Andy Rinehart (MBA ’11) recounts his experience during the Wake Forest Marketing Summit on BusinessWeek.com

4.6.2010 Alumni News, Article, General

Competition Calling
“It should come as no great surprise that I really enjoy competition in all its forms”

Originally Posted on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | by Andy Rinehart (MBA ’11)
Reposted from BusinessWeek

Business school is a competitive environment. Simply gaining admission to a prestigious business school is an exercise in how well you can self-promote compared with hundreds of other applicants. The programs are designed to teach you how to create and sustain competitive advantage in the market. MBA students compete against their peers for coveted on-campus recruiting spots.

It should come as no great surprise that I really enjoy competition in all its forms. (No, seriously—I’m WAY more competitive than you.) Enter the Wake Forest Marketing Summit—the largest MBA and undergraduate marketing case competition in the world. With a grand prize of $50,000 for the winning MBA squad, the Marketing Summit attracts competitors from around the globe. Teams from London Business School, IESE, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Wake Forest University (Wake Forest Full-Time MBA Profile) joined a number of other programs in a 36-hour contest sponsored by IBM during a snowy weekend in February.

All fanfare aside, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for a spot on the MBA Case Team at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business. In addition to the ability to represent my school in competition, I regarded the entire event as a truly unique learning experience. After submitting a written application and sitting through an hour-long interview, I was pretty psyched to learn that I had been selected as one of two first-year MBA students for a spot on the team. When IBM was announced as the case sponsor for the summit, we began researching Big Blue’s marketing campaigns, overall strategy, and current media coverage. We had no clue what the actual case question would be, but our team felt confident that this preparation was time well spent.

Adrenaline Rush

The Smarter Planet campaign was unveiled as the focus of the Marketing Summit competition, and IBM executives were on hand as both judges and subject-matter experts. During the entire weekend, we were under the constant scrutiny of bloggers and photographers working for the Web site, marketingsummitlive.com, and the looming deadline added to the sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled adrenaline rush that kept us all going.

In the case question, IBM was specifically seeking a plan to market the Smarter Planet campaign to a specific city and a model that could be applied to other cities beyond its initial effort. Our team began with a high-level discussion of strategy: How should IBM proceed? What are the key aspects of the Smarter City that should be emphasized in a media plan, and how do you specifically communicate them to the stakeholders?

After a series of exhaustive (and constructive) round-table discussions, we built a collaborative vision of what the campaign ought to resemble. This gave us a broad “road map,” which allowed our team of six to set smaller, more specific project milestones. For instance, we knew we needed a media plan with examples (such as print or Webisodes) that we could physically present to the judges, and that became one item on our team to-do list. Armed with that task list, we spent the majority of our time working in smaller groups on various pieces of the overall presentation. As a final note, we built a good amount of rehearsal into our time line because we felt it was extremely important to have a polished presentation for the judges.

This effort was time well spent, because the Wake Forest MBA Team was awarded second place at the final closing gala. I went home with a gigantic check for $10,000 (literally gigantic—it’s four feet long). One of the amazing things about the Marketing Summit is that the entire event is completely student-run. Three MBA students served as co-chairs, and they led the planning and execution of the competition itself as well as the networking events, diversity panel, awards gala, and roundtable discussions. Volunteers from the graduate and undergraduate schools of business made the entire weekend a success, and I was truly impressed at the professionalism on display.

Andy Rinehart is enrolled in the full-time MBA program at the Wake Forest Schools of Business. Hoping to become a JD/MBA candidate, which means four years of school, Rinehart is expected to graduate in 2013. Before pursuing an MBA, Rinehart served his country by leading more than 50 Army combat missions in Baghdad and taking part in noncombat activities including local economic assessments and fuel ration distributions. Earning his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Wake Forest in 2005, Rinehart began his eight-year military service in the university’s ROTC program.