Feb 23, 2010

Marketing team nationals bound

by Melinda Zosh

When they first met, they were complete strangers. That changed last semester. After spending several all-nighters together, they are closer than a family, they say.

Four senior marketing students Mike Godsoe, Kelly Detweiler, Peter Hoppe and Wes Cole will be competing in the annual American Marketing Association (AMA) Collegiate Case Competition April 8 in New Orleans.

The winning team will be announced April 9, and the first place team will receive $3,000. In the 2009 competition, Liberty placed third, according to Marketing Professor and staff adviser Ken Brunson.

Out of 42 business schools that participated, Liberty’s team is one of 10 business teams chosen to compete at the next level. The team will be competing against schools that include the University of Arizona, the University of Texas at San Marcos and Business Week Magazine’s number three ranked Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn).

Every spring semester Brunson and business professor Paul Young work together interviewing qualified juniors to recruit the “top marketing students” based on classroom performance.

Up to eight students enroll in the fall AMA Competition class and work on their competition paper for the entire semester, according to Brunson.

The four student presenters, Godsoe, Detweiler, Hoppe and Cole, one facilitator and three other students who worked on the research paper last fall, will travel to Louisiana to participate in the competition.

Their task is to develop a marketing plan that focuses on raising $2 million of U.S. funds for the UNICEF Tap Project, a division of UNICEF that focuses on providing clean water for children internationally, according to Godsoe.

UNICEF currently raises $800,000 annually for the Tap Project, according to Brunson. UNICEF Tap Project’s goal is to reduce the number of people who need water by 50% by 2015 with an ultimate goal of zero deaths someday from lack of water, according to its Web site.

Judges did not know which schools had written the papers to allow unbiased, blind judging of each of the 10 schools scheduled to present. This may be an advantage, according to Brunson.

“The best position is to be the last team. If you cannot make your impression right away, you (will be) forgotten,” Brunson said. “We are a desperate team. We have got to be remembered when the judges are tired and it comes to the end of the day.”

The key to success is making a strong impression on the judges, who are UNICEF executives, he said.

“We need to set such a high bar that we are going to be remembered all the way through,” Brunson said.

Working with seven different personalities to create one cohesive 20-page paper was a challenge at first for Godsoe, but he learned quickly to listen to his teammates’ advice.

“When you are dealing with (brilliant) minds, you just need to know when to sit down, shut up and take it all in,” Godsoe said.

Solid research, including distributing surveys to the student body, has helped the team develop theories about reaching the $2 million mark.

“Research is our proof that our marketing plan works,” Godsoe said. “Without having research to back what you are doing, it is all just opinion.”

Raising money for charity fits with Liberty’s mission, Brunson said.
“What better topic for Liberty (students and) Jerry Falwell’s university, (and he) knew about raising money,” Brunson said.
This team has a strong chance to win, Godsoe said.

“I have never heard of anyone saying they are going to compete to lose. You compete to win,” Godsoe said. “You have to look at who the competition is, but it is not something we focus on. We focus on who we are, what we do and what we are capable of (achieving).”

The team members said that this experience is more than a competition. It will give them an edge in the job market, according to Detweiler, who plans to intern with Disney after she graduates in May.

“When we have done projects in the school of business, it has always been in a controlled environment,” Detweiler said. “I am a lot more aware of what goes into doing a real world project, because we have actually encountered a real world client.”

Brunson earned his undergraduate degree in theater, and he has used his experience to coach the team in to turning a “theoretical paper into a sales pitch,” he said.

“The document must exude excitement,” Brunson said. “We must sell it, sell it, sell it and we have got to make it sizzle.”

Confidence is the key to setting Liberty’s team apart from the other nine teams, according to Godsoe.

“Confidence always plays a role in the way you carry yourself in front of high-level business people,” Godsoe said. “If you are not confident in what you’re saying, why should they be? All we have to do is get up there and tell them what our plan is.”

The team will present its case to the Student Marketing Association on April 1, and the student body is welcome to attend.

Contact Melinda Zosh at

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