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The 2004 marketing competition team included Brandon Briggs, Juan Castro-Anzola, Luke Gingras, Lucinda Lee, Jay Muller, Josh Myers, Jessie Pellen, Priscilla Quijann, Pablo Rivera, Mike Rosandich, Deirdre Shaw, David Susa, Trey Soud, David Spencer, Lynn Tallman, Paige Wingate and Natalie Wright. Adviser: David Barber.
It was March 4, 2004, the Thursday afternoon we had been waiting for all semester. In just a few minutes the fruits of countless late nights and weekends in McCarty Hall, tough compromises, and foregone social lives would be decided. It was the final round of the 2004 National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) student marketing competition, and the University of Florida (UF) team was ecstatic to be among the final four.

The team had spent the past two days encouraging marketing and agribusiness professionals to taste life with ViVO, a vitamin- and mineral-packed coconut water. To Hispanics ViVO means life, and the 18 students on the marketing team had a strong appreciation for its meaning after literally devoting a semester of their lives to this product.

Trey Soud, a Food and Resource Economics (FRE) graduate, said after the competition was over, "I never dreamed that a school project could be so challenging, so time consuming and so involved, and yet so rewarding."

Many of us felt the same as Soud about NAMA. Not only did we work hard to produce a marketing plan and presentation, we worked hard to build a better team dynamic. "Being a part of NAMA takes dedication, hard work and way too many hours, but it is all worth it. NAMA truly exemplifies the importance of good teamwork and is one of the most rewarding extra-curricular classes at UF," said Brandon Briggs, a recent finance graduate of the Warrington College of Business.

In developing the marketing plan for ViVO, we were able to practice the same principles and techniques used by today's marketing professionals. Lynn Tallman, one of the team members, said about her experience, "I believe the invaluable marketing experience I gained from being a part of NAMA gave me a competitive edge in my search for a job after graduation. I was able to land the job of my dreams - a marketing position with Johnson & Johnson - because of my NAMA experience."

The competition gives students not only practical experience, but an opportunity to enhance our résumés as well. We were able to meet and mingle with agriculture marketers and agribusiness professionals from across the nation during the competition, which gave us more doors to open in the future.

As we sat waiting for the final results to be announced, each of us was reflecting on what it would mean to win.

Finally, the decision was announced. We did not get second - we had won first! Everyone was jumping up and down uncontrollably. Pablo Rivera, the energy behind our team, practically tackled our sponsor David Barber, but he didn't seem to mind. Not only did we take home the national championship, our fellow competitors also awarded us "Best Product" and "Best Oral Presentation" in addition to our national title. That Thursday has continued to remind the 2004 FRE-NAMA Team how much hard work, dedication and sacrifice can be rewarded. AM

Page Wingate is the current president of the Food and Resource Economics - NAMA chapter at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.

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