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Volume 21 No. 2
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Sports Business Awards: All about the team

Golden State Warriors’ success at core of multiple winners

Warriors owner Joe Lacob was on stage as his NBA team put away a playoff game.

As his Golden State Warriors played in a pivotal game in the Western Conference finals last week, team owner Joe Lacob was across the country accepting an award as Sports Executive of the Year. When Lacob took the stage, his team had an 11-point lead and was on its way to tying the series at a game apiece.

“Anyone who’s ever sat at a game with me knows that it’s probably not the most fun,” he told the crowd. “It’s very intense. I’m a little crazy at the games. This is the most difficult game I’ve ever watched — in a playoff game of this magnitude being this far away.”

Many of the 850 sports executives in attendance at last week’s Sports Business Awards at New York’s Marriott Marquis remarked on the signal it sent to the overall sports business, that some of the Warriors’ top executives opted to attend the event, keeping up with the game on their phones and tablets. But it was Lacob’s message that really resonated with the crowd, when he offered business advice that focused on three areas: pick great people, set high goals and “just work your ass off.”

Those standards are working for his organization. The Warriors also won Sports Team of the Year, an honor that President and COO Rick Welts accepted.

“Since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and their partners bought this team, we have been on a rocket ship,” Welts said.

That rocket ship helped the Warriors — and many of the companies associated with the team — to take home the biggest awards at last week’s event — from the first award of the night, which went to Stephen Curry’s talent representation, Octagon, to the last one, which went to Lacob.

A consistent theme throughout the night dealt with the Warriors’ success. A team like this year’s Golden State, which won an NBA-record 73 games, comes around only once in a generation.

“I’ve been at Turner for 30 years, and this reminds me of when Michael Jordan was playing on TNT and there was a 20 to 30 percent ratings lift any time he played,” said Turner President David Levy, after accepting the award for Best in Sports Media for his company. “That’s what’s happening right now with Golden State. There’s so much interest from both the die-hard fans and the casual fans. When you can bring in that casual audience, you’re going to get that 20 to 30 percent lift.”

Levy, who left his company’s Adult Swim upfront event to attend the awards ceremony, credited the Warriors’ owners for creating a business culture that has allowed the team to set so many on-court records.

“It comes from the top down,” Levy said. “It comes from the owners, the management team, the general managers and how they treat their players. If you don’t have a good organization, it doesn’t work.”

Golden State’s Rick Welts accepted the Sports Team of the Year award.
It wasn’t just the Warriors, a team that won two awards, that fared well. The Warriors’ league, the NBA, won Best in Sports Social Media.

The real testament to the team’s performance came from the number of companies associated with the Warriors that won awards, including Turner Sports, which was honored with Best in Sports Media.

Octagon was recognized for Best Talent Representation of the Year largely for its work with Curry, and CAA Sports was honored with Best in Property Consulting for its work behind the Warriors’ Chase Center.

“That was our fastest naming-rights deal ever,” said Paul Danforth, CAA Sports’ head of global sales, of reaching an agreement with JPMorgan Chase. “It took eight months. When you look at all the team has accomplished at the same time, this is a very special moment for both of us.”

Phil de Picciotto, Octagon’s founder and president, also credited the Warriors.

“We will never be able to think of this recognition without recalling the year Steph Curry had and how big an impact he had on sports, and especially the NBA, on and off the court,” he said.

Many of the results were expected, given the historic records set by the Warriors. Still, the night featured several surprises, including the 2015 Belmont Stakes, which beat out Super Bowl 50 and the Women’s World Cup Final for Sports Event of the Year. After receiving the award, New York Racing Association President and CEO Christopher Kay admitted that even he was surprised with the honor.

The Players’ Tribune also surprised by beating out the Dodgers Accelerator and Orlando City SC for Sports Breakthrough of the Year, a new category this year.

Major League Soccer was honored as Sports League of the Year for the first time since 2008, leading MLS Commissioner Don Garber to joke that he worried MLS would be like Susan Lucci, a soap opera actress who was nominated for a Daytime Emmy award most years but won only once, in 1999.