Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

My view of the world

Athlete brands and sponsorship

Athlete brands and sponsorship In its simplest form, a brand can be considered a name, symbol, design, trademark or a combination of all of the above that serves the purpose of distinguishing one product or service from another. Ultimately brand awareness and brand image influence brand success. The brand awareness component is related to the ability of consumers to identify the brand from their memory under different conditions. Brand image refers to the perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory. Brand associations represent any attribute or benefit linked to a brand as perceived by a consumer. These associative links refer to tangible (Cristiano Ronaldo scores many goals) and intangible (Cristiano Ronaldo is a role model for kids) descriptors the consumer links to the brand. Brand associations provide indicators to consumer knowledge of the brand (What I know about Cristiano Ronaldo) and the perceived favorability associated with a brand (I like Cristiano Ronaldo), and therefore influence brand selection and consumption (I purchase Cristiano Ronaldo’s CR7 branded clothes). Below is an overview of my projects related to athlete brands: My research has investigated the brand development of professional athletes. In this research project, I worked with a professional athlete on aligning his brand image with philanthropy and promoting charitable activity via social media. Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data indicate an increase of fans’ perception of the athlete as a charitable person and an increase of fan involvement with the athlete. As a result, the athlete received extensive media coverage, increased his social media following, raised over $40,000 to a charity, and signed a sponsorship deal with a company that wanted to align itself with charitable causes. Reference: Academic article currently in development My research has investigated the spill-over effects of athlete sponsorship. In this research project, I examined the influence of athlete sponsorship on consumers’ awareness and attitudes toward the sponsoring brand. Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data indicate an increase of brand awareness of the sponsor amongst the fan-base of the sponsored athlete. Additionally, consumers’ perceptions of the sponsor as a charitable organization and their attitude toward the sponsoring organization increased over a six-month period of sponsoring a charitable athlete. Reference: Academic article currently in development

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Sport Team Brands

In its simplest form, a brand can be considered a name, symbol, design, trademark or a combination of all of the above that serves the purpose of distinguishing one product or service from another. Ultimately brand awareness and brand image influence brand success. The brand awareness component is related to the ability of consumers to identify the brand from their memory under different conditions. Brand image refers to the perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory. Brand associations represent any attribute or benefit linked to a brand as perceived by a consumer. These associative links refer to tangible (Bayern Munich has a modern stadium) and intangible (watching Bayern Munich play helps me get away from my daily routine) descriptors the consumer links to the brand. Brand associations provide indicators to consumer knowledge of the brand (what I know about Bayern Munich) and the perceived favorability associated with a brand (I like Bayern Munich), and therefore influence brand selection and consumption (I own Bayern Munich merchandise and watch games). Below is an overview of my projects related to sport teams:   My research has investigated brand associations of sport teams. In this research project, published in the Journal of Sport Management, my co-authors and I explored the development and stability of team brand associations and their influence on consumer loyalty. Analysis of longitudinal data indicates that brand associations can be developed through marketing communications without experiencing the team play competitive games. Furthermore, brand associations change based on changes of the environment (e.g., a new stadium), and they influence consumer loyalty in the future. Overall, this research project provides sport managers with insights on the development and change of brand associations new consumers link with sport teams. Kunkel, T., Doyle, J.P., Funk, D.C., Du, J., & McDonald, H. (In Press). The development and change of brand associations and their influence on team loyalty over time. Journal of Sport Management. (ABDC List: A*)      My research has investigated consumer perceptions of sport teams. In this research project, published in Sport Management Review, my co-authors and I explored the differing perceptions and identity responses that potentially exist in relation to one non-profit community sport organization (identification, apathy and disidentification). Results indicate that consumers’ existing values and beliefs, shared community values, local players, organizational practices and sport interest varied based on perception of organizational image and consumer identity. Findings show that understanding specifically what a sport organization’s audience expect is fundamental, if it is to be perceived as legitimate in relation to its purpose. Therefore, sport organizations should spend time understanding the values and beliefs that make them relevant to their audience. The organization examined in this research utilized the findings of this study to adjust their management approach and marketing messages. Lock, D., Filo, K., Kunkel, T., & Skinner, J. (2013). Examining dimensions of legitimacy in community sport organisation, Sport Management Review, 16, 438-450 (ABDC List: A)      My research has investigated sport team legitimacy. In this research project, published in the Journal of Sport Management, my co-authors and I developed the Capture Perceptions of Organizational Legitimacy (CPOL) framework, which is a three-stage process to measure the perceived dimensions on which constituents scrutinize a sport organization’s legitimacy. In stage one, the organizational context is defined to establish the classification, purpose, and relationship of the focal entity to its constituents. In stage two, qualitative data is collected to identify the perceived dimensions on which constituents scrutinized organizational actions. In stage three, a quantitative questionnaire is distributed to test perceived dimensions, which emerged during stage two of the CPOL framework. The framework provides researchers and practitioners with a context-driven process to measure consumers’ judgement of sport organizations. Lock, D., Filo, K., Kunkel, T., & Skinner, J. (2015):  The development of a framework to Capture Perceptions of Sport Organizations Legitimacy, Journal of Sport Management. 29 (4), 362-379 (ABDC List: A*) 

