GCSE Business Studies and the Coca Cola Real Business Challenge

3 February 2014

Business Studies teachers looking for real world contexts may be interested in the Coca Cola Real Business Challenge to help motivate their students

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Claire Thompson

I was keen to try and understand how this could be used to support the delivery of our GCSE Business Studies specification and visited St Mary Magdalene Academy in Islington, London to find out more.

Head of Department Claire Thompson agreed to meet me and explain how she and her colleague, Clare Forman, had approached the challenge this year.

St Mary Magdalene Academy runs a three-year Key Stage Four GCSE Business Studies course. The department starts in Year 9 with Unit 3. The first half term was spent covering Topic 3.1 content on marketing as well as market mapping from Unit 1 (Topic 1.1).

This allowed the students to start the course by looking at large businesses they were familiar with, including Coca Cola. When they returned from half term, the students were introduced to the competition, which, this year, was to develop a new juice brand that is positioned as a social enterprise. They formed teams and allocated roles within their team. The department decided that teams of four would be the optimal size.

The students researched and chose their local charity and started thinking about an idea to test out. Coca Cola provided secondary research which was a useful starting point for students as they started thinking of an idea to test out in their own market research.

The students then carried out primary research to establish ideas for their new juice brand. The students presented and analysed the research, which provided a good opportunity to practise some of the skills which will be required in the controlled assessment. 

Clare Forman

The research also helped to inform students as they carried out various market mapping exercises, with the teachers providing different ideas for the axes.

This helped the students to understand the market, the different market segments and competitor positioning and to identify potential gaps in the market.

A lesson was devoted to designing the drink and choosing the ingredients. Coca Cola provided cost information on the ingredients and students had to decide on the composition of the drink and where the ingredients would be sourced. Further decisions were required on branding, packaging and the creation of a logo. The school used a business link to invite adults into the class to listen to each team’s idea and to provide them with feedback on their ideas.

The most difficult aspect of the Challenge for the Mary Magdalene students was the calculation required to produce the cost and profit projections. The teachers provided a structure and the business link adults supported each group of students so that they could calculate the projected profit of their proposal. This was successful and the students emerged with a clearer understanding of the process.

Finally, the students had to prepare and polish a presentation which they would deliver to their peers, their teacher and to adults from the business link firm. The criteria are set by Coca Cola and students have to demonstrate that their ideas have followed the brief, while coming up with an original concept based on research evidence. The outcome is that one team is chosen to represent the school in a regional final, where a further selection takes place to choose the teams that will go forward to a national final.

Clearly, the benefits of integrating this activity into the GCSE scheme of work are far wider than the satisfaction gained by the winning team. I was keen to ask Claire about these wider benefits. She felt they could be categorised as follows:

  • The activity proved to be motivating and engaging for the students and the teachers are satisfied that it gave them an opportunity to reinforce the work of the first half-term on marketing. Teachers will be able to use the figures generated when it comes to break-even analysis (in topic 3.3) and the decisions the students made on the product and packaging will be useful when introducing ethical and environmental issues in topic 3.5.
  • The teachers were satisfied that the activity had helped their students develop and demonstrate enterprise skills and to develop teamwork, problem-solving, and creative thinking.
  • The activity addressed the GCSE Business Assessment Objectives. Students were exposed to and had to use business terminology in context (AO1, AO2) and had numerous opportunities to consider and compare alternatives (target markets, product ingredients, brand names, packaging) and make decisions (AO3).

Before I left, I was keen to ask Claire whether, based on her experience this year, she was planning to run this activity next year. Her answer was an emphatic 'Yes.'

The Coca Cola Challenge has to be run in the autumn term if you intend to enter the competition and meet the deadlines. 

Kind regards,


Colin Leith, Business and Economics subject advisor
Colin LeithBusiness and Economics
UK: 020 7010 2182
Intl: + 44 (0)20 7010 2182
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