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2009 SAP Marketing Innovators Competition: Grand Valley State University

My partner Eric Koch and I registered for the SAP Marketing Innovators Competition in March.  As we were registering, we knew that we would only be able to brainstorm ideas until the winter semester ended, because we were both stretching ourselves with other commitments (full load of school, internships, and student organizations). 

When our finals ended on April 24 at Grand Valley State University, we immediately committed our first week of freedom to begin to develop our idea.  April 30th we were satisfied with what we had accomplished and submitted our marketing plan and resumes.  Next, we waited in anticipation to hear back from SAP to see if we were chosen as finalists.

May 12th Domenic Colasante called my cell phone while I was at work; I did not answer because of an unknown number.  Nevertheless, as I listened to the voicemail, I started jumping up and down in my cubicle because I was going to (our dream world) SAP Americas HQ in Newtown Square, PA.  Eric had a similar story, where he was in all day training at Steelcase when he received a call from a Philadelphia area code.  From that point, we were determined to do whatever it took to win this thing. 

As functional users of SAP, we felt we had a leg up on our competition.  We have had no marketing experience besides our core business-marketing curriculum.  However, we were extremely process oriented from our mentor and professor Dr. Simha R. Magal.  We had one problem…  I started my internship at Owens Corning in Toledo Ohio May 18, which was going to make working on the project a little more difficult.  In order to overcome this obstacle we used Skype to communicate/collaborate every night after work. 

The entire 36 hours that we were in the hands of the SAP Marketing Specialist team was an amazing experience for the two of us.  We stayed in the SAP cottages where they only let their finest customers stay.  The first night (June 11), the SAP Marketing Specialist interns took us out to dinner.  Getting to know the interns was a great opportunity to relieve our anxiousness, get a feel for our competition, and ask important questions that were on our mind.

The next morning we opted to take a 15-minute walk across SAP campus to the headquarters building instead of taking the shuttle to shake out a little bit of our excitement.  We received ‘executive’ treatment throughout the day.  During our meals, we were able to begin networking with the SAP executives who were judging us.  While other teams were presenting, different marketing executives talked the remaining teams about their roles at SAP. 

Each team at the competition was assigned to one SAP intern, who looked over them and answered any questions throughout the day.   Before the presentation, our assigned intern (Ben Coggins) took us into the prep room 20 minutes before we had to present.  Confident that all of the preparing we had done over the last month would pay off, we decided it would be a good idea to loosen up and listen to none other than “Eye of the Tiger.”  This helped loosened the mood and got rid of any butterflies that might have still been lingering in our stomachs.

During the presentation, we were less nervous than when we had presented in front of our co-workers.  It felt like we were explaining our marketing process to people who wanted to learn what we had researched.  It was an amazing relief to have given a presentation we were both satisfied with.  The judges’ feedback was great; it made us both confident that we will be able to make the transition of presenting to our classmates to colleagues smoothly.

Sitting at the awards ceremony was intense.  The two of us waited anxiously with sweaty hands until Jeff Vail (Vice President, Enterprise Field Marketing, SAP Americas) said, “The winners are Grand Valley…”  At that moment we stood up, shook hands with each other and both new that all of the hard work was worth every minute.  In short, our plan incorporates how SAP can utilize LinkedIn and personal messages to connect their sales force to top executives at corporations that are customers or could be potential customers of SAP. 

After we had accepted our award, we met Bob Lobue, the head of University Alliances Community at SAP.  He congratulated us on our award and talked to us for the first time in person.  In the past, we have been connecting with Bob trying to create an SAP related student organization.  He was wondering how far along we were; luckily we were pleased to inform him that we had already formed a group of students and had hosted elections for the upcoming academic year.  We are proud to announce that the Enterprise Systems Student Union will be the first SAP aligned student organization. 

Thank you to everyone at SAP for giving us the opportunity and putting on such an amazing event.  Eric and I will never forget the marketing innovators competition.  You have no idea how excited we were at the chance to go to at SAP HQ, winning the competition, and getting to share our experience!

(Special thanks to my partner Eric Koch who helped add content to this blog post)



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  • David,
    Hi! Thanks for sharing your story and the photos! These advertures are very positive examples within the SAP ecosystem! Great job!

    What was your business plan idea? I'd value learning more!

    Also, what are your thoughts on the student organization? How can a student group best collaborate with other student groups?

    Best regards,

    • Richard, SAP has treated me very well for my short interaction with the software and the company (less than two years).  Our idea revolved around leveraging the new social networking tools available on the internet, primarily using LinkedIn.  After finding a lead, you would research the company via google, forums, or other news sites.  Then, contact your target market with a personalized message.  Using personalization and social networking tools will lead to better ROI and more sales…  I hope that gives you a better understanding about the idea.

      Honestly to collaborate best with student organizations, you must use social networking tools.  This is how my generation works, and will continue to progress this way.


  • Congratulations David and Eric!  It's fantastic that you took the initiative to actively participate in the competition, I'm glad you enjoyed your experience at SAP Newtown Square, and appreciate that you shared this story with all (1.6 million) of us.  You're on your way to brilliant SAP careers.  (If you ever find yourselves near Palo Alto, CA, you're welcome to visit SAP Labs here - I'd like to meet you both... I expect you'll be future leaders in our communities.)  Also: Will we see you at TechEd in Phoenix? 

    Mark Yolton

    • Thanks Mark, it is truly an honor to be able to interact with SAP outside of coursework and internships!  I could potentially see myself planning a trip during my two weeks off between my summer internship and school next fall just to see SAP Labs.  It would be awesome to see some SAP demos or software that is being developed.  As far as TechEd goes, I would love the opportunity.  However, I do not think I could afford the registration fee, unless there was a student discount ?

      Thanks again,

    • I would LOVE to come to Palo Alto and see SAP Labs.  I might be able to make a trip out there this summer or this fall. 

      As for TechEd, unless I could get some kind of "student discount" I am not sure I could afford to go on my own dime.

      Thanks and we will be in touch,

  • Hi Guys,

    I had this sixth sense feeling that you two would be among the finalists invited to our Newtown Square campus.  And when you won the contest, something I had no influence over, it was also a great feeling for me.
    Thanks for your enthusiasm and continual contributions to our community.
    And once again, congratulations!
    I am sure you will be very successful in your careers and we want to continue with you as key UA alumni for the long-term.

    Best Wishes

    • Thanks Bob,
      The trip out to Newtown Square was short, (we were only there for like 36 hours before we had to leave) but we were treated very well by SAP and had the time of our lives.  I wouldn't of traded those 36 hours for anything, what an experience!

      Thanks again to everyone that organized the competition and thank you SAP for hosting it!