• Best in Property Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Learfield Sports

    Learfield’s Andy Rawlings
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    No portion of the sports business has been changing faster and more dramatically than college sports. With a series of moves to keep pace, including acquisitions, advancements  in multimedia offerings and innovative social media programs, Learfield Sports more than kept pace.

    “It was incredibly hard to put all those things together,” said Andy Rawlings, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at Learfield, which won the 2015 Sports Business Award for Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services. “Deals that look great on paper only are great if the people that come with them are great and work together. Our expectations were high, but they were all exerted.”

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

    Momentum’s Chris Weil
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    For the second time in three years, Momentum Worldwide takes home the hardware for Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing, and Chair and CEO Chris Weil already is going on the record to say they’ll be back for win No. 3 next May.

    “Because the agency’s never been better, the work has never been better, the clients have never been better, the economy’s doing well, sports have never been better, and I’ve seen what we have in the hopper for this year,” he explained. “I really believe that it’s some of the best work that we’ve done in my 11 years with the agency.”

    Weil said they were “thrilled to win” given the stiff competition; last year’s winner GMR Marketing, LeadDog Marketing Group, IMG Live and Wasserman Media Group were all in the mix. But with the company’s outstanding work around brands such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Verizon, United Airlines, UPS, and the U.S. Army, he was not surprised by the honor.

    Weil: “If you’re a CEO and you don’t believe you’re the best, then you won’t be the best, and I honestly believe we’re the best.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • College Football Playoff scores at SBA — “This is so cool”

    Tags: Sports Business Awards, On the Ground
  • Best in Digital Sports Media: ESPN Digital Media

    ESPN’s John Kosner
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    In a year where it set four all-time comScore records, ESPN Digital Media won the award for best in digital sports media. The fifth Sports Business Award in the digital category, this one was especially meaningful given it came in the 20th year of ESPN.com and the redesign and relaunch of the ESPN mobile app, said John Kosner, executive vice president of ESPN digital and print media.

    “It’s so meaningful for this award to happen this year, it’s crazy it’s already been 20 years,” he said. “It just shows the commitment of company to mobile and digital that we’ve been able to continue to raise the quality of the products across the board.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • ESPN, Levi’s Stadium among early winners

    Tags: On the Ground, Sports Business Awards
  • SBA 2015: Old friends and new trophies

    Tags: On the Ground, Sports Business Awards
  • Grand entrances at Sports Business Awards 2015

    Tags: Sports Business Awards, On the Ground
  • Discussing Dick Ebersol's legacy in sports media

    SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and media writer John Ourand discuss Dick Ebersol’s impact on sports and entertainment media and how the industry has changed since he left NBC Sports. “Dick was not just a producer, not just a business executive, he did everything,” Ourand says.

    Tonight, at the Sports Business Awards ceremony in New York City, Ebersol will receive the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. 

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Business Wake-Up — Awards Show Edition: Where to be, and who you’ll see

    Live From New York: Its the Sports Business Awards!  Tonight will be one of the biggest nights in sports business, as more than 800 people will descend on the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square for the eighth annual Sports Business Awards. This event has become a must-attend party that brings the sports industry together. You can get your refresher on the nominees for each of the 15 categories by clicking here.

    See And Be Seen: The best networking event of the year starts at 5 p.m. in the Broadway Lounge on the 8th floor overlooking Times Square. Check in at the Manhattan Ballroom (also on the 8th floor), then stroll the Red Carpet, where you’ll be greeted by SBJ/SBD Publisher Richard Weiss and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour. Once you get by the paparazzi, head to the lounge, which boasts the best view of Times Square.

    Show Time! The ceremony takes place on the 6th floor in the Broadway Ballroom. We’ll keep the program moving. Dinner is served at 7:15; the show starts at 8:15; and everything ends no later than 10:20 — in plenty of time to catch Letterman’s last show!

    Ticket Market: Nothing’s on StubHub. Or TicketMaster. If you need to get in, check with SBJ/SBD’s Laura Case. Remember to leave your tux at home.

    Honoring Ebersol: A highlight tonight will be the Lifetime Achievement Award given to Dick Ebersol. The former NBC Sports chairman will be surrounded by three tables of friends and family, including his wife, Susan Saint James, and sons Charlie and Willie. Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth will be handling Ebersol’s intro.

