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STHM professors report first findings in gamified mobile-device apps

By: Jamie Cann
First Published: August 5, 2014
Topics: In the News, STHM School

(STHM) and its Sport Industry and Research Center (SIRC) with a Swiss software developer has rendered the first research returns on its data analyses.

STHM Assistant Professor Thilo Kunkel and research co-author, Professor Daniel Funk, STHM’s Director of Research and PhD programs, found a marked interest in gamification apps like ARENOO.

Swiss software company Appventures GmbH, the makers of ARENOO, aligned with STHM and Kunkel earlier this year to help expand ARENOO, its soccer-centric mobile application.

“Through our strategic partnership with Appventures, we are able to get the data behind the app, see how users are engaging within the app and track over time how the app influences fan engagement with the team,” Kunkel said. “The gamification of the sport, for example, could lead to a fan’s allegiance to a particular team or a league.”

ARENOO’s developers hope to find a stateside partner in the coming months. For now, ARENOO offers gamified options around only European soccer clubs and leagues, like quizzes in which users can earn points for answering questions correctly. They also can collect points for checking in at a stadium or prior to watching a game on television. These forms of interaction help users earn badges, as well as discounts on merchandise for the specific soccer clubs that are partnered with ARENOO.

The app has more than 10,000 users, said Kunkel, whose first round of research was based upon a smaller sample size of 1,000 users.

“We found some high correlations between engaging in the app and other behavior,” he said. “For example, the number of quiz questions answered is highly correlated with how often people actually attended a game in a stadium or how often they checked in (to watch a game) on TV. These other behaviors that leagues are interested in, we could see high correlations.

“There’s no limit to the data analyses we can conduct. … There will be a lot more data coming in.”

Kunkel said he expects he and Funk will begin an even-larger research project into ARENOO’s usage in September, in conjunction with the arrival of further data from Appventures.

The ongoing partnership enables SIRC and Appventures to examine how an app like ARENOO will enable fans to foster a stronger connection with their favorite sport or club, and potentially connect the live fan experience – either on television or in a stadium – with a mobile application.

“Big brands are adopting gamification. FourSquare – that’s an example of gamification, where a user can earn points through checking in and other forms of engagement,” Kunkel said. “Those gamifications have started to pop up in the industry and we as academics haven’t started examining it. With ARENOO, we are looking into how it impacts individuals. It’s up to us to find out why it works, if there are underlying theories and if we can help improve products that are out there.”

Kunkel and Funk will present their findings at the 2014 Sports Marketing Association Conference. The five-day conference, for which STHM will serve as a sponsor, will be held in Philadelphia Oct. 21-25.