SportsBiz Madness 2021: Case Study Tournament Champions!

Thanks to our judges!

An extra special thanks to Alex Dobson, an executive with DNA Seattle (a Seattle-based advertising agency), Dr. Jim Strode, Chair, Department of Sports Administration and Associate Professor at Ohio University, and Scott Soles from Nike (an avid volleyball coach, player and fan), for taking the time to review, evaluate and offer feedback for the championship round of this tournament.

The perspective from successful industry pros and an academic institution with the pedigree of Ohio University offers an invaluable educational experience for our students and our teachers. The feedback from all three provides fantastic context for not only the teams who advanced to the championship round of this year’s competition, but also the students and teachers following along in their own classrooms.

Thanks guys!

Championship Round Recap

After receiving nearly 100 entries for SCC’s 5th annual high school case study tournament, we finally crown a champion…

The case we distributed for the championship round presented students with the challenge of developing strategies to grow the popularity of a niche sport. The two finalists were tasked with creating a plan for boosting awareness of “footvolley” and finding ways to get sports fans excited about a sport many have never heard of. We were excited to see what our championship teams came up with and they did not disappoint!

Both groups had a lot of really creative ideas that we felt would definitely help elevate footvolley awareness and give the sport’s popularity a boost. The strategies were thoroughly developed with a solid plan for execution in place, and we were certainly impressed with the level of research that went into each submission. It is always tough to decide on a winner, and the finalists certainly made it difficult to determine this year’s champion.

Downers Grove North High School, Illinois

Overall, Downers Grove North students developed a very thorough strategy for building interest and boosting awareness for the sport. The plan was very comprehensive, and we appreciated the group recognizing the value a national sponsor could offer to attract new fans. DGN put forth an incredibly consistent performance throughout the competition, nailing each and every case study challenge they were presented with. Very, very impressive work.

Some feedback (and highlights) from our judges:

  • SOCIAL MEDIA 
    • Social media campaign on rules, ways to play, etc. could be effective depending on who and how that message is being delivered. There is a lot of really “average” content in the world, competing for everyone’s attention. How will this campaign capture consumers’ attention and imagination?
  • VIEWERSHIP 
    • Judges liked the easy (and “free,”) access for people to watch via live streams on YouTube, and the ability to reach a global audience. How will you promote so that people know to go watch?
  • PARTICIPATION 
    • One of the biggest challenges for footvolley is the sport’s insane degree of difficulty.  Developing a strategy to boost participation levels is a tall order, and while there were some good ideas from both teams, we didn’t quite feel like either group came up with a game-changing solution.
    • One idea, however, that felt like it might have some traction is your plan to seamlessly integrating avenues that would encourage participation at the youth level (in the schools!) and make it a part of their lives so they are familiar with the game.  In particular, the judges liked the concept of adapting to make Footvolley an indoor sport, allowing the game to be taught in physical education classes.  
  • SPONSORSHIP
    • While Hilton seems, on the surface, like a natural fit as a partner, are there beaches at every, or enough, Hilton Resorts across the country to create enough of a national footprint for Footvolley? 
    • More importantly, does this demo fit with Hilton’s core consumers?
    • That said, judges were intrigued by the idea of establishing an exclusive membership reward/incentive angle here for the sponsor. It provides them a potential benefit for their loyal guests and could potentially create some potential FOMO (fear of missing out) for consumers who don’t usually stay at a Hilton Resort.
    • What makes more sense, however, is pursuing more youthful brand alignments (Puma, Mikasa).  As a use of facilities, Hilton makes sense. However, as a sport that is targeting itself in youth, late night programming, this feels like a potential disconnect.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA
    • We felt like you missed the mark just a bit here with a social strategy.  Rather than hoping for a viral moment to help put the sport on the map, a more comprehensive social media plan would be far more practical and effective in the long-term.  Also, how will you build your followers?
    • We liked your Instagram examples, including the nickname idea to help make it easier for fans to recognize the athletes. Stars sell in sports and this could help to build a following.
    • Pretty cool to see your TikTok post – nice to see your athleticism on full display!
  • SEGMENTATION
    • The judges felt DGN students did a great job segmenting the market geographically by developing customized marketing messages for cold weather vs. warm weather consumer markets
    • However, we felt this group could have done a better job evaluating demographic data and offering a more robust segmentation strategy
    • While the geographic segmentation makes sense from an advertising perspective, why didn’t you apply the same strategy with the offering of footvolley clinics?  We would have liked to have seen that strategy developed just a bit further.
  • GRASSROOTS EFFORTS 
    • Olympic adoption would be a great way to raise broader awareness and we liked an approach that leverages a sponsorship to help drive more participation to help meet requirements for Olympic consideration. This would be a massive undertaking and investment on behalf of Footvolley and Hilton, though.
      • Grow The Game initiatives are important in almost all major sports to keep the pipeline of consumer interest. Other than the school curriculum integration, what other ways/avenues could you activate young kids to start playing this game?
  • ENDORSEMENT 
    • Perhaps the most glaring omission from your overall strategy was a lack of athlete or celebrity endorsers, or even social media influencers.  You recognized the footvolley is a cross between soccer (arguably the most globally recognized sport in the world) and volleyball (with a smaller, but no less loyal fan base). Why not tap into the popularity of both sports to help grow this one by enlisting the support of athletes, celebrities and other influencers?

Green Run High School, Virginia

We felt like this was a well-constructed plan from the “rookies” in this competition at Green Run High School. They also did a superb job aligning with the curriculum and course materials to develop a plan that will help grow the sport of footvolley. At the end of the day, this competition is designed to teach students key, fundamental sports business concepts. Green Run certainly demonstrated a high level of proficiency here. Great job!

