How Digital Marketing has developed Relationship Marketing in Sport

We have an incredibly personal connection with sport. It brings families together, it creates friendship groups, and provides a feeling of fulfilment for millions of people. Because people are so engrossed by sport, it is a form of escapism from everyday life – during the duration of an event everything else is seemingly forgotten. The sporting statistics below from 2012 provide evidence of this.

“Relationship Marketing is a strategy that entails seeking and establishing on-going partnerships with customers” (Payne, 1993). It differs drastically from transaction-based marketing as it aims to gain the lifetime value of a customer and convert them into advocates – as opposed to one time buyers.

The reasoning behind this is that once they climb Payne et al’s (1995) relationship ladder to become advocates, not only do they continue to purchase your goods, they effectively begin to market the goods through word of mouth to their friends and anyone else who may see them. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) believe that a good way to do this is to be unprofessional and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This is so that you blend in with others, and can relate to customers on more of a personal level.

Digital Marketing has made Relationship Marketing far more accessible for sports organisations as it’s an incredibly fast and effective way to communicate with customers. Some benefits of Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) are that it is personalised and there are multi-channels such as email marketing.

However, I would argue that emailing is a form of outbound marketing – therefore sports marketers would benefit far more from social networking sites. Chaffey & Ellis (2012) suggest that two way communication is a more effective form of marketing than emails, and social media sites such as twitter facilitate peer to peer communication and provide the platform to develop user-generated content (UGC), and exchange messages and comments amongst one another.

Laird (2013) offers an alternative view on the future of social media amongst sports fans (Click link below)

The relationship-quality aspect of relationship marketing in a sport context was examined by considering the impact of seven relationship-quality constructs on sport-consumption behaviour;

  • Trust
  • Commitment
  • Satisfaction
  • Love
  • Intimacy
  • Self-connection
  • Reciprocity

… and then comparing them to sport-consumption behaviours such as media consumption, purchase of licensed merchandise, and attendance.

Kim (2008) found that relationship quality was a predictor of behavioural outcomes, specifically, that fans who perceived higher levels of relationship quality intended to consume more sport through media, buy more licensed products, and attend more games. As a result, the importance of sports organizations having a strong relationship with customers is clear to see. (Kim, 2008, quoted in Williams & Chinn, 2010, p.425).


Will Wood, Leeds Beckett University, Sport Marketing Student


Chaffey, D and Ellis-Chadwick, F.E (2012) Digital Marketing, Strategy, Implementation and Practice, Pearson.

Kaplan, A.M. and Haenlein, M. (2010) Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. [Online] Available at:,%20Andreas%20-%20Users%20of%20the%20world,%20unite.pdf [Accessed: 5 May 2016].

Kim, Y.K. (2008). Relationship framework in sport management: How relationship quality affects sport consumption behaviors (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://etd. .Quoted In: Williams, J. and Chinn, S.J. (2010) Meeting Relationship-Marketing Goals Through Social Media: A Conceptual Model for Sport Marketers. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 6 March 2016].

Laird, S. (2013) Are sports fans getting bored with social media? [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 6 March 2016].

Payne (1993) Relationship Marketing The Six Markets Framework, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University. [Accessed 4 March 2016]

Payne, A., Christopher, M., Clark, M. and Peck, H. (1995).
Relationship Marketing For Competitive Advantage, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford

Taylor, J. (2013) One thought on ‘Great stats on sports and social media [infographic]’. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 6 March 2016].


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