Sports consumers are often regarded as different to normal consumers due to their emotional connection with the club they support (Nufer and Buhler, 2009). This means that sports organisations often build on this connection through the use of relationship marketing as it allows for specific marketing strategies targeted at each consumer (Kumar and Reinartz, 2018). The purpose of this study is to explore the impact that relationship marketing by Lincoln City F.C. has had on the quality of relationship with its fans during a pandemic. The study uses relationship marketing theories such as the idea by Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) that organisations should aim to ‘market with’ customers rather than ‘market to’ customers and how these strategies impact the relationship quality criteria as suggested by Lee et al. (2019) as being trust, satisfaction, commitment and reciprocity. This is a case study, and the data collection method was semi-structured interviews, and these were conducted with fans of Lincoln City F.C. as well as an insider from the club. Secondary sources, in the form of lectures from club insiders, are used in order to identify key marketing strategies. The key findings of this research suggest that relationship marketing strategies such as the creation of a supporters’ board, the chairman sending personalised videos to fans, player and manager interviews and returning season ticket holders money, all positively impact the relationship quality with fans. However, Lincoln City F.C. do not exclusively adopt relationship marketing as a strategy and there are elements within their marketing strategy that suggest traditional marketing occurs. The key finding is that the satisfaction of fans can be improved when there is a comparative, previous time period of the club that the fans can use as a benchmark. Further research is recommended to be a longitudinal study that focuses on collecting data from more fan representatives in order to advance the knowledge on satisfaction improving when fans are provided with a comparative benchmark.
Keywords: relationship marketing, relationship quality criteria, prosumption.
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