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Volume 21 No. 34

Sports Business Awards

On Wednesday, May 24, nearly 1,000 people will descend on the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square for the 10th annual Sports Business Awards, presented by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily. That evening, winners will be announced in 17 categories consisting of 87 nominees. The nominees were selected by the editorial staff of SportsBusiness Journal/Daily and were announced in March. Over May 9 and 10, a group of 16 independent judges convened in SportsBusiness Journal’s New York City offices to debate, deliberate and vote for the winners in 15 of the categories. The judges spent a great deal of time and effort preparing for these discussions and commented on how challenging the process was of selecting one winner in each category. The judges will be publicly recognized at this week’s awards show and in next week’s issue wrapping up the event. Two categories, Athletic Director of the Year and Executive of the Year, are chosen solely by the editorial staff of SBJ/SBD. The award winners were not shared with the judges or notified prior to this week’s awards gala — they will be made public for the first time at the event.

Also during the evening, the SBJ/SBD Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who will be introduced by his longtime friend Al Michaels. The inaugural Celebration of Service award, chosen by SBJ/SBD, will be presented to longtime social activist Mel Young, president and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup. Another event highlight will see former NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol, the only recipient of both the Executive of the Year Award (2009) and Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), presenting the final award of the evening, the 2017 Executive of the Year.

Nine years ago, guests arrived at the Mandarin Oriental, New York for the inaugural Sports Business Awards, which drew roughly 400 executives curious about this new event. The ceremony started with then-Anheuser-Busch executive Tony Ponturo taking the stage to award the first SBA in history — for Team of the Year. The winner was the Boston Red Sox, and team owner John Henry, President Larry Lucchino and executives Mike Dee, Sam Kennedy and Susan Goodenow all took the stage. Since then, 133 awards have been presented over the nine years, honoring excellence in sports business. Some were expected, some were huge upsets and surprises. It’s been gratifying to recognize all 326 companies, teams, leagues, events, facilities and people that have received 656 nominations over nine years, and we promise our dedicated commitment and effort to continue to make these awards aspirational in the future.

First Look podcast, with SBA discussion beginning at the 12:20 mark:


CLICK EACH CATEGORY TO SEE THE NOMINEES:


Photo by: ELEAGUE


ELeague


STYLE POINTS:


Turner Sports and WME-IMG turned a rare trick with ELeague: Bring a beloved esports property — “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” — onto linear television with a concurrent sales, sponsorship and promotional push, while not alienating core fans and participants.


Photo by: FANATICS


Fanatics


STYLE POINTS:


Webster’s defines breakthrough as a “strikingly important advance.” What Fanatics has done in consolidating sports licensing intellectual property, retail, e-commerce and manufacturing rights is beyond strikingly important; it has turned a sleepy sports licensing industry on its ear.


Photo by: ON LOCATION EXPERIENCES


On Location Experiences


STYLE POINTS:


The NFL hospitality business, On Location Experiences, entertained close to 50,000 guests across four days at the Super Bowl in Houston, creating unique on-site and off-site parties and concerts. The league’s official provider also offered unprecedented control and oversight of the NFL-licensed events.


Photo by: DALLAS COWBOYS


The Star in Frisco


STYLE 
POINTS:


The Dallas Cowboys’ new headquarters and practice facility is a tourist attraction, and the result is a new model for NFL teams to adapt in their markets. In Greater Dallas, the Cowboys formed a partnership with a local school district to share the use of a 12,000-seat indoor stadium for high school football games in Frisco.


Photo by: ZUFFA LLC


UFC 205


STYLE POINTS:


The biggest event in the history of the mixed martial arts promoter, and its first in New York, UFC 205 shattered records for gate revenue, attendance, commercial pay-per-view and social media impressions. Conor McGregor made history inside the octagon, becoming the first to hold multiple championships simultaneously.

Photo by: AEG


AEG Global Partnerships


STYLE POINTS:


The introduction of T-Mobile Arena and founding partners like Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch into AEG’s portfolio contributed to a goal-smashing year punctuated by Toshiba’s renewal as founding partner at Staples Center.


Photo by: CAA SPORTS


CAA Sports


STYLE POINTS:


Heralding the arrival of esports on the big stage, CAA Sports brokered a $300 million agreement with BAMTech for streaming rights to Riot Games’ League of Legends competitions and orchestrated Acer’s sponsorship agreement for the 2016 League of Legends World Championships and all-star event.


Photo by: CSM SPORT AND ENTERTAINMENT


CSM Sport and Entertainment


STYLE POINTS:


A newcomer to the U.S. scene, CSM became an instant player through the acquisition of LeadDog Marketing and added Competitor Group’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, Formula E and USA Rugby to its client roster.


Photo by: PREMIER PARTNERSHIPS


Premier Partnerships


STYLE 
POINTS:


Premier Partnerships was behind two of the most talked about naming-rights deals of the year — New Era Field in Buffalo and the Johnson Controls Pro Football Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio — as well as landing a vital kit deal for the startup Atlanta United FC.


