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Volume 21 No. 2


The Arizona Diamondbacks, seeking to break the mold of traditional team-run sponsor summits, on Thursday in Phoenix will hold the club’s first Most Valuable Partner Awards, a black-tie gala complete with song-and-dance numbers, a red carpet and celebrity award presenters.

The event, patterned after the Oscars, will place Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall in the role of Billy Crystal. In addition to serving as emcee, Hall has prepared an opening musical segment highlighting sponsor activities during a 2011 season that saw the team make a surprising run to the NL West title.

Awards will be presented to team sponsors in seven categories, including marketing activation, brand integration, top new partner and community involvement. The event’s equivalent to a best picture award, Most Valuable Partner of the Year, will be divided into “silver slugger” and “gold glove” divisions to account for differences in company size and sponsorship spending.

The winners’ trophies, called The DBs, will be presented in part by a group of current and former players, including Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace and Chris Young.

“The question was very simple: How do we breathe more life into these sponsor meetings that can get very stale, very tired,” Hall said. “By doing this at night with a dinner, having all the glitz and glamour involved, having the players involved, we hope it takes on a whole new energy.”

The event is scheduled to be held at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Ariz., just outside Phoenix. About 300 people are slated to attend, roughly twice the turnout for the team’s prior annual sponsor summits. More than just increased numbers, though, the gala has prompted senior executives from several sponsors headquartered outside of Arizona, including ballpark naming-rights sponsor Chase, to fly in to attend.

“We’re getting people for this we simply wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Cullen Maxey, the Diamondbacks’ executive vice president of business operations and a key figure in the creation of the gala.

The event will showcase top examples of sponsor activity during the past year, not unlike what prior summits would have covered. But by turning the gathering from a corporate retreat into an awards ceremony, the Diamondbacks are introducing a competitive element the team hopes will motivate sponsors to pursue more aggressive activations.

“It’s a difficult balance, but we want to create a little edge,” Hall said. “We want The DB to be something that our sponsors want to win.”

But Maxey acknowledged that not offending sponsors who don’t win awards was a “huge topic of conversation” during the nearly yearlong effort to create the event.

“It’s about finding the right tone, but we’re up for it,” Maxey said. “And without Derrick, his energy and his ability to poke fun at himself, we’re not able to do this.”

Bill Pepicello, president of the University of Phoenix, a team sponsor, said he does not fear losing in the new format the benefit of best-practices sharing or relationship development that often occur in traditional sponsor summit settings.
“Our sponsorship relationship with the Diamondbacks has really been a continuous dialogue and idea exchange anyway,” Pepicello said. “This event is something that really taps into the great energy they have already. And frankly, you often get more done in a relaxed atmosphere.”