• Sports Business Wake Up! -- Brand Engagement Summit Day 1 edition

    CHICAGO STORY: The Intersport Brand Engagement Summit formally begins today at Westin Chicago River North, with almost 500 people expected for the two-day conference.   

    REALITY BYTES: This morning’s program kicked off at 7:45 a.m. CT with a private Virtual Reality demo with Reel FX’s Dan Ferguson showing how the new tech can affect fan engagement.

    WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT: Before today’s serious business of brand engagement, 175-plus conference attendees hit Wrigley Field for last night’s Nats-Cubs tilt. Undeterred by the steady rain that pounded Chicago for a few hours in the afternoon — some called it a monsoon — the group was split between a couple of suites and the new outfield suite area, which featured a big spread that included hot dogs, sliced sirloin, chicken salad sandwiches, veggie options and, of course, libations. There was no count on how many attendees lasted until the Cubs’ walk-off hit, but those that did were given access to walk the hallowed grounds and take a group photo after the game.

    IN THE FRIENDLY CONFINES: As with any gathering of sports execs, networking was in full swing before, during and after the game. In one suite for the rare 6:05 p.m. scheduled start (which turned into a 6:20 start due to a short rain delay) was Intersport’s Jason Langwell talking with Quicken Loans marketing executive Art Steiber. Sitting next to the Cubs dugout was Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and Magic EVP Charlie Freeman. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was spotted chatting up SBJ’s Richard Weiss and Abe Madkour.

    Also spotted: Cubs President Crane Kenney; Cubs VP/Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner and his wife, Jaime, from Levy Restaurant’s E15; Cubs Senior VP/Strategy and Development Alex Sugarman, and Intersport CEO Charlie Besser.

    And, hogging the front row of seats in Suite 14: Staff writer John Ourand and his 16-year-old son, John Leo. Dad hauled his son cross-country and put him to work as a “volunteer” at the conference to justify the week as an educational outing. We’re sure it’s just a coincidence that the duo is attending a lot of sporting events between Chicago and their home in D.C.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY: A number of notable speakers are on today’s agenda and you will want to keep an ear out for the following: Will A-B/InBev’s Eelco van der Noll offer insight into the company’s sports marketing strategy under new leadership at the brewery? And, in what is probably the most-anticipated session, Under Armour’s Kevin Plank will be questioned in a one-on-one by Intersport’s Besser. We expect Plank to discuss the company’s social initiatives and efforts around marketing to women. We’re most interested in hearing about UA’s recent red-hot approach to athlete deals with Masters champ Jordan Spieth and NBA MVP Stephen Curry. A big question: Will he touch on the controversy surrounding one of the brand’s top ambassadors, Tom Brady? And will this noted horseman speculate on American Pharoah’s chances for the Triple Crown? We need to place our bet, after all…

    AFTERNOON DELIGHT?: We’re looking forward to seeing Umbel CEO H.O. Maycotte's high-energy presentation on how data can be a game changer for sports marketers. And you have to give credit to Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough for even wanting to be interviewed at a conference when his team is down 3-2 and faces a do-or-die Game Six in Chicago tonight. Our first question just might be whether he’s still chewing his fingernails.

    SOCIAL BUZZ: Be sure to follow — and contribute to — the conversation from today’s event. We’re on Twitter @SBJSBD, and the conference hashtag is #SBJEngage.

    IN THE AIR TONIGHT: Besser and his wife, Rebecca, will host a VIP dinner at their home, with more than 50 expected to attend….. We anticipate large contingents of attendees to hit such popular dinner spots as Hub 51, RPM Italian Harry Carays and Chicago Cut Steakhouse. The Blackhawks are hosting an after-hour reception and viewing party around tonight’s Game Six at the Hana Lounge & Terrace in The Westin’s lobby. Expect a crowd. The game is a tough ticket.

