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Volume 21 No. 1
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Blackmun and USOC honored with awards

In four years, the U.S. Olympic Committee has gone from the bottom to the top.

The organization, which was publicly derided by Dick Ebersol in 2009 as dysfunctional following an embarrassing Olympic bid failure, earned two of the top honors at the 2013 Sports Business Awards when it was named Sports League of the Year and its chief executive, Scott Blackmun, was named Executive of the Year.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
“As an Olympic family, 2012 was one big year,” Blackmun said. “It’s hard for me to imagine the USOC, our [national governing bodies], our sponsors and our broadcasters could have done better. It was a truly meaningful year for us.”

The USOC topped the NFL, NBA, MLB and PGA Tour to win its category. Blackmun beat out a field of nominees that included Time Warner Cable’s Melinda Witmer, NBC Sports Group’s Mark Lazarus, ESPN’s John Skipper and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter.

Their recognition came on the heels of a year in which the USOC signed a landmark revenue-sharing agreement with the International Olympic Committee, landed new sponsors by partnering with NBC to sell joint sponsorship and TV advertising packages, and fielded a U.S. Olympic team that won both the gold-medal count and overall medal count at the 2012 London Games.

“They’ve had a great run and had a great 2012, and they seem to be set up to have a great future as they solidify their sponsor family and look to host the Olympics back in the U.S. in the next decade,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.

Sixteen trophies were awarded at the ceremony in New York City last week.
Olympic broadcaster NBC Sports Group won the Sports Media category following a year when the London Games turned a profit for the company and became the most viewed event in U.S. television history.

But despite its success in London, NBC took only one of the three media awards. Its competitor, ESPN, which locked up long-term rights deals in 2012 with MLB, the Big 12 and ACC, won the Sports Television category. The company also won in Digital Sports Media, largely because of its WatchESPN application and the traffic growth of

Anheuser-Busch, which sponsors the USOC, NFL, PGA Tour, MLS and MLB, was named Sponsor of the Year. Despite being one of sports’ biggest spenders, last week marked the first time the beer company had been recognized at the Sports Business Awards. It distinguished itself from Coca-Cola, BMW, Pepsi, Sprint and Visa by signing a long-term extension with MLB and creating the Bud Light Hotel, taking over a 200-room hotel in New Orleans during the Super Bowl and hosting private concerts with Lil Wayne and Pit Bull.

“It’s easy to take A-B for granted when it comes to sports marketing,” said Blaise D’Sylva, vice president, media, sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch. “But sports marketing at A-B is much more than a 30-second commercial in a broadcast and more than a sign in a stadium. It’s the collective people across our entire organization working with our external partners to leverage sports and beer in innovative and exciting and relevant ways to drive brand health and, ultimately, sales.”

Octagon, which works with A-B, rounded out the list of winners with ties to the Olympics. The agency was recognized as the best in the Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services category, following a year in which it oversaw effective marketing efforts by Olympic sponsors such as BMW and Cisco.

While the night celebrated the achievements of many across the sports industry, it also included some emotional moments. The late Mal Moore, who died earlier this year, was named Athletic Director of the Year, and University of Alabama President Judy Bonner and Moore’s daughter, Heather Cook, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Mal would be humbled to be selected for this distinguished award,” Bonner said. “Make no mistake, we are a long way from Dozier, Ala., where Mal was born, a population of 391. The lights of New York City were something Mal would have certainly cherished this evening. He would have been so touched and honored to be here.”

About 650 attended the event, held at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
Shortly after Moore was recognized, the Oklahoma City Thunder was named Sports Team of the Year. The team’s recognition came just days after a tornado swept through its hometown, killing more than 20 people. The event led the team’s owner, Clay Bennett, and several of its top executives to cancel their trip to New York for the awards so they could stay home and assist in the cleanup.

“My remarks tonight would be drastically different than they would have been a week ago,” said Dan Mahoney, the Thunder’s vice president of corporate communications. “In sports, we talk a lot about ratings, revenue and numbers. All very important. But at the Thunder, our goal every day is the consistency of carrying out what we represent as an organization — community, resilience, team is one, together. It’s not just slogans. It’s what drives everyone in our organization every day. That message has never been more meaningful than it’s been the last 48 hours.”

The Thunder was one of two NBA-affiliated organizations recognized at the event. The Barclays Center, which is home to the Brooklyn Nets, was named Facility of the Year.

Barclays Center was one of two facilities recognized with an award after overcoming major obstacles. The Circuit of the Americas, a Formula One track in Austin, Texas, that was nearly derailed in 2011 by a conflict between race organizers and track developers, was honored as Event of the Year for its success in hosting the U.S. Grand Prix.

“There was some doubt whether our project would happen, but we hustled and we had a great team and a great group of owners behind us the whole way,” COTA President Steve Sexton said. “We embarked on a nine-month journey, pulled the construction together, pulled the race off amidst a lot of complicated logistics. Had a great group of fans. I’m really proud of the team that pulled this off.”

Sports Business Awards Judges

Independent outside judges sat on various committees in helping determine the winners of the 2013 Sports Business Awards. Earlier this month, the committees met and deliberated on 13 of the 15 categories. The following lists the outside judges on the respective committees. We want to thank them for their valuable insight during this process.

Two categories — Athletic Director and Sports Executive — were selected solely by a SportsBusiness Journal/Daily editorial committee.

Sean Barror, Raptor Accelerator (Digital Media, Television, Media)
Jared Bartie, Arent Fox (Digital Media, Television, Media)
Bob Basche (Event, Sponsor)
Ray Bednar, Hyperian Marketing Returns-Rockefeller Consulting (Technology, Event, Sponsor)
Sarah Hirshland, U.S. Golf Association (Technology, Event, Sponsor)
Glenn Horine, H&H Consulting (Corporate, Property, Talent, Event Marketing)
Gary Jacobus, Aramark Sports & Entertainment (Digital Media, Television, Media)
Doug Logan (Digital Media, Television, Media)
Tim McGhee, MSP Sports (Team, League, Facility)
Scott Milleisen, JPMorgan Chase (Corporate, Property, Talent, Event Marketing)
Len Perna, Turnkey Sports (Team, League, Facility)
Neal Pilson, Pilson Communications (Team, League, Facility)
Ralph Santana, Harman/Kardon (Corporate, Property, Talent, Event Marketing)
Mary Scott, Matter, Edelman Sports & Entertainment Marketing (Corporate, Property, Talent, Event Marketing)