Only ten days. By the time Ether Tam first heard about Unilever's UniGAME competition, a marketing contest for college teams, he only had ten days to get a team together to create a winning submission. The quick turnaround would be tough for even the most experienced, professional advertising agency.
Tam, who will be graduating from BYU this April, knew the odds were against him. This would be the first time a team from BYU had entered the UniGAME competition. Plus, the team would be facing off against teams from the Ivy League and other top schools across the country. However, Tam knew he was ready to take on the challenge.
“You either needed to create a new marketing campaign or come up with an idea for a product launch,” Tam says. “You had to come up with an idea, create a two- to three-minute video, and make a case for how it could be effective. It was right up my alley.”
Yet if you’d talked to Tam in his freshman year at BYU, you wouldn’t have heard a word about business strategy or marketing—because he was then majoring in biochemistry. At the end of Tam’s mission to Montreal, his mission president asked him about his career aspirations and Tam said, “I want to be a doctor.”
“I didn’t really want to be a doctor,” he said. “I was kind of chasing money; it wasn’t really founded on any type of passion. But my mission president had a really good discussion with me about what I wanted to do. He told me, ‘Everyone loves the result—the secret is to love the process of getting there.’”
Thanks to a scholarship, Tam had some freedom to explore his interests. Looking back on his mission, he realized how much he loved working with people, so he started thinking about business. When he got back to BYU, he changed his major to business.
“Business strategy turned out to be the ideal major for me,” Tam said. “I really enjoy building a brand and focusing on how a company can produce the value its customers want.”
So, three years later when the UniGAME competition came up, Tam knew he couldn’t pass up that opportunity—even if he only had 10 days. He got started right away by calling Justin Molinaro, a classmate he’d been collaborating with since he’d entered the program.
“We both had the same vision for how we could do,” Tam said. “We knew the video would be the key to making sure we stood out among the rest, so we contacted Dallin Cheung, who’s one of the top students in the animation program, and we asked him, ‘What do you think of this? Can you draw something to fit?’”
The team selected a Unilever brand—Ben & Jerry’s ice cream—and came up with a concept that tapped into the hype of college game day by linking fans with Team Ben or Team Jerry. After 10 days of very little sleep and a lot of effort, the group, which named itself “the Scoop Squad,” submitted its materials and waited.
Just a few days later, the Scoop Squad learned they’d be flying to New Jersey for the semifinal at Unilever headquarters with 20 other teams, some of whom hadn't heard of BYU. But Tam had a good response.
“Who's BYU?! It’s this awesome school you’re going to hear a lot more about.”
Which turned out to be exactly true. Tam and his teammates took first place. They will now go on to compete at the international round in London.
“It was awesome to win it for BYU,” Tam said. “I told the recruiter at Unilever that if they actively recruited at BYU, they’d easily have 10, 20, or 30 of the same sorts of submissions.”
And what did Tam do with the prize money?
“This may seem like the typical BYU response,” he said. “But I went and bought a ring. I’m going to propose to my girlfriend in the next few weeks—I’m so excited!”
Writer: Michael Sackley