SIFE winners have a ball

Tue, 2006-03-14 10:02 -- univcomm
March 14, 2006

Black suits and bright bowling shoes. The combination was sparked by Anderson University Students in Free Enterprise team manager Leslie Nigh, but shot down by team members for the second annual SIFE Consulting Competition Wednesday. It wasn’t necessary. Even with subdued attire, the group won the competition, earning an additional $500 along with stipends. Nigh, Luke Denton, Eric Thompson, Mike Kinney and Kyle Mosier invested more than 450 hours into Flagship Enterprise Center-based The Bowling Center.com, a subsidiary of ePractical Solutions Inc. that provides information technology services. “Being my first year involved,” said Montgomery “Monty” J. Vaughn, The Bowling Center.com vice president of operations, “it’s pretty interesting that AU SIFE takes real companies and gives them access to young talent to get involved and gives them practical experience. These college students will find that now every company wants experience. I think it’s a great concept.”

Vaughn, an avid bowler and USBC certified coaching instructor, met with students weekly to give insight to the bowling industry from an insider’s point of view. He showed them how business works and effective communication tools.

Vaughn said the bowling industry has been in decline for 10 years.

The center itself blames the industry’s and individual bowling centers’ lackluster marketing efforts for the drop.

Since October, the team managed the project not for a grade but for long-term benefits.

“It’s a chance for us to help in the community, and in return, gain a valuable learning experience,” said business marketing major Kinney.

ePractical Solutions initially handed down six objectives that were later changed.

Nigh’s group had to create a basic marketing campaign theme, marketing calendar and plan, marketing materials and database.

Under the marketing research umbrella, the AU students created and conducted 150 surveys at Cooper’s, Starbucks and among other students on campus to determine the target audience.

With four main goals in mind, survey questions included smoking preferences, cost of bowling and influences that affect bowling decisions.

Most respondents preferred non-smoking environments, Nigh said, something that could contribute to declining numbers of bowlers. Technological aspects were another, she said.

Armed with adjusted objectives, the students wanted to reach the casual bowler and encourage more visits, increase the number of bowlers during traditional downtime, create an effective and consistent marketing calendar for The Bowling Center.com, a year-old company, and market with consistency to current customers to increase visits.

From information gathered, AU SIFE students eventually focused on the real customer: the bowling center, not bowlers.

Thompson, responsible for database design and tracking, taught himself MySQL software to create a database for customer records. Everything on the back end was in Ukranian, so the senior encountered barriers but learned portions of the language to produce a professional customer database interface.

“We developed a campaign that is especially sponsor-friendly,” Nigh said. “We actually ended up creating a basic theme with three additional sub-themes.”

The campaign’s main theme and slogan “Rediscover Bowling: We’ve Changed the Way We Roll” came with brochures, postcards and in-center banners, to name a few.

Sub-theme “Bowling for Life” is geared toward a mature audience and “Striking Success” targeted parents and children. “Rocking, Rolling, Bowling” spearheaded special events such as retro bowling, for example.

Nigh said her group surpassed expectations by creating an identity package: The Bowling Center.com logo, company business card and letterhead.

“We’re trying to bring Internet and traditional marketing to the bowling industry,” Vaughn said.

“I’ve been pretty impressed with them,” Vaughn said. “They grasped concepts quickly, were creative and full of ideas. Once they get into the business world, they’ll be able to make contributions pretty quickly to the organizations they’re going to work for.”

Nigh said none of the team are regular bowlers; however, they’re planning a bowling outing after spring break.

“I feel pretty good about how things went,” Nigh said.

— Toshua Phillips is a reporter with The Herald-Bulletin in Anderson. Visit the Herald-Bulletin web site at www.theheraldbulletin.com