Embrace the weird. These words became the focal point of the strategy for four first-year Master of Arts in Business with a specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration (MAIAA) students, leading them to a second place finish at the National Sports Forum Case Cup Competition held in Las Vegas.
The competition brought graduate student teams from universities across the nation together to work on a case study involving the Las Vegas Lights, a new United Soccer League professional soccer team, and their 2019 season sponsor Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer known for their devoted customer service. Tasked with creating a strategy to increase sales and expand their customer and fan bases, teams only had 24 hours to accomplish their objectives.
The Nebraska team consisted of students: Brady Baker from Mercer Island, Washington; Taylor Berry from Muscatine, Iowa; Rose Hull from Brentwood, Tennessee and Zachary Withers from Ames, Iowa. The four faced fierce competition. By leveraging what they learned in their graduate business courses and experience gained with the Nebraska Department of Athletics, they created a presentation as distinctive as the reputation of the two companies.
“Zappos is known for its quirky corporate culture and the Lights embraced being different too. Creating marketing strategies for the two meant we needed to embrace being weird,” explained Berry. “Zappos started bringing two llamas, Dolly and Dotty, to games and now they act as on-field mascots for the Lights. So we created an Instagram account for the llamas and came up with a giveaway called the Golden Scarf, a promotion to encourage people to buy season tickets in order to win a fully-paid trip to Peru. It was a very creative case, with companies who encouraged creativity, so we could be more quirky.”
With the clock quickly ticking, teams scrambled to put together a winning presentation. Confidence soared for the Nebraska team though, thanks to experience from working on a consulting project in their Introduction to Business Strategy (GRBA 808) course for Bryan Health, a nonprofit, locally owned and governed healthcare organization in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“Having experience from class consulting with Bryan Health, we learned about understanding the risks associated with your suggestions,” Berry said. “That means recognizing this risk could happen but thinking this suggestion is good enough to overcome that risk. Because we had not initially done that during the Bryan Health project, we learned the hard way which paid off because we already knew for the case competition we had to recognize risks.”
Dr. Scott M. Fuess Jr., Steinhart Foundation Distinguished Professor of Business and director for the MAIAA program, watched and recognized when the team applied their business expertise from the college directly into their presentation.
“Our students were able to present a solid, serious business plan rooted in real dollars and cents. Our group rightly said, ‘we have got to focus this at local Las Vegans who could be fans, looking for something to do away from The Strip. It is a place where locals can congregate and have fun with other locals.’ They were smart enough to recognize that and put together a plan focused on that,” Fuess said.
In the end, the Nebraska team created a solution as unique as the one-of-a-kind program they come from, giving them an edge over the competition, and a trophy in their hands.
“We were ecstatic to finish second in the nation. Overall, we were so proud to walk up on stage and represent Nebraska in the top three,” said Berry. “Some of our ideas were a little out there, but the judges liked them. In this case, it definitely paid off to think outside the box and be a little weird.”
To learn more about the MAIAA program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/maiaa