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Sport League Branding

In its simplest form, a brand can be considered a name, symbol, design, trademark or a combination of all of the above that serves the purpose of distinguishing one product or service from another. Ultimately brand awareness and brand image influence brand success. The brand awareness component is related to the ability of consumers to identify the brand from their memory under different conditions. Brand image refers to the perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory. Brand associations represent any attribute or benefit linked to a brand as perceived by a consumer. These associative links refer to tangible (The German soccer Bundesliga has a 50-year history) and intangible (Watching the Bundesliga helps me get away from my daily routine) descriptors the consumer links to the brand. Brand associations provide indicators to consumer knowledge of the brand (What I know about the Bundesliga) and the perceived favorability associated with a brand (I like following the Bundesliga), and therefore influence brand selection and consumption (I purchase the Bundesliga app to watch games). Below is an overview of my projects related to sport league branding:   My research has investigated the factors that contribute to the attractiveness of professional sport leagues.  In this research project, published in the European Sport Management Quarterly, my co-authors and I identified and tested factors that affect the attractiveness of both national football leagues and the Champions League from the perspective of fans, and how these factors are perceived by fans of clubs at the top and bottom of the league standing. Based on a review of sport consumer behaviour literature, we proposed that four determinants are relevant to a league’s attractiveness: stadium atmosphere, international success of the clubs, uniqueness of dominating clubs and perceived competitive balance. Quantitative data analysis revealed that the four determinants significantly predicted perceived attractiveness, and that even fans of financially privileged and successful clubs concede that perceived competitive balance is necessary for leagues to be perceived as attractive. Koenigstorfer, J., Groeppel-Klein, A., & Kunkel, T. (2010). The attractiveness of national and international football leagues – Perspectives of fans of “star clubs” and “underdogs”. European Sport Management Quarterly, 10(2), 101-137.    My research has investigated brand associations linked to sport leagues. In this research project, published in the Journal of Sport Management, my co-authors and I identified and tested consumer-based league brand associations. Qualitative results revealed brand association consumers linked with sport leagues. Quantitative results supported the existence of the identified league brand associations and demonstrated that these rand associations were related with attitudinal and behavioral outcomes towards the sport league. The identified league brand associations could assist sport league managers to develop and manage their brand and differentiate their league to competitors. Kunkel, T., Funk, D.C., & King, C. (2014). Developing a conceptual understanding of consumer-based league brand associations. Journal of Sport Management, 28(1), 49-67.    My research has investigated strategies organizations can use to grow their brand.  In this research project, published in the Sport Management Review, my co-authors and I explored the strategies sport leagues can implement to develop their brand and consequently better satisfy their consumers.  Based on mixed method research, seven themes were uncovered through qualitative content analysis: 1) Media accessibility and marketing, 2) Fan engagement, 3) League expansion, 4) Competition structure, 5) Product quality, 6) Match day experience and 7) Unique club identity. These themes represent three brand development strategies – market penetration, market development and product development. These findings provide sport managers with guidelines of how to grow their organization, influence consumers’ brand associations, and strategically position their brand to appeal to consumers. Kunkel, T., Doyle, J.P., & Funk, D.C. (2014). Exploring sport brand development strategies to strengthen consumer involvement with the product – The case of the Australian A-League. Sport Management Review, 17, 470-483. 