    ****** If you haven’t registered for the Veritix Sports Facilities and Franchises/Ticketing Symposium in Santa Clara, there is still time. Click to see the agenda and register now. ******

    Tags: GE, Intersport, GMAC, ING, ATT, SPL, ACC, CES
  • Sports Business Wake-Up: Wrapping up the 2015 Sports Business Awards

    Wrapping up the 2015 Sports Business Awards, which moved along at a rapid pace of 2:05 from the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square before about 800 people.

    THE BIG WINNERS: Bristol. The Association. The CFP. And, most significantly, Dick Ebersol. Last year, NBC Sports Group swept all three media awards on the strength of the Olympics; this year, ESPN swept on the strength the World Cup and College Football Playoff. In being honored as League of the Year and Executive of the Year, the NBA’s successes are due to the performance of Adam Silver, who earned a standing ovation after last year’s winner, Gary Bettman, announced Silver as the ’15 Exec of the Year. Meanwhile, the inaugural CFP was so successful that it was part of several awards. Not only did it win Event of the Year, but Univ. of AR and CFP Selection Committee Chair Jeff Long was named AD of the Year, and ESPN’s three awards is thanks, in part, to the CFP. 

    EBERSOL’S NIGHT: The night clearly belonged to Ebersol, who was surrounded by friends and family filling three tables at the front of the ballroom. His moving remarks touched on the importance of family, relationships and how fortunate the execs in the room were to work in sports. After Ebersol’s remarks, acceptance speeches for the rest of the evening were filled with similar themes and lots of appreciation for Ebersol’s many accomplishments.

    BEST INTRO: NBC’s Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth brought some laughs to the traditionally nervous audience when they introduced Ebersol. The two skillfully played off each other and had three fun videos to showcase various moments in Ebersol’s career — such as sprinter Dennis Mitchell walking away from interviewer Collinsworth during the 1996 Olympics without giving an answer, and a bombastic Vince McMahon opening the first XFL game by growling, “This is theeeeee XXXXXX-FFFFF-LLLL.”(To which Costas deadpanned on stage, “It was one of my proudest moments being associated with the National Broadcasting Company.”) The final video, of Bruce Smith fainting in the middle of an interview on TNT’s NFL highlight show, actually had nothing to do with Ebersol, but Costas and Collinsworth thought it was so funny that they had to show it anyway and blamed it on Ebersol’s replacement, Mark Lazarus, who ran TNT at the time.

    SOUNDTRACK: Ebersol took the stage to John Williams’ “Sunday Night Football” anthem, while Costas and Collinsworth entered to Williams’ NBC Olympic fanfare theme.

    STAR OF THE SHOW: Ebersol was easily the star, holding court and greeting a long list of people that included the likes of Silver, Bettman and Casey Wasserman; Ebersol planted a kiss on the cheek of CBS’ Sean McManus….After the show, a group almost 20 deep, including Jim Bell, Jeff Zucker, Costas/Collinsworth, Molly Solomon, Ken Schanzer and Mike McCarley, celebrated with Ebersol and his family on the main stage and posed for photos.

    SHOW OF SUPPORT: The Red Sox leadership team of owners John Henry and Tom Werner and COO Sam Kennedy ducked out from MLB quarterly owners' meeting, which was being held across town, to join the awards show midway through the proceedings and be present for the presentation of Ebersol’s lifetime achievement award. Ebersol is especially close to Werner and had breakfast with him on the morning of the awards.

    ON ANY SCREEN POSSIBLE: Not everybody was listening to every word last night. Turner’s table featured execs like Lenny Daniels, Jon Diament and Sal Petruzzi watching TNT’s production of the Cavs' win over the Hawks. After accepting his award as executive of the year, Silver admitted that his table of NBA execs was staying up-to-date with the game, too.

    PRESENTING WITH PANACHE: Bettman clearly enjoyed being the presenter of the final category, Executive of the Year, as he smiled and said, “This is the last award, so they said I could take up to 30 minutes.” He adroitly paid tribute to Ebersol, to the event and to the benefits of working in sports before he introduced his former colleague, Silver, as the winner.

    A NOD TO STERN: Silver, when accepting the final award, saluted his longtime mentor and boss, David Stern. Ebersol clapped heartily after Silver’s remarks in appreciation of Stern’s many years of leadership.

