Thilo Kunkel’s career stems from a passion he discovered during his childhood.
“I always loved sport, always played sport and was always active,” said Kunkel, a Temple University professor of marketing and sport management. “But I also really enjoyed the business side.”
Kunkel’s dedication to sports earned him the 2018 Emerging Scholar in Marketing and Society Award from the American Marketing Association. The award recognizes scholars who advance the study of marketing and society issues and is given to industry professionals early in their careers.
Kunkel hails from Germany, where he played soccer and snowboarded from an early age, and later earned his Ph.D. in sport management from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
He first became familiar with Temple when he traveled to Philadelphia in September 2011 for a one-month study on how sports leagues influence team fans as part of his Ph.D. The network he created during his short visit proved especially valuable.
“I connected with people during the visiting scholarship, and then a year and a half later there was a job opening here,” he said. “They reached out and said, ‘This is the perfect job for you.’”
Kunkel got the job in 2013 and said he has no intentions of leaving anytime soon because the United States is the perfect country for anything related to sports business.
“It’s the most relevant irrelevant industry,” he added. “These athletes, teams, leagues, they really have the chance to make a major contribution to society and I think that’s really fascinating.”
Entering his sixth year at Temple, Kunkel has made a massive impact on many students.
Sarah Linebaugh, a junior sport and recreation management major, said Kunkel is one of the more fun professors and you don’t always see him in “that teacher mode.” She often runs into him while working at Union games.
Linebaugh took Organizational Strategy in Sport and Recreation with Kunkel during Spring 2018. She said Kunkel’s use of real-life examples and the personal experiences in the sports field that he shares in the classroom made him one of her favorite professors.
“Now when I watch an Eagles game, I’m not only looking at the play and getting excited about what’s happening, but I’m looking at the sponsorship that’s going on behind the scenes,” she said.
Joonas Jokinen, a 2018 sport and recreation management alumnus and former Division I soccer player who had Kunkel as a professor, said Kunkel’s teaching style is “fair but demanding.”
“He’s the type of guy who keeps you on your toes,” Jokinen added.
Kunkel’s lifelong dedication to both sides of the sporting industry has allowed him to approach sport as far more than a business.
“Sport has the chance to evoke emotions that very few other areas can,” Kunkel said. “And the ability of sport to evoke these emotions has the ability to make the world a better place.”