2018 Sports Business Awards
About the Sports Business Awards
Launched in 2008, the Sports Business Awards were established by Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily to celebrate and recognize the leaders, visionaries and day-to-day practitioners who personify excellence in the business of sports. The 2018 nominees and winners were recognized for excellence and outstanding achievement in the business of sports for the period from March 1, 2017 – February 28, 2018.
The Sports Business Awards Ceremony, a night celebrating excellence in sports business, was held Wednesday, May 23, 2018, at the New York Marriott Marquis at Time Square in New York City. The winners were announced LIVE at this event.
|Registration & Pre-Event Reception:||5:30-7:00 PM Broadway Lounge / 8th Floor|
|Dinner:||7:00-8:00 PM Broadway Ballroom / 6th Floor|
|Awards Program:||8:00-10:00 PM Broadway Ballroom / 6th Floor|
Sports Team of the Year
Vegas Golden Knights
Sports League of the Year
National Basketball Association
Sports Event of the Year
2017 NFL Draft: Philadelphia
Sports Executive of the Year
Arthur Blank, AMB Group
Athletic Director of the Year
Jim Phillips, Northwestern University
Best in Sports Media
NBC Sports Group
Best in Digital Sports Media
ESPN Digital Media
Best in Sports Social Media
Major League Soccer
Best in Mobile Fan Experience
15 Seconds of Fame
Best Talent Representation of the Year
Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services
Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services
AEG Global Partnerships
Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing
Endeavor Global Marketing
Sports Sponsor of the Year
Sports Facility of the Year
Little Caesars Arena
Best in Sports Technology
Sports Breakthrough of the Year
Mercedes-Benz Stadium Food & Beverage Experience
Michael Eisner, CEO, Tornante Company
Celebration of Service
2018 SBA RECAP
What a night! The 2018 Sports Business Awards were held on May 23 in New York City. Here's a recap...
2018 SBA Highlights
Silver implores industry “don’t stick to sports”…. Blank and his organization among big winners …. Eisner and Iger have fun over “lifetime” award …. Bold-face names fill the Broadway Ballroom.
THE MESSAGE OF THE NIGHT: In accepting the next-to-last award of the evening for Sports League of the Year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered a strong message to a ballroom full of sports executives at the 11th annual Sports Business Awards, presented by SBJ/SBD – don’t stick to sports. “I think there’s never been a time when sports has been more impactful on society than it is today,” Silver said, in concluding his remarks. “Whether it’s issues affecting race and gender, health, mental wellness, or technology and media, what we all do in this room matters day in and day out. And, finally, I encourage all of you not to stick to sports. Do not stick to sports. Embrace it, celebrate it and let’s use it to build bridges and bring people together.” See video of Silver’s remarks in today’s Morning Buzz. In accepting his award for Executive of the Year, AMB Group Chair Arthur Blank cited Silver’s remarks and agreed: “I’m glad the commissioner said that.” It was a theme hit earlier in the evening when Brendan Tuohey, accepting the Celebration of Service award for PeacePlayers International, concluded his remarks by telling the ballroom, “You in this room have the opportunity to be leaders, not followers, in using sport, a vehicle we all know and love, to unite, inspire and uplift. In a world that seems more fractured every day, we can’t afford to wait for another answer.”
BIG WINNERS AND SURPRISES: Blank and his organization were big winners of the evening, taking home Executive of the Year and Sports Breakthrough of the Year for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Food and Beverage Experience, while just missing out on Team of the Year, as Atlanta United lost to the Vegas Golden Knights. Blank brought his staff on stage to accept … NBC Sports Group took home Best in Sports Media, fueled by strength around Super Bowl LII, the Winter Games and continued digital growth, and Dr Pepper may have surprised some by winning Sports Sponsor of the Year, driven by its strong creative around Larry Culpepper and college football. In accepting, Blaise D’Sylva seemed to confirm the end of using Culpepper by saying, “Big things are coming for Dr Pepper, so stay tuned.” Surprises of the night included Octagon taking home Best in Talent Representation and Little Caesars Arena besting SunTrust Park/The Battery and U.S. Bank Stadium to win Sports Facility of the Year. In accepting the award, Chris Ilitch acknowledged the other competitors and praised the city of Detroit’s efforts to use the new arena as a driver of the downtown’s revitalization.
