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KANSAS CITY, MO

After five second place finishes and eight top-four finishes over the last 12 years at the National Agri-Marketing Association student marketing competition, this year students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison brought home the national championship.

The competition, hosted by the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) as part of its April 13-15 national conference in Kansas City, MO, featured more than 400 student competitors from 30 schools located across the U.S. and Canada, officials said. Each school developed a full-scale marketing campaign for a different agricultural product, following the same principles used in the professional marketing world.

This year's winning plan developed by UW-Madison was for the product, CranBerri, a naturally sweet cranberry that was based on a new cranberry cultivar developed by researchers at UW-Madison, said Sarah Botham, faculty associate in Life Sciences Communication and NAMA advisor and marketing team coach. Under Botham's guidance, Wisconsin NAMA students selected the product in November and began developing the foundation of the plan. They chose to market CranBerri as a convenient, on-the-go snack for the health conscious consumer and focused on the naturally sweet and heart-healthy benefits of the new cultivar.

Kate Griswold, a senior majoring in Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison and marketing team leader, has waited four years to bring the glory back to Madison. 'This year we had the product and the team, and we made it happen,' she said.

Twenty-two of the team's 30 students traveled this year, both the largest team in Botham's 12-year tenure as adviser and the largest traveling team. Amid the celebration, Botham remained proud yet humble.

'Sometimes it just all falls into place – not without hard work, of course – but great people, a great product, incredible teamwork and fabulous support made this the year it happened,' Botham said. 'The students earned every piece of this win and I am deeply proud of all of them.

More than 20 students will return next year, and the NAMA team looks to capitalize on the experience and this year's momentum to keep their success and team moving forward, Botham said.

'I don't see any reason that we can't repeat our success,' Botham said. 'It's all about knowing the fundamentals; strong objectives, solid research, identifying the market, developing creative strategies and tactics, budgeting and implementing methods for monitoring and measuring the plan. We know how to do it and we do it well.'

This year's six competition finalists were: sixth, North Dakota State University; fifth, Illinois State University; fourth, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo; third, Kansas State University; second, University of Saskatchewan; and first, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In addition to the championship win, Wisconsin NAMA students earned $5500 of a total of $9000 in scholarships available to the 30 schools and a John Deere Signature award.

'It was an all-around good year,' Botham said.

The executive summaries and finals presentations are available for viewing at http://www.nama.org/student-marketing-competition-winners.

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