To Win Datathon 2020, Michigan Ross BBAs Effectively Used Data to Provide Strategic Insights into How to Sell Out the Big House


During the third annual Datathon, 138 students split into 34 from the Ross School of Business and across the University of Michigan analyzed data on ticket sales at Michigan Stadium and developed recommendations to help Michigan Athletics sell out all home games. 

Datathon 2020, organized by the Center for Value Chain Innovation at Michigan Ross, was held in mid-February at the business school. 

A team of three Ross BBA students - Julia Averbuch, BBA/BSE ‘23, Quinn Favret, BBA ‘22, and Alex Hedge, BBA/BS ‘20 - won the competition by proposing a price optimization and targeted marketing strategy that Michigan Athletics could use to increase ticket sales at the football stadium. Their solution entailed increasing prices for three-ticket packages by $50, to match demand indicated by Stubhub sales, as well as a plan to host events aimed at attracting underrepresented markets to the stadium. 

A panel of expert judges from Datathon corporate sponsors LLamasoft, Deloitte, and umlaut, and its partners, the Paton Accounting Center at Michigan Ross and Michigan Athletics, evaluated the top six teams. The judges selected the BBAs as the winners based on their solution’s potential for long-term expansion and sustainability. For their victory, the students took home a $5,000 check and suite tickets to a Michigan Hockey game.  

Coming in second place was the team of Shanza Raza, MBA ‘21, Jeremy Ward, MBA ‘21, Lilia Zhu, MiB/BS ‘20, and Caleb Idiaghe, MBA ‘21, who were awarded a $3,000 check and a football signed by Jim Harbaugh.

The third place team was Sunhwi Kim, MBA ‘20, Zack Lim, GMBA/MSI ‘20, Jay Park, MBA ‘21, and Jimmy Park, MBA ‘20, who earned a $2,000 check.

I believe my team did so well as each of our recommendations were rooted in data-driven analyses, allowing us to find the source of the issue, then think of creative solutions,” said Favret. “I loved working with my team to brainstorm ideas based on our analyses to increase Michigan Athletics revenue. I also enjoyed being able to work on a problem and drive impact on an issue that was so prevalent to the Michigan community.”

While she decided to participate in Datathon to further her knowledge of data analytics, the opportunity to use data to solve a real-world problem also was one of the aspects Averbuch enjoyed most. 

“I really liked the fact that the data was real, and that there were hundreds of possible solutions and not just one right answer or analysis,” she explained. 

By participating in the competition, Averbuch said she realized the importance of having a diverse team, which she believed led her team to victory. 

“We had data analysis and statistical skills, but also cared about presentation and business-oriented solutions,” she said. “The Datathon helped me find the interdisciplinary nature of the Ross education.”

To increase the range of skill sets at the competition, inviting graduate and undergraduate students from other schools to join Datathon was a key consideration for Phil Brabbs, managing director of CVCI at Michigan Ross. 

“I’m really big on inclusivity, and I’m proud of the diverse students from across a lot of different lines that are drawn to the competition,” said Brabbs. “I think that represents the mission of Michigan Ross and ultimately leads to better solutions because, if people all looked at problems the same, our solutions would be the same.” 

Brabbs said he was impressed with the recommendations the Datathon teams developed for Michigan Athletics this year. 

“At the end of the day, it’s really important to Michigan Athletics that they’re able to sell out the Big House, and I believe our students came up with many great solutions on how they could accomplish that,” he said.

The Center for Value Chain Innovation at Michigan Ross

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