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The industry’s best descend on New York City’s Times Square as SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily present the third annual Sports Business Awards. Seventy-one nominees across 15 categories will find out who walks away with a coveted trophy as the ceremony pays tribute to their achievements in the business of sports. Before the spotlight shines on the event, we introduce you to this year’s stellar field of finalists. Welcome to the
Sports Business Awards
May 20, 2010
New York City
University of North Carolina
When Dick Baddour signed off on an $80 million project to improve Kenan Stadium, he was doing more than helping the University of North Carolina’s football program. Baddour, UNC’s athletic director of 13 years, was setting in motion a plan to improve the strength and conditioning and academic support facilities, which will be housed within the football stadium and serve as a resource for most of UNC’s 28 teams.
“I’ve been at the university for 43 years and serving a broad-based program is who I am,” Baddour said. “Sustaining that model is difficult to do in these (economic) times, but it’s something we’re committed to.”
The improvements to Kenan will have immediate benefits, in terms of increasing the square footage for strength training and academics, as well as future benefits for the budget, which sits at $64 million for 2009-10. Kenan seats 60,000, well below the 80,000 to 90,000 seats found at many of the top football programs, so increased revenue must come from new premium seating, both in the suites that will be added and the club seats that will be created.
“The concept we’ve created will provide a revenue base that doesn’t exist today and help maintain our 28-sport program,” Baddour said.
The focus on a broad-based program resulted in a No. 2 finish last year in the Learfield Directors Cup, which measures all-sports excellence. UNC was the first school in ACC history to play in the men’s basketball Final Four, the College World Series and a football bowl game in the same year.
Boise State University
As Boise State enters the 2010 football season, seven of its 12 games are already scheduled to be on television. Stock in the Broncos’ football program and athletics overall is at an all-time high, especially on the heels of Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU.
And when the Broncos talk about stock, they mean stock. Actual Bronco Stock. For the first time last year, Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier created stock in Boise State athletics, making it the first school to offer such a program. So far, the athletic department has sold 2,300 shares of Bronco Stock to 560 shareholders in 35 states. Close to $250,000 has been raised, which will help build new men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms adjacent to Taco Bell Arena.
“It’s been a fun project and very well-received,” Bleymaier said.
That’s the kind of innovation and creativity that’s often required of schools that don’t generate the massive revenue of the schools in the big six conferences. Under Bleymaier’s leadership, Boise State’s annual budget has grown from $16 million five years ago to its current $26 million. The athletic department just bought 15.5 acres that was an old junior high and intends to turn the land into a state-of-the-art track facility. A $2.5 million naming-rights gift has already been secured.
“We’re not limited to football success, but that’s obviously what we’ve been known for,” Bleymaier said. “The impact of football has been significant. We’re on national TV now, and with that kind of exposure comes benefits.”
“I had to look Rick in the eye and get a good understanding of what was making him tick — not only in the past, but why it was important to him to get back in the saddle now,” said Guerrero, who understood that the hire would register high in both risk and reward for the school. “I was convinced it was the right time for Rick to get back into college athletics, but more importantly it was the right place. Rick has been embraced by the UCLA family … and I believe good things, and maybe great things, are in store for the football program at UCLA in the future.”
It was the sort of bold move that has become Guerrero’s trademark in eight years at the school. In his first year on campus, he replaced head coaches in football and basketball. Three years in, he pushed forward a project that had simmered at the school for years, the renovation of fabled Pauley Pavilion, a $135 million project on which UCLA broke ground earlier this month.
During his time at UCLA, the Bruins have won 18 NCAA team titles, the most of any school during that span. UCLA also made three consecutive Final Four appearances in men’s basketball.
The Neuheisel decision appears to be paying off, albeit slowly. The Bruins went 7-6 and won the Emerald Bowl last season, elevating the profile of a program that has struggled in the shadow of its neighbor and rival, Southern Cal.
“We were looking for someone who could bring not only the image but also the substance and close the gap that needed to be closed,” Guerrero said. “We truly believe we are getting there.”
University of Alabama
But in his 11 years as Alabama’s athletic director, Moore has become so much more than a coach. He’s the central figure that has held together an athletic department through periods of scandal and untimely coaching vacancies.
