Cornell Study Finds that Loyal Sports Fans Focus on Complete Service Experience

Dec 16, 2014

Contact: Carol Zhe, 607.254.4504,

Cornell Study Finds that Loyal Sports Fans Focus on Complete Service Experience

Ithaca, NY, December 16, 2014 - The most loyal sports fans have very different expectations from first-time customers, according to a study published by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR). The survey of more than 7,000 patrons of a major professional U.S. sport found that the most loyal customers took into account both core services (e.g., the game itself, food and beverage, and concessions) and supplementary services (e.g., parking, distances needed to travel at the event, the entrance gate) when they considered buying another ticket. By contrast, first-time customers focused mostly on the core service. The study, "It's More than Just a Game: The Effect of Core and Supplementary Services on Customer Loyalty," by Matthew Walsman, Michael Dixon, Rob Rush, and Rohit Verma, is available at no charge from the CHR.

"This particular sport has a notably loyal fan base," observed Walsman, who is 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."

The picture is different for customers who are attending the event for the first time, which was about 250 people in this 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 Verma, who is 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."

He added: "This is an important study, since we had such solid data. I greatly appreciate the contribution of our co-author Rob Rush and LRA Worldwide."

One implication of this study is that all service firms should focus on their customers' full experience, but the core services are critical for both loyal customers and first-timers. "Most service businesses have control over their core experience, but this is not always true in sporting events," Walsman pointed out. "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."
About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit

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