SBJ/20090601/Sports Business Awards

Best in the business

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Beijing Olympics ended nine months ago, but their impact on the industry punctuated the 2009 Sports Business Awards, held in New York last week by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

Many of the 15 winners had strong ties to last summer’s Games, none more so than Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, whose network carried the Games and who received the award for Sports Executive of the Year.

Dick Ebersol accepted an award for
NBC and was named Sports
Executive of the Year.

In addition, Peter Ueberroth, who during the event received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award, has been heavily involved in the Olympic movement throughout his storied career. Ueberroth, who was given his award halfway through the event, received a standing ovation and was lauded by almost every subsequent award recipient for his influence on the business and on their careers.

It was Ebersol’s foresight and influence within the Olympic movement that led the International Olympic Committee to move the swimming finals to the morning in Beijing so that they could be seen during prime time in the United States . The move played a major role in the ratings success of the Games, a success that Ebersol never doubted.

“I so deeply believed in Michael [Phelps],” he said. “Everyone overlooked the fact that the American people were wildly curious about China .”

NBC Sports also capitalized on the Games by taking the award for Best in Sports Television. The recognition capped off a historic year for NBC in which it won 10 Sports Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for its broadcast of the Beijing opening ceremonies.


“This would be a very good night and a very good year for me to get out of this business,” Ebersol said, speaking of NBC’s accomplishments.

Coca-Cola, which was named Sports Sponsor of the Year, marketed itself heavily during the Games. It set up off-site activation areas in Beijing parks that allowed it to reach Chinese consumers who couldn’t access the Olympic sponsor pavilion. The move helped it leap from third to second place in market share in China , behind Pepsi.

“People still love sports and have not abandoned the passion they hold as fans,” said Bea Perez, Coca-Cola’s senior vice president of integrated marketing. “We’re privileged to be part of it, and our continuing goal is to provide additional opportunities for fans to tap into that passion and giving them extra value.”

IMG, which took awards in two categories — Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services and Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services — worked with eight clients on the ground during the Beijing Games.

“If you look at what the Beijing Olympics meant, with the focus and build-up and the business and cultural impact, it was a tremendous opportunity to work with the clients we had,” said David Abrutyn, IMG’s senior vice president, head of global consulting.

GMR Marketing, named Sports Event Marketing Firm of the Year, managed a mobile marketing program for Bank of America called “ America ’s Cheer” that visited 19 U.S. cities and offered Team USA fans the chance to film a cheer to support American Olympians.

Even the NBA, which was named Professional Sports League of the Year, has a strong tie to China , including a recent deal with AEG to develop new sports facilities there.

Ueberroth’s concept of selling exclusive sponsorships for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics revolutionized sports business and has been credited with saving the Olympic movement. He went on to become commissioner of Major League Baseball and later became chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, reviving it after a period of congressional scrutiny.

“When I look back at all he’s done, it’s hard to believe that one person has accomplished all of those things,” said Heidi Ueberroth, his daughter and the NBA’s president of global marketing partnerships and international business operations, who presented her father with the award. “He’s had about eight careers, and any one of them could be a lifetime achievement in and of itself.”

Peter Ueberroth said that he had been helped along the way by thousands of people, adding that even though he was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, it didn’t mean he was finished achieving.

“People always ask me what is the most important thing I’ve done,” he said. “The answer is: I don’t think I’ve done it yet.”

This year’s Sports Business Awards, held in the spacious ballroom of the Marriott Marquis near Times Square, was attended by about 600 of the top executives in the industry.

Peter Ueberroth
Lifetime Achievement
Joe Castiglione
University of Oklahoma

Athletic Director of the Year
“This award should be received on behalf of 100,000 people or so because I’m in a special category. I’ve never really been paid for sport.
Peter Ueberroth
“Our job is to put people in positions to try and be successful.”
Joe Castiglione
CAA Sports
Best in Talent Representation and Management
Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services
“This is very cool. … CAA Sports is really run on a single premise: We work as a team.”
Howard Nuchow
Co-head, CAA Sports
Steve Kerepesi, IMG senior vice president of business development, hoists the trophy.
“We’ve come a long way in the last couple of years in this area. This is a real shot in the arm for us and we’re grateful.”
George Pyne,
President, IMG Sports and Entertainment
Sports Sponsor of the Year
Best in Sports Media
“Competition is a healthy thing. It makes you work harder, think differently and innovate. We’ve taken it as our challenge to keep up that innovation and not rest on our laurels.”
Bea Perez
Senior vice president of integrated marketing,
“We brought the whole table up to represent 6,000 dedicated individuals who work at ESPN.”
Ed Durso
Executive vice president, administration, ESPN
Professional Sports League of the Year
MLB Advanced Media
for MLB At Bat

Best in Sports Technology
“This was a huge honor and unexpected. The NBA has never won an award like this before.”
Adam Silver
Deputy commissioner, NBA,
Right, with SportsBusiness Journal Publisher Richard Weiss
“It is because of their collective vision that these type of products could be built.”
Adam Ritter
MLBAM vice president of wireless,
on MLB’s senior executives
Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services
Lucas Oil Stadium
Sports Facility of the Year
IMG Sports and Entertainment President George Pyne
Lori Dunlap, deputy director of the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority
Boston Celtics
Professional Sports Team of the Year
GMR Marketing
Sports Event Marketing Firm of the Year
“Anything is possible if you pay $200 million to Ray [Allen], Paul Pierce and me.”
Rich Gotham
President, Boston Celtics
Mike Boykin, executive vice president, GMR Marketing
“This is what you do it for. We have a lot of people who work weekends and holidays. This is a nice way to recognize their hard work.”
Greg Busch
Senior vice president, GMR Marketing
Amp Energy NHL Winter Classic
Sports Event of the Year
NBC Sports
Best in Sports Television
“We obviously saw that the day had changed, and we along with NBC were after a way to create a new event that could build national scale and help expose the sport to a new audience. We certainly saw an opening there.”
John Collins
Chief operating officer, NHL

“It’s a direct reflection of the renewed love affair of the American people with television sports.”

Dick Ebersol
Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics
ESPN Digital Media
Best in Digital Sports Media
“The first year I did feel like we were the standard-bearer, but this was definitely a surprise. We have worked really hard to extend our reach into mobile, into, into original content, and so forth.”
John Kosner
Senior vice president and general manager
of digital media, ESPN, left, with editor-in-chief Rob King

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