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Sport brand architecture

Brand architecture describes the structure of an organization’s portfolio of brands and the relationship between these brands as perceived by the consumer. Specifically, brand architecture is determined by consumers’ perceptions of management, design, and structure of brands that are in a relationship with one another that can be found in a portfolio of brands. Brands can be structured on a continuum between a house of brands and a branded house. In a branded house, the master brand name is closely linked to all subbrands (e.g., the subbrands Virgin Mobile and Virgin Media are linked to the master brand Virgin). In contrast, a house of brands has limited or no linkage between the master brand name and its major brands (e.g., the subbrands Ariel and Charmin are not visibly linked to the master brand Procter & Gamble). Between these approaches, mixed-branding strategies are common and spill-over effects of consumers’ perceptions occur between brands in the portfolio. Most sport entities (e.g., leagues, teams, athletes) are positioned in a mixed-branding portfolio. For example, what consumers think of the league influences their perception of the teams within the league, and vice versa. This relationship is presented in the figure below. My research has investigated sport brand architecture. In this research project, published in the Journal of Sport Management, my co-authors and I examined drivers of consumer involvement and brand loyalty with professional sport leagues and teams. Results revealed that leagues and teams were in a co-dominant relationship with one another. Three different sport consumer relationships were identified and confirmed within sport brand architecture.  The relationships were league dominant, team dominant, and co-dominant. The co-dominant relationship was identified as the most common brand relationship with consumers being equally involved with their favorite league and their favorite team. Findings of this research can be utilized to improve the management and marketing of leagues and teams through leveraging their brand relationship, which subsequently may increase consumer loyalty with both brands. Kunkel, T., Funk, D.C., & Hill, B. (2013). Brand architecture, drivers of consumer involvement, and brand loyalty with professional sport leagues and teams. Journal of Sport Management, 27(3), 177-192. Get this article via email:   My research has examined the influence of the league brand on consumers’ connection with their favorite team. In this research project, my co-author and I examined how brand associations linked with a league influence consumers’ team identification and team-related consumption. Findings of this research support that consumers’ perceptions of the league brand influence their identification with their favorite team and their team-related behavioral intentions. This research has implications on the management and marketing of the relationship between leagues and their affiliated teams. This research is currently in review.

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The #KickEbolaInTheButt Challenge

The #KickEbolaInTheButt Challenge Vision: We dream of a world without Ebola. Mission: We started #KickEbolaInTheButt to help infected individuals and stop the virus from spreading across the world by raising awareness and collecting donations. According to the World Health Organization, the current Ebola virus is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. It has started in Guinea, spread over to Sierra Leone, and has killed more than 2100 people in west Africa. Infected individuals have a 47% chance of survival. To treat patients and prevent the disease from spreading across the world, donations are needed. Therefore, we have started the #KickEbolaInTheButt Challenge. Why am I involved in this challenge? I always teach my students that we can use sport as a vehicle to make the world a better place, not just to entertain the masses. Although I have previously used sport events to support charitable causes, such as collecting donations for “The Water Project” by running a marathon, I wanted to make a difference on a bigger scale. So linking up with Michael Lahoud for this project gave me the opportunity to put theory into practice and hopefully help making an impact in the fight against Ebola. https://youtu.be/YoG1cOvi2cs   Update June 2016: We were able to raise over $5000 to support Doctors without Borders in fighting the virus in Sierra Leone. The money was used to treat patients and support orphans of parents who died from the Ebola infection. 

