Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

Comments on the Philadelphia 76ers Innovation Lab

I was recently interviewed by John George of the Philadelphia Business Journal about the 76ers Innovation lab. Below are my quotes that are featured in the article. Thilo Kunkel, an assistant professor of marketing and sport management at Temple University, is surprised more haven’t followed suit. “It makes sense for the 76ers,” Kunkel said. “They can leverage resources they already have in areas like social media and their knowledge in other areas like marketing and branding to help startups.” Kunkel said the owners of professional sports teams are also well-positioned to help emerging companies through their personal connections and the “financial and social capital” that goes with owning a pro sports team. It’s also likely, he said, people will want to invest in a sports team’s business accelerator company as a means of being associated with the sports team. He said the Sixers’ model, with its offer of free housing and free office space, likely won’t appeal to more mature companies that will not want to give up equity for a benefit they likely don’t need. The lab, Kunkel said, is structured to provide a lot of assistance to fledgling entrepreneurs. “I don’t think it actually cost teams a lot to do,” Kunkel said of accelerators. “And they can realize a lot of upside without a lot of risk.”

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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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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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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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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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