Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

My view of the world

Griffith Red Couch Interview at the Gold Coast Suns Game

I was invited to represent Griffith University at the Griffith Red Couch Interview at the Gold Coast Suns game agains Port Adelaide.  The interview was hosted by Jessica Skarratt (follow her on Twitter @JessicaSkarratt), prerecorded before the game and then broadcasted at the stadium to a crowd of 10,000+ attendees.

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Thinking about the same things differently: Examining perceptions of a non-profit community sport organisation

Thinking about the same things differently: Examining perceptions of a non-profit community sport organisation (Lock, D., Filo, K., Kunkel, T., & Skinner, J.) Sport Management Review (ERA ranked: A) This paper explores the differing perceptions and identity responses (identification, apathy and disidentification) that potentially exist in relation to one non-profit Community Sport Organisation (CSO), and whether they explain variations in individuals’ existing values and beliefs, sport interest, community identification and views about one organisation’s legitimacy. Data were collected using a quantitative online survey (n = 390), then analysed using Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) to test three hypotheses investigating whether existing values and beliefs, shared community values, local players, organisational practices and sport interest varied based on perception of organisational image and identity response. Based on the contributions of this study, non-profit CSOs should spend time developing understanding of the key dimensions that make them relevant to constituents and to decipher the values and beliefs that underpin what external audiences expect from organisations. In addition, understanding specifically what a CSO’s audience expects is fundamental if the organisation is to be perceived as legitimate in relation to its purpose. Send an email to receive a copy of the article.

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Sports spectator segmentation: Examining the differing psychological connections amongst spectators of leagues and teams

Sports spectator segmentation: Examining the differing psychological connections amongst spectators of leagues and teams (Doyle, J. P., Kunkel, T., & Funk, D. C., 2013). International Journal of Sport Marketing and Sponsorship. (ERA ranked: B) The results from this study extend previous research by empirically testing the involvement based Psychological Continuum Model (PCM) segmentation procedure on sports spectators. To date, the procedure has only been verified using sports participants, although the PCM was developed with a broader range of sports consumers in mind. The validity of the procedure is confirmed using two online surveys, which gather data from spectators at both the league (n=761) and team (n=623) level. A three-step segmentation procedure then places respondents into the PCM stages – awareness, attraction, attachment and allegiance. ANOVA tests indicate that the four groups significantly differ from one another on attitudinal and behavioural measures for both league and team spectators. Findings suggest that the PCM is an appropriate framework to investigate fan development at both league and team levels. Thus sports marketers are provided with a research segmentation tool capable of helping them to better understand their heterogeneous consumer bases and thus guide marketing decisions.

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Australian football drug scandal

Interview with the Gold Coast Sun (Circulation 172,099 readers), February 20th, 2013.  My take on how the Australian football drug scandal may have a negative long term influence on grass roots NRL.

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Australian Football Drug Scandal Media Coverage

“Neil Henry, coach, Cowboys says the handling of doping allegations is a ‘disgrace’. The Cowboys are one of six clubs named in last week’s ACC report into doping in sport. The club has not been audited and was reportedly mentioned only in relation to current players’ past clubs. Henry says ‘it is embarrassing for the NRL to mention that there are six teams’. Henry says that the allegations have been a slight on the club and its fans. NSW police are looking at a league game played in Sydney, suspected of match-fixing. Dr Thilo Kunkel, Griffith University says that more scandals detract from the economic success of the league. John Fahey, president, WADA says that ‘blood passports’ need to be introduced for players.” (TEN News at 5pm – 13/02/2013 5:145pm: Audience: 160,000 viewers). “Dr Thilo Kunkel, Researcher, Griffith University, says the way the NRL and other governing bodies respond to allegations of drug abuse following the ACC investigation will largely determine the future prosperity of their sporting codes. Kunkel interviewed hundreds of soccer, rugby league and Australian rules fans in a project looking into perceptions of football leagues.” (ABC Gold and Tweed Coasts (Gold Coast) 06:30 News – 14/02/2013 6:32 AM) “Dr Thilo Kunkel, Researcher, Griffith University, supports a call by the president of the World Anti-Doping Authority for leading Australian footballers to have biological passports. Kunkel interviewed hundreds of soccer, rugby league and Australian rules fans in a project looking into perceptions of football leagues. Kunkel says biological passports would help restore fans’ faith in various codes as they deal with allegations.” (ABC Gold and Tweed Coasts (Gold Coast) 07:30 News – 14/02/2013 7:33 AM) “Dr Thilo Kunkel, Researcher, Griffith University, says football codes should not panic over ACC findings and allegations of widespread doping. He suggests the quality of leadership can determine the size and strength of the fan base retained during a crisis.” (ABC Gold and Tweed Coasts (Gold Coast) 08:30 News – 14/02/2013 8:31 AM)  

