SportsBiz Madness: 2022 Case Study Tournament Final Four Results

Published by Chris Lindauer on

SportsBiz Madness: 2022 Case Study Tournament (Final Four Round Results)

The Championship Round is Set! 

For the Final Four round of this competition, our competitors were tasked with the development of a strategy for activating Coca-Cola’s NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship sponsorship to introduce its new “Starlight” flavor.  

To find out who advanced to the championship round in this year’s tournament, please read on…

Props to all our Final Four competitors!

Determining which students would advance to the final round of the competition was an extremely tough call. You should all be proud of how far you have come in this tournament!

Pinelands Regional High School (New Jersey) VS. Flower Mound High School (Texas)

In a battle between former champions, Flower Mound High School will advance to the championship round looking to reclaim the title from six years ago, the first-ever winners of this competition. Not surprisingly, students from Pinelands Regional did not bow out easily, but Flower Mound students brought some very cool activation strategies to the table and managed to pull out a victory.

Pinelands Regional High School

As usual, Kathy Bennett’s students brought it in the Final Four round, presenting a variety of really good ideas for Coca-Cola to activate their NCAA sponsorship in a way that would bring awareness to the launch of the brand’s new “Starlight” flavor. A few highlights:

  • For every team in the March Madness tournament, there will be ten “Share a Starlight Coke with…” versions of Coca-Cola bottles that have the names of each team’s “Starting Stars” under the bottle cap. If you happen to purchase one of these ten bottles, you will receive the opportunity to meet the “Starting Stars” from each team after the game
  • Virtual ads of Starlight Coca-Cola will be presented on the score table in-game providing an opportunity to maximize gross impressions
  • After a spectacular play, Augmented Digital Reality would be used to superimpose the Starlight logo onto the court during the replay on TV, making this the “STARlight Highlight”
  • Prior to the start of the tournament, Coca-Cola will sponsor “send off parties” for every team participating in the tournament, including signage and opportunities for students at each school to sample the new Starlight flavor
  • Sampling opportunities will also be provided at all NCAA tournament host venues so fans can try to the new product while attending games
  • To boost fan engagement, fans will be encouraged to participate in a survey listing their favorite flavors of Coke brand products, entering them into an opportunity to be in a hype video featuring some of the brand’s athlete and celebrity ambassadors

In addition to the survey, the brand would also collect email addresses…what a great way to incorporate a data capture strategy as part of the overall activation plan! Also, we thought the product placement strategy was interesting, using AR to make sure the new flavor receives maximum visibility throughout the tournament. Finally, the “Shooting Star” promotion seems like a really great idea. From the student’s marketing plan:

“Coca-Cola will designate one college athlete participating in March Madness to be a “Shooting Star.” The athlete must have a high shooting percentage and play more than one-half of their game in order to be considered for the award. The “Shooting Star” of each game will be announced on camera and then gifted a case full of the new Starlight Coca-Cola as well as a t-shirt sponsored by the drink. Each Star will be entered into a poll that will be voted on by fans via social media to see who is the ultimate winner of the NCAA “Shooting Star” competition. The winner will have their picture printed on Starlight Coca-Cola labels for two months after they win the title. With the advent of Name, Image and Likeness in the NCAA, this is a great way to get young and “up and coming” athletes to become Coca-Cola brand sponsors.”

REALLY like the idea of taking advantage of the NIL rules to bring the student-athletes into the campaign. That is really forward-thinking and demonstrates a great grasp on industry trends, great job. The social media plan was also on-point. Overall, another fantastic effort from Pinelands Regional High School. Unfortunately, they came up just a bit short this year.

Flower Mound High School:

Jessica Brown’s students at Flower Mound High School narrowly edged out Pinelands Regional, but the creativity and uniqueness of some of the ideas shared by this group of students propelled them to a victory (and a spot in the championship round).

