Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Marketing classes partner with Chicago’s famed Lights Festival

Marketing classes partner with Chicago’s famed Lights Festival

Quinlan students surveyed attendees of the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. The hands-on marketing research helps the festival improve the attendee and sponsor experience.

By Adriana Geday  |  Student reporter

Three Quinlan classes started the holiday season with a festive task: collecting marketing research at the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

For 25 years, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival has kicked off the holiday season. For the last eight of these years, Quinlan marketing classes have partnered with the Magnificent Mile Association and BMO Harris Bank to collect real-time data from attendees.

“The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival absolutely needs this data to help renew its many sponsor relationships and continue to draw attendees,” says Stacy Neier, Quinlan senior lecturer. “We brought a new approach to the festival that helps them better understand how attendees were involved with each sponsorship.”

Experiential learning at the Lights Festival

This year, some 110 Quinlan students—the largest number of students to date—attended the festival on November 19 and 20 to conduct surveys. Over the course of six hours, they walked Michigan Avenue, asking festival attendees about their experience, the sponsors, and the programming.

But their preparations began well before the festival. Beginning in August, Neier’s classes met with decision makers from BMO Harris Bank and the Magnificent Mile Association to understand both the festival’s goals and the sponsors’ goals, discuss programming ideas, and develop the attendee questionnaire.

“We’ve been working on this project since the first day of class,” says Quinlan student Taylore Gray. “We’ve learned how to use data software, prepared to talk to our clients, and crafted research proposals. It’s amazing to see how we’ve progressed over the months and how beneficial all of our hard work can be for our clients.”

Neier adds, “This project is pure experiential learning. The students are engaged in hands-on learning about the process and value of marketing research in creating the ultimate experience for the attendee.”

Data collection to actionable findings

At the Lights Festival, the students collected data from almost 1,300 attendees. They integrated technology into the data collection process, using apps and iPads to capture information. According to Neier, the technology helps students better understand the fundamentals of collecting data and how to code data for analysis.

Senior Lea Oedzes adds, “This experience definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone, but that’s exactly what made it so valuable. We learned to engage with consumers on a personal level and now better understand sponsor engagement—those are skills any business student can benefit from.”

The students now return to the classroom, where they will spend the rest of the semester analyzing the data before presenting the findings to The Magnificent Mile Association and BMO Harris Bank research representatives.

A true partnership

“This endeavor is a true partnership between BMO Harris Bank, The Magnificent Mile Association, and students from Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business to uncover the sentiment behind this family friendly event,” says Pam Hunt, senior market research manager, BMO Harris Bank. “The data that is captured is instrumental as we come together with our partners to recap the event and start planning for the following year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to work with a great team of professionals.”