SportsBiz Madness: 2022 Case Study Tournament Championship Round Results

Published by Chris Lindauer on

SportsBiz Madness: 2022 Case Study Tournament (Championship Round Results)

We have a champion! 

In the championship round of this year’s SportsBiz Madness SCC case study tournament, our two finalists were asked to examine the surging popularity of pickleball and develop a strategy for sustained, long-term growth of the niche sport. While popularity is at an all-time high, there are some barriers for growth. Participation levels risk plateauing because of the significant lack of available courts around the country. As a spectator sport, pickleball has a lot of opportunity for growth, and the sport would benefit from engaging younger fans.

Students from both Flower Mound High School in Texas and Downers Grove North in Illinois submitted fantastic plans for addressing each of the challenges pickleball officials face in taking the next step in growing the game. In the end, however, it was Downers Grove High School that came out on top, earning its first-ever national SportsBiz Madness case study championship. Congratulations to Drew Himes and his sports marketing students!

Championship Round Recap:

Downers Grove North Nigh School (Illinois) VS. Flower Mound High School (Texas)

Flower Mound High School (Runner Up)

As usual, Jessica Brown had her students well-prepared for the championship round of the competition. The pickleball growth plan submitted by her class was very well-organized, thorough, and offered a variety of great ideas for fueling long-term growth for the sport. While Flower Mound students came up just short this year, they have a lot to be proud of as they consistently offered great ideas throughout the tournament, demonstrating a fantastic understanding of the business of sports and entertainment.

Some highlights:

  • Addressing the limited number of courts, Flower Mound students suggested a plan for national partnerships with YMCAs and community centers to expand the opportunities for players to find court time…seems that could be a very effective strategy in the short term
  • To increase the number of spectators, FMHS students introduced a plan for streaming major events on social media platforms (killing two birds with one stone by reaching a younger audience) and on alternative sports broadcast networks like DAZN
  • Love the Tik Tok video series and Snap and Instagram filters to draw attention to the sport on social, teaching the rules and alerting fans to upcoming events (streaming included) will most definitely help to connect with a younger audience, and the influencer campaign featuring YouTube stars would be a great way to boost excitement for the sport
  • “Pickleball Ambassador Program” seems like a really interesting way to connect with new fans, and featuring “star” players provides an interesting marketing angle
  • Great idea to stage exhibition events in alignment with major USA tennis tournaments to help bring awareness and visibility to the sport
  • REALLY smart idea to build a grassroots campaign with “Pickleball for Fitness” promoting pickleball participation in schools (similar to the Jump Rope for Heart foundation)
  • Cool idea to host an “All-Star Pickleball Weekend” event to build a bigger spectator audience, with events that will offer experiential marketing opportunities to engage sports fans, along with a variety of promotions and sponsorship activations

Great job Flower Mound students. There is no shame in a runner-up finish!

Downers Grove North High School (CHAMPIONS!)

Congratulations to Drew Himes and his students at Downers Grove North for winning this year’s SportsBiz Madness case study tournament. Like every other case study response in this tournament, the strategic development of a plan for the continued growth of pickleball was brilliant! The inclusion of a positioning and differentiation strategy was also a great way to really emphasize how Downers Grove North students will help to push pickleball into the mainstream. Very well done!

Championship winning highlights include:

  • EXCELLENT job with the SWOT Analysis, including the incredible attention to detail with statistics to support the sport’s current market position, then allowing the analysis to guide the strategic planning
    • One thing that stood out with the Downers Grove North strategic plan is the recognition that, while reaching a younger demographic presents a growth opportunity, the sport’s strength lies in its current popularity with an older demographic
    • As such, students included plans to launch Grandparent/Grandchildren events and competitions, promoting the sport as low-impact and affordable to continue encouraging an older demographic to get out and play pickleball, and building pickleball courts in popular retirement communities and travel destinations like cruise ships
  • Love the idea of finding celebrity fans to endorse the sport through social media (sharing highlights of them playing) and other advertising platforms to help fans connect with pickleball
    • The “Celebrity Pickleball Match” featuring celebrities paired with professional pickleball players in an exhibition sounds like a perfect made-for-TV event that could reach thousands of new fans unfamiliar with the sport
  • Also really liked the idea of an exhibition event featuring the two highest ranked pickleball players played on a court high in the mountains above Lake Tahoe, along with a broadcast where the players are “mic’d up”
  • Recognizing the need to cater to a younger audience if the sport hopes to attract young fans, a broadcast arrangement with Nickelodeon will most certainly help differentiate pickleball from other leisure sports
  • Interesting idea to strategically partner with Nike to help add a “cool” factor to the sport, and creating a line of pickleball streetwear fashion could have some real potential
  • Great idea to broadcast games on ESPN2 which will allow for the sport to reach a wide audience, and including well known announcers like Al Michaels, Gus Johnson, Bob Menery (and more) will help establish credibility for the sport while giving fans even more of a reason to tune in to check out the action
  • Re-structuring the existing championship format in a way that major cities will play host to tour events throughout the year will help to bring the sport to the masses, drawing both viewers on television and spectators at events
  • Good idea to re-purpose other sports venues (basketball, badminton, inline skating, tennis courts) to host pickleball matches is a good short-term solution for creating opportunities for more people to play while investing in the construction of more Pickleball-specific courts that will help to provide a solution to that problem in the long-term
  • Really liked some of the grassroots efforts to get younger fans playing pickleball, including encouraging colleges to offer the sport as an intramural option and it is a FANTASTIC idea to encourage the NCAA to establish pickleball as an officially sanctioned NCAA sport, along with youth camps during the summer for younger players
  • Interesting idea to open betting lines opened in Las Vegas on professional pickleball matches (including the aforementioned exhibition matches) as we have seen the impact fantasy sports and gambling can have on boosting overall interest in a sport or game, which could also create a valuable revenue stream by opening up sponsorship opportunities
  • Great idea to create the “PickleWatch” app to:
    • Stream matches
    • Create revenue opportunities (money to be reinvested in growing the game) through ad sales, ticket sales, and merchandise
    • Map helping people find and sign up for court time in local areas
    • Promote current Pickleball “stars” helping fans build a deeper connection with the athletes playing the sport at a high level
  • Really cool digital strategy to create a pickleball VR game “that allows the player to choose and customize their character, unlock different locations, and collect different rackets which give you special abilities for advantages” while also providing opportunities for fans to play the sport even when a court might not be available

Really well done Downers Grove North! Congratulations, you are the new SportsBiz Madness case study tournament champs!

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.