SportsBiz Madness: 2021 Case Study Tournament (Championship Round)

Thanks to our Judges!

An extra special thanks to Alex Dobson, an executive with DNA Seattle (a Seattle-based advertising agency), and Dr. Jim Strode, Chair, Department of Sports Administration and Associate Professor at Ohio University for helping to evaluate the Final Four round of case study competition entries.  Gaining perspective from seasoned industry professionals and an academic institution with the pedigree of Ohio University offers an invaluable educational experience for our students and our teachers.  The feedback from both (read the post below for more) provides fantastic context for not only the four teams who battled it out in the Final Four round of this year’s competition, but also the students and teachers following along in their own classrooms.

Great stuff. Thank you so much gentlemen!

The Championship round is set!

After receiving nearly 120 entries for Sports Career Consulting’s fifth annual “SportsBiz Madness” high school case study competition, we are left with just two teams.  

For the Final Four round of this competition, our competitors were tasked with the development of a sponsorship activation campaign for a brand recently acquired by Coca-Cola (Body Armor) surrounding the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo to help the brand gain market share in the sports drink marketplace.  

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. All competitors delivered strategic and insightful ideas, and showed an excellent grasp of sponsorship. As always with these kinds of “pitches,” you’re at the mercy of what the judges biases are or what they are most interested in–which is to say that if you aren’t moving on to the next round, it doesn’t mean your ideas were off target or wouldn’t be effective. The reality is, sometimes big brands get it wrong, or focus on the wrong things. So, just keep trusting your instincts, continue learning, push forward, and get ready for the next opportunity. You should all be proud of how far you have come in this tournament!

FINAL FOUR ROUND RECAP: 

As general feedback, one key critical observation (perhaps a little advanced but something to consider): While the recommendation of leveraging the new Coca-Cola/Body Armor relationship makes a ton of financial sense given Coca-Cola’s scale and budgets (and kudos to GRHS for being up on current beverage industry happenings), a brand like Body Armor will need to be extremely careful just how much they align their healthy and performance-driven product with a product that is considered far less healthy and doesn’t have the natural connection to athletic performance. More likely is that both brands could combine their Olympics budgets, while telling separate stories, to extract more promotional opportunities and added-value from Olympic organizers (i.e., LEVERAGE). Just some perspective on how an agency would likely approach a strategic activation tied to the Summer Games…

Pinelands Regional High School (New Jersey) vs. Green Run High School (Virginia)

The slipper still fits for students from Green Run HS, newcomers to this competition, as they knock out the defending champion Pinelands Regional High School from this year’s tournament! Congratulations to Kerri Sabo and her students at Green Run High, you are moving on to the final round…

Some feedback from our judges:

In addition to presenting a good grasp of the elements that make up a successful sponsorship, Green Run brought a ton of really fun ideas/executions to the table  and packaged those up in a visual presentation with actual content executions (2 videos!) that they went and produced/designed. Sponsorships like the Olympics are incredibly expensive, so exhausting as many activations as possible is important to squeeze the most value out of an Olympic sponsors large investment. 

Some highlights:

  • Local athletic community tie-in with YMCA across the country
  • VR activation and partnership with Oculus
  • Giveaway-Mask with purchase promotion
  • Retail “Olympic Podium,” activation in grocery stores
  • Virtual (and digital invite-only) torch lighting party (and the social media push behind the promo to enhance the activation)
  • Social media activations on both Twitter and Snapchat
  • Bonus points for actually shooting two pieces of video and designing billboards, appreciate seeing the extra effort!

Some opportunities for growth:

Tons of great ideas! A few things to consider, enhancing your proposal:

  • Be sure to proofread for errors, as well as edit so the document reads as if it were written by one voice…challenging given this is a group project, but you want reviewers to easily follow the train of thought, particularly with the challenge of squeezing this many ideas into two short pages
  • Your campaign should start with your target market (those living an active lifestyle), and all
    sponsorship and activation activities should keep this front of mind.
  • It was unclear what differentiates BODYARMOR from Gatorade. It is mentioned that the product is healthier—is this true, and how is this communicated to the consumer?
  • The Walmart partnership is interesting. On one hand, the domestic reach of Walmart is vast—their locations span both urban and rural locations. On the other hand, outside of using Walmart for distribution, a public partnership may pigeonhole BODYARMOUR with the same consumer feelings that are attributed to Walmart (i.e. cheap, discount, low quality, not known for healthy).
  • Expand on the YMCA partnership. Why did you choose them over, say, competitive athletic
    associations, race companies, etc.
  • While I know that Powerade is a soft drink option at fast food restaurants and convenience stores, do you see many people purchasing BODYARMOR to consume while watching a sporting event? Might benefit to share the rationale behind the decision if possible.
  • One thing all the judges noticed…If you’re attempting to activate BODYARMOR, why are you allowing consumers to choose between a free Coke or BODYARMOR?
  • Provide examples of the endorsement roster, and make sure it matches the target audience’s
    awareness space.