Some highlights:

  • Activation went well beyond on-site signage and sampling or retail promotion, including a full fledged advertising campaign leveraging the brand’s official affiliation with March Madness to include social, print, television and out-of-home
  • Appreciate the out of box thinking on signage at NCAA tournament venues…not just traditional signage inventory, but also ads in elevators and even including “Starlight” branding on escalators
  • Really liked the focus on experiential marketing as part of the team’s overall activation strategy, giving fans a reason to come try the product by setting up exhibits at Fan Fest events like a Starlight-themed pop-a-shot game
  • Cool idea to provide fans with an opportunity to customize Starlight bottles and jerseys with their own names, a strategy that most definitely generate word-of-mouth for the new product and encourage more fans to visit the Starlight experience exhibit
  • Nice sales promotion with limited-edition bottles at retail featuring the logos of each team participating in the tournament, helping to make inroads in markets around the country by catering to each individual fan base and giving sales a boost
  • Going a step further in promoting the new product on campuses around the country, we thought it was a really cool idea to send “street teams” to campus to help promote Starlight, and providing free samples at Coca-Cola “freestyle” machines could certainly help to build hype surrounding the new product

In addition, we really liked the commitment to sustainability. Packaging Starlight products in compostable bottles will certainly capture the attention of fans, particularly when targeting college students as Flower Mounds students have done with this campaign.

Last but not least, really nice job on the social media activations. Here is a description from the team’s activation plan: “A Tik Tok challenge called #StarlightTrashBask, a special Snapchat filter where fans can play Bowl-O-Rama ( pictured right ), and an Instagram filter where fans can be transformed into a Coca-Cola Starlight can. The Tik Tok challenges fans to play Trashketball with their friends and post it on Tik Tok with the hashtag #StarlightTrashBask. At the end of each weekend of games we will pick a winner and the winners will receive free Coca-Cola for one year.” In addition, the team will launch a special Snapchat filter that “engages fans by playing a special themed Starlight Bowl-O-Rama game where fans can challenge and play their Snapchat besties.”

This one came down to a last-second shot, but Flower Mound students hit a buzzer-beater to advance to the final round. Great job!

Green Run High School (Virginia) VS. Downers Grove North High School (Illinois)

Is this finally the year for Drew Himes and his students at Downers Grove North High School? After several deep tournament runs in our SportsBiz Madness case study tournaments (including a trip to last year’s finals), Downers Grove North managed to hold off last year’s champs from Green Run High School to advance to the 2022 championship round.

Green Run High School:

Green Run students offered some really creative ideas and clearly put a lot of effort into crafting an activation strategy, but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough for a second straight finals appearance. There were quite a few highlights, however, as Chris Jacobs clearly had his students very well prepared for this case study.

A recap of the Green Run activation strategy:

Overall, we thought it was a smart strategy to, as stated in Green Run’s activation plan, “maximize brand awareness with a variety of activation strategies including retail promotions, media awareness, venue and on-site promotions, creative product introductions and fan experiences.” It is important to focus on a mix of marketing channels to build awareness for a product launch. Well done.

  • We absolutely loved seeing a plan for reaching fans of the NCAA Women’s Tournament in addition to the men’s tournament, a trend echoed by multiple major U.S. brands this year, and the partnership with Target is a natural one give Minneapolis as the host city of this year’s event…good stuff!
  • The positioning strategy (“The Drink of Future Legends”) makes sense for reaching a younger audience, and the slogan (“Be Bold, Indulge in the Unexpected”) sends a clear message to consumers when marketing such a unique product with a flavor nobody has ever tried (or heard of) before
  • Great idea to feature a sweepstakes promo to help push traffic to your digital and social platforms by providing fans with an opportunity to win limited edition licensed merchandise (in particular the brand’s “Coca Cola Creations” website
  • Great idea to provide sampling opportunities in a variety of places, including outside of tournament venues and we thought it was a really cool idea to offer limited edition desserts made with Starlight Coca-Cola on the concessions menus inside March Madness arenas (including posting those recipes to social media platforms)
  • Really nice use of VR and gamification to boost fan engagement, including the poll which can provide some valuable feedback about the new product
  • Through social, we thought the custom Snapchat geo-filters for those in the stadiums and those who scan the Snapcode at home was a really neat feature, along with the introduction of a Tik-Tok challenge
  • Loved the cause component as well, contributing 10% of sales to organizations working toward sustainability goals along with a plan for encouraging consumers to recycle is a great idea!

Overall, really nice job from students at Green Run High School, a fantastic effort that just fell a little bit short this year.

Downers Grove North High School:

Like Green Run, Downers Grove North students developed a number of activations using a wide mix of activities surrounding March Madness, not just in-game activations at the venue or retail promotion. The strategy was very comprehensive and thorough and provided opportunities to leverage the relationship with the NCAA in a way that it maximizes consumer exposure through a variety of channels.

