SAN DIEGO — Throughout the first seven years of the program’s own International Sports MBA Case Competition, the SDSU sports MBA teams have always placed well but never brought home the top prize.
That all changed Friday afternoon with one idea.
Thanks in part to a plan for the Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente soccer team to open up mobile stores to sell their merchandise, the SDSU sports MBA team won its first case competition against a storied field that included programs from Oxford, Hong Kong, USC, Notre Dame, Michigan and UCLA.
“Surprised, we had a good case, but just the quality of the schools — for the judges to decide we’re the best, it’s pretty humbling actually,” said team member Johnny Du (SMBA ’13). “At first he didn’t really say it clear, so I’m like, ‘Did he say F?’ At first I was like, ‘Is that us?’ And then [program director] Scott [Minto] re-emphasized it and I knew we won.”
The judging panel included three members of the Xolos’ front office as well as a pair of established journalists with extensive knowledge of the team.
Xolos assistant GM Robert Cornejo credited the SMBA team for presenting an idea it could implement quickly that was well-researched and detailed.
The SMBA squad brainstormed “unique retail avenues” because the Xolos don’t have much of a presence online and largely depend on kiosks that are often sold out. Ryan Kaltenbach (SMBA ’13) came up with the idea and researched the prices before discovering the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed success with a similar venture.
“He came up with the idea first, and then we needed the validation, like ‘Does anybody else do this right now?’” Du said. “So Oklahoma is doing that, obviously the Thunder are a local machine in Oklahoma City so we knew that it could be feasible. And we outlined it’s not that much of an investment to break even.”
Online stores and mobile-friendly apps for buying merchandise were common themes throughout most of the presentations. Teams also discussed how the Xolos could improve their social media presence, and one squad presented an idea focused on a fan contest to design merchandise. Another innovative idea brought up during the competition encompassed the team starting a flash mob street soccer game with its actual players that included heavy social integration as it attempts to widen its following in the southwestern United States.
The teams were also asked to brainstorm ideas for an exhibition game to drive American interest and discussed playing it everywhere from Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, to Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
“I have homework first of all,” said Esteban de Anda, the Xolos’ director of marketing and sponsorships who sat on the judging panel. “We have to implement some new strategies.”
Cornejo, the assistant GM, embraced the free consulting his organization received from 28 MBA students over 24 hard-working hours in which some competitors slept for just an hour or two.
“The second [Minto] told me about this I was extremely exited because I was convinced I would get excellent ideas and new ideas on how we can grow our club,” Cornejo said before announcing the winner.
With the SMBA ’14 class in the audience, the case competition was an eye-opening experience in the sense that four of us will be up there presenting a year from now, a thought that’s more than a bit intimidating.
But the newly-crowned champion Du provided some perspective on how the next 10 months of classes will prepare us for that moment.
“This is the thing, when you start at the beginning of the year, for most people you’re just getting your feet wet in terms of business,” Du said. “I think just throughout the year, the classes you begin to take, it sort of completes the circle. You start out with your numbers courses right now, then you eventually get to marketing, you get into operations and just building up those skill sets throughout the year prepared us, and obviously all the presentations we had to do, which helped.”