If there was a cherry on top of the sundae for Moore and all of his persistence, it came in the form of the 2009 athletics year. Moore’s coveted football hire, Nick Saban, led the Crimson Tide to the BCS national championship, which was the eighth that Moore has been associated with at the school. He won a title as a player for Bear Bryant and won six as an assistant coach at the school.
But Moore’s year wasn’t all about football. He also made a statement by hiring the school’s first African-American head coach for a major sport, bringing in Anthony Grant to run men’s basketball.
Moore has been a leader in fundraising, the latest example being a $65 million expansion under way at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The football stadium will seat more than 100,000 fans by the time it reopens prior to the 2010 season, making it the fourth-largest in the nation, including 160 luxury boxes.
Said Moore, “For me, personally, to see all this come out of the ground and maybe turn out better than what you had envisioned in your mind, I’m certainly very proud.”
Ohio State University
When it became apparent late in 2008 that the recession was about to nudge the nation’s largest, and most expensive, college athletic program into a $2 million glob of red ink, Athletic Director Gene Smith used the projected shortfall to make a point.
“Most people would say that you don’t want to talk about that publicly,” Smith said. “But having had meetings and conversations with my colleagues across the country, I felt it was important for the Ohio State University to say, ‘Hey, we’re all having challenges. Us, too.’”
“I needed to help all my colleagues, some of whom receive a great amount of money from (their school’s) general fund. Sending that message helped them. It’s not just them. It’s all of us.”
With an annual budget of about $115 million, Ohio State plays at a level reserved for only a handful of
U.S.college programs. It addressed its shortfall through a relatively painless series of expense cuts, such as reducing per diems for coaches and administrators. With tuition costs rising and revenue from merchandise and concessions continuing to lag, it will follow that with a football ticket price increase that will raise about $8 million, again allowing for a budget that is balanced, or close to it.
Smith knows most programs can’t make ends meet so easily. So when he found his budget pinched, he took his story to those who needed to hear it, speaking up in front of his peers at national AD meetings and addressing the Knight Commission, which in the last two years has turned its attention to the financial state of college sports.
“I always come at things from a national perspective, because I’ve been at Iowa State University and Eastern Michigan, and I know what they’re dealing with,” Smith said. “So, for me, it’s not just about Ohio State.”
The Marketing Arm Highlights Posted double-digit year-on-year growth for its sports marketing business Added 26 people to its staff of more than 400 employees Added HP, Hilton, Izod, Van Heusen and Monster.com to client roster Octagon Highlights Best year in company’s 26-year history Six big business wins, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Chick-fil-A and Puma Manages more than 5,000 events each year throughout the world
MLB Advanced Media Highlights Start of live, in-market streaming of games Growth in all key paid-content subscriptions Improved mobile apps Turner Sports Highlights Innovations to its NBA Digital portfolio Extensive portfolio also includes NASCAR, the PGA Tour and PGA of America Online tools enhance the user experience
Premier Partnerships Highlights Handled naming-rights deals for PPL Park and Viejas Arena Served as key property consultant on naming-rights deal at Bridgestone Arena Added properties including the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Raiders and Super Bowl XLV Host Committee Wasserman Media Group Highlights Completed cornerstone partnerships for New Meadowlands Stadium In less than five months, sold title and second-tier sponsorships for Lance Armstrong’s return to competitive cycling Sold naming rights to Aviva for the new Lansdowne Road stadium in Ireland
nfl Highlights NFL RedZone gets off to a successful start Deal with Comcast expands NFL Network distribution Redevelopment of NFL.com extends the league’s digital presence Turner Sports Highlights New agreement with PGA of America for broadcasting and interactive rights Significant enhancements to NBA Digital portfolio Added technology for use during broadcasts — PitchTrax in baseball and RaceBuddy for NASCAR
Mitsubishi Electric — Diamond Vision Highlights Massive, center-hung scoreboard at Cowboys Stadium revolutionized the in-venue experience Built the 101-foot by 59-foot video scoreboard at Yankee Stadium, featuring full 1080p HD clarity Developed the HD display system at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre NeuLion Highlights Aided the NHL in a total redevelopment of its online video offerings Struck partnership with Dish Network to use IPTV infrastructure to bring international TV channels to U.S.customers unable to use a satellite dish Expanded the online video offerings for numerous league, team and media clients