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Leagues undermined when clubs play dirty

Leagues undermined when clubs play dirty written by Stephen O’Grady February, 13th, 2013 “As six NRL clubs slipped into the glare of the Australian Crime Commission’s spotlight this week, so too did their parent league. The fate of clubs like the North Queensland Cowboys, Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights in the days and weeks ahead will have a bearing on public perceptions of the National Rugby League. The NRL’s leadership – or lack of leadership – during the fallout from the ACC investigations will also have a major bearing on fans’ perceptions of its member clubs – not only those under investigation – and their likelihood to attend games and emotionally commit during the forthcoming season. This connection between the parent league and its member clubs may seem the most obvious of links but it is one that has not been academically investigated or established previously. A Gold Coast-based researcher at Griffith University’s Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management has now confirmed the major influence a parent league has on its constituent clubs, and vice versa. Fans of the NRL, AFL, A-League and English Premier League participated in the four-year research project, which involved in-depth interviews, two online questionnaires eliciting more than 1600 responses and consultation with online A-League fan forums which involved 420 respondents. The final stage of the research focused solely on soccer’s A-League where Dr Thilo Kunkel engaged with online fan forums around Australian to study the influence of the A-League on clubs and how this influence extended to the consumers’ perception of the teams in the league. The attitudes of fans were studied in relation to the league and in relation to the team, as was the social acceptability of supporting a team, and the fan’s capacity – through time and money – to support their team by attending their games. “The first major finding of the research is the strong influence a league has on the marketing and strategic brand management of teams in that league,” German-native, Dr Kunkel, says. “The league has a major bearing on the attitude of fans towards teams within the league. “If a league is going well, its teams tend to go well. If the league is not going so well, the teams tend not to go so well. The connection works the other way too. Teams are representative of their league, notably when they do well. “By the same token a scandal around a team or an individual player within a team has a bearing on the league and, by extension, on the rest of the teams in the league. “This may come be borne out during the weeks ahead as teams are publicly scrutinised in relation to drugs and corruption in sport. The intrinsic connection means the league and other member teams will be impacted if one or more teams are in the news for the wrong reasons. “The second major finding of my research is that it is very important for a league to provide a brand framework and brand alignment structure for the teams in the league. The teams can build and market themselves using this, while also establishing their own brand by differentiating themselves from other teams and building their own unique identity. “The third significant finding shows the league has a major influence on attitudes towards teams and whether fans attend club games. The league plays a big part in this through its strategic involvement in areas like match schedules, stadium lease contracts, and guidelines on how teams should treat their fan bases. “The league needs to guide its teams’ match-day management and marketing. The teams need to not only make it convenient and affordable for people to attend a game but also communicate this to their fans. This will boost game attendance, which will help both the teams and the league.”

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The attractiveness of national and international football leagues–the perspective of fans of “underdogs” and “star clubs”

The attractiveness of national and international football leagues – the perspective of fans of “underdogs” and “star clubs” (Koenigstorfer, Groeppel-Klein, & Kunkel, 2010) European Sport Management Quarterly (ERA ranked: B) The goal of this study is to determine what factors affect the attractiveness of both national football leagues and the Champions League from the perspective of fans, and how these factors are viewed by fans of clubs at the top and bottom of the league table. This is of interest as there are differences between the financial resources available to the clubs and leagues. Based on the literature on sport consumer behaviour, we propose that four determinants are relevant to the league’s attractiveness: stadium atmosphere, international success of the clubs, uniqueness of dominating clubs and perceived competitive balance. A total of 1,404 committed fans of 12 selected football teams from the UK Premier League and German Bundesliga participated in the study. The research model was tested using PLS. The results show that the determinants significantly impact perceived attractiveness, and that even fans of financially privileged and successful clubs concede that perceived competitive balance is necessary for the attractiveness to be maintained. Request the article here: [filebyemail file = 289]

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Soccer in Australia: Is history repeating Itself?