    CRITICAL MASS: The NBA took advantage of industry types being in NYC for the SBJ Awards to hold its own partner summit. Included in the programming were a discussion on youth basketball moderated by Grant Hill; a panel on "Navigating Millennial Disruption," which included Dwyane Wade; and a one-on-one interview in which Kobe Bryant was questioned by ESPN talent Hannah Storm.

    IT’S ABOUT TEAM: Winning as a team and sharing the spotlight was a theme of the night, as many of the event’s winners brought up full tables of people to accept their award. Among the biggest: A full group of NBA staffers taking the stage behind Silver after winning League of the Year; Levi’s Stadium bringing up roughly a dozen staffers behind COO Al Guido after being named Facility of the Year; the LA Kings numbering roughly the same behind president Luc Robitaille in winning Team of the Year, and a big contingent from Excel Sports Management.

    SLIVE CITED: The executive cited most-often for leadership and vision from the stage after Ebersol was clearly the SEC’s Mike Slive, including major shout-outs from Hancock after Event of the Year and by Univ. of AR's Long after winning AD of the Year.

    SOUNDING THE MOST SURPRISED: College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock, who after taking the stage repeatedly expressed surprise and amazement in his heartfelt style over winning Event of the Year.  “We won this?! Wow. Wow.”….Zebra Technologies' Jill Stelfox and her team, clearly shocked to win Best in Sports Technology as a newcomer to sports….And ESPN’s Burke Magnus, accepting Best in Sports Television: “To say that I’m am surprised to be standing here and accepting this when seeing the competition is the understatement of the night.”

    LIGHTS AND ACTION: The Red Carpet entering the Broadway Lounge was the place to be see and be seen, as groups three-deep waited for group photos. Some of the most memorable: all of Team Penske, including sports icon Roger Penske and his wife, Kathy, posing with team officials; a full contingent from the L.A. Kings; the men and women from The Whistle, and a strong contegent from Baylor Univ, including former Astros owner Drayton McLane and AD of the Year candidate Ian McCaw.

    THE PROCESS: SBJ/SBD Exec Editor Abe Madkour touched on the selection process and introduced the 15 outside independent judges that helped select the winners.  Judges were: Tim Brosnan; Greg Busch, Bespoke Sports & Entertainment; Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports; Kit Geis, Genesco Sports Enterprises; Leslie Gittess, Blue Sky Media NYC; Sarah Hirshland, United States Golf Association; Michael Lynch, Repucom; Scott McCune, McCune Sports & Entertainment Ventures; Donna Orender, Orender Unlimited; Doug Perlman, Sports Media Advisors; Len Perna, Turnkey Sports; George Pyne, Bruin Sports Capital; Claude Ruibal; Chris Russo, Fifth Generation Sports; Ken Shropshire, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

    QUOTABLE
    — Octagon’s Rick Dudley after winning the hotly-contested Best in Corporate Consulting award, “We don't often look for the limelight, but every once in a while, it's nice to win.”
    — Al Guido, 49ers COO after accepting the trophy for Best Facility, “Something tells me I’m going to pour a lot of champagne into this thing.”
    — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, announcing Adam Silver as winner of the award, “If you run the sports league of the year, you should be the Executive of the Year.”
    — Ebersol, “This is the best way to come to an awards show — knowing that you’re going to be a winner.”
    — Silver, after the NBA won League of the Year, “I’m sure that the 800 subscriptions we have to SportsBusiness Daily have nothing to do with the fact there we’re up here.”

    KEEPING IT MOVING: We promised you a tight show. Attendees got out in time to see the last of the NBA and NHL hockey games, and to see Letterman’s last Top 10 list. (The list was presented by 10 celebs, most from show business, but also including Peyton Manning. His line: “Dave, you are to comedy what I am to … comedy.”) Here are former presidents paying tribute to Dave: http://bit.ly/1HwayPm ; his final monologue http://bit.ly/1EZvkA7 ; and that Top 10 List.

