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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The effect of the league brand on the relationship between the team brand and behavioral intentions – A formative approach examining brand associations and brand relationships

Understanding the role of the league brand on consumers’ support for individual teams is important for the successful management and marketing of both leagues and teams.  In the current research, brand architecture and brand association literature are integrated to examine the role of the league brand on the relationship between the team brand and team-related behavior. Data from an online survey of professional soccer league consumers (N = 414) were analyzed using structural equation modelling with bootstrapping procedures. The relationship between the team brand and team-related behavior was partially mediated by the league brand. Findings of this research contribute new knowledge by empirically demonstrating that characteristics of the league brand have an influence on team-related behavioral intentions. Furthermore, we contribute a different analytical approach for brand association research using formative indicators to measure team and league brand associations. In the managerial implications we outline how league managers can support individual teams, and how team managers can leverage off the league brand to attract consumers. Keywords: Brand Architecture; Brand Associations; Brand Relationship; Sport League; Formative Models; PLS Get your copy here: https://thilokunkel.com/files-by-email/?file=451

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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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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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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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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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