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A Multinational Brew Adds To Challenge
For 12th Annual UC MBA Case Competition

Date: Dec. 13, 2002
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: General News

Jeff Bolin was the perfect judge for UC's 2002 MBA Case Competition.

A 1991 graduate of the MBA program out of UC's College of Business Administration, Bolin is now a product and services analyst with Miller Brewing Co. He returned to UC on Friday to judge the 12th annual competition, devoted to a topic he knows well - the brewing industry.

Business case competitions give students a chance to put in practice the skills they've been learning in the classroom all year. This year's case chosen by UC originated in 1994 and involved a Brazilian-based brewer selling its Mexican-produced beer in the United Kingdom. Twelve teams of MBA students were given the case a week ago, then had to act in the role of a consulting firm making a presentation to the brewing company's management.

Members of the winning team begin their presentation

Three teams were named as finalists and presented their cases Friday.

Bolin liked their ideas, but was even more impressed by their professionalism. "This was rewarding for me," he said. "It was funny because I didn't anticipate it, but I felt a lot of pride in being back here. These students impress you with their professionalism and they seem well-diversified. There are a lot of different backgrounds here and that's one of the things you're looking for."

The winning team included MBA students Rami Al-Masri, Don Bowman, Kelly Detering, Mike Pauciulo and Beatrice Vitari. They advocated for a new marketing campaign to help the company's beer regain market share in the UK, and backed their plan up by nailing an impressive amount of detail.

"The paramount point of our plan today is brand identity," Pauciulo said in introducing his team's presentation to the judges. "We want people to think Sol (the beer's name) is fun."

They conceived of a marketing blitz for the brand that included vacation and concert contests. Bowman even presented a slide that showed a date Wembley Stadium would be available for a concert, along with a list of three bands who were among the top five in popularity in the United Kingdom in 1994 and who would match the brand's fun image.

The team also redesigned the product's labeling and had impressive mockups to show the judges. Later, when one judge asked how currency fluctuations might impact the bottom line, the team clicked on a special spreadsheet they had set up that allowed for currency input that resulted in instantly adjusted earnings.

"This was the best part of the MBA program so far," Bowman said. "The challenge was great and we worked as a team, so we were able to come together and do good things. In seven days, we were able to produce something I would be proud of and comfortable using in the workplace."

The varied international aspects of the case made the challenge that much more interesting and true to the business environment today. "I thought the hardest part was trying to anticipate the culture of a place where we've never done business before," said Al-Masri, a native Palestinian. "I come from a different culture, so I'm aware of that. It was hard adopting North American thinking and then not being sure how it would fare at all in Europe."

Al-Masri said the group concentrated on doing its research, then trying to put themselves into the shoes of every individual involved in the business equation, be it the consumer, the managers in the company or the competitors. "So far this is the closest representation we've had to the real world," he said. "This was a great real-life experience."

The students were judged by an impressive panel of prominent business leaders from the area. Besides Bolin, the panel included: Jack Cassidy, President, Cincinnati Bell, and COO, Broadwing; Noreen Hayes, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Western and Southern Financial Group; Malcolm Simmonds, Vice President, Food Services Marketing, Sara Lee Foods; Cheryl Wilson, Vice President, Operations, Fidelity Investments; and Paul Abrams, Marketing Communications Director, Snyder International Brewing Group and Hudepohl Schoenling Brewing Company.

The competition was sponsored by Cincinnati Bell and the Western and Southern Financial Group.

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