JMU Dominates Worldwide Google Online Marketing Challenge

by Karen Doss Bowman

2017 AdWords Global and 2nd Place Social Impact Winners

SUMMARY: Three teams of JMU business students earned big wins in the 2017 Google Online Marketing Challenge, continuing the university's streak as the leading winner of GOMC titles.

Pictured: AdWords Global and 2nd Place Social Impact Winners (L-R: Raquel Sheriff Michelle Mullins, Caroline Galiwango, and George Shtern)

JMU marketing undergraduates and Innovation MBA students competed in the 10th annual Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) with three teams earning top honors and $15,000 total for two nonprofits. The College of Business (CoB) holds the record for the most GOMC titles won out of any school in the world. 

The students won five awards in the three categories of AdWords Business, AdWords Social Impact and AdWords Certification. They participated in the GOMC as a required component of courses taught by marketing professor Theresa Clarke, competing with more than 600 professors and 12,000 students worldwide, according to the 2017 GOMC results

Clarke’s courses focus on search engine marketing and online advertising using Google AdWords. Starting with a $250 advertising budget provided by Google, the GOMC gives students an opportunity to develop and run online advertising campaigns for businesses or non-profits during a 3-week period. CoB alumni of the course act as mentors, offering tips about digital marketing and strategies for career success.

Michelle Mullins, a rising senior, was captain of the team selected as the global winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award and as the 2nd place winner of the AdWords Social Impact Award. Her team’s client, the Arts Council of the Valley, will receive a $10,000 donation from Google.  

Mullins says the experience not only taught her practical digital marketing skills, but also prepared her for her future career. She was able to use the Google AdWords interface during her summer marketing internship with REHAU, an international polymer company, to set up a YouTube ad campaign. 

“Communicating with a client to understand their goals and then creating a marketing plan (via AdWords) to try and achieve those goals was one of my favorite parts of the GOMC,” Mullins says. “The experience with a real client was very beneficial since I'm interested in pursuing a career in account management. I've worked on various group projects throughout my time at JMU, but the GOMC has definitely been the most complex. It taught me to give my all in whatever I do.” 

MBA student Jonathan Nicely says he learned valuable lessons about teamwork and how to prioritize tasks against tight deadlines.

“For me, the experience drove home the importance of trust in a team environment,” Nicely says. “Most projects are marathons with short bursts at pinch points, but the GOMC was a flat-out sprint. There is no way we could have accomplished the results we did if we did not have complete trust in each other to accomplish the tasks for which we were responsible.”

Google recently announced that it is discontinuing the GOMC. While Clarke was disappointed with the decision, she is taking steps to “recreate a new learning experience” through an idea she refers to as the Madison Online Marketing Challenge. 

"I’m so proud of the accomplishments of the GOMC Class of 2017, and it’s been a joy to see how dedicated they were to creating effective online marketing campaigns for their clients,” Clarke says. “For the past decade, JMU marketing students have participated and excelled in the GOMC, developing practical skills and a greater understanding of digital marketing to give them a competitive edge in the marketplace. The competition has brought together professors, students, alumni, practitioners and businesses in a synergistic way to yield positive benefits for all. I hope that JMU can  move forward with our own version of an online marketing challenge to ensure that future generations of students have similar learning and networking opportunities.”

Read more about the competition in Theresa Clarke’s blog at:

The JMU winners of the 2017 GOMC are:

AdWords Global and Social Impact Winners from JMU

Michelle Mullins (team captain) of Leesburg, Va.; Caroline Galiwango of Ondangwa, Namibia; Raquel Sheriff of Woodbridge, Va; and George Shtern of Fairfield, Conn.

  • Global Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award
  • 2nd Place Global Winner of the AdWords Social Impact Award (winning a $10,000 donation from Google for the Arts Council of the Valley)

Americas Region and 3rd Place Social Impact WinnersAdWords Americas Region and Social Impact Winners from JMU

Jonathan Jordan Nicely (team captain) of Mt Sidney, Va.; Jessica Drennon of Richmond, Va.; Ken Prevete of Charlottesville, Va.; and Jesse Springer of Harrisonburg, Va.

  • Americas Region Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award
  • 3rd Place Global Winner of the AdWords Social Impact Award (winning a $5,000 donation from Google for Cradles to Crayons)

Adwords Americas Region Certification WinnersAdWords Americas Region Certification Winners from JMU

Nicole Carothers (team captain) of Upper Arlington, Ohio; Annalise Capalbo of Oak Hill, Va.;  Brendan Reece of Charlottesville, Va; and Emily Vaeth of Richmond, Va.

  • Americas Region Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Certification Award (client, the Virginia Discovery Museum)

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Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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