Marketing Students Compete in Florida Intercollegiate Case Competition

By Keith Morelli

Michael Bowen Doreen MacAulay

Michael Bowen and Doreen Macaulay

TAMPA (March 5, 2018) -- Students from four Florida universities, including the University of South Florida, spent the last weekend in February immersed in the D.G. Yuengling & Sons brewing business. In the end, the brewery located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, with its largest brewing facility located just south of the USF Tampa campus, came away with some unique ideas for expansion.

The team from the Muma College of Business competed against other students in the annual Florida Intercollegiate Case Competition and the brewery, which is the oldest in the United States, took some impactful ideas from each team for developing its Tampa site. The ideas will be presented to executives who are planning an expansion of the brewery on its 19-acre tract.

"Everybody offered something the brewery could use," said Mike Bowen, a strategic management instructor in the Muma College of Business who coordinated the competition alongside management instructor Doreen MacAulay. The 2018 competition included teams from the University of Florida, Florida International University and the University of Miami.

Students were in the dark about what corporation they would be examining until 8:30 a.m. Friday when they found out it was Yuengling and left for a tour of the facility and to interview executives about what aspects of the business were to be examined.

The students returned to USF and worked around the clock beginning their presentations at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Muma College of Business. The teams presented their case studies and recommendations without revealing which university they were from, Bowen said. Presentations were 20 minutes long, with 15 minutes reserved for questions from the judges, including Yuengling executives Jessica Seiders, communications manager; and Jim Helmke, director of brewing; and Santo Lazzara among others in outside businesses.

"In any true competition there is always only one winner, but I have to believe that the true winner in the case was not the university that took home the trophy, but Yuengling Brewery Company," said Lazzara. "We received four outstanding business proposal plans, all of which had uniqueness that will assist the company in making a sound business decision concerning our complex as we move forward in this process."

The problem posed to the teams, Helmke said, had a very broad scope.

"All of the presentations were slightly different, and focused on slightly different aspects of the problem," he said. "What all of the presentations had in common, was that they were incisive and relevant. They were all professional level presentations.

"For me, as a judge, it was a very rewarding experience," he said. "Sixteen new eyes looked at our problem and new eyes often see the best. For me, the competition confirmed how much can be accomplished in a very short time by intelligent, motivated people working together. It was remarkable."

Most students worked all night without sleep to prepare their presentations.

"That's not at all uncommon," Bowen said, a point the judges also made to the students, "in the business world."

Yuengling corporate executives will review the suggestions from each team, suggestions that included an onsite restaurant featuring Yuengling sauces and beer, a museum and tours and events on the property; a hotel and microbrewery and beer garden on site and organizing 5K runs to help generate brand awareness by bringing people to the property.

The Intercollegiate Case Competition is an annual event that has been held since 2002. Each university sends its best graduate business students to represent their college.

Yuengling joins a list of well-known companies that have participated in past competitions at the Muma College of Business, including the Tampa Riverwalk Project, Coca-Cola, the Alpha House of Tampa, General Motors, the PGA Tour, the Hillsborough Education Foundation, Walt Disney Company, the Boy Scouts of America and Anheuser Busch.

Organized by Bowen and MacAulay and Rick Kelso, USF stages four business case competitions each year, two for senior USF undergraduates (fall and spring semesters), one for USF graduate business students (fall semester) and the Florida Intercollegiate Case Competition in February. The winning team from the Muma College of Business graduate case competition represents USF in the intercollegiate competition.

"This was a great opportunity for students," MacAulay said. "They were asked to develop something completely new for a company that has a very long, proud history. Balancing the family tradition with the changing needs of the customer made for a challenging case."

Participating Muma College of Business students were Lisa Velesko, Dan Cross, Austin Deno and Oyin Sodiya.

"I thought it was going to just be a good exercise to go through, but it was much more," said Cross. "It was exhilarating. I didn't expect to feel as competitive about winning as I did.

"It was disappointing to lose," he said, "but it's probably the best experience I've had as an MBA student."

The USF team finished second to the team from the University of Florida.

"It was an amazing experience to be able to present our solutions to the Yuengling representatives," said Deno. "I enjoyed applying all the skills I learned from my program to a real company issue."

The case competitions offer a unique professional opportunity for students to take on a serious business challenge in a stressful setting. The benefits include a real-world challenge and an insightful learning experience, an excellent networking opportunity and a separate-you-from-the-crowd résumé.

Jessica Seiders, Yuengling communications manager, said the experience was a rewarding one for the brewery as well as the students.

"I found the findings exceeded my expectations and were quite impressive, given the short time frame to complete the project," she said. "The students did a terrific job and all showed various strengths and perspectives in their presentations, which ended in comprehensive findings."