Link My iMpact  
Link Strategic Positioning Tool Kit  
To Executive Education
To Kresge Library

BBAs Seek a Slam Dunk for the Detroit Pistons

12/13/2012 --

BBAs join the game by marketing NBA stars in this action-based learning course.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ross BBA students enrolled in Marketing 301 this semester took their knowledge to the court on behalf of the Detroit Pistons. The class, taught by David Wooten, partnered with FOX's Creative University program, FOX Sports Detroit, and the nearby NBA franchise to find creative and innovative solutions for promoting the Piston's upcoming season. "They had a variety of tactics at their disposal and could focus on multiple objectives. Their task was to come up with something creative that the Pistons might want to use for next season," says Wooten, who is the Alfred L. Edwards Associate Professor of Marketing.

Students initially were given the opportunity to sample the product, so to speak. The class attended the Pistons' first pre-season game, got a behind-the-scenes look at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and met people from various departments that currently work on the team's marketing. "The trip made it fun for students, but also gave them the opportunity to look at the game not only as fans but from the perspective from someone who has to market the product," says Wooten.

This is the first collaboration between Michigan Ross and Creative University, a nationwide program that FOX Sports developed to put academic minds to work solving sports-related business challenges. "The appealing thing to me was that it was consistent with the action-based learning focus that we as a school have, and it was an opportunity to give the BBAs the experience of doing hands-on, action-based learning," says Wooten.

In previous semesters, Wooten used a simulation for Marketing 301's action-based learning component, so he jumped at the opportunity to incorporate the Creative University project into the current offering. "Sports is an exciting industry to look at. Students like the competitive format, and the potential for the ideas to be implemented is really appealing," says Wooten.

The result was an experience that felt like more than a class. "It’s been like having a semester-long internship with the Pistons," says Natalie Stern, BBA '13. "I've never been this motivated to create a winning campaign, since our team's ideas could actually be implemented."

The chance to work with the Detroit Pistons in a marketing capacity also proved to be a big draw for many students. "When I saw the project on the syllabus, I was excited because it looked like a great way to dive into marketing. I couldn't stop thinking about this class," says Nick Steiner, BBA '13.

Part of the thrill was the chance to merge academics and outside passions. "I was excited to have the opportunity to apply what I have learned in school to something that I was previously interested in," says Justin Kelman, BBA '13.

But by the end of the semester, it wasn't just the high-profile client that kept their interest in the class. "This project surrounded us in making a marketing plan more than any other project I have had at Ross so far," says Steiner.

"It showed me that as we move forward with our academics and careers, it is not only important to create impactful changes but actionable ones as well," adds Vikram Sridhar, BBA '13. "Having real-world experience is incomparable to just sitting in the classroom."

The students also welcomed the chance to interact with real clients. "There really is no better way to learn what marketing is about than working on a real project with real clients," says Steiner. Wooten agrees. "I think it's reflective of what they are likely to encounter in the real world."

Wooten plans to continue this action-based learning in his course, either through the Creative University or other sponsors. "It's been a fun class to teach, and I think it's been a rewarding experience for the students. I think it's neat they get more opportunities to do action-based learning projects, and they seem to welcome the challenge."

FOX Sports Detroit enjoyed seeing that challenge. “This semester of working with Michigan Ross has been such a valuable experience for all of us," said FOX Sports Detroit senior vice president and general manager Greg Hammaren. "It was exciting to review the presentations and see the level of talent from students. We are looking forward to the next step in this collaboration and bringing these great ideas to life."

The client is looking forward as well. "Creative U is a great example of the forward thinking that is driving FOX Sports Detroit today," says Charlie Metzger, executive vice president and chief marketing & communications officer for Palace Sports & Entertainment. "It's been a great opportunity for the students to get real-world experience and for us to listen and learn."

And listen they did. "It's nice to know that with a hands-on project like this, your voice matters," says Stern.

— Melissa Syapin

For more information, contact:
Melissa Syapin, 734-936-2150,