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Students work with Axe and Lumē in 2023 Brandcenter Sprint

During the five-day competition, teams of Brandcenter students worked on real client briefs to create innovative business solutions

Students and guest judges of professionals from The Martin Agency pose together

Before the spring semester begins each January, second-year students have the opportunity to participate in BC Sprint, our week-long strategic and creative sprint competition, where they tackle real problems for real clients. Students form their own teams—often made up of varying combinations of concentrations—and each team is assigned a mentor to guide them through the process and offer advice and suggestions. Mentors include Brandcenter faculty, alumni, and industry leaders.

On day 1, teams are briefed by their clients. They then have the next four days to develop creative solutions to the tasks at hand. On day 5, teams pitch their ideas to their clients, and a winning team for each brand is named.

The 2023 Brandcenter Sprint competition took place January 9-13, with AXE and Lumē as the clients, both brought to us by Brandcenter alumni. Stuart Hayhurst (Strategy, 2017), Planning Director at The Martin Agency, presented the brief for AXE, while Bryna Keenaghan (Strategy, 2006), Head of Brand at Lumē, presented the brief for Lumē. Fifty-three second-year students participated, with five teams on AXE, and six teams on Lumē.

Throughout the week, as teams developed their creative solutions to the challenges posed by the briefs, they received guidance from their assigned mentors. This year’s mentor roster included Brandcenter faculty and alumni. Faculty and staff from the Brandcenter serving as mentors were: Vann Graves, Tom Scharpf, KT Schaeffer, Berwyn Hung, Andrew LeVasseur, Holly Hessler, and Rich Weinstein. Brandcenter alumni mentors included: Jessica Collins (Strategy, 2010), a professor at VCU and freelance strategy director; Shelby Bass (Art Direction, 2020) and Nick Garfield (Copywriting, 2020), a creative team at Gus in NYC; and Paige Rollins (Experience Design, 2019), a creative strategist at Gus in NYC and winner of the inaugural sprint.

On Friday, January 13, all teams had 10 minutes to present their ideas to teams of judges, which included executives working on each brand or in partnership with the brand.

Judging the Lumē pitches were Bryna Keenaghan (Strategy, 2006), Head of Brand at Lumē; Dan Griffiths, President at Lumē; and Maggie Hurea, Head of Social Impact at Harry’s.

Judging the AXE pitches were members on the AXE account at The Martin Agency including Stuart Hayhurst (Strategy, 2017), Planning Director; Taylor Wiegert, Group Planning Director; Pete Norquist, Account Supervisor; and Mik Manulik, Creative Director.

Across the board, the clients were blown away by the work Brandcenter students were able to complete in just a few days. Some noted that the creativity from all teams—in terms of ideas, copywriting, design, and presentation—was so impressive that it rivaled what they regularly see from their own teams.

We are so proud of all of our students who participated and applaud them for the incredible work they created and the effort they put forth. We are eager to see if any of the ideas presented will come to fruition.

Congratulations to the following winners of the 2023 BC Sprint:


  • Sarah Klotz (Creative Brand Management, 2023)
  • Elizabeth Gatlin (Experience Design, 2023)
  • Lucie Desvallées (Copywriting, 2023)
  • Julie Musarra (Art Direction, 2023)
  • Mentor: Jessica Collins (Strategy, 2010), professor at VCU and freelance strategy director
The winning team for Lūme poses outside the Brandcenter front entrance
The winning Lumē team

AXE / The Martin Agency:

  • Will Russell (Strategy, 2023)
  • Sabelle Chambers (Strategy, 2023)
  • Ryan King (Copywriting, 2023)
  • Alyssa Moreno (Art Direction, 2023)
  • Paul Noonan (Experience Design, 2023)
  • Vanessa Tu (Experience Design, 2023)
  • Mentor: Tom Scharpf, Brandcenter creative concentration chair and professor and alum
The winning AXE team poses with guest judges from The Martin Agency in the lecture hall
The winning AXE team with judges from The Martin Agency