There’s a difference in expectations between a loyal sports fan and a first-time attendee, according to a recent Cornell University study.
More than 7,000 fans of a major U.S. sport were surveyed, and the researchers found that loyal fans took into account core services (e.g., the game itself, food and beverage) and supplementary services (e.g., parking, entrance gates) when they considered buying another ticket. First-time customer, though, focused on the core services mostly.
“This particular sport has a notably loyal fan base,” said Matthew Walsman, a doctoral student at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. “So, we wanted to know what aspects of the event services are most influential when the fans buy their next ticket. It turns out that all the services, both core services and supplementary services are important. They go for the full experience, starting from the moment they arrive and walk through the gates.”
Approximately 250 people where first-time customers in the survey.
“We found out that first-time customers are most interested in the core service—primarily the sporting contest itself and the services immediately connected with that event,” said Rohit Verma, a Singapore Tourism Board Distinguished Professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. “We also found out that these first-timers make something of a snap decision on repeated ticket purchase—either they enjoy all the services and buy another ticket or else the service package doesn’t meet their needs.”
The researchers suggest that an implication of the study is that organizations should focus on their fans’ full experience, but core services are critical for loyal and first-time fans.
“Most service businesses have control over their core experience, but this is not always true in sporting events,” Walsman said. “Sometimes the event includes dramatic moments and sometimes not. This is where the related services come in. If the venue managers provide a full event package, the customers will still have an enjoyable time even if their team or contestant had a tough day.”
The study, “It’s More Than Just a Game: The Effect of Core and Supplementary Services on Customer Loyalty,” is free to download.