Grant Dobson Case Competition highlights community connections

Fishing and (scavenger) hunting for Gen Z customer loyalty through community connections were among the themes of the pitches at this year’s Grant Dobson Case Competition.

In person for the first time since 2019, the annual event, which is hosted by the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film (CPCF) and held in conjunction with the annual Terry O’Malley Lecture in Marketing and Advertising, was very much about fostering connections — both in the pitches and in Brock’s board room.

This year’s brief had participants tackle the fictional challenge of creating lifelong customers for a major hardware and automotive retail brand.

Organizer and Associate Professor Karen Louise Smith in CPCF says she has observed that “many mentoring relationships, but also friendships, get started through the Dobson Case Competition,” and student competitors agree.

Business Communication major Jessica Avery says that getting personalized feedback and advice from industry experts was a key takeaway.

“This competition also allowed me to connect with amazing, inspirational and successful people in the world of marketing, who have been where I am today,” she says. “They told us to not be afraid to reach out or speak out in the business world, and this gave me more confidence to reach out to potential employers and share my creative ideas, even if I may be scared.”

Avery’s partner, Business Communication major Grace Teal, calls the competition “a major highlight” of her Brock experience.

“Getting to network with so many successful and passionate individuals in the business and marketing field was such an honour and something I will certainly take with me as I pursue my future endeavours,” says Teal. “I have always had a passion for marketing, and I loved the creativity that this competition gave Jess and I to think critically and have fun in the process, so I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity.”

Avery and Teal presented a pitch entitled #CatchoftheDay to help a store connect with Gen Z consumers using themes of kindness and sustainability.

Business Communication major Matthew Cancilla was excited to compete and network in person after taking part virtually in the past.

“I participated in this competition last year and really wanted to come back and do it again this year because of how fun and helpful it was for my public speaking development,” says Cancilla.

Cancilla teamed up with Concurrent Education student Geoff Burton to pitch scavenger hunts, social media engagement and even summer festivals to generate charitable donations and develop communities using the store’s brand.

Assistant Professor Michelle Chen in CPCF, who provided early feedback to the finalist teams, enjoyed watching their ideas and presentations take shape.

“They start with just ideas that get transformed into a great presentation, and to see the students take feedback, polish the presentation, strengthen it — that was really good to see,” says Chen. “I think the competition provides hands-on experience where students apply all the theories and skills they’re learning, and I find that incredibly valuable in helping the students prepare for jobs in marketing, advertising and communications.”

Competition organizers included Smith, Chen, Jacqueline Botterill, Tim Dun and Megan Johnson. CPCF fourth-year interns Michelle Kudla and Leanne Mac Askill provided support and CPCF Student Society president Arielle Hounsham-Lalande emceed the day’s events, which kicked off in the afternoon with the pitch session.

This year’s judging panel of industry experts included:

  • Jay Fleming (BA ’12), Strategy Director at Rethink and speaker for the 2022 Terry O’Malley Lecture
  • Hilary Caters, Entrepreneur, creative conceptualist and designer
  • Lynn Fletcher, VP Marketing, Communications and Community Giving at University Health Network Foundation
  • Glen Hunt, Speaker, coach and consultant
  • Peter Shier, President at Naked Creative Consultancy

After the session, judges gave feedback, deliberated privately, networked with the students over dinner and then announced the winners at the Terry O’Malley Lecture in Marketing and Advertising later that evening.

Avery and Teal took first place, while Cancilla received the Mark Smyka Best Presenter Award.

Smith says that Fleming’s lecture “brought to life the idea of the full circle” and giving back to the community.

“Jay Fleming said he was inspired to enter advertising because he had sat as an audience member in the O’Malley lecture with Glen Hunt, who came back this year,” says Smith. “At the very start of his talk, Jay set out to inspire someone the way that he had been inspired, and for me, it’s just so lovely to have a Business Communication graduate come back to Brock and be looking to inspire and engage this current cohort of students.”

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