Aubree Beck and Nick Mouledous, two organizers
of the Grand Slam Jambalaya Cook-Off
Photo by Robin May
A unique student marketing project is putting more fans in seats at softball games — and working to save newborns worldwide.

By Lisa Hanchey

On the first day of his spring 2012 marketing management class, UL Lafayette professor Dr. Geoff Stewart showed his students a film about the “Why?” of marketing. The point of the video was that a product should focus on “why” it is important, rather starting with “what” the product is and “how” it will operate. From there, Stewart challenged students to write a one-page paper on their personal “why.”

While some of the students chose to do the regularly-assigned business simulation game, 13 others took on the “Why” project.

“I felt that I would benefit more from actually doing something than playing a game,” says senior Amanda Genovese.

Ville Platte native Nicholas Roberie, a self-proclaimed foodie, proposed a food-related event to support the phenomenal but under-appreciated girls’ softball team. “The main goal was to raise attendance for the UL softball team,” he says.

Project manager Ramona Gautreaux suggested a chili cook-off. The students toyed with the idea of wild game. After several discussions, the group decided on jambalaya.   

Softball co-head coach Stefni Lotief suggested that the students partner up with the Kiwanis Club to plan a fundraiser. Club members told the UL marketing team about Kiwanis International’s The Eliminate Project, a partnership with UNICEF that donates funds for maternal-neonatal tetanus shots internationally. While tetanus is virtually non-existent in the U.S., the deadly disease claims the lives of nearly 60,000 babies and a significant number of women each year. The condition is excruciatingly painful — newborns suffer repeated, painful convulsions and extreme sensitivity to light and touch as their mothers observe helplessly. The cost for the shot is only $1.80 each, a small amount to pay to save millions of lives worldwide.

With Kiwanis in its corner, UL’s senior marketing class officially launched the first Grand Slam Jambalaya Cook-Off to support the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball Team and raise funds for the Eliminate project. Starting in February, the students met every Sunday for a couple of hours to plan the event. Members divided up into teams — logistics, advertising, registration and design. “It’s been a pretty easy group to work with,” Genovese says.  

After getting the green light, the students spread the word about the fundraiser through flyers, radio and TV spots.

To raise funds, students snared sponsors Ville Platte-based Kary’s Roux and Lafayette-based Excelerant, which donated a total of $500. Fans donated $50, and businesses paid $150 to compete in the cook-off. Game attendees received two free tasting tickets and purchased additional tickets for a $2 minimum donation — just enough to cover the cost of an MNT vaccine.

The Grand Slam took place April 21 just behind the outfield at Lamson Park, which coincided with a softball double-header. Eight teams competed in the jambalaya cook-off, four in the fan category and four in the business category, with the winning prizes going to “Team Kee Ya” and Tony Rider’s Body Shop, respectively. Judges included UL football coach Mark Hudspeth, City-Parish President Joey Durel and Athletic Director Scott Farmer. All sponsorship proceeds and donations went directly to The Eliminate Project, with registration fees benefitting both the project and the softball team.

For its first project, the marketing class raised $1,500, enough to save 833 mothers and their unborn babies from MNT. Closer to home, the fundraiser also exceeded expectations.

“Our goal was to raise attendance by 15 percent,” Roberie says. “We calculated the average attendance of home games [recorded by Ragin Cajuns’ website under “Statistics - Box Score”] to be 1,027 attendees per game,” he adds. “Attendance at our game was 1,241, a 21 percent increase in attendance from the average. This was the second largest crowd all year, beaten only by the Georgia Tech game [that] had 1,280.”

Roberie hopes future classes take on the project to make it an annual event. “I’m so enthusiastic about this project because it was all volunteers,” Roberie says. “We had multiple people in the class who chose to do the simulation game instead. So, everybody who was working on the project wanted to do it.”

Stewart gives full credit for the project to his students, referring all questions about the project to them for this story.

“We came up with an idea, and we made it happen all by ourselves,” Roberie says.

“Oh yeah, one other cool point,” he adds. “The girls hit two grand slams during the first game. The name of our event brought them luck!”

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