NBC Sports Highlights Continued to excel in producing big events, including the Vancouver Winter Games Compelling “Football Night in America” warms up viewers for “Sunday Night Football” All-encompassing promotion strategy led to most-watched Kentucky Derby in 20 years Fox Sports Highlights Strong NFL package anchors Fox’s top-shelf rights Broadcaster for successful MLB playoffs, culminating with the New York Yankees’ 27th World Series win Compelling programming around MLB All-Star Game
IMG Highlights Added more than 50 clients to its sports talent roster Negotiated Danica Patrick’s move to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Represents more than 1,000 athletes, models and celebrities in total Wasserman Media Group Highlights Features a roster of all-star and global talent in a range of sports, including major growth in action sports and golf Represented five first-round picks in the 2009 NBA draft Represents more than 700 athletes across 20 sports
pbr Highlights Most successful year ever, with growth in attendance and ticket revenue Aggressive content distribution strategy Increased fan accessibility to events and competitors nfl Highlights Huge ratings, capped by a record-setting Super Bowl Successful launch of NFL RedZone channel Added four new sponsors and three new promotional partners
Seattle Sounders FC Highlights Spectacular success in inaugural year has team establishing a model for future franchises Led the league in average attendance last season Innovative “March to the Match” and supporters groups fuel fan passion Washington Capitals Highlights Frenzied fan base one of the most passionate in the NHL Ticketing strategies kept seats in demand at Verizon Center Added 33 new sponsors in 2009
Vivid Marketing Highlights Three-time nominee continued to impress Added six new clients; renewed five, including ConAgra Foods, Toyota and Pepsi Produced the largest concert in NASCAR history at Talladega SportsMark Highlights Leader in national and international hospitality with the Olympics, Super Bowl, Final Four, the Masters and the upcoming FIFA World Cup Added eight new clients and expanded the staff by 20 percent Counts Bank of America, The Hartford, P&G, Sony and Visa among its clients
U.S.Open Highlights Records for attendance, television viewership and website traffic Second-highest revenue ($203 million) in event’s history Record levels of sponsor activation,including two new partners Super Bowl XLIV Highlights Most-watched television showof all time in the U.S. Incredible game that kept audiences connected to the end High-end sponsor activation and marquee entertainment
Late last year, suspended wide receiver DontéStallworth received an unsolicited breakfast invitation. It came from the man who took his playing rights away, Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Scheduled to be in Miami in December, where Stallworth resides, Goodell picked up the phone and arranged the breakfast.
“It’s hard to describe, it’s almost street cred,” said lawyer David Cornwell, of Goodell’s reputation among players. Cornwell represented Stallworth, who was reinstated earlier this year by Goodell. Stallworth, while driving impaired, had struck a pedestrian, who died of the injuries.
Whether it’s connecting with players, mingling with fans during the draft or jovially bantering with reporters, Goodell has redefined the role of the commissioner. While his predecessors, Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue, were respected no doubt, Goodell is working hard to be more than just the commissioner of the owners, but the commissioner of all of the NFL, as he put it during Super Bowl week. And he is busy overseeing the continued economic and popular growth of the sport.
Goodell will need to tap that reservoir of good will as the league enters a contentious period with the players union. The CBA expires in March 2011, and many players worry the owners are readying to lock them out.
If that comes, then maybe next time Goodell’s breakfast invitations will be turned down.
No one would have blamed Jerry Jones if he had some sleepless nights in the last two years. Few stadiums opened under the duress confronted by Jones’ Cowboys Stadium. Costs had ballooned to more than $1 billion, leaving Jones on the dime for more than half a billion dollars.
Final financing for the venue, which opened in June 2009, had to be secured amid the great credit crisis of late 2008. The economy battered ticket holders and corporate patrons, and still leaves the stadium without a title sponsor. Even the Cowboys’ concessionaire, Legends Hospitality, a joint venture with the New York Yankees, went to market with financing during the credit implosion.