AN INDUSTRY GET-TOGETHER: One could barely take a step without running into a colleague or acquaintance at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square, as it was a who’s who of sports business last night. It started with attendees on the 8th floor lobby waiting for the doors to open at 5:30 p.m. in the Broadway Lounge. The red carpet was lined with camera crews and photographers as attendees posed for group shots after being greeted by SBJ/SBD Executive Editor Abe Madkour. Among the most in demand for attendees were two athletes: Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings and New York marathon winner Shalane Flanagan, who was also a presenter at the awards. But everywhere you looked you saw bold-face names. Lifetime Achievement Award winner and former Disney chief Michael Eisner and current Disney CEO Bob Iger set the room abuzz when they arrived to walk the red carpet, as they chatted with Madkour and former NBA Commissioner David Stern. When Stern arrived on the red carpet, he didn’t have to move — the room came to him, as he was greeted by Blank, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, Turnkey’s Len Perna and Tony Ponturo, among others, and hit media row for a number of interviews. Blank was greeted by CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, as the two chatted and took a photo together, while Octagon’s Phil de Picciotto waited to say hi and chat with Blank, before the Falcons owner took a group shot with his colleagues. Media execs Jimmy Pitaro from ESPN and Mark Lazarus from NBC Sports were spotted, along with Proskauer’s Joe Leccese, the Warriors’ Rick Welts, CAA Sports’ Mike Levine and Paul Danforth, Ticketmaster’s Jared Smith, KAGR’s Jessica Gelman, Braves exec Mike Plant, John Schuerholz and Derek Schiller, former NFL exec Joe Browne, The Montag Group’s Sandy Montag, CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson (who pumped up the audience as a presenter) and Octagon’s Rick Dudley. The NHL’s Steve Mayer chatting with Army AD Boo Corrigan and other representatives from the U.S. Military Academy. While on the AD of the Year category, nominees like Northwestern’s Jim Phillips, Penn State’s Sandy Barbour and Corrigan hit the red carpet for photos with their executive team. Among the most heart-warming things we saw: UCF’s Danny White, a nominee for athletic director of the year, posing on the red carpet with his wife and children. The children hadn’t been to New York before and White said that on Sunday they finally wore him down and convinced him to bring them. Barstool Sports’ Erika Nardini sporting a “New England v. Everybody” T-shirt while taking a team photo with the Stoolies. On an idyllic late spring day in New York, attendees could take advantage of an outdoor, eighth-floor patio at the New York Marriott Marquis overlooking the heart of Times Square. Once in the ballroom for dinner, people didn’t want to eat, as it turned into one large networking party, with Silver spotted chatting with Eisner and Iger, who sat together at the head table, while MLS’s Don Garber chatted with table neighbors Darren Eales from Atlanta United and Blank.
SETTING THE PACE: The banquet lasted just a tad over two hours, and was kept on pace by NBC’s Mike Tirico, who served as the first-ever master of ceremonies for the event. Tirico joked to the crowd that they were witnessing history. “You can tell your grandchildren that you saw the first guest host of the Sports Business Awards,” said Tirico, “knowing perhaps that I will be terrible and be remembered as the Dennis Miller of these awards. An experiment never to be tried again. I like Dennis, but let’s face it.” From the reception that Tirico received from the crowd, both during and after the banquet, it seems likely that he won’t be a one-shot wonder.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Eisner and Iger, who sat next to each other at the head table, had fun being together and showed tremendous mutual respect during the ceremony. In introducing Eisner, Iger said, “I have to say, this ‘lifetime achievement’ award really should come with an asterisk…because we all know Michael’s not done yet.” He added some insight into working with his former boss by saying, “Like athletes and sports people, he has a relentless competitive spirit, and a complete inability to sit on the sidelines when the game is being played. This made working for him a relentless challenge, but I always found it energizing and inspiring.” Eisner laughed when he took the stage to a standing ovation and said a Lifetime Achievement Award “has a certain sound of finality! This encourages me to either get a physical or change the name to midlife achievement. So, thank you, Bob, for not making your remarks sound too much like a eulogy.” After commenting on his career in sports and entertainment, he showed a video set to Queen’s “We Are The Champions” that showcased the visceral power and emotion of sports, before closing by saying, “Thank you so much for this midlife achievement award. But, if you don’t mind, I plan on enjoying quite a bit more lifetime … and maybe even a few more achievements.”
MOST UNIQUE ACCEPTOR: In taking the stage after winning Best in Mobile Fan Experience, 15 Seconds of Fame had Whitney Hanson, the first fan 15 Seconds of Fame ever delivered a clip to at a professional sporting event – busting a move while 8 and ½ months pregnant at a Diamondbacks game – accept. She showered praise on the app and said the video experience was one of the highlights of her life attending live sports events.
CARRY THAT WEIGHT: The increased weight of the newly redesigned Sports Business Awards trophy was immediately noticed by many veteran attendees of the event, with some winners joking they needed to be careful to not hurt themselves. “I’m trying to look like it’s not heavy, but it really is,” said Ticketmaster’s Jared Smith while being photographed with the company’s trophy for Best in Sports Technology.
AXE TO GRIND: It won’t be immediately back to the office today for our friends at Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. The company has an internal teambuilding outing built around axe throwing. We’ll keep an eye out for pictures on social media.
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