What really stood out about the strategy from DGNHS, however, was an emphasis on how each of these initiatives would help to drive sales. At the end of the day, marketing is supposed to drive sales, and these students really focused on developing a plan that would not only raise awareness for the “Starlight” flavor but also boost sales of Coca-Cola’s new product.

Downers Grove North students offered a clever and catchy slogan to tie all the activations together in their “Reach for the Stars” March Madness campaign.

Highlights from DGN’s activation plan include:

  • “Starlight Player of the Game” feature across CBS and Turner networks broadcast coverage for all tourney games…nice job recognizing the MASSIVE audience that television and streaming can help Coca-Cola to reach in promoting the new Starlight flavor
  • Excellent research to explain why the “Starlight Player of the Game” will help to create an authentic connection to consumers (via the Downers Grove North report): “William White, group director of sparkling brands at Coca-Cola North America, Atlanta said during an interview, ‘Fans are not just watching the game, they are following the stats…’ This further proves that showing stats, highlights, and top performers at the end of a game will help build awareness as many fans pay attention to those aspects of the game and will potentially be talking about it for the following days, in association with Coke Starlight. This will also link up-and-coming players with the Coca-Cola name.”
  • Arena signage is important, and including a “Starlight” themed advertising on the jumbotrons of arenas hosting tournament games, along with a message encouraging fans to visit concessions areas to try to the new product seems like a great idea and an excellent way to increase sales
  • For a product to sell, the demand has to be there…interesting concept for amplifying demand by tapping into the popularity of collectibles with the “Sip Your Seed” retail promo: “Starlight product will have a logo of one of the teams in the Round of 64 on it. The better seed that the team is, the more scarce the bottles will be. So the chances of getting a #16 seed is a lot more likely than getting a #1 seed. For anyone who is able to get all 64 teams, they will get 2 tickets to the National Championship Game as well as exclusive fan experiences. For the individually sold bottles, the logo will be on the inside of the wrapper. For the cans of Starlight, you will need to buy a 12 pack, and those will have the logo on the front of the can once the packaging is opened post-purchasing.” The inclusion of NFTs could add a whole new layer to the promo as well!
  • TV advertising: Again, it is a smart idea to tap into advertising mediums that are proven to be effective tools for reaching a large audience, and television is historically one of the most effective ways to maximize reach. Recognizing that, DGN students launched a very on-brand TV ad (also to be shared on Coca-Cola’s YouTube channel and various social platforms) starring legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin
  • Product placement: Much like the success the brand enjoyed with product placement on American Idol, DGN planned to prominently feature the new Coca-Cola product on the tables at press conferences throughout the tournament along with interviews with players and coaches
  • On-site activation: “Fan Tents” will be set up to create experiential marketing opportunities at each March Madness venue, allowing fans to participate in games like pop-a-shot and other activities with chances to sample the new flavor and win Starlight-themed merchandise
  • Sales promotion: Following the model of one of the most common (and effective) promotions in sports, the “Starlight Buzzer Beater Reward” promotion rewards fans at March Madness tournament games with a coupon for a free Starlight Coke if any player hits a last second shot
  • Social Media: Sometimes the most effective social activations are rooted in simplicity, which is what we liked about DGN’s social strategy across its platforms, using a simple and easy to remember hashtag (#Starlight), then tagging friends and encouraging them to share with a chance to win prizes in a sweepstakes promotion (again helping to drive sales)
  • Influencer campaign: TikTok “Starlight Dunk Challenge” to help the brand to reach a younger target audience where every week of March Madness, winners selected and rewarded with a Starlight-themed Nike jersey along
  • Fan engagement “Extreme Food Challenge” – Fans post their most extreme foods that are “out of this world” paired with a Starlight Coke tagged with #StarlightMeal

Fantastic job Downers Grove North! Really looking forward to seeing more great ideas in the final round!

Congrats again to ALL our participants in this year’s tournament, including everyone who advanced to the bracket round of the competition. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

2022 SportsBiz Madness Case Study Tournament Bracket

Categories: Blog

Chris Lindauer

After working for nearly a decade in professional sports, Chris Lindauer, formed Sports Career Consulting to provide unique sports business education opportunities in and out of the classroom. In the eighteen years (and counting) that followed, Chris has inspired thousands of students to pursue their passions and explore the career of their dreams. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, two teenage daughters and their dog.