• Athletic Director of the Year: Kevin White, Duke University

    Duke University’s Kevin White won the Athletic Director of the Year award after a year that saw both on-field success for the school’s­ football team, which reached the ACC Championship Game, and off-field influence —­ White is one of three conference ADs on the television committee. “We’re going through some interesting times in college athletics, that’s perhaps to say the very least,” White said as he accepted his award. “As turbulent as they are, I think we have a great cohort of colleagues. We’re going to find a better day and are working toward that end.”

    After leaving the stage, White said that he felt that he needed to address the upheaval in college sports. “To borrow a phrase from the financial community, we’d been in market corrections before,” he said. “The next iteration will be better, and we’ll figure it out. It’s just a lot of competing interests. It’s a bit of a new frontier. We’ve got an eclectic group of schools in the NCAA, and we couldn’t be more different. It’s a very difficult leadership and management assignment for the parent organization, which is the NCAA.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Digital Sports Media: NBC Sports Group

    NBC Sports won the 2014 Sports Business Award for Best in Digital Sports Media after a record-setting performance during the Sochi Olympics in terms of traffic, advertising and user authentication, in addition to the company’s expanding live video deployment of NFL football, EPL soccer, NHL hockey and other events. The outfit’s year was also marked by a deepening of its continuing digital partnership with Yahoo Sports and a continued position among the leaders in the most-trafficked outlets in U.S. online sports media.

    Rick Cordella, NBC Sports Digital senior vice president and general manager, accepted the award on behalf of the company and said its efforts in the last year were driven in large part by division Chairman Mark Lazarus and the company’s desire to push the envelope on the distribution of its live rights. “Five years ago, we were among the laggards in the space, and now we’ve become one of the leaders,” Cordella said.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Business Awards: Love for Warriors

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  • Best in Talent Representation and Management: Excel Sports Management

    After its third nomination, Excel Sports Management took home the honors in the Best in Talent Representation and Management category of the Sports Business Awards for the first time. After a year in which Excel represented 11 NBA draft picks, including seven in the first round, and negotiated a record seven-year $215 million contract for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Excel Principal Casey Close credited his partners.

    “With so many contracts up for renewal, we knew we had a chance to do something special,” he said, “but this is a very competitive landscape. This award says that we definitely achieved something special.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Facility of the Year: Madison Square Garden

    Madison Square Garden has long touted itself as the “world’s most famous arena,” but it also was, after many years in service, considered by many to be a creaky dinosaur. No more.

    Madison Square Garden won the Sports Business Award for 2014 Sports Facility of the Year after a three-year, $1 billion renovation, complete with skywalk suites.

    “We went out to our sports fans, we went out to our customers, we went out to the athletes and the performers, and said, ‘How can we make the Garden not only the world’s most famous arena but the world’s greatest arena, again?’” said Hank Ratner, MSG’s vice chairman. “Part of the challenge [was], ‘How do you go and take a 135-year-old institution and pay homage to it correctly and turn it into a state-of-the-art institution?’”

    The challenge was met.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • SBAs: More from Twitter at the halfway point

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  • Best in Sports Television: NBC Sports Group

    NBC Sports Group won the Best in Sports Television award after a year that saw the broadcaster earn huge TV ratings from the Winter Olympics and “Sunday Night Football.” The company’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Final was the most watched on record. “It’s always a shock when you hear your company’s name read out like that,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, on stage as he accepted the award.

    Afterward, Miller said he had never won an award like this before, but suggested that NBC’s year-round schedule helped, from Premier League to the NFL to the NHL. “It’s relentless in terms of the pace and energy that goes on,” he said. “There are hundreds of sports being produced by people every day. To be recognized by your peers is really special. That’s why it’s a treat. It’s a thrill.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing: GMR Marketing

    For the second time in the history of the Sports Business Awards, GMR Marketing won Best Event and Experiential Marketing. The recognition came in the same year that the Omnicom company successfully merged SportsMark, a longtime leader in sports hospitality experiences, and GMR, an established experiential marketing company.

    The resulting 900-person-strong company last year oversaw the hospitality experience for six sponsors at the Sochi Games, managed the NFL’s Super Bowl-themed restaurant Forty Ate in New York City, and the hospitality program at the America’s Cup. Jan Katzoff, GMR head of global sports and entertainment, said, “The merger helped a lot. There was a lot of talent [at SportsMark] and a lot of talent at GMR. We were able to harness a lot of that horsepower and bring more resources to bear on our programs.”

    Katzoff said the work for six sponsors in Sochi, which was complicated by delays in hotel construction, and the hospitality sales around the America’s Cup, a first-time event for GMR, stood out in his mind and helped the SportsMark-GMR team earn its second recognition in the category.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Technology: Experience

    From left: Experience's Junior Gaspard, Garrett Langley, Tripp Rackley, Ben Ackerman and Stan Deak
    Experience, an upstart Atlanta-based seat upgrade outfit, won the 2014 Sports Business Award for Best in Sports Technology on the heels of a blockbuster 2013 that saw major deals struck with MLB Advanced Media, the NFL and Ticketmaster, among many other college and pro teams. The company’s proprietary technology allows fans after initially purchasing a ticket to upgrade their location and add experiential amenities, in effect changing the notion of a ticket from a single-purchase entity into a more fluid concept that can be altered into something else across a span of time.

    Company Chairman Tripp Rackley was quick to credit his team and league partners, and said he is aiming to completely change fan expectations. “The question we ask ourselves all the time is, ‘Will a fan go back to the old way after experiencing what we can offer?’ We obviously hope not. The live event is such a powerful thing and we want every fan to feel like a rock star,” he said.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • SBAs: Early winners and congratulations

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