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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Sport Management

First Advisor

James M. Gladden

Second Advisor

Mark A. McDonald

Third Advisor

Thomas G. Brashear-Alejandro

Subject Categories

Marketing | Sports Management


Over the last decade, both academic and business literatures in marketing have emphasized the importance of customer equity that considers customers as most important company assets. In this hyper-competitive business environment, the need to obtain competitive advantage and retain customers has led to an increased attention to relationship equity, which is one of the three drivers of customer equity and theorized to arise from relational marketing efforts. However, relationship equity theory has received minimal attention in the spectator sport setting. Rather, most focus has been given to identifying factors that drive up customer loyalty and positive market outcomes from the value and brand equity aspects.

This research provides a framework for understanding relationship equity and its impact on customer retention and loyalty based on customer equity theory (Rust et al., 2001) in a spectator sport setting. This model suggests some antecedent conditions that lead to relationship equity, which eventually results in customer retention and positive behavioral marketplace outcomes. In order to examine the proposed links in the framework, structural equation modeling (SEM) was run using a sample of season ticket holders of a professional sport team. A survey design was used to empirically investigate this proposed phenomenon within a minor league ice hockey context in the northeastern region of the United States of America.

The results support the thesis that relationship equity is important to customer retention and desired marketplace consequences. The study found that four antecedents (benevolence, communication, quality of alternatives and personal investment) are significantly related to relationship equity. Relationship equity fully mediates the relationship between antecedents and all dependent constructs. Affective commitment partially mediates the relationship between relationship equity and behavioral loyalty, thus showing double mediation effects. In addition, the results demonstrate that both the proposed structural model and the alternative model have a similar good overall fit. However, this dissertation adopted the alternative model because the chi-square difference test showed significance between the two models and also because the alternative model identified the double mediating role of relationship equity and affective commitment. Based on the findings, this study recommends that sport managers should primarily focus on creating and maintaining relationship equity in order to achieve customer retention and firm's profitability.