Bauer MBAs Make Google Competition History

Published on August 22, 2014

Two Bauer Student Teams Recognized for Online Marketing Campaigns Benefiting Houston Non-Profits

Google announced today that MBA students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston are among the top three in this year’s Google Online Marketing Challenge. Bauer College is one of only two schools in the world to have two team winners by placing second and third in the competition.

The two teams received AdWords Social Impact Awards, recognizing their efforts to partner with Houston local non-profits to provide three-week online marketing campaigns.

Bauer MBA students (from left) Shu Su and Benjamin Smith along with teammates (not pictured) Sarah Burge and Neha Kejriwal,  placed 2nd in the Social Impact Awards as part of the annual Google Online Marketing Challenge for their work with Houston Grand Opera.

Bauer MBA students (from left) Shu Su and Benjamin Smith along with teammates (not pictured) Sarah Burge and Neha Kejriwal, placed 2nd in the Social Impact Awards as part of the annual Google Online Marketing Challenge for their work with Houston Grand Opera.

The second place team included second-year MBA students Sarah Burge, Neha Kejriwal, Benjamin Smith and Shu Su, who collaborated with the Houston Grand Opera. First-year MBA students Saket Maheshwari, Randall Miller, Varuniya Pushparajan and Charles Shelton received third place for working with Space Center Houston. As part of the prize, Google will donate $10,000 and $5,000, to each non-profit, respectively.

Bauer Executive Professor Steven Koch mentored the students this spring in the college’s Internet Marketing Practicum course, created in 2010 to prepare MBA students participating in the Google Online Marketing Challenge.

“We make a concerted effort at Bauer to provide our students an academically rigorous curriculum combined with applied practicum,” Koch said. “The course builds on their introductory marketing courses by allowing students to actually assess a company’s business and marketing situation before writing a detailed strategy plan to enable them to conduct a live campaign.”

Since Google launched its Online Marketing Challenge seven years ago, nearly 200,000 university students worldwide have participated.

Bauer MBA students (from left) Varuniya Pushparajan, Randall Miller, Charles Shelton and Saket Maheshwari placed 3rd in the Social Impact Awards as part of the annual Google Online Marketing Challenge for their work with Space Center Houston.

Bauer MBA students (from left) Varuniya Pushparajan, Randall Miller, Charles Shelton and Saket Maheshwari placed 3rd in the Social Impact Awards as part of the annual Google Online Marketing Challenge for their work with Space Center Houston.

Bauer has competed with nine total teams in the last five years of competition, performing well each year and often bringing home top honors, including recognition as Global Champions in 2011, an Americas Region win in 2013, one second place Global NFP category win, and two third place Global NFP Category wins.

“Two teams winning from Bauer College demonstrates its dedication to hiring excellent faculty like Professor Koch,” said Maheshwari, part of the team that created an online marketing campaign for Space Center Houston. “The Google Online Marketing Challenge gave us hands-on experience where we were able to take risks and learn from our mistakes throughout the process. It gave us knowledge that sticks with us once the contest is over.”

Each team received $250 to allocate ad messages for the best return on investment, with a primary goal of increasing single ticket sales for their non-profits. The students began compiling a list of potential clients early in the year, narrowing down the list to their final selections after receiving a strong level of commitment from both Space Center Houston and Houston Grand Opera to stick with them through the entire three-week contest. In addition, the organizations selected could not have utilized Google’s Ad Words feature for at least six months prior to the contest.

“It was great to work with a non-profit because they are working toward a good cause,” Kejriwal said. “We were glad to share in helping them with this.”

After selecting a non-profit, teams spent the next two months researching their organization’s current website, determining ad words purchased by competitors and incorporating the goals of the organization into a pre-campaign strategy. As soon as the students submitted their strategies to Google, the execution portion of the contest activated, and their three-week challenge officially began.

“We noticed an incredible increase by the second or third day. We saw the numbers start rolling,” Su said. “It was really exciting when we exceeded our original goals.”

At the end of the three weeks, the Houston Grand Opera team had a return on investment (ROI) of 3200 percent, and the Space Center Houston team reached 909 percent ROI, both for individual ticket sales. In addition, the Space Center Houston team had an ROI on customer lifetime value that was 4,729 percent.

“In this challenge we were up against teams from other schools, but also each other. We were classmates, but our classmates were also our competition. It got really competitive for all of us,” Shelton said. “We are so proud of our fellow MBAs because together we were able to do something that hasn’t been done before in the Google Challenge and contribute to Bauer’s tradition of excellence.” 

By Danielle Ponder