Photo by: VAN WAGNER SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT



Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment


STYLE 
POINTS:


Driving Van Wagner’s historic success was the sellout of seat licenses, seats and clubs at the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium; the creation and launch of U.S. Figure Skating’s Team Challenge Cup; and the management of naming rights and sponsorship for FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou development.


ESPN Digital Media


STYLE POINTS:


ESPN has an enormous digital footprint, evidenced by the more than 112 million uniques that spent 7.9 billion minutes on the platform last year. ESPN Digital also continued its international expansion, launching in China through a collaboration with Tencent.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Facebook


STYLE POINTS:


It hasn’t stepped up for the biggest sports rights yet, but Facebook is experimenting through deals for Liga MX and the NBA D-League. Plus, Facebook Live’s platform provides huge reach for media companies like NBC, which used it during the Rio Games.


Photo by: MLBAM


MLB Advanced Media


STYLE POINTS:


The streaming numbers are as gaudy as they’ve always been for MLBAM, evidenced by an MLB postseason that saw a record 1.1 billion minutes consumed during 110.5 million unique sessions. Disney’s $1 billion investment for a 33 percent stake in BAMTech shows how big the company has become in sports media.


Photo by: NFL


National Football League


STYLE 
POINTS:


Not only was the NFL’s Twitter deal — $10 million for the nonexclusive streaming rights to 10 “Thursday Night Football” games — unprecedented, but the NFL also became the first league to start a channel on Snapchat and posted tremendous viewership growth for live games via mobile.


Photo by: NBC SPORTS GROUP


NBC Sports Group


STYLE POINTS:


NBC’s digital performance during the Rio Games was astounding. The Games’ 10,000 events streamed were the most in history. The network also set records for total minutes (3.5 billion), live minutes (2.71 billion) and unique users (100 million).



Twitter


STYLE POINTS:


By most measures, Twitter’s streams of NFL “Thursday Night Football” games were a success. They were easy to use and brought in a younger, more international audience. Twitter has secured streaming deals with the major sports leagues (NBA, MLB, NHL) and promises to remain involved in the sports business for years to come.


Photo by: VIRGINIA TECH


Whit Babcock


Virginia Tech


In a conference where blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse are your hoops brethren, it would be easy for a football school like Virginia Tech to punt on basketball. But Whit Babcock did just the opposite, hiring Buzz Williams away from Marquette to lead the charge into the veritable lion’s den of ACC basketball.

In just three years in Blacksburg, Babcock has firmly made an impression with his management style and coaching hires. Not only has Williams made Virginia Tech basketball relevant again, but Babcock also managed the retirement of legendary football coach Frank Beamer, which never became the sensitive situation it could have been. He then hired the coach every school with a vacancy wanted, Justin Fuente. The Washington Post called them two of the splashiest hires in school history.

In addition to stabilizing football and basketball, Babcock has restructured the Hokie Club and added a $21 million practice facility for football and other sports.


Photo by: TCU


Chris Del Conte


Texas Christian University


It would be difficult for TCU to have a more successful year from a business standpoint.

The Horned Frogs set revenue records in practically every major category in 2016, including ticket sales, licensing, marketing and media, the team store and concessions.

Chris Del Conte has so deftly guided TCU into the land of the big time that it’s easy to forget that the Frogs were members of the Mountain West Conference just five years ago. Del Conte steered the school into a power five conference and the Frogs have flourished on the big stage, setting new standards for annual giving that have established Del Conte as one of the nation’s most effective fundraisers.

Del Conte complemented the school’s recent football success by hiring proven winner and alum Jamie Dixon to lead the men’s basketball program, which played its first full season in the fully renovated ($72 million) Schollmaier Arena.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Dan Guerrero


UCLA


Under Armour shocked the college world last May when it awarded UCLA with the country’s richest shoe and apparel contract — 15 years, $280 million — surpassing even recent deals Nike signed at Ohio State and Texas.

The contract with Under Armour did more than fund and outfit the Bruins. It re-established UCLA, perhaps still best known for John Wooden’s success in the 1960s and ’70s, as a major brand across the college landscape.

The man behind the scenes (where he prefers to stay) negotiating the deal was Dan Guerrero.

Under his watch, the Bruins have enjoyed an athletics renaissance with their usual across-the-board success in men’s and women’s sports, while also overhauling the school’s facilities. The $75 million Wasserman Football Center is expected to open this summer and the $35 million Mo Ostin Basketball Center should be ready before the end of the year.


Photo by: AUBURN UNIVERSITY


Jay Jacobs


Auburn University


In the minutes before kickoff, Auburn’s iconic war eagle circles the sky above Jordan-Hare Stadium before swooping down to midfield, while images play across the screen of the largest college stadium video board in the country. It’s the perfect mix of a decades-old pregame ritual steeped in Auburn lore with the modern-day accoutrements that make game day on the Plains unique.

Jay Jacobs, Auburn’s athletic director since 2004 and a former Tigers football player, wouldn’t script it any other way. Jacobs has established Auburn’s game-day atmosphere as one of the country’s foremost, with an unparalleled commitment to the fan experience.