    Show of Support: Others expected to show support for Ebersol tonight include the NFL’s Howard Katz, CNN’s Jeff Zucker, and a solid contingent from NBC Sports: Mark Lazarus, Sam Flood, Fred Gaudelli, Jim Bell, Jon Miller, Gary Zenkel, Kevin Monaghan and John Miller. The Golf Channel’s Mike McCarley and Molly Solomon are scheduled to attend, as is Ebersol’s longtime consigliere, Ken Schanzer, along with Sandy Montag and Ebersol’s longtime former assistant Aimee Leone.

    The Ebersol Story: In case you haven’t seen it yet, check out SBJ’s Ebersol profile from this week’s issue. 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.

    A-List Of Presenters: Here’s who will take the stage and present tonight’s awards: USGA’s Sarah Hirshland, Park Lane’s Andrew Kline, Hornets President and COO Fred Whitfield, Lagardère’s Donald Dell, Leslie Gittess of Blue Sky Media NYC, WMG’s Casey Wasserman, Octagon’s Rick Dudley, Daniel Rush of MGM Resorts, MLB’s Wendy Lewis, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, the LPGA’s Michael Whan, Bill Hancock of the College Football Playoff, NBC’s Mark Lazarus, Tom Coyne of Coyne PR, Don Cornwell of PJT Partners, Momentum’s Mike Sundet, Kathy Carter of SUM, the New York Liberty’s Swin Cash and NHL Commissioner (and last year’s Sports Executive of the Year) Gary Bettman.

    Who Youll See: Among the bold-faced names expected tonight: Roger Penske and his wife, Kathy; Chip Ganassi, Paul Rodriguez, Joe Leccese, Howard Ganz, Neal Pilson, CBS’s Sean McManus (fresh off his 60th birthday) and Harold Bryant; MLS’s Don Garber, Mark Abbott, Gary Stevenson and Howard Handler; Ed Gold from State Farm; Lagardère’s Andy Pierce and Joel Segal; St. Louis Cardinals’ Bill DeWitt; LPGA’s Michael Whan, Kathy Milthorpe and Jon Podany; CAA’s Mike Levine, Fox’s Eric Shanks, Comcast/NBC’s Jon Litner, former Astros owner Drayton McLane and Earl Santee of Populous (both representing the Baylor stadium contingent); MLB’s Jacqueline Parkes; AEG’s Todd Goldstein; Scott O’Neil (76ers); ESPN’s Burke Magnus and John Wildhack, NFL’s Joe Browne, and Curtis Polk from the Hornets; Mark Herzlich (with wife, Danielle) and Rashad Jennings of the NY Giants.

    Top Dogs on Campus: All of the nominees for Athletic Director of the Year are scheduled to attend: Mitch Barnhart (Kentucky), Jeff Long (Arkansas), Ian McCaw (Baylor), Dan Radakovich (Clemson).

    Whats the buzz tonight? Last year’s storylines at the Sports Business Awards were dominated by the surprising sweep of both the NHL and NBC Sports in the key league, event and media categories. Who will be the big winners tonight? There are a few organizations with multiple nominees, including ESPN (4), the NBA (4), the NFL (3), Wasserman Media Group (3) and NBC Sports Group (3).

    The Awards, Plausibly Live: To keep up with all the winners tonight, follow @SBJSBD and the hashtag #sbjsba on Twitter. We’ll also be posting updates to our On The Ground blog and will send out breaking news emails to subscribers. Check tomorrow’s SBD and next week’s SBJ for complete coverage of the awards.

    Also on todays sports docket: MLB owners today begin a two-day quarterly meeting in N.Y., marking the first set of owners meetings since the formal installation of Rob Manfred as commissioner on Jan. 25. No major action items are expected. … Playoff action continues in the NBA, with Cavs at Hawks at 8:30 p.m. ET, and the NHL, with Rangers at Lightning at 8:00 p.m. ET.

