Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

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

Read More

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*) 

Read More

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More