Great job Green Run High School students! Can’t wait to see what you come up with in the final round!

Kathy Bennett’s students at Pinelands Regional High School, as always, offered another impressive case study response. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t quite enough to get through to the next round.

Some feedback from the judges:

Tons of great ideas! A few things to consider, enhancing your proposal:

  • As suggested earlier, be sure to proofread for errors, as well as edit so the document reads as if it were written by one voice.
  • The example of The Weeknd performing at the SuperBowl is an example of promotion, specifically aimed at increasing awareness of the musician. The Nike partnership with the NFL is closer to a true sponsorship relationship.
  • Product positioning definition may be off. Emphasize how a brand differentiates itself from another, in this case, BODYARMOR versus Gatorade.
  • What connects the athletes who endorse this product with the interests of the target audience?
  • I like the idea of connecting BODYARMOR to the endorser’s social media pages.
  • I like the idea of connecting the flavors to the Olympic rings, assuming that Coca-Cola has the rights to use this intellectual property.
  • The giveaway promotion with the caps is a throwback idea—by making it easy with registering online, you’re also creating a sizable e-mail database for direct consumer contact (all that data offers a lot of value, can open the door to more effective future campaigns).
  • Sampling is great…however, how will you execute your sample plan in the US and Canada with all the limitations and challenges presented by the pandemic?
  • Loved the Tik Tok challenge and the “In Good Taste” social media ideas—very creative and certainly a strategy that will boost levels of fan engagement.

Really well done Pinelands Regional High School, no shame in a Final Four finish!

Downers Grove North High School (Illinois) vs. Grant High School (Oregon)

Downers Grove North: After several deep tournament runs in our SportsBiz Madness case study tournaments, Downers Grove North managed to hold off Grant High School and reach their first ever finals appearance. Congratulations to Drew Himes’ students at Downers Grove North, you are in the championship round.

Some feedback from our judges:

What really set DGNHS apart in this round was a very robust and holistic set of sponsorship activations that aligned nicely with the Body Armor brand, the Olympics, Olympic athletes, the local host-city, and current world events which positioned the brand as not only (but certainly first-and-foremost) a company rooted in superior performance, but also one that is trying to be thoughtful and connected to the larger world outside of their corporate walls.

  • Leveraging Olympic Athletes via a welcome package of Body Armor goodies
  • Use of robot vending machines in/around the Olympic community and the Tokyo market
  • Light-up bottles for spectators at the opening ceremonies was a brilliant and super creative idea, all the judges loved this one!
  • Bottle cap code promotion and giveaway
  • Use of QR codes-Influencer incentivization
  • “Mask-Up Armor-Up” social media execution
  • TikTok virtual silly-Olympics for the rest of the globe to have fun competing against other fans (could be even more fun if a few Olympic athletes actually participate as well!)
  • Really nice job explaining and defining the sponsorship components. It is clear you have a strong grasp on these concepts which is really the most important thing in these competitions
  • Great attention to detail in not only providing athletes with BODYARMOR gear, but also making sure the product is in many camera shots. Helps to get the most bang for the buck!
  • How do you encourage or enforce BODYARMOUR baths? Smart idea, as it is an ambush play on the Gatorade dump.
  • Are spectators from beyond Japan allowed to attend the games? Did you consider how this could impact your sweepstakes promotion for all-expense paid trips to Tokyo?
  • Sponsoring the media provider (NBC) is also an innovative idea—we’re seeing more of this, as pregame, halftime, and postgame shows have corporate partnerships.

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

Grant High School: It has been an amazing year for Grant High School, “rookies” in our annual competitions who managed a Final Four appearance in the case study tournament this spring AND a runner-up finish in the fall fantasy football competition. What an impressive run and we can’t wait to see if Grant High School students can break through next year and nab that elusive championship trophy!

Some feedback from the judges:

  • Love the logo you presented—shows both unity and acceptance (assuming through diversity).
  • Remember that the audience at the Olympics will be limited, so emphasize how you will reach the consumer through traditional media or other activations outside of Japan.
  • All the judges raved about the idea of the voice controlled vending machines!
  • Why are you selling facemasks? This could be a very simple give-away premium to spectators. No sense running the risk in turning consumers off to the product!
  • Appreciate the focus on sustainability given your target audience including the idea of fully recyclable plastics and biodegradable materials. However, any research to indicate this is an actual possibility? And how might that impact your profitability given how much you will be investing in an Olympic Games partnership?
  • How will your social media campaign (Instagram) target consumers? Through paid promotion?
  • I like the QR code idea—it serves multiple purposes, as it gets consumers to activate with the athletes and you can collect tons of data (an emphasis for any brand)

Overall, really well done Grant HS students. Impressive work!

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

2021 SportsBiz Madness Case Study Tournament Bracket