Some feedback (and highlights) from our judges:

  • SWOT ANALYSIS
    • Remember, it is not necessary to use full sentences in these analyses, it is more efficient to use bullet points which allows for a more thorough assessment.  However, your attention to detail was appreciated by all the judges.  Also, remember that strengths and weaknesses are internal to the organization while opportunities and threats are external.
  • AWARENESS, EDUCATION & GROWTH
    • We absolutely LOVED that you managed to connect with an actual footvolley athlete.  Your interview with Neil T Harrison was smart—it provided you with some quality information on the sport, allowing you to make informed decisions about how you will raise awareness and educate fans about the exciting world of footvolley.
    • One of the things that really stood out to the judges was your ability to plan for both short-term growth and develop long-term strategies.  Slowly adding new tour stops in beach markets makes sense as accelerating growth too quickly simply isn’t feasible given the limited resources.  
    • Establishing a presence at events like Pharrell’s Something in the Water beach festival, tailgates with sand and portable nets at Major League Soccer stadiums, and marketing around the 2026 World Cup in the USA makes a ton of sense.  We would have liked to have seen the inclusion of some volleyball events, however, and at least some focus on tapping into the international appeal of both sports to grow build awareness globally.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA 
    • How do you intend to be visible on social media platforms outside of the examples you provided?  You don’t want to limit your reach by narrowing your focus on just a few platforms.  For example, Pinterest could provide a great way to reach potential fans with the backdrop of beautiful beaches and amazing athleticism.  
    • We loved seeing a defined and measurable goal of increasing footvolley’s following by 50% in the metro areas of all Pro Footvolley Tour stops in 2021.  Not only will this allow you to create a more streamlined social media strategy, but also offers a powerful evaluation tool as you set your sights on both short and long-term growth for the sport.
    • Overall, we felt it was a good use of utilizing UGC to help tell the FV story and allow consumers to imagine (or actually see) themselves as part of the game.
      • We thought it was a fun idea to make a challenge video and send it to high schools in targeted areas to see who has the best footvolley skills.  Seems something like this could be a huge hit on TikTok!
  • POSITIONING
    • The judges felt this an important component to your marketing plan.  Carefully positioning the Footvolley brand as a “new, innovative, challenging and fun geared toward fun loving athletes.”  Fun speaks to consumers in ways that encourages participation and offers the intrigue necessary to capture the attention of sports fans who might be looking for a new sport to support and follow.
  • SPONSORSHIP
    • You did an excellent job seeking sponsors that fit your target audience.  It makes sense to align with companies that resonate with younger consumers (Hurley, Sun Bum, Yeti) while offering a natural extension of the footvolley brand with “beachy” products.  Lots of synergy there and everybody wins with partnerships like these, including the fans, the sport of footvolley and the sponsors.  
    • We really liked seeing an activation strategy that aligns with your marketing strategy as well.  Establishing leagues at breweries, amateur beach tournaments etc. will increase awareness, and the positioning strategy where watching is as fun as playing makes a lot of sense.
  • SEGMENTATION
    • We thought you did an excellent job doing the research on demographic data for the sports of volleyball and soccer.  That is a smart plan when determining your target market and will certainly pay dividends as you deploy your footvolley marketing strategy.
  • VIEWERSHIP 
    • As discussed in the Downers Grove North review, YouTube is obviously a fantastic way to broadcast footvolley to fans around the world.  However, is YouTube the only way you plan to broadcast the sport?  As a side note, the idea for this case study came from a footvolley broadcast…on ESPN.  Also, with so many streaming companies clamoring for content that will attract viewers (like DAZN, FloSports, FuboTV), seems you may have missed a big opportunity here.
  • PARTICIPATION 
    • As discussed earlier, one of the biggest challenges for footvolley is the sport’s insane degree of difficulty.  Developing a strategy to boost participation levels is a tall order, and while there were some good ideas from both teams, we didn’t quite feel like either group came up with a game-changing solution.
    • While we absolutely loved the local brew pub partnership (the commercial was awesome), how eager do you think novice fans will be to come out to the pub and try to play?  Will the novelty wear off too quickly?  Also, we would have liked to have seen a strategy for growing the game not just nationally, but internationally from a participation perspective.  Encouraging participation at a local pub isn’t going to move the needle much.
  • ENDORSEMENT 
    • You absolutely nailed it on this one.  Bringing the voice of iconic global soccer stars to the game of footvolley will most certainly boost interest. Nice job doing the research to learn that soccer players like Brazil legend Ronaldino believes footvolley will become an Olympic sport offers tons of credibility, and tapping into that positive affiliation/affinity for the game the game provides an excellent use of influence.

AND THE WINNER IS…

Congratulations Green Run High School!  You are the champions of our fifth annual SportsBiz Madness Case Study Tournament!

From the competition’s judges:

We were all very impressed with the overall approach taken by Green Run students to elevate the sport of footvolley. Setting up clear KPI’s at the beginning and a clear articulation of education strategy is what really separated your case study response from the competition in the final round. We also felt like this group was very consistent, thoughtful and accurate with their recommendation on who and what to align their brand with on many levels.  Last but certainly not least, it was evident these students went the extra mile in this competition.  Tracking down an actual footvolley athlete to interview for ideas and input was genius, and a collaboration with a local business was really cool to see.  

Congrats again to ALL of this year’s participating students. This tournament will go down as the biggest and most competitive in the five year history of SportsBiz Madness. Thank you for competing and we look forward to seeing your school again next spring!

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