The approach has paid off for athletics, with donations and other revenue soaring to record levels in 2016 as Auburn further stakes its claim to being a national brand.

Beyond that, Jacobs, the longest-tenured AD in the SEC West, has become a leader among his peers, serving as chairman of the SEC ADs, as well as other national committees.


Photo by: CLEMSON UNIVERSITY


Dan Radakovich


Clemson University


A college football national championship. A $55 million football operations center that’s the talk of the country. A $63 million renovation to Littlejohn Coliseum that breathed much-needed life into the basketball program. A lucrative new multimedia rights agreement with JMI Sports.

By almost every account, Clemson athletics is prospering at unprecedented levels, and Dan Radakovich is the captain steering the ship.

Radakovich came to Tiger Town in 2012, and his imprint can be seen throughout Clemson’s athletic department, for example, funding several new positions to bolster the Tigers’ digital department to make it one of the trendsetters nationally.

His impact has spread beyond Clemson as well. Radakovich has served on the CFP selection committee since its inception, and he recently was named vice chair of LEAD1, the AD’s association for FBS schools. Within the ACC, Radakovich served on the television committee that helped the conference work with ESPN to establish plans for an ACC Network.

Photo by: CHICAGO CUBS


Chicago Cubs


STYLE POINTS:


The Cubs broke not only their 108-year championship drought on the field but also numerous sports industry merchandise sales records, and became one of the most dynamic and influential franchises in the business with an ambitious overhaul of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area.


Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES


Cleveland Cavaliers


STYLE POINTS:


Winning their first NBA championship, the Cavs are the first Cleveland team to bring a title to town since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. A powerhouse off the floor as well, the Cavs leveraged their success to become one of the NBA’s top revenue-generating teams.


Photo by: NBAE / GETTY IMAGES


Golden State Warriors


STYLE POINTS:


The Warriors in January broke ground on their new $1 billion arena to open in 2019 in San Francisco. With a season-ticket waiting list of more than 30,000, the Dubs are one of the hottest brands in sports and have masterfully marketed themselves in lucrative Silicon Valley.


Photo by: MIAMI DOLPHINS


Miami Dolphins


STYLE 
POINTS:


After completing a $500 million stadium renovation and landing a new naming-rights partner in Hard Rock International, the Dolphins took back ticket inventory from brokers, a step many teams have followed and one example of the turnaround in the team’s business fortunes.


Photo by: TORONTO FC


Toronto FC


STYLE POINTS:


Toronto FC’s trip to the MLS Cup Final further established both the team and league across Canada. Completing its two-year, $150 million renovation that expanded BMO Field by 10,000 seats, it saw increases across all business lines in 2016.

Photo by: UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA


Gaylord Family -
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium


STYLE POINTS:


The $160 million south end zone expansion encompasses new premium seat inventory designed to attract new and younger donors into the Big 12 school’s football program. The 22 suites, 66 loge boxes and 1,810 club seats sold out prior to the 2016 season.


Photo by: SACRAMENTO KINGS


Golden 1 Center


STYLE POINTS:


The Sacramento Kings’ new arena stands out as the only LEED Platinum facility in sports, the highest level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s program. The five towering glass doors that fold up garage-style to create an indoor-outdoor venue are the arena’s signature design feature.


Photo by: MIAMI DOLPHINS


Hard Rock Stadium


STYLE POINTS:


The new roof canopy protecting 92 percent of fans attending Miami Dolphins games provides a new look to the 30-year-old building, which shrank by 10,000 seats. The team’s naming-rights deal with Hard Rock International helps recoup owner Stephen Ross’ $500 million investment in stadium renovations.


Photo by: EDMONTON OILERS


Rogers Place


STYLE 
POINTS:


The Oilers’ new arena has helped resurrect downtown Edmonton and spurred more than $2 billion in new development around the facility. The arena features 37 types of seating inventory, much of it new premium introduced to a market unfamiliar with those concepts at Rexall Place, one of the NHL’s older buildings.


Photo by: MINNESOTA VIKINGS


U.S. Bank Stadium


STYLE POINTS:


The stadium’s fixed roof, made of ETFE, a clear plastic material, gives Minnesota Vikings fans the feeling of playing outdoors in one of the NFL’s harshest climates. The Mystic Lake Club Purple, tucked into the midlevel northwest corner, features couch seating sold as season tickets in a fantasy football lounge setting.


Chicago Bulls


STYLE POINTS:


Buoyed by their NBA Team Digital Content of the Year award-winning LoopaBulls series, the Bulls had a robust following on multiple platforms in the U.S. and overseas. The team also monetized its audience by selling its compelling and engaging content series to partners.



Dallas Cowboys


STYLE POINTS:


When the Mannequin Challenge became the latest craze last year, the Dallas Cowboys were all in on social media, posting their efforts from the team plane. That one post drew 10 million views on social media, and was one element of a wider content push on social media.


Photo by: MLS


Major League Soccer


STYLE POINTS:


MLS leveraged its millennial, tech-savvy fan base with several approaches across social media, including the use