Cal Poly graduate students brought a national championship home after winning the Business Ethics Fortnight at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) on April 9.
Four Cal Poly students competed at the event to win the championship for their project, “Red Bull Report on Stealth Marketing.”
“(It was) a competition where teams from around the country met down at LMU to present ethical issues that are facing business today,” said Sean Martin, a business graduate student.
The students compete as if they are consultants giving presentations to companies and offer solutions to problems along with the legal, ethical and financial implications, said Jim Erickson, an industrial and technical studies graduate student.
“So for us, we decided to do stealth marketing and Red Bull, and whether or not they should go into stealth marketing,” he said.
Stealth marketing is when a product is marketed to an individual without their knowledge.
“So for instance, if someone asks you to take their photo with a camera that they’re holding on a street corner – and they put it in your hand and say, ‘look at all the cool features’ – they could very well be paid by the camera-maker to be there – putting their product in your hands,” Martin said.
“It’s essentially the cheapest marketing you can get; everybody wants word of mouth,” said business graduate Adrienne Lindsay.
The Cal Poly team determined that stealth marketing for Red Bull would not be ethical or legal.
Their half-hour presentation on Friday morning, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer period, advanced the team to the final round of the competition. They then had to cut their presentation to 15 minutes by Saturday evening.
The presentation was judged by local and national business leaders for ethical content, and legal and financial analysis, Martin said.
The team finished in first place overall, taking home the Emmons Prize of $2,000 and a trophy.
“This was the first year that Cal Poly has ever sent a team down there (to the competition) – so to win the championship was really a great experience,” Martin said. “I think the overall thing was just the prestige for Cal Poly of beating some top-ranked programs. It was also inspiring that, in such a dispossessed time, there was that number of people who were committed and dedicated to business ethics as a field.”
Cal Poly won the competition against such schools as New York University, Texas A&M University, the College of William & Mary and Villanova University.
“We were all impressed with the number of people who were there supporting it,” said business graduate student Jessica Valpey. “I think we all realized – there’s a lot of people out there who are devoted to making a difference in (the ethical) field, and it’s pretty impressive to see that.”