Elon hosts first-ever national analytics case competition sponsored by HanesBrands

Teams of graduate and undergraduate students from 11 universities were challenged with real-world scenarios to test their analytics skills.

The Elon Center for Organizational Analytics partnered with HanesBrands, owner of Champion athletic wear, to host the national Champion Analytics Case Competition Feb. 21-22 at Elon University.

Three students standing by a Champion sign
The Elon team of Adam DuBowy ’22, Meghan Murray ’21 and William Waggoner ’22.

In advance of the competition, teams were presented with a problem and data set that included historical Champion sales data. Based on this information, the teams were asked to develop estimated sales patterns and projected demand for 20 new products during a 13-week period, including a full analysis of the projected performance of the products.

“Analytics case competitions require a combination of technical analysis and business acumen that really test the teams’ ability to analyze complex real-world scenarios,” said Ben Martin, chief data analytics officer at HanesBrands. “Participants have to bring a certain level of curiosity to the competition and translate the highly analytical work into actionable business recommendations.”

Each team gave a 15-minute presentation to a panel of judges and was judged on the quality of the solution and whether they adequately addressed each of the questions presented; analytic methodology and modeling; delivery of presentation; and responses to questions from the judges. Based on the presentations, four teams were chosen to compete in the next round.

Finalists were given two and a half hours to solve a new problem. Using the 13-week projected demand data from round one, teams were asked for a full evaluation of the starting inventory numbers for the 20 new products. The case competition winners were selected after presenting their solutions to the panel of judges.

Two students standing presenting at screen“Each of the finalists presented strong solutions that delivered real business insights relevant to Champion, and they did so without the business context of working on the brand day in and day out,” Martin said. “It was a true testament to the potential for data analytics.”

Teams from Villanova University, East Tennessee State University and the College of William & Mary finished in first, second and third place, respectively. Other participating schools included Arizona State University, Auburn University, Elon University, Loyola University Maryland, UNC Greensboro, University of Massachusetts – Lowell, University of Tennessee and Wake Forest University.

Representing Elon in the competition were Adam DuBowy ’22, a management (business analytics) and computer science double major, Meghan Murray ’21, a finance and international business double major, and William Waggoner ’22, an accounting and applied mathematics double major. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Scott Spurlock mentored the team.

“The Champion Analytics Case Competition was unlike any other experience I have had at Elon so far,” said Murray, an Honors Fellow from Baltimore, Maryland. “Through working on the challenge itself, networking with HanesBrands Inc. professionals, interacting with graduate and undergraduate students from across the nation, and seeing what approaches and methods each team used to solve the challenge, I was able to learn so much while gaining plenty of exposure to data analytics and the professional world overall.”

“The analytics competition was a fantastic way to apply the skills I have learned in the classroom to something applicable and meaningful,” added DuBowy, a Business Fellow from New Jersey. “It allowed me to become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses as well as develop my presentation and communication skills. While we didn’t do as well as we hoped, the competition provided a glimpse into what executives will expect from me in any future professional experience.”

CACC participants standing together outside.This marked the third year HanesBrands has sponsored an analytics case competition at Elon, but the first time the competition has been opened to other schools. Although most participants were majoring in fields closely associated with business analytics, the competition also featured students studying computer science, accounting, statistics, finance, international business and more.

“Partnering with Champion always brings tremendous excitement to our campus,” said Haya Ajjan, Gordon Professor in Entrepreneurship at Elon University and director of the Center for Organizational Analytics. “Hosting our first-ever national analytics case competition offered an incredible opportunity for students to compete against the best in the country and learn from some of the top professionals in the industry.”

“The case competition demonstrated a level of student engagement that was second to none,” said Jon Ram, group president of global activewear at HanesBrands. “All of the participants put forward a strong effort. We witnessed our leaders of tomorrow approaching a challenge with keen insights and sound business fundamentals. It was energizing to be part of this valuable initiative.”