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Graduate Students Win Top Honors in International Case Competition

By Keith Morelli

Case competition winners and their professor

TAMPA (May 27, 2021) -- A team of graduate students in the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program took first prize in the National Sports Forum case competition earlier this month, winning out over a dozen other schools from the United States and around the world.

“Keeping with the Champa Bay theme and bringing the National Sports Forum Challenge Cup trophy to USF,” said Samantha Hoo, a member of the winning team, announcing the victory on her LinkedIn account. “So proud of this team.”

The National Sports Forum Challenge Cup is the premier MBA/masters case study competition, designed to give students real world experience and invaluable insight into sports sponsorship, ticket sales, marketing and business development, according to the NSF website. While most schools were from the United States, the competition was not limited to U.S. schools. The USF team competed against a Deakin University team from Australia in the first round.

The NSF Challenge Cup competition “was created to meet the needs of individuals just beginning their professional sports careers,” the website said. Due to COVID-19, this year’s competition was virtual and took place from March 1 through April 12, rather than the usual 48-hour turn-around time. The winners were announced at the NSF Virtual Spring Summit, May 19-20.

Each case was based on a sports-related topic and gave students the opportunity to highlight the tools obtained in their program’s curriculum. They made their pitches to a panel of sports industry professionals, topical experts and academic experts.

The case studied by USF grad students Hoo, Blake Parry, Tyler Equizi and Dorian Earley involved an esports partnerships in which students were asked to develop a comprehensive marketing and partnerships strategy to help a U.S. bank establish itself in the video-gaming industry.

“After we presented the first time, we were lucky enough to move on and we had an extra two weeks to make changes to our presentation using the judge’s feedback,” said Parry, the team’s captain. “It ended up being a 25-minute presentation via Zoom to 12 judges from all over the sports industry,” sitting as representatives from the bank client.

"I am so proud of the team and all of the time and effort we put in,” Parry said. “Esports was not an area that any of us were super familiar with, so we had to spend a lot of time researching the industry before we actually got started developing our strategy.

“It got a little stressful towards the end as we put our finishing touches on our presentation while still trying to balance our other projects and classes, but it was an amazing experience overall,” he said. “I am pretty sure we single-handedly kept Panera Bread in business because we were there every day for hours working on it together."

Michelle Harrolle, director of the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Program, said she was proud of the team and its accomplishments.

“While presenting a pitch through video conferencing can be challenging to say the least, so many judges commented on their fabulous online presentation skills,” she said. “All of that practice in marketing class really paid off."