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Bayern Munich Brand Image

Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich have a chance to repair the damage that the game against the MLS Allstars has left on their brand image. The German club has opened an office in New York City to “increase its stateside fan base and strengthen the position of its brand, product and philosophy in the U.S. market,” according to Jörg Wacker the club’s executive board member for internationalization and strategy. Bayern Munich has received extensive media coverage in the last three years because of their attractive style of play and their success in the UEFA Champions League. However, the positive image that fans formed about the German heavyweight has received some dents in their recent game against the Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Stars. The game ended 2:1 for the MLS All-Stars, but it was not the loss that had tarnished Bayern’s brand image, but the fact that Pep Guardiola refused to shake hands with Caleb Porter after the game, because of fouls committed against Bayern Munich players. Instead of shaking hands, Guardiola wagged his finger at the coach of the MLS All-Stars (see picture above).   Pep Guardiola stated that he didn’t see Porter (the finger wag seems pretty obvious to me) and US Soccer president Sunil Gulati tweeted that everything was “All good with Pep Guardiola and Caleb Porter” (see tweet on the left).   However, US soccer supporters were angered by the gesture. One comment that represents the sentiment of many other soccer supporters (see the 116 likes) states: “The MLS should not invite Bayern back next year or any year until that [curse word] coach is gone. That act of un-sportsmanship should not be rewarded with a return trip to the states for Bayern to build their marketing arm in the US. Suffer the consequences of your coaches’ actions…” (see picture below). Here is also a link to an original article posted by the MLS: MLSsoccer.com  A video posted by Caleb Porter has given Pep Guardiola to repair the negative impact his behavior had on the Bayern Munich brand image. Porter has nominated Pep Guardiola to complete the #IceBucketChallenge to support the ALS Association. The Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket full of ice water over ones head and then nominating other people to follow lead. After he had a bucket full of ice water dumped over his head (see picture below), Porter nominated Jürgen Klinsmann and Pep Guardiola. Now they have 24 hours to complete the challenge or make a donation to the ALS foundation who support scientific research to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. For the video click this link: SBNation   By accepting the nomination, Pep Guardiola can regain respect from US soccer supporters and repair the damage done in the MLS All-Star game. However, for best results here is some advice to approach the challenge: Don’t just dump a bucket of ice water, sit in a pool of ice water. Hold a colorful cocktail, yes, with little umbrella (a little self-mockery never hurts). Wag your finger at Porter (ironically) while saying “na na na, Caleb, Mir san Ice Bucket Challenge”. Nominate Osvaldo Alonso and Will Johnson (the two players who committed the fouls in the All-Star game. State that you are square with Porter now. Have the pool sponsored by one of the club sponsors who donates X amount of dollars to the ALS Association. State that this sum will support the fight against ALS. Publish the video on the webpage and all social media channels. Use hashtags plenty of hashtags, such as #IceBucketChallenge #ColdAsIce #ALS, and twitter handles to reply to Celeb Porter’s video. Dear Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich, you have just regained the respect and appreciation of 93% of all US soccer supporters, the remaining 7% probably support Borussia Dortmund.

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Gamified fan engagement to increase loyalty

The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple has formed a strategic partnership with Swiss software developer Appventures to conduct data analysis of their ARENOO soccer fan engagement app. Initial data analysis has led to a paper to be presented at the Sport Marketing Association conference in October, held in Philadelphia. The following is the abstract of the paper: Digital media has created ample opportunities to grow sport brands, generate revenue, extend the fan experience beyond the game, introduce loyalty programs, and allow for the gamification of these programs.  Gamification represents customers’ playful interaction with brands aimed at increasing their engagement with the brand and subsequently their loyalty toward the brand. The current research is based on data from the ARENOO football fan engagement app.  The app allows users to engage with their favorite sport and collect points based on their interaction with their favorite football team.  Results of Person Correlation analyses indicate that users’ activities within the app were strongly positively correlated with team related outcome variables, such as stadium attendance.  This research supports and extends theoretical knowledge related to gamified customer engagement.  Furthermore, we present a fan engagement tool that is of relevance to sport practitioners who are looking for new routes to engage customers in a digital, mobile environment.  In particular, the app allows sport managers to deepen the relationship with existing sport brand customers and generate new customers by building on their relationship with the sport and then funneling them into customers of the brand. For information how sport organizations can benefit from the ARENOO app, see this link: ARENOO – Gamified fan engagement to increase loyalty 3 page flyer  

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Brand Architecture, Drivers of Consumer Involvement, and Brand Loyalty with Professional Sport Leagues and Teams

Understanding brand relationships as perceived by consumers is important for the successful management and marketing of connected brands.  Brand architecture and consumer behavior literature was integrated in this study to examine brand relationships between professional sport leagues and teams from a consumers’ perspective.  Online questionnaire data were gathered from football consumers (N = 752) to test the influence of leagues and teams on consumer loyalty.  Consumers were segmented into three theoretically identified sport brand architecture groups: league dominant, team dominant, and co-dominant.  Findings of CFA, MANOVA, paired-sample t-tests, frequency analysis, chi-square and linear regression analysis revealed that leagues and teams were in a co-dominant relationship with one another.  Results revealed the brand architecture of leagues and teams as perceived by consumers, provide a reliable and valid tool to segment sport spectators, and showcase the influence of external factors on consumer loyalty with a team.  Suggestions for league and team management and marketing are presented to better leverage their brand relationship and increase consumer loyalty with both brands.

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Should MLS clubs have mascots???

