A high school team from Luling that devised a plan to promote the state’s crabbing industry won $10,000 in scholarship money Friday during the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Louisiana Business Challenge.
Six teams from across the state competed in the marketing challenge sponsored by the university’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and Associated Grocers Inc.
The teams presented their ideas of how to promote wild-caught Louisiana seafood to a panel of judges Thursday, and the winners were announced Friday. A total of $30,000 was made available to the teams whose ideas also may be shared and implemented by the state’s seafood promotion and marketing board.
On the first-place team were Shelbie Guidry, Allie Matherne and Paxton Zeringue. The students attend marketing, tourism and hospitality classes at St. Charles Parish school system’s satellite center in Luling.
The teen teams incorporated the importance of social media in any marketing plan, said Karen Profita, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
“I was impressed with the research they’ve done. What we saw from the students is tracking well with what we’re already doing or have planned,” Profita said.
A few years ago, the board was moved from the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office because of the industry’s connection to tourism and recreation.
The state’s seafood is part of the tourist experience, and the state saw record numbers of visitors in both 2012 and 2013 with impressive numbers also expected for 2014 once the tally is released next week, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said during the awards ceremony. Dardenne told the students that in 2013, 27.3 million visitors spent $10.8 billion in the state.
He also briefly shared the marketing plan to convince consumers that Louisiana seafood was safe following the BP oil spill in 2010.
A seafood testing program was developed that remains in effect today and helped the state verify the marketing of its seafood as “top-quality” or “high-quality,” Dardenne told the students. The state worked to negate misconceptions, such as signs on the doors of New York City restaurants that said, “We do not serve Louisiana seafood.”
“Those signs are down,” he said, adding that a marketing campaign helped mitigate the misconceptions.
The only Lafayette-area team in the competition was from Acadiana High School’s Academy of Business and Finance, which took fourth place in the competition. The team of Madeline Brasseaux, Tyler Conner, Charis Davis and Michael Sinegal won $3,000 in scholarship money.
The team pitched a social media marketing plan that targets both seafood distributors, grocers and restaurants to reach customers through networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to share news about promotions, discounts and recipes.
As part of its presentation, the team shared a how-to video on creating a Facebook page for a restaurant and how to upload photos and include keywords to ensure the business shows up on searches.
“I learned a lot about my group members and Louisiana itself,” said Conner, who plans to major in business administration at Northwestern State University in the fall. “We all eat seafood. I didn’t realize it generated so much money and impacts so many lives.”
Still in team mode, Davis added: “Louisiana’s seafood industry has a $2.4 billion economic impact.”
Another Luling team capitalized on the reality TV show “Swamp People” with organized alligator hunts as a unique way to promote Louisiana’s seafood industry and tourism. Team members Abby Rochelle, Megan Shine, Colin Troxler and Abrielle Stoltz won second place and $7,000 in scholarship money. The team pitched social media as a way to promote alligator hunting as an extreme sport.
Each competing team won varying amounts of scholarship money. Zachary High School students Victor Lee, Angelo Tarver and Cobe Daniels took third place and $4,000 in scholarship money. The fifth- and sixth-place teams each won $3,000. Fifth place went to Fountainebleau High School students Haleigh Bishop, Mei Lui, Kendra Watterson and Firdaws Ashiru. Sixth place went to another St. Charles Parish Satellite Center in Luling team: Morgan Cole, Nijea Young and Coby Orgeron.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.