Trulaske student wins Gallo pitch competition and a whole lot more

Image: Alina Peterson case competition group photo

Alina Peterson, front row on the left, teamed up with four students from other universities across the country to take home the top prize at The Pitch Competition sponsored by E&J Gallo and Breakthru Beverages in Napa Valley, California. Peterson is surrounded by her teammates and organizers of the inaugural competition.

For Alina Peterson, winning The Pitch Competition sponsored by E&J Gallo Winery and Breakthru Beverage Group was far more than securing a prize. It was a life-changing experience for the senior majoring in marketing at the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business.

Image: Alina Peterson

Peterson was among 20 college students selected from more than 250 applicants nationwide to participate in the inaugural pitch competition Oct. 4 – 6 in Napa Valley, California. Participants were divided into teams of five students and tasked with developing a marketing plan aimed at boosting sales and brand recognition for one of its newest premiere whiskey brands – ASAP Rocky’s Mercer + Prince.

“I think when you sit in a classroom, you begin to wonder if the vocabulary that you’re learning and the concepts you are learning are going to be applicable,” Peterson said. “What I realized is I have learned a lot, and I can apply my knowledge and the strengths I’ve cultivated at Mizzou to my career and to my future. What I’ve learned here at Mizzou really matters.”

With a budget of $3 million, Peterson and her teammates dazzled the judges with a sales and marketing plan that included tasting events for distributors and bartenders at designated underground bars in select metropolitan areas, as well as a touring pop-up truck for tasting events at festivals and popular hangouts.

The mission behind the three-day, all-expenses-paid sales and marketing competition was “to cultivate a diverse, inclusive industry brimming with talent from all walks of life,” according to E&J Gallo.

Image: someone pouring wine into glasses

For Peterson, who grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois, the opportunity to work alongside students from diverse backgrounds was an invaluable experience and one she will never forget.

“The experience taught me that working together with people from different perspectives and backgrounds is far more valuable than working with people who you can identify with closely,” she said. “What really propelled our group forward was our different ideas and perspectives. But we were able to work collaboratively to create a strategy that we would not have been able to create individually.”

Other members of Peterson’s winning team came from Clemson University, Howard University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Peterson’s team also presented an implementation timeline as well as actionable results.

“Marketing people like the big ideas and the salespeople want to know the numbers,” Peterson said. “We wanted to give them both.”

All participants worked with members of the Gallo sales and marketing team to develop their pitch ideas. They also toured the E&J Gallo Winery and vineyards, and heard from a panel of industry speakers, including members of the Gallo family. Members of the winning team each received a specially engraved iPad.

Peterson first heard about the competition in a consumer behavior class taught by Courtney Cothren, associate teaching professor of marketing. The competition is one of many for which Trulaske students are encouraged to apply because they offer participants the opportunity to network with representatives from some of the world’s best companies. Such connections can lead to lasting career success for students.

Image: Mercer and Prince beverage

“We are really fortunate to have a complete schedule of sales competitions and sales conferences that students can attend and compete for some nice prizes and awards,” Tony Vatterott, assistant teaching professor and executive director of Trulaske’s Center for Sales and Customer Development, said. “The advantage these competitions give our students is the opportunity to network with some of the best companies to work for in sales. The payoff is the doors that are opened and the connections that are made within a student’s professional network that can eventually lead to lasting career success.”

Peterson has already accepted a job with a company she has interned with over the past two summer, but she remains in touch with Gallo because of the support and encouragement the company has shown her.

“Mizzou offers so many opportunities to help students succeed,” she said. “It’s important to take advantage of those when they come along. You never know where they might lead.”