Should MLS clubs have mascots? This is the question Laura McCrystal from the Philadelphia Inquirer wanted to know in a recent interview.  In particular, she reported that the “Phila Union weighs picking a mascot”.  Here are my answers that got printed: “Research shows that the more associations fans have, the stronger their commitment to a team, according to Thilo Kunkel, an assistant professor of sports management at Temple University. “So having a mascot is not only about the profit,” he said, “but it’s about strengthening a psychological connection to a team.” But Kunkel, who specializes in soccer branding, said it is also important for the Union to consider fans who “want their game to be more pure, so to speak, or to represent the game as it is played in Europe.” The last thing a MLS club needs is a gimmicky mascot that will annoy club fans who want their game to be different from other American sports. However, a well designed mascot, that aligns with the identity of the club and its supporter base, in the case of the Philadelphia Union the Sons of Ben, can provide additional brand associations fans link to the club, and research shows that positive, unique brand associations influence consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward their favorite club.  I think, if Bayern Munich can have Berni the bear and Manchester United can have Fred the Red, the Philadelphia Union can certainly have a Benjamin Franklin with a pirate hat, a pirate sword, and a monkey* to honor their supporters group, the Sons or Ben. Whether fans will accept the mascot will mainly depend on how the club communicates the introduction of it. * Although I would love to see a real monkey at the game, in terms of animal cruelty, they should probably use a teddy monkey. Or a unicorn, just to be different. I mean, who doesn’t like unicorns…

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EASM New Researcher Award

The European Association for Sport Management (EASM) holds a “New Researcher Award” (NRA) competition every year.  The NRA is for “the best original theoretical or conceptual advance and significant unpublished contribution in sport management.”  In 2008, the inaugural year of the NRA, my ‘Diplomarbeit’ (engl. Honours) supervisor, Dr. Joerg Koenigstorfer won the award based on an article that we wrote together based on my ‘Diplomarbeit’ research.  The article was later published in the European Sport Management Quarterly. The competition was a valuable experience.  The need for a thorough preparation and the need to ‘defend’ my research was also higher than at a ‘normal’ conference. Five years later, I applied to the NRA with research findings of my Ph.D. thesis.  A three stage process is used to determine the recipient of the NRA.  In the first round, a five page abstract of the research is evaluated.  Out of 30 applicants, ten make it to the second round.  In the second round, a full article (max. 40 pages) is evaluated.  Out of the ten applicants, three are invited to present their research at the EASM conference.  The winner is then chosen by a panel of six members. The conference was held in Istanbul, Turkey, which is an amazing city to visit (even during the day).  I was able to connect with old friends and colleagues, and met new people with who I will definitely stay in contact.  I guess these are the main reasons why we attend conferences anyway. While I always strive to be the best, coming second is a good result. Congratulations to the winner Christos Anagnostopoulos.

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Academic research that can help the sports industry

Can academic research help sports industry?  In the latest issue of the Sports Business Journal (August 12 – 18, 2013, Volume 16, Issue 17) senior writer Bill King addresses the question how academic research can help the sports industry. Bill King makes the argument that academic research has a lot to offer to the sports industry.  He highlights six articles that are beneficial for sports practitioners – one being the article “Brand Architecture, Drivers of Consumer Involvement, and Brand Loyalty with Professional Sport Leagues and Teams” (Kunkel, Funk, & Hill, 2013) published in the Journal of Sport Management. Obviously, I am very proud that my article received a mention as being relevant for the sports industry.  Hopefully, both league and team managers will find value in finding out more about the brand relationship of their entities as perceived by consumers, to leverage their close relationship.  

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Student Evaluation of Teaching 2013 – Event Marketing & Sponsorship

The Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) for my course Event Marketing and Sponsorship 2013 are out and I couldn’t be happier with the results.  SETs are employed at the end of each semester to measure our performance as a teacher.  Students are provided with the chance to provide feedback on teaching style, material competence and a few other measures to evaluate an instructor’s achievements in teaching.  At the end of the semester my students are looking forward to receiving good grades and going on holidays.  I am looking forward to allocating good grades, going on holidays, and receiving my SET scores.  While colleagues have argued that SET scores are highly dependent on the mood of students, how they like the instructor and their own grades.  They represent students’ perception – but isn’t perception the reality of someone else, in this case the student?  Admittedly, SETs are highly dependent on the perception of the few students that actually complete the evaluation.  However, they still give me an overview of how I performed in the perception of my students (or at least the ones that could be bothered).  SETs usually consist of a few multiple choice questions and a few open ended questions, which I like most because the open ended answers provide an actual insight what was done well and, you know, where I need to step up my game.  This year, it seems like I need to do less in-group discussions and be less ‘try-hard cool’.  However, and this is the great thing about SETs: I will continue my in-group discussions (only one person commented on this and I think they are beneficial) and I am just cool (there it is again: perception).  Nevertheless, needless to say that I was extremely happy with my SET results and that the feedback was very motivational for next year’s course –> the power of positive feedback!  

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