U Team Wins Fourth Place in Adobe Analytics Challenge

Out of 1,600 teams, Just U It wins $3,000 in annual business competition with Adobe and Nike.


Just U It Team before presenting to the judges for the Adobe Challenge (from left to right: Jhana Aristondo, Miranda Dennett, and Izzy Beh)

By Jack O'Leary, News Writer


The University of Utah was one of six finalists in the global Adobe Analytics Challenge and was announced as the fourth-place winner in the live announcement on Nov. 17, 2020. The 15-year-old annual competition has been previously limited to North America but this year the challenge was opened to teams across the world, with 1,600 entries being narrowed down to six finalists.

Competitors had two weeks to analyze real-time digital data from Nike, answer business questions and come up with findings and recommendations for Nike based on their analysis.

The U’s team, Just U It, was made up of three members that the Eccles School of Business MBA Program put students together based on their skills — Miranda Dennett worked with MGM resorts international Las Vegas, Izzy Beh worked with a data analytics and product management background and Jhana Aristondo specialized in finance experience.

“The people who direct our MBA program and work closely with the students, they refer to this group, and some of the groups in the past that they put together as the dream team… they’re finding people that they think are really highly skilled in different areas that can work together and complement each other,” said Professor of Operations and Information Systems Don Wardell.

U wins Fourth Place. (Photo courtesy of Adobe Analytics Challenge)

In order to make it to the finals, Just U It had to make it through three rounds of presentations where Adobe executives and other industry officials judged their projects.

“I think a lot of what this case competition is is storytelling, and we wanted to make sure that we were able to tell a story using data that resonated with Nike and with Adobe… something that helped all of us is that we really tried to look at it through a user perspective,” Dennett said.

The U made it to the finals and won the competition in 2011, 2016 and 2018. Adobe Senior Evangelist of Analytics & Data Science Eric Matisoff called the U an “analytics challenge juggernaut.”

“I think we tackled a problem that we saw that was very apparent… and looked for every evidence that we could to support our recommendation overall… making it simple and creating a very overall transparent, very clear to follow story was what made us stand out along with bringing out the sports essence on it [the presentation],” Aristondo said.

Adobe Senior Evangelist Eric Matisoff (left) and Adobe Senior Tech Marketing Executive Jeff Allen (right) announce the winners of the 2020 Adobe Analytics Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Adobe Analytics Challenge)

According to the judges in the live highlight reel of the deliberations, what made Just U It stand out was their team’s recommendation that could increase Nike revenues by millions of dollars while also increasing membership.

“We did a good job of clarifying what metrics were important and we felt like we did a good job of telling the story of using those metrics and also giving a monetary potential if they [Nike] were to implement. That was why we were successful,” Beh said.

The team had access to direct consumer platforms for Nike such as information and trends about customers shopping online or in stores, which they used to create their proposal.

“So it is important to do the data analysis, but you’re not doing data analysis in a vacuum. So the most important thing to do is to do your very best to answer the business question that the client has,” Wardell said.


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