    And other likely dinner-table conversation: This piece from Boston caught our eye: Dan Shaughnessy writes why Pats Owner Robert Kraft dropped a fight he couldn't win:

    On The Menu: Attendees will start with a 10-Herb Market Salad with Blistered Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Pickled Onions, Radishes, Toasted Pine Nuts, Blue Cheese with a Sherry Vinaigrette. Entree will be Lemon-Herb Chicken Breast, Spaghetti Squash, Citrus Farro, Haricot Verts with a Lavender Jus, while dessert includes Raspberry Operetta, Fresh Raspberries with Lime Zest.

    Event Sponsors: Special thanks to tonight’s sponsors: MGM Grand Resorts, Coyne PR and Park Lane.

    Tags: Sports Business Awards, GE, Marriott, ATT, StubHub, Ticketmaster, NBC, NFL, CNN, Dell, Golf, Golf Channel
  • A look back at NYRR with Mary Wittenberg at the helm

    Mary Wittenberg built a year-round schedule of events for the New York Road Runners.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Mary Wittenberg, longtime president and CEO of the New York Road Runners and former race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, announced a week ago that she was leaving her post to oversee Virgin Sport, a new sports venture funded by billionaire Richard Branson.

    Wittenberg started the new job today, so in honor of her 17 years with NYRR — including the last 10 at the helm — SBJ looks back at her time with the Road Runners.

    In 1998, Wittenberg left her partnership position with the Hunton & Williams law firm to pursue her lifelong goal of working in the sports industry. Her new post was the No. 2 position behind race director Allan Steinfeld at the New York Road Runners Club, the local running group that organized one of the world’s largest footraces, the New York City Marathon.

    Steinfeld had taken the reins of the race in 1993 from co-founder Fred Lebow. Wittenberg, 52, said she saw opportunities for growth across the club and the race. At the time, the race had no timing chips or wheelchair events. Many of the NYRR’s smaller races were staged in Central Park. The club sold sponsorships but struggled to help sponsors activate in a creative, meaningful way.
    “Fred and Allan had laid this great foundation,” Wittenberg said. “But [the NYRR] needed to build in order to keep up with the partners and the growth in running.”

    Wittenberg, who became CEO and president in 2005, pursued an aggressive policy of growth. Under her guidance, the New York City Marathon matured into the largest one-day running event, with 50,000 runners, as well as one of the premier commercial properties in the sport, with live network TV coverage and worldwide media reach. The NYRR also grew into a year-round running platform, with 52 annual races held in all five boroughs, and its annual operating budget expanded from around $17 million in 1998 to more than $80 million in 2015, Wittenberg said. Full-time employees grew from around 30 to 160.

    George Hirsch, NYRR chairman, attributes much of that growth to Wittenberg’s original vision.

    “Mary saw running as a sport that hadn’t peaked — and she was right,” Hirsch said. “Her goals are always to do bigger events, and more events, and to build out programs to get more people running.”

    Wittenberg also sought out new ways to monetize the race. In 2003, after JPMorgan exited as the race’s longtime “premier” sponsor, Wittenberg and then-EVP Ann Wells Crandall pushed the NYRR to bring in Dutch bank ING as the race’s first-ever title sponsor in an eight-figure annual deal. Selling the race’s name represented a sea change that was never an option under the NYRR’s old guard, Wittenberg said, but it presented an opportunity to finance the NYRR’s year-round ambitions.

    “The [ING deal] had a flywheel effect for bringing in other [partners],” Wittenberg said. “It enabled us to build things for the community of runners.”

    Her tenure at NYRR was not without criticism. Critics in the running industry blasted her reported $500,000 a year salary. Hard-core runners balked at her efforts to “corporatize” the marathon with partnerships.

    Wittenberg earned her loudest criticism in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy destroyed parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Instead of canceling the race immediately, the NYRR went forward with the event, only to have Mayor Michael Bloomberg cancel the race two days before its running.

    Hirsch, who said he spent the 2012 race week alongside Wittenberg, said the experience affirmed his confidence in the CEO.

    “She took the brunt of the criticism,” Hirsch said. “And she was unflappable.”

    Wittenberg said she and the NYRR staff learned important lessons about communication and collaboration from the disaster. Both lessons will help her in her new role as CEO of the newly launched Virgin Sport, which will look to build assets in running, cycling and other mass-participant sports.

    “It’s another chance to build something,” Wittenberg said.

    Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

    Tags: On the Ground
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