NSF Case Cup 2017, 11 years down and many more to go

The Case Cup aims to develop students who are fresh into their professional sport and entertainment careers.

Students and faculty advisors from 8 universities participated in the 2017 NSF Case Cup Competition.

When speaking about the National Sports Forum, University of Oregon student Danielle Barbian explains the organization in one word: “family.”

“It’s hard to go to conferences as a newcomer because you don’t know anybody, but you can tell the NSF really cares about the people who come and want them to come back every year.”

The National Sports Forum (NSF) is one of the premier forums in sport marketing, sales and entertainment in North America and was founded in 1996 by President Ron Seaver. In 2007, the NSF created the Case Cup and featured Ohio University and the University of Oregon as two of the founding schools. The Case Cup aims to develop students who are fresh into their professional sport and entertainment careers.

Each year a case study is assigned to the teams, with eight or more teams competing per year. Teams are comprised of four students and one faculty advisor, and throughout the competition, these students have opportunities to visit with professionals at the event who may specialize in the area of the case study. The students are given a case study and then have 24 hours to create a presentation and present their findings to a panel of executives and professionals.


The schools that participated in the 2017 Case Cup Competition included Ohio University, University of Oregon, The George Washington University, University of South Florida, University of South Carolina, University of Nebraska — Lincoln, Temple University, and Long Beach State University.

This year, the NSF assigned a case study on a partnership with MLS club Sporting KC and SeatGeek, an innovative online ticketing platform. Sporting KC is the first MLS club to use SeatGeek as their primary online ticket distributor for this upcoming season. Students were looking for ways to take full advantage of SeatGeek’s unique ticketing system by capitalizing on new partnership opportunities and reaching and engaging new fans, particularly millennial’s, through unique distribution channels. For Barbian, the selection process to participate was vital to her preparation.

“Oregon has been participating for years, and we actually had more than four students who were interested in participating, so our program manager gave us cases from previous years, and we were selected based on our findings from previous cases. The cases were judged by the NSF Case Cup participants from previous years.”

In some cases, such as Ohio University, Director of MBA/MSA Programs Robert Boland explains that 66 percent of students in the program express interest in participating in the competition.

Barbian, who served as the team captain for the winning team, gives credit to her program for her preparation. “We do a lot of projects and group work. We also had a lot of practice, so we were prepared for this type of competition.”


After arriving in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the teams were welcomed with a Case Cup Reception where the rules were discussed and where the teams drew their presentation assignments. With eight teams competing this year, the teams competed in two flights with four teams in each flight.

In addition, the students had a chance to visit the MLS National Sales Center office and network with students from the other competing schools during the Case Cup Welcome Reception. The next morning participants received the case, brainstormed and built their presentations and reported back in the morning to present.

Students take a visit to the MLS National Sales Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

Following the presentations, the judges selected the finalists from each flight who present to the entire panel of judges in the final round. This year’s finalists were the University of South Florida from Flight A and the University of Oregon from Flight B. Upon completing the final round of presentations, the students and faculty advisors become full NSF Attendees and are given access to the endless networking and education that takes place at the Forum. The winning team is announced at the general session on the first day of the forum.

The two finalists in the 2017 NSF Case Cup are pictured, with the University of Oregon (left) and the University of South Florida (right), with Oregon winning 1st place.

The NSF Case Cup provides a benefit for student participants, especially because the only students who are allowed to attend are the Case Cup participants. When 30–40 students are present with hundreds of organizations and a thousand sport and entertainment professionals, the networking and learning experiences are massive. It also provides a unique benefit for the universities who participate, as well as an opportunity to showcase their program to the sports industry.

“As an educator, the value of the Case Cup competition at the NSF is it offers a teaching and learning tool across multiple dimensions and multiple disciplines. It helps develop team, presentation, critical thinking skills along with testing creativity and the ability to apply knowledge in marketing, media, promotions, ticketing, technology, revenue generation, budgeting, cost management, ROI analysis, sponsorship and activation…all critical aspects of sports business.” -Robert Boland, Director of MBA/MSA Programs & Executive in Residence/Sports Law for Ohio University.

For the NSF, the benefit is two fold. According to NSF President Ron Seaver, the Case Cup is near and dear to the organization.

“Competing in the Case Cup is such a great opportunity for those up-and-coming superstars to get experience working on a real-world case and to network with some of the industry’s top professionals. We’ve seen many outstanding students come out of the Case Cup and move on to do great things in the sports industry. We even have our first former Case Cup Student on our NSF Steering Committee.”

With the Case Cup, the NSF helps young professionals with their professional development in the sports industry and gives real world experience, while cultivating ambassadors and supporters to join the NSF family, as Barbian would explain. Developing young professionals and students is a value that the NSF shares with Front Office Sports, who was instrumental in covering the Case Cup. One thing is certain, the Case Cup is a great opportunity for students to work on their professional development, and has been showcasing future industry rock stars for the last 11 years, and we believe it’ll create many more in the years to come.

*Disclaimer: FOS was an Official Media Partner for the conference.

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