University of Southern California

Marshall Team Wins Europe's Largest Academic Contest
Team of Four Undergraduates Takes Trophy at Prestigious Copenhagen Case Competition
March 23, 2009 • by Evy Jacobson

Four undergraduate students from the USC Marshall School of Business placed first at the Copenhagen Business School Case Competition in Denmark on Feb. 27. The competition, which was hosted and prepared by the students of the Copenhagen Business School, invited students from 11 other top-ranked schools from across the globe to compete in what is considered to be one of the leading undergraduate case competitions worldwide.

USC Marshall students Craig Schleicher ('09), Justin Saks ('09), Emma Browne ('09) and Shreya Oswal ('10) joined students from the host school as well as from Escola de Administraçao de Empresas de Sao Paulo in Brazil, McGill University in Canada, National University of Singapore Business School in Singapore, Thammasat University in Thailand, The University of Auckland in New Zealand, The University of Manchester in the U.K., Tsinghua University in China, Universidad de Navarra in Spain, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Florida to tackle a strategic business problem for Schibsted ASA, a Norwegian media company with holdings in printed media, film, movies, magazines and online media.

"It was very exciting," said Saks. "I've placed in the finals in two other competitions and it was a relief to win this one because we put in so much hard work."

The Copenhagen competition is considered a big win for USC because only the three teams who make it to the finals are invited back in consecutive years.

"It's great, your adrenaline gets pumping and it's a rush to compete in front of hundreds of people," added Oswal, who has competed in two other competitions.

The students had 32 hours to research, analyze, strategize and recommend how the company should enhance its profitable online business division Schibsted Classified Media and expand it into new markets. The students created slides and an executive summary as part of their 20 minute presentation, which included a ten-minute Q&A in the preliminary round and a 15-minute Q&A in the final round. Part of the teams' preparation included a video teleconference with upper management from the company.

The USC team competed against UC Berkeley, the University of Florida and the team from Singapore in the first round. To craft part of their recommendations, the quartet took advantage of what they learned in their marketing classes, pulling statistics and creating a complicated algorithm with 50 metrics to narrow down which countries would be the most attractive to the company and delivered their preliminary presentation to a panel of four judges, including executives from Schibsted.

"The company is in 14 countries with 36 brands," said Browne, who is a first-time competitor. "We recommended that they have one major brand in each country with different segments to provide functionality on its websites." The students also gave recommendations for the European countries the company should enter next.

As one of the three finalist teams, USC competed against two other top schools, besting students from Auckland University in New Zealand and host Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. In the final round, the students gave their presentation to a panel of 14 judges, in front of an audience of about 500, including professors and students. The finals round was also broadcast as a live simulcast on the web.

"Walking into the final round, we should have been nervous, but we had been with the people in that room for a week and we felt like we knew them so it was comfortable to be in front of them," said Schleicher, who has competed in three other competitions.

The students were praised on the amount of research that they were able to accomplish within the 32-hour preparation window, and the amount of detail they included in their presentation.

"I think it had to do with our team chemistry - we just kind of knew who would answer which question," said Browne.

But the biggest compliment came from Schibsted representatives who told the students they were already at work on a similar solution to the ones the students presented.

"Our team was thorough, realistic and mature in its strategic approach to the problem," said Naomi Warren, a Marshall Associate Professor of Clinical Management Communication, who accompanied the team to Copenhagen.

While three of the students had prior competition experience, this was the first time they were on the same team. "What set the team apart was their preparation and teamwork. They trusted each other, took risks, and thought realistically and pragmatically about the problem," Warren added.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.