Soccer in Australia: Is history repeating Itself? Skinner, J. & Kunkel, T. (2012). Soccer in Australia: Is history repeating itself? Original published at: The Conversation, 24.04.2012. “Soccer in Australia occupies a paradoxical position in the Australian sporting landscape. It has the highest overall participant rates, yet is ranked fourth of the four football codes in popularity and resources. This position means it is seen as a marginal code when it comes to gaining media attention, opportunities for players in Australia, sponsorship and revenue generation opportunities. The recent breakdown in relations between Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and two of its highest profile and powerful club owners, mining magnates Clive Palmer and Nathan Tinkler has the capacity to further threaten the corporate and media attractiveness of the sport’s A-League competition. These circumstances are reminiscent of the circumstances that confronted its predecessor, the National Soccer League (NSL) and ultimately led to its demise. The National Soccer League (NSL) was the first truly national premiership competition of any sporting code in Australia. But from its inception in 1977, the NSL was a highly volatile league, plagued by problems and controversies that combined to make soccer a difficult product to develop at the elite level in Australia. The failure to retain or attract high quality players, tension between clubs and supporters stemming from “traditional” European political, racial and cultural conflicts, financial instability and poor senior-level management were all prominently reported in the sporting and business sections of the Australian media. More seriously, continued and extensive media publicity surrounding alleged mismanagement and corruption in Soccer Australia eventually resulted in the Australian Sports Commission in 2003 establishing an Independent Soccer Review Committee. The committee’s report on the governance of Association Football in Australia, called the Crawford Report, clearly articulated that the key to the future success of soccer in Australia was the governance of the professional aspects of a sport. Following the recommendations of Crawford Report, further change occurred in 2004 when the governing body, the Australian Soccer Association changed its name to the Football Federation of Australia (FFA). The FFA created the A-League, a new eight-team competition to revitalise soccer in Australia, to replace the NSL. Early signs suggested that the A-League was playing its role in providing a link between the game’s huge participant community and the new-found success of the Australian representative team. In doing so, the FFA was driving the repositioning of soccer into Australian sport’s mainstream. Match day, television and online audiences suggested the on and off-field quality of the A-League was resonating and engaging a significant section of the Australian sporting community outside of its marginalised ethnic origins. But now the controversies that confronted the NSL have returned to challenge the A-League. During its existence the NSL had 41 teams who participated in the competition with only three founding member teams remaining in the league by 2003. Seven years into the A-League, the competition is looking to introduce a new expansion team in Sydney to maintain 10 teams for the 2012/2013 competition. This expansion has come at the cost of losing clubs such as the North Queensland Fury, Gold Coast United and possibly the Newcastle Jets. With the Wellington Phoenix replaced the original New Zealand franchise, Auckland’s New Zealand Knights, the number of clubs leaving the competition seems to suggest a replicating trend. Similarly, numerous reports suggest that A-league clubs are incurring large operational losses, sponsorship dollars are sparse and sourcing playing talent to ensure a certain quality are all challenges that continue to confront the FFA. More concerning however has been the Tinkler’s plans to return the Newcastle Jets A-League licence, coupled with the highly public stoush between FFA chairman Frank Lowy and Clive Palmer’s move to set up his own unofficial watchdog organisation, Football Australia. Interestingly, the feud mirrors the 1987 actions of Lowy, who as president of Sydney City pulled the plug on his club, complaining about a lack of influence over the running of the league, differences with the league’s senior management and the NSL’s business model. One of the central suggestions of the Crawford Report was to ensure the independence of the governing body of the league from the governing body of the game. Steps to remedy this current breakdown have been taken with the formation of the FFA Strategic Committee which allows three owner representatives to sit on the committee which may assist in facilitating some changes that owners would like to see. While other suggestions, such as spreading the competition to a national level and starting with a one-team-per-city policy have been followed, an independent league may have been the missing piece to avoid some of the NSL’s problems. Given the tarnished history of the sport in Australia, the footballing public would hope it is capable of learning from its previous mistakes. Recent events may suggest otherwise.”

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