• Recipients of the 2014 Sports Business Awards


    A look at the winners at the Sports Business Awards tonight at the Marriott Marquis Times Square:

    Best in Sports Technology: Experience

    Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing: GMR Marketing

    Best in Sports Television: NBC Sports Group

    Sports Facility of the Year: Madison Square Garden

    Best in Talent Representation and Management: Excel Sports Management

    Best in Digital Sports Media: NBC Sports Group

    Athletic Director of the Year: Kevin White, Duke University

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Dan Rooney
    Sports Event of the Year: 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

    Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services: CAA Sports

    Sports Team of the Year: Golden State Warriors

    Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Team Epic

    Best in Sports Media: NBC Sports Group

    Sports Sponsor of the Year: Pepsi Beverages Co.

    Sports League of the Year: National Hockey League

    Sports Executive of the Year: Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League

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  • Sports Executive of the Year: Gary Bettman, NHL

    Gary Bettman took home the highest honor in sports business when he was named Sports Executive of the Year. He accepted the award during the middle of the NHL playoffs and noted that usually he’s handing the Stanley Cup trophy to the league’s champion this time of year, not receiving an award. Bettman said, “It’s almost an out-of-body experience. This time of year, I’m normally presenting a trophy and getting booed. To receive one and get applause is really quite novel.”

    The recognition came following a 10-year turnaround at the NHL. Bettman canceled the 2004-05 season because of labor difficulties and postponed the 2012-13 season for another labor negotiation. But in 2013, the league hit its stride. It realigned conferences, signed record TV rights deals in Canada, created a series of outdoor games and found new ownership groups in Phoenix, New Jersey and Florida. Bettman credited his entire team at the NHL, its players and fans for his recognition. He said, “I am fortunate to be part of an organization of hundreds of people. This award isn’t for me. It’s for all them. It’s for the thousands of people at the club level. It’s for the players.”

    Bettman also credited his owners for supporting the league through two lockouts. He added, “I’ve been doing this for over two decades, and this type of recognition for all the people I mentioned is long overdue. We think our best days are ahead.”

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  • Sports Sponsor of the Year: Pepsi Beverages Co.

    Pepsi is the first brand to win Sports Business Award Sponsor of the Year accolades for a second time, having also finished first in 2008. During the judging period, Pepsi reinvested in its core brand with seasonlong NFL marketing efforts, stretching from kickoff to a sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show. The result was a measurable spike in both Northeast regional sales and brand equity measures.

    Adam Harter, the company’s vice president for consumer engagement, brought his 10-person sports marketing team onstage with him while accepting the award, thanking them, his roster of marketing agencies, his league partners and Pepsi athlete endorsers.

    “At Pepsi, sports is part of our DNA, so to be recognized for our work in this space is really an honor,” he said. “The Super Bowl was something special and it was a huge effort. We started planning it before the last Super Bowl and it crossed so many of our divisions. As a team, we’re starting to have fun, and it’s showing in our work.”

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  • Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Team Epic

    Team Epic became a first-time honoree in the corporate consulting category. The Connecticut-based agency won after picking up two new clients, Wells Fargo and Wendy’s, and retaining and expanding its work with existing clients such as FedEx, Duracell and IBM. Team Epic co-founder Dave Grant: “It’s a real endorsement of what we’re doing. While we’ve had success on the new business side, we’re really proud of the cool new work with legacy clients. As [co-founder] Mike [Reisman is] fond of saying, it’s not the company you keep, but how long you keep the company.”

    Team Epic’s work on behalf of Duracell, in particular, stood out. In 2013, the company worked with Duracell to sign Seattle Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman, a deaf player who uses Duracell’s batteries in devices to aid his hearing. They developed a YouTube video, “Duracell: Trust Your Power,” around Coleman that netted 22 million views. Team Epic beat out a field that included GMR Marketing, The Marketing Arm, Octagon, Optimum Sports and Wasserman Media Group. In accepting, Reisman said, “Since we launched our business, we’ve created a culture — a culture that’s apolitical, a culture about levity, a culture about hard work.”

