IIBD's Ian Williamson Talks the International Collegiate SABRE Simulation

Sarah Steimer
AMA Collegiate
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Key Takeaways

​What? The SABRE competition is being held at the International Collegiate Conference this year.

So what? The simulation provides an opportunity for students to go head-to-head in launching and withdrawing products from the marketplace.

Now what? Marketers and students can gain real-life insights in a safe environment through marketing simulations.

​March 16, 2017

Attendees of the International Collegiate Conference had the opportunity to take part in the SABRE competition, a market simulation developed by IIBD.

SABRE, which stands for Strategic Allocation of Business REsources, provides a competitive environment in which teams have the opportunity to launch and withdraw products from the marketplace. They may also advertise, price, distribute and design the products to best fit varying market segments.

Marketing News spoke with IIBD Senior Consultant Ian Williamson about the SABRE competition for this year's Collegiate Conference.

Q: How does the simulation work?

A: We have about 30 teams competing pretty much every year. Each team would typically be a team of three to six members of the chapter. Some of these teams have used SABRE before as part of their curriculum, probably in a marketing class. SABRE is also used at the executive level and graduate level MBA classes.

Q: Does it change in this format versus executive or MBA programs?

A: It’s a bit different because the SABRE platform is one that allows us to customize the simulation we’re running. It allows us some advantages both in our academic market, where we’re going to business schools and providing SABRE for professors to use in their classes, and in the corporate context where they have specific needs addressed, we can use a SABRE simulation for that.

The customization takes the form of a couple of things. One, we can tailor it so it’s suitable for either a short course or a long course. For example, we can have it so each team is just playing against the computer so they have an identical competitive environment. Or we can have the teams playing head-to-head where one team of students, if they do well, gain market share, and there is a loss in market share for some other team of students. That very direct competition is a lot more dynamic and plays out better when we can do more decisions in a simulation.

Q: How is it being customized for the AMA Collegiate Conference?

A: The thing about the SABRE simulation or the competitive series is that some teams have used it in their classes and some haven’t. Those who have already played it will have a bit of an advantage in terms of experience, but we don’t want them to have any advancd knowledge of how things will turn out or how the market will evolve or what proves to be important in the marketplace. We need everyone to discover it through the reports and studies that are available in the simulation and really even out the competitive playing field. 

At AMA Collegiate we would change the characteristics of the products that are being offered for sale. We would change the preferences of what the different segments in the market want. We can also change what characteristics of a product are important over the course of the simulation, along with which ones are important when customers are making their purchase decisions. Every product can be described by a number of attributes or physical characteristics, and the simulation gives us the freedom to tune that to the market that we want to model.

Q: What constitutes a "win" in this competition, and how will it be judged?

A: The basis for the standings is the net contributions, how much money did their business make over the course of the six decisions that they were running. There are six rounds of decisions. It’s on a cumulative basis.

Q: What will participants be able to take away from the competition?

A: It really helps students with taking a view of the market from a strategic perspective and putting a premium on their ability to analyze the market, identify the attractive opportunities in a marketplace, then put together a strategy to pursue those opportunities in the context of a dynamically changing environment. Because you also have competitors’ actions that are playing into that marketplace. Students discover that marketing consists of a lot of different things, including the promotional and sales aspects. But there’s a bigger role for marketers as far as how they fit into their companies, and a big part of that is truly understanding the market and helping their company marshal the resources to pursue those opportunities that they really do stand the best chance to succeed in.

It broadens their perspective of what it means to be in marketing. There’s a business perspective that they need to take into account and they do need to take care of the promotion and the sales force, but we give them responsibility for designing products and pricing products and making production requests. It expands their horizons a little bit more than some of the things that they may have focused on in the past.

Q: Would you liken the experience to a few hours of internship-like experience?

A: It plays out over six rounds, so there’s plenty of opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment and hopefully be successful. That’s the great thing about a simulation, it provides a safe place to learn, it gives them a compressed time scale so they get to repeat their decisions and learn in rapid succession rather than wait months to see what works. 

Part of the bigger story of why we want to use a simulation in class is because it’s experiential learning. It’s one thing to read about it, you can discuss it in case studies for a greater degree of involvement. The goal of our simulation framework within SABRE is that we can create that learning experience that’s pretty close to real-life experience but on a compressed time scale. And one where they get the feedback and take many cracks at it so they can make the most of the time they have available.


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Sarah Steimer
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