Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

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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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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