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  • Sports Event of the Year: 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

    The NHL Winter Classic became the first sports event to be recognized twice as Event of the Year. The league took the 2014 edition of the event to Michigan Stadium and played on a snowy day before 105,491, the largest crowd ever gathered for a hockey game. A combined audience of 8.2 million people in the U.S. and Canada tuned in to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout 3-2.

    NHL COO John Collins said, “The magnitude, the weather, having 105,000 fans for anything is impressive. Having it for a hockey game is something we’ve never seen before.” It was an impressive enough to best a competitive field that included Super Bowl XLVIII, the NFL’s first championship in New York City. Collins said, “[The NFL] did a great job. They were deserving of the recognition, so obviously the recognition is well-appreciated.”

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  • Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services: CAA Sports

    CAA Sports won its fifth Sports Business Award, but first in property consulting. Its year of mammoth deals included the latest in a total $650 million of sponsorship contracts sold at the San Francisco 49ers new stadium, and sales agreements with the NCAA and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Intel Inside jersey deal with FC Barcelona.

    “This is very rewarding, because on this side of the business, we had not been recognized and the sales side is something we really value and it’s special to us,” said CAA’s Mike Levine. “Our culture benefits us, because we all work as a team or we don’t work. With the size and scope of the projects we take on, that’s the only way it could work.”

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  • Sports League of the Year: NHL

    The NHL won the 2014 Sports Business Award for League of the Year, a key part of an overall monster night for the league that also saw wins in the Sports Event and Executive of the Year categories. Coming off a work stoppage in to begin 2012-13 season, the league returned to play early last year barely missing a beat with near-capacity crowds, strong TV ratings, the expansion of its Winter Classic into a seven-game series of outdoor events sponsored by Coors Light, and the signing of a massive new media rights pact in Canada.

    Long seen as the distant fourth leg of the Big Four of U.S. professional sports, the NHL buttressed by its media and growing roster of corporate partners now operates with a swagger largely unseen in its long history. “There are so many important building blocks,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “Our partners have been so supportive, ownership has been great, and our players are not only great athletes but great people. We worked really hard coming out of our labor issue in 2004 to create a foundation for growth, and we’re now seeing a lot of fruits of that.”

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  • Dan Rooney accepts Lifetime Achievement Award to standing ovation

    Dan Rooney said thank you in Irish to begin his acceptance of his Lifetime Achievement Award, a nod to his heritage and to his time as ambassador to Ireland in President Barack Obama’s first term.

    The audience gave the legendary owner of the Steelers a rousing standing ovation, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced him by saying, “He is one of the greatest men I know.”

    Goodell mentioned several reasons for his admiration, but the first is perhaps the most striking: Rooney has hired only three head coaches in four decades, the commissioner said, and one is a hall of famer (Chuck Noll), and the other two (Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin) may be.

    Rooney let his son, John Rooney, read his speech, which extolled the Steelers, the NFL, and the incredible growth football has enjoyed in the last 80 years.

    “I can still remember my father telling me he actually paid WWSW to broadcast our football games,” said John Rooney, reading his father’s speech. “He felt it was necessary to have our games broadcast on public radio.”

    “[And] earlier this year there were more than 122 million people who watched the telecast of Super Bowl 48 [XLVIII],” Rooney said.

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  • Sports Business Awards Winners Slideshow

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  • Best in Sports Media: NBC Sports Group

    NBC Sports Group swept all three media awards of the Sports Business Awards, marking the first time the same company has won all three media awards on the same night. NBC Sports Group’s final award was for Best in Sports Media.

    “This is quite a night for the NBC Sports Group,” NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller said. “It’s a remarkable honor. We did have a great year. The Olympics. The Premier League. The growth of the Golf Channel. The National Hockey League with record performance. It was a team effort.”

    NBC Sports Group was honored for a performance during the Winter Olympics that saw more than 76 percent of U.S. TV homes watch some portion of the Games on an NBC channel and more than 10.8 million hours of video consumed on NBC’s digital
    platforms. NBC was honored for dominating prime time for 18 consecutive nights during the Olympics, plus producing the year’s top-rated prime-time show in “Sunday Night Football.”

    NBC has won much critical praise for its production of the English Premier League and made noise during the year by picking up media rights to NASCAR starting next year.

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