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Student Experiences

BYU Marriott Students Shine at MarketStar

Preparation for the annual MarketStar case competition typically begins a week before the event when teams from across Utah receive their case prompts and eagerly dive into their presentations. But for the eight students representing the BYU Marriott School of Business, preparation for moments like MarketStar began when they first walked into their marketing classes—and it didn’t end until seconds before they faced the judges.

Photo of team with judges
The BYU Marriott marketing and sales team with the MarketStar judges.
Photo courtesy of Megan Davies.

“Presentations are really important in the junior core,” explains Megan Davies, a senior in the marketing program from Syracuse, Utah. “So this competition was an extension of everything I've learned in my marketing classes—strategy, research, and sales.”

The marketing and sales team Davies worked with was coached by BJ Allen, assistant professor of marketing at BYU Marriott. The team included three more marketing juniors and seniors: Joseph Wood from Snohomish, Washington; Joseph Carwin from Broomfield, Colorado; and Taylor Watt from Newark, Ohio.

In addition to the marketing and sales track, the MarketStar competition offered an analytics track, which was entered by a second BYU Marriott team advised by marketing professor Marc Dotson. The analytics team included pre-business student Madison Bevans from Washington, Utah, as well as three marketing majors: Jesse Clobes from Ventura, California; Madsen Baum from Pearland, Texas; and Cody Lee from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Photo of second team
The BYU Marriott analytics team at MarketStar.
Photo courtesy of Megan Davies.

Although marketing coursework had prepared both teams with solid skills, polishing their presentations under pressure still brought challenges. Clobes says that in the week leading up to the event, her analytics team spent hours working in Excel files, figuring out the story behind the data. “The biggest difficulty,” Clobes recalls, “was that we were all working on different parts that suited our different strengths. It's a challenge to make that all come together cohesively in one presentation.”

As he mentored the analytics team, Dotson saw the students’ diverse talents as an asset. “The team members’ skills were incredibly complementary,” he says. “Together, they had all of their bases covered: technical ability, communication, presentation skills, and business sense.”

While the analytics teams pooled their collective talents, the marketing and sales team pressed forward with their sales pitch. Tasked with creating a marketing plan for a colorful keyboard made by Logitech, the team crafted the slogan “Be You Anywhere.” They pushed themselves to create more content than the case required, forecasting the judge’s objections and preparing additional presentation slides for potential scenarios. “We all gave 100 percent,” Davies says.

The eight students continued rehearsing and refining their presentations on the long drive to Logan for the two-day competition. They arrived at Utah State University along with five other teams from universities all over Utah. When the analytics team found the room where they would be presenting, they tried a new preparation tactic.

“I don't even remember whose idea it was,” Clobes says, “but one team member suggested that we all walk around the room and just try to become comfortable in that room.” Spending time in the competition space gave them confidence. Clobes explains, “It’s empowering to just to feel that we're comfortable in this room. We know what we're doing.”

Photo of student with trophy
Jesse Clobes holds the first-place trophy received by the analytics team.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Clobes.

That confidence helped the students advance through the first round and stay focused when judges introduced a twist to each case just minutes before the final round. The students drew on their complementary talents to rapidly reframe presentation pieces to reflect the new data.

Anticipation mounted as judges, participants, and faculty advisors gathered to watch BYU Marriott students face off against the other finalists. When another university’s team unveiled a commercial they had filmed as part of their marketing plan, Davies admits, “I got a little nervous because we didn’t have a commercial.”

But as soon as BYU Marriott students took the stage, all their preparation paid off. Davies says, “I remember one of the judges was smiling the whole time.” Later, that same judge told the marketing and sales team, “I relate so much to this content.” Clobes recalls that as soon as they finished their presentations, “a lot of people came up to us and complimented us. It just felt good.”

“The highlight of the competition for me,” faculty advisor Dotson says, “was being able to see students perform their best—from BYU and the other schools.” And while all the teams impressed the judges, both BYU Marriott teams outshined the others and took first in their respective tracks. For the marketing and sales team, this marks back-to-back first-place wins at MarketStar.

Photo of student with trophy
Megan Davies with the first-place trophy for the marketing and sales team.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Clobes.

Allen links their success at MarketStar to the well-rounded program at BYU Marriott. “BYU has won this competition two years in a row because our Sales Society students have a wide range of skills. We not only teach traditional sales methods and skills but also subjects like analytics, creative presenting, and strategy.”

Both Clobes and Davies credit their faculty advisors for helping the teams finish in front. But Dotson recognizes the students’ stellar work ethic as the real prize. “They didn’t know if they were going to win, but they did know they had done everything they could,” he says. “That combination of humility and confidence is inspiring. Winning was just a bonus.”


Writer: Shannon Keeley