to positively influence the deep and long-lasting relationships between STH and a sports team.

Keywords: Relationship Quality, Relationship Marketing, Season Ticket Holders, Professional Teams, Sport Consumers

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