“Smile and Dial” The impact of emotional labor on athletics ticket sales employees

Peyton J. Stensland *, Kyle J. Brannigan ** and Jordan R. Bass ***

(*) Assistant Professor of Sport Administration, University of Cincinnati, OH, USA
(**) Assistant Professor of Sport Management, University of Wisconsin Parkside, Kenosha, WI, USA
(***) Associate Professor of Sport Management, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA


Stensland, P.J., Brannigan, K.J., Bass, J.R. (2024). “Smile and Dial” The impact of emotional labor on athletics ticket sales employees. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 55(2), 191-217. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2024.55.191


Despite the demand for sales talent in professional and intercollegiate athletics, entry-level sport sales positions continue to experience a high rate of turnover (Popp et al., 2017). While previous literature has discussed employee retention, job satisfaction, and job turnover among sport industry professionals (Pierce et al., 2014; Popp et al., 2022; Popp et al., 2019), emotional labor is one aspect of the service interaction that has not been considered. Therefore, the concept of emotional labor and the role emotion regulation strategies play in various organizational behavior outcomes of ticket sales employees was examined. Athletics ticket sales representatives from different levels of sport were interviewed and open coding was utilized to analyze the results. Similar to other customer-service contexts, the findings indicate athletics ticket sales representatives engage in emotional labor by monitoring their emotions to achieve organizational goals. Specifically, the following themes were discovered and discussed: 1) emotional expectations of the job, 2) explicit altering of emotions, 3) presence of contrasting emotions, 4) emotional exhaustion, and 5) unique emotions required in selling sport.

Keywords: Emotional labor; Sport employees; Emotion regulation strategies; Ticket sales; Employee retention