JSOM Team Wins Social Media Marketing Competition

Marketing Senior Lecturer Abhi Biswas (far left) and Graduate Marketing Program Director Alex Edsel (far right) celebrate with the winning JSOM team members (left to right) Preston Hanisko, Xi Yan, Gamze Ozkan and William (Troy) Prestenberg


UT Dallas marketing students recently won a case study competition so rooted in business reality that they had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to participate.

What the team of four graduate students who earned first place and $8,000 in the UTD-Coca Cola-NetBase challenge could disclose was that they analyzed data on social media sentiment for a Coca-Cola brand and then developed a marketing campaign based on their findings.

For winning team member Gamze Ozkan, signing the agreement added value to the experience because “it reinforced my conception that the outcome of this competition has a substantial value to Coca-Cola. Knowing that your work will be appreciated is inspiring and motivating.”

The case study also required contestants to use NetBase, a social media intelligence-gathering platform, to track and examine data. That was no problem for the Naveen Jindal School of Management marketing student team, because their program includes NetBase training.

Competitors used the software, JSOM Graduate Marketing Program Director Alex Edsel said, “to analyze the market, consumers, the brand category, sponsored teams, people, and the competition in terms of what consumers were saying in numerous social media platforms.”

Team member Xi Yan identified herself as the team’s technical guru, and fellow teammate William (Troy) Prestenberg said Yan “excelled with manipulating NetBase so we could make the best use of the limited amount of data.”

“NetBase is a fun tool to use,” Ozkan said. “Each time you make an analysis about a topic, you find some interesting facts that excite your curiosity even further. The information available in the social media is like pieces of a puzzle. NetBase helps you to put the parts together to create overall picture. It helped us to create a solid business plan based on actual ideas, needs and wants of consumers.”

Part of the challenge, though, lay in very quick production of that plan: Competitors had a day and a half to research and respond.

The Jindal School students — Ozkan, Yan, Prestenberg and team captain Preston Hanisko — worked through the night to complete both a 25-minute oral and accompanying written presentation of their findings and recommendations.

Yan believes “the key of success is ‘be together.’…Our four members worked together the whole time. We discussed every idea and helped each other.”

The team can both blame Edsel for their lack of sleep and thank him for creating the contest. He designed the basics of the competition last year and tested it internally in a four-team, in-house contest.

This year, the competition went national and the field of competitors included entrants from Northwestern and Loyola universities, and the University of Rochester. The Northwestern University team placed second and earned $2,000.

UT Dallas emerged the unanimous first-place choice of the judges, two from NetBase who judged technical proficiency of contestants’ analysis, one from Coca-Cola who served as a subject matter expert, and the digital director at The Richards Group advertising firm, who reviewed the teams’ advertising campaigns.

“The strength of their presentation rested on their exhaustive analytics — including regressions — and the way they tied the analysis to insights,” Edsel said. “They used marketing and advertising concepts in the most detailed and actionable plan of all.”

“In the end, our presentation focused on delivering ‘actionable insights’ that our customer could implement today,” Prestenberg said.