Team of Olin undergrads wins national sports business case competition

  • December 22, 2021
  • By Guest Blogger
  • 3 minute read

Ally Gerard, BSBA ’22, wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

A team of Olin Business School undergraduates came out on top of this fall’s WashU Business of Sports Society (BOSS) competition. Olin partnered with local Major League Soccer expansion team St. Louis CITY SC, which hosted a national sports business case competition.

The competition, sponsored by the Olin Business School and the Weston Career Center, featured a case from CITY SC on subscription-based consumer loyalty programs and possible marketing activations for its local kit sponsor, Purina.

Six teams across four universities (WashU, Duke, UCLA, UNC-Chapel Hill) participated in the two-month competition. They were evaluated on blind submissions.

The idea for the competition began in April 2021, after organizers noticed the success of other collegiate sports business case competitions. As a student in the Olin Sports Business Program and former president of BOSS, I knew a comparable event would appeal to our students and to sports business students across the nation.

After I pitched the concept to the undergraduate office, I secured a generous $3,000 donation from Olin and the WCC for prize money. With this funding in place, the next step was to find a partner for the actual case material.

CITY SC was the obvious choice because of its ties to the St. Louis community and the start-up business environment in advance of their 2023 inaugural season. With the help of CITY SC Chief Brand Architect Lee Broughton, we developed the case material and competition logistics to launch at the end of the summer.

Throughout August and September, teams compiled and recorded a virtual presentation for CITY SC leadership detailing how the club could develop a subscription-based membership program to drive monetary and brand value beyond ticket sales. Student recommendations placed a strong emphasis on ideals like community and loyalty, and they focused on ways to meet the needs of all fan profiles.

‘Blown away’

Broughton and CITY SC’s Director of Loyalty Jeremy Tripp evaluated the blind submissions. Tripp, PMBA 32, recounted he was “genuinely blown away” by the quality of the students’ presentations and their clear understanding of the club’s strategy.

“The presentations were polished and well-researched, and each brought a creative perspective to solving key problems that would not only set our club apart but would do so by improving our entire region,” he said.

In the end, the winning team of five Olin undergraduates included team lead Jeanette Smith, BSBA ’24, Quade Pohlman, BSBA ’24, Spencer Min, BSBA ’24, Larry Liu, BSBA ’24, and Tommaso Maiocco, BSBA ’24.

Reflecting on their participation, they found this experience valuable for applying their coursework and professional skills to actual business situations. Smith described feeling “very fulfilled … and that the experience had greatly contributed to my professional development.”

For a business school that places experiential learning opportunities at the forefront, this competition was both professionally and personally rewarding for its nationwide participants.

I cannot thank St. Louis CITY SC, the Weston Career Center and Olin Business School’s undergraduate office enough for taking a chance on this new event. I hope to see future generations of sports business students continue the partnership in the future!

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