A mid-tier business school and a mid-tier soccer team join forces, hoping a combination of resources will elevate both in their respective rankings. No, it’s not the plot of a movie — it’s the news out of Germany, where the country’s top business school, Mannheim, has announced a partnership with TSG Hoffenheim, a rising power in the elite Bundesliga.
Mannheim and Hoffenheim announced today (July 25) they will embark on a comprehensive research and teaching collaboration, with a focus on Hoffenheim’s cutting-edge digital training and research facilities. The goal? Smoother operations and greater insight for both. Mannheim gets access to those top-notch facilities, and the football club gets access to the top B-school minds in Germany for use in training and performance diagnostics.
“As Hoffenheim is a frontrunner both nationally and internationally in terms of integrating high-tech training devices and big data/people analytics into daily training work, we will strive to explore how findings and methods from their work can be transferred to business research on the one hand and how findings from business research (e.g. leadership) can be transferred to professional sports on the other hand,” Ralf Bürkle, Mannheim director of marketing and communications, tells Poets&Quants. “This will, for example, be the topic of a workshop where researchers from both institutions come together. We also plan consulting projects of master’s, MBA, and EMBA students.”
GOING HIGH-TECH IN SPORTS AND BUSINESS
Mannheim is Germany’s top-ranked business school but it is not an elite school, ranking 54th on the 2017 Financial Times list, down from 49th last year. The school offers MBA and executive MBA programs, a specialized master’s degree program in accounting and taxation, open courses, and customized company programs. It is the first German institution to be accredited by AACSB International, EQUIS and AMBA, but emergence into the ranks of the European elite like London Business School, HEC Paris, INSEAD, IE, IESE and others has been elusive. Hoffenheim, meanwhile, was long a sleepy village-based club and competitive afterthought. Located in the rolling hills of the quiet Kraichgau region, it was founded in 1899 but needed more than 100 years to rise to the top level of competition. However, when it happened, between 2000 and 2008, that rise was stratospheric — and it continued last season when Hoffenheim finished fourth, its best result to date, earning a playoff berth in the UEFA Champions League.
But it’s how Hoffenheim rose to prominence that mostly interests Mannheim and business minds in Germany and Europe. As a recent report describes it, “With the help of local billionaire Dietmar Hopp and computing power, they are stretching the limits of football, and have become Germany’s first ‘beta’ club — leaning heavily on stats and data.”
Hoffenheim’s digital training and research facilities, which will be expanded by the construction of a research lab this year, include such high-tech devices as the “Footbonaut,” a training machine that fires balls at different speeds and trajectories at players, and the “Helix,” a cognitive training unit that aims to reproduce the player perspective as realistically as possible. These tools pioneered by Hoffenheim have become intrinsic to Bundesliga training and performance diagnostics. “We are very pleased to have found a partner in MBS, with which we can implement the three cornerstones of the research lab: research, teaching, and knowledge transfer,” says sports scientist and graduate psychologist Jan Mayer, team psychologist for Hoffenheim since 2010. “Joint activities with MBS are already underway,” Mayer adds. “Faculty and student feedback is extremely positive.”
‘OUTSTANDING PROJECTS WITH HIGHLY MOTIVATED STUDENTS’
In their announcement, Mannheim President Jens Wüstemann and Hoffenheim Managing Director Peter Görlich said they plan to work closely on numerous projects in future. “Together with MBS, we fulfill all the prerequisites for implementing outstanding projects with highly motivated students,” says Görlich, who is responsible for innovation, digitization, and internationalization at TSG.
“An innovative approach and the right response to the challenges of digitization will be key success factors for companies in the future,” Wüstemann says. “In this regard TSG Hoffenheim is not only a national but also an international pioneer of professional soccer. Therefore, we are happy to be both receiving and providing new impetus in these areas.”
Adds Sabine Staritz, Mannheim’s director of corporate relations: “The demands on competitive athletes and top managers in many disciplines are very similar. Therefore, it will be exciting to bring about the transfer of scientific concepts, and thus gain new insights. The first activities have already been planned: it is not only Mannheim students that will be working on specific issues in workshops and projects; researchers at the University of Mannheim will also have the opportunity to plan and implement projects together with TSG. The MBS corporate network will also be involved in the exchange of knowledge.”