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Volume 25 No. 108
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Eisner, Blank Highlight Honorees At Annual Sports Business Awards

NBC’s Tirico served as the first-ever master of ceremonies for the event
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown

It was a who’s who in sports business last night at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square for the 11th annual Sports Business Awards, presented by SBJ/SBD. About 900 people attended the event, which began with attendees in the 8th floor lobby waiting for the doors to open at 5:30pm ET in the Broadway Lounge. The red carpet was lined with photographers and video crews angling to get images of leaders from the sports and entertainment world. The winners for the 17 categories, selected from an all-time high 89 nominees, are listed below:

Best in Digital Sports Media ESPN Digital Media
Sports Breakthrough of the Year Mercedes-Benz Stadium Food & Beverage Experience
Best in Property Consulting, Sales & Client Services AEG Global Partnerships
Best in Mobile Fan Experience 15 Seconds of Fame
Best in Sports Technology Ticketmaster
Athletic Director of the Year Northwestern AD Jim Phillips
Celebration of Service honor PeacePlayers Int'l
Best Talent Representation of the Year Octagon
Best in Sports Social Media MLS
Best in Sports Event & Experiential Marketing Endeavor Global Marketing
Sports Event of the Year NFL Draft in Philadelphia
Sports Facility of the Year Little Caesars Arena
Lifetime Achievement Michael Eisner
Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing & Client Services CAA Sports
Best in Sports Media NBC Sports Group
Sports Team of the Year Golden Knights
Sports Sponsor of the Year Dr Pepper
Sports League of the Year NBA
Sports Executive of the Year AMG Group's Arthur Blank
Download the
SBA Winners

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.” 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.

STICK TO SPORTS? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a clear message to the industry when he accepted the trophy for League of the Year -- saying it was no longer acceptable for industry execs to “stick to sports.” Silver told the packed audience, "Sports has never been more important than it is now. And what we do matters.” He went on to urge the crowd to “use sports to build bridges and bring people together.” Backstage, Silver said it was important for the league to embrace its role as a disruptor, both in tech and society. “That’s our charge, and we have an ownership group that is already accustomed to being disruptors in their own careers,” Silver said.

Eisner was on hand last night to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown

FROM BEHIND THE SCENES: It is impossible to list all the bold-face names we observed, but here are a few that caught our eye. Two of the best-known execs in sports and entertainment, Lifetime Achievement Award winner and former Disney Chair & CEO Michael Eisner and current Disney CEO Bob Iger set the room abuzz when they arrived to walk the red carpet. When former NBA Commissioner David Stern arrived on the red carpet, he didn’t have to move -- the room came to him. Among those who approached and greeted Stern were Eisner, Iger, Falcons/Atlanta United Owner Arthur Blank, who was named Exec of the Year later in the evening, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, and Turnkey execs Len Perna and Tony Ponturo. Among the most heart-warming things we saw -- UCF’s Danny White, a nominee for AD of the year, posing on the red carpet with his wife and children. The kids had not been to N.Y. before and White said that on Sunday, they finally wore him down and convinced him to bring them.

TWITTER REAX: The awards show got major pickup on Twitter. MLS Commissioner Don Garber wrote Blank has "incredible vision and a passion for everything he does," while also recognizing his team for winning Best in Sports Social Media. MLS' Paul Salazar wrote he was "so proud" to be part of the winning social team. The LPGA's Mark Lamport-Stokes wrote the governing body was "truly honored to be in the running" for both league and event of the year (Solheim Cup). 15 Seconds of Fame's official account tweeted it was an "incredible honor" to be recognized for Best in Mobile Fan Experience. Octagon's Allan Walsh noted his team winning Best in Talent Representation is "indicative of the incredible passion and dedication" of everyone at the agency. Wasserman's Elizabeth Lindsey: "Here’s what I know: I hate award shows. But I do love the passion of my industry. Really hard not to be pumped up watching all these nominee videos. #SBJAwards." Meanwhile, The Athletic's Jon Greenberg, whose company was up for Best in Digital Media, tweeted, "We wuz robbed. But as my people say, 'Next year at the #SBJAwards.'" NASCAR's Scott Warfield: "0-2 at the @sbjsbd #SBJAwards. On a positive note did get stuck in an elevator at the Marriott Marquis with @nba Commissioner Emeritus David Stern and 15 others for a solid 10 minutes. So there’s that. #winning." Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini, who lost out on Sports Breakthrough of the Year, tweeted, "We just lost to the people who cut food prices. Best looking table in the joint -- it’s not just about the $2 hotdog. Viva la Stool." Barstool's Kayce Smith added, "Here at the @sbjsbd awards where we were nominated for “Best Sports Breakthrough.” Spoiler alert: We lost to a concession stand."