    FULL AWARDS COVERAGE: If you missed last night’s show, or just want a recap, you can see a writeup on each winner, plus photos and best tweets of the night on our blog page. Look for more coverage today in Morning Buzz and SBD, as well as in next Monday’s SportsBusiness Journal.

    THE EBERSOL STORY: SBJ’s Ebersol profile from this week’s issue was mentioned several times from the podium. Media reporter John Ourand led the effort in a package that features an extensive tribute to Ebersol, including his memories of the '96 Summer Games in Atlanta, his last day at NBC and his opinion on today’s TV talent. NBC SVP Strategic Alliances, Digital Kevin Monaghan on package: "I told Dick tonight that it killed his future book.”

    THE EBERSOL CONVERSATION: Ourand and Madkour sat in our Charlotte office recently and talked about how Ebersol was chosen and shared some of their favorite Ebersol stories. The video includes interviews with Al Michaels, Gaudelli and McCarley. Have a favorite Ebersol story? Share it with us.

    Tags: Ping, ING, Sports Business Awards, Marriott, NBC, Media, Olympics, ESPN, GE, Football, NBA, CES, ACC, GMAC, Audi, Videos, Sprint, NFL
  • Sports Sponsor of the Year: AT&T

    AT&T's Ryan Luckey.
    AT&T, perennially one of the biggest sports marketing spenders, fittingly took Sponsor of the Year honors after a year when their familiar logo was associated with some of the biggest sports events in the country, including the first College Football Playoff, at AT&T Stadium in Texas, which also hosted the Final Four; the World Series champion San Francisco Giants in AT&T Park; and the San Antonio Spurs, who call the AT&T Center home, winning the NBA championship.

    "We had an amazing convergence of events," said Ryan Luckey, AVP Corporate Sponsorships. "This is a dynamic category that's changing constantly, so it's about seeing the appropriate big and little marketing opportunities and jumping on them right away."

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Octagon

    Octagon CEO Rick Dudley
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    The first thing visitors to Octagon's Norwalk, Conn., headquarters notice are the two Sports Business Awards prominently displayed on the front reception desk. Now there's a new one to add.

    "I made room for another one there this morning, and I worried that might jinx it," joked CEO Rick Dudley, minutes after the IPG shop became the first agency to win three Best in Corporate Consulting awards. "We don't often look for the limelight, but every once in a while, it's nice to win."

    Dudley cited Octagon's work on behalf of six FIFA World Cup clients as an important reason for SBA trophy No. 3.

    "We just crushed it there, so we're as proud of that work as anything," he said.

    At a time when client-agency relationships routinely last months, Octagon has retained clients like BMW and Sprint for decades. "It's all about over servicing," Dudley said. "We agree on the financials and what we'll deliver in exchange, and then we give them more."

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Executive of the Year: Adam Silver

    NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    The NBA was the big winner of the 2015 Sports Business Awards, capped with commissioner Adam Silver winning executive of the year. Noting he was a bit overwhelmed by the honor, Silver said it was wonderful to be honored amongst his peers. In a year where the NBA set a number of new league records on the business side, Silver said, “We hardly ever look backwards at the NBA, but this sets a new bar for ourselves.”

    Tags: Sports Business Awards, On the Ground
  • Sports League of the Year: NBA

    Commissioner Adam Silver accepts League of the Year honors for the NBA.
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    This is how successful 2014 was for the NBA: Even when things turned south, the league and its franchises ended up looking like gold.

    And that’s why the NBA took home honors for Sports League of the Year at the Sports Business Awards, for executing a yearlong winning streak on major fronts time and again.

    But Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t see it as a streak, just one day after another when the league, its players and employees kept doing the right thing.

    “Every day is a new day, and I think I learned that from David Stern,” he said. "Just when things are going well, you never know what’s going to be around the corner, so I tend to keep looking forward, not back.”