And yet, the stadium is hailed as one of the great wonders of the NFL, one that redefines the customer experience and will perhaps alter the economics of the game even further.
“Jerry is a ‘one-man economic stimulus,’” said John Tatum, CEO of Genesco Sports Enterprises, a sports marketing firm that does work with the Cowboys. “During the worst economic period since the Great Depression, Jerry created value for his business partners (corporate sponsors, broadcast partners, fellow NFL owners) and built the world’s most impressive sports venue.”
Jones continues to play leading roles, too, at the NFL on committees ranging from broadcast to labor. His team performed well on the field and, as always, dominates press coverage as one of the leading brands in sports.
With the economy easing up a bit, perhaps he’s even sleeping better.
Vulcan Sports & Entertainment
As chief executive officer of Paul Allen-owned Vulcan Sports, TodLeiweke oversees three professional franchises in the Seattle Sounders, Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, but it is the phenomenal success of the Sounders that cements Leiweke’s reputation as one of the industry’s most effective operators.
The Sounders took Major League Soccer by storm during its 2009 inaugural season, leading the league in average attendance and in merchandise sales. The Sounders landed Microsoft as the team’s jersey sponsor and each home game attracts rousing local fan interest. Ticket demand increased so much this year (the team now counts more than 32,000 season-ticket holders) that the franchise boosted seating at Qwest Field to 35,500.
“His staff has worked around him for a long time so he engenders loyalty,” said movie executive Joe Roth, an investor in the Sounders. “Tod is a fair-minded guy who also likes to have fun, but at the same time he is all business. He is totally involved in the specifics and the numbers and I would not have [invested in the Sounders] if not for him.”
In addition to the Sounders’ success, Leiweke stunned the football world by prying Pete Carroll out of USC to coach the Seahawks, demonstrating his ability to make the big hire when needed. And let’s not forget the Blazers, where Leiweke oversees the NBA franchise that this year sold out Rose Garden Arena, drawing 20,493 fans per game, the third-highest gate in the NBA.
CBS News and Sports
Last fall, when Sean McManus first crunched the numbers for keeping the NCAA Tournament, the outlook looked bleak for his network, CBS. The broadcast network faced the prospect of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the final three years of its existing deal, and deep-pocketed ESPN was lying in wait, looking to scoop up the rights.
But McManus had a plan, looking back to CBS’s experiences with the SEC as a blueprint for keeping the tournament. In 2008, CBS fashioned a deal to split the SEC’s broadcast and cable rights with ESPN, enabling the broadcaster to keep some of the conference’s highly rated college football games.
For the NCAA Tournament, McManus helped structure a deal to share rights with Turner Sports and keep tournament basketball on CBS until at least 2024.
The idea of a network-cable model isn’t new, but such deals have been difficult to pull off. However, McManus has proved to be pragmatic about with whom CBS will partner.
“The network-cable model made perfect sense,” McManus said. “Rather than view it as a negative, we tried to look at it as a positive. It’s a good way to keep the events that you don’t want to lose.”
CBS colleagues credit McManus for keeping the sports division afloat, especially considering the rumors flying around when McManus took over, after the network lost its long-standing NFL package.
“Everyone was demoralized after we lost the NFL,” said Mike Aresco, executive vice president of programming at CBS Sports. “But Sean infused the place with confidence. … We don’t enter deals lightly, and we don’t leave them lightly.”
Staples Center Highlights More than 200 events in arena’s latest fiscal year brought more than 2.8 million spectators Flexibility allows for high-profile events, including the Grammys Extensive renovations at the club and suite levels kept the venue fresh and hip Yankee Stadium Highlights Mixture of modern and nostalgia Re-creates the design of the original Yankee Stadium and its famous gothic exterior Legends Club serves the prime real estate closest to the field
T-Mobile Highlights Smart creative around its NBA sponsorship One of the best in the business with on-site activation at sports events NBA-themed advertising drew upon the star power of hoops players, current and retired Visa Highlights “Go World” campaign built anticipation for the Vancouver Winter Games Renewed partnership with the NFL for five more seasons Deep global ties to soccer, anchored by FIFA sponsorship