    Most notably, the NBA signed a new nine-year, $24 billion media deal with Turner and ESPN/ABC that nearly tripled the value of the current rights deal. But also consider the saga of the Los Angeles Clippers, who stood at the center of a scandal when recordings emerged of owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks. It ended with the team selling for $2 billion, a record franchise deal that raised the tide for all teams.

    Silver knows it can’t last. “I’ve been at the NBA now for almost 23 years, so I’ve seen plenty of bad days over the years, and I think I’m as well prepared for them as anybody,” Silver said, moments before collecting his personal trophy for Executive of the Year.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Team of the Year: Los Angeles Kings

    Los Angeles Kings President Luc Robitaille
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    The Los Angeles Kings won the 2015 Sports Business Award for team of the year, following a streak of on- and off-the-ice success.

    Luc Robitaille, Kings president of business operations, said the award was particularly gratifying because of its focus.

    “It’s a team award, and that’s what this organization is about, from the players on the ice to everyone who makes us successful behind the scenes,” he said. “We’ve tried to push the envelope with things like bringing an outdoor game in Southern California, so it’s a great moment to celebrate what we've been able to accomplish as a group.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Media: ESPN

    ESPN's John Wildhack
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    ESPN completed a sweep of the Sports Business Awards’ media categories by winning Best in Sports Media. It marks only the second time in the SBA’s eight-year history that the same company swept all three sports media awards; NBC Sports Group won all three last year.

    ESPN was honored for a year that saw it sign several big rights deals, including paying, with Turner, $24 billion over nine years for the NBA, and paying, with Fox, $600 million over eight years for the MLS. John Wildhack, executive vice president of programming and production, accepted the award, praising other nominees in the category: Fox Sports, the NFL, NBC Sports and Turner Sports. “There’s never been a better time to be a sports fan,” he said.

    ESPN also was honored in the Best in Sports Media category for its over-the-top deals, including being part of Dish Network’s Sling TV service, carrying the Cricket World Cup and collecting the OTT rights to the MLS and NBA.

    ESPN also pioneered the megacast coverage around the College Football Playoff National Championship, which provided 12 different productions across its linear and digital channels.

    Wildhack gave a shout-out to ESPN’s employees. “It’s a great night for our people. We have the broadest, deepest and most diverse portfolio in the entire industry, and we’re proud of that.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Television: ESPN

    ESPN's Burke Magnus
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    ESPN took home Sports Business Award honors for Best in Sports Television, its second award of the night. ESPN was honored for a year that saw the network pull in a record-high cable TV audience to the College Football Playoff and record high audiences to the World Cup in Brazil.

    Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling, accepted the award, saying that it represented the hard work from ESPN’s 7,000 employees. He quoted former ESPN President George Bodenheimer: “The culture at ESPN is our greatest advantage.”

    In addition to its record audiences around the CFP and World Cup, ESPN had a stellar year behind the camera. In May, it launched the $178 million Digital Center 2 in Bristol, which allowed it to relaunch its “SportsCenter” franchise and breath new life into its studio shows.

    Magnus said he was surprised and thought that SEC Network was going to win the award. “Mike Slive’s vision and his legacy is why the channel is so successful,” Magnus said.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Athletic Director of the Year: Jeff Long, University of Arkansas

    University of Arkansas AD Jeff Long
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long heard his name called, worded an eloquent speech, posed for a few photos — and then it sunk in.

    “You’re floating on a cloud up there on that stage, but now it’s starting to hit me,” the choked-up, freshly named Athletic Director of the Year award winner said backstage. “It really is an emotional moment for me.”

    Long received the honor in large part due to his ability to run a top-tier Division I program while simultaneously serving as the inaugural College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

    The key to his success? “It’s a team effort. It’s been a fantastic experience for me to let go a little bit, and a fantastic experience for my senior leaders who get to take on a larger role in my absence.”

    Long watched games Saturday, watched replays of matches Sunday and prepared for the committee meetings from Monday until midnight Tuesday night, all while leading Arkansas to an $8 million profit. And yes, he will be doing it all over again next year, having already been re-elected to lead the selection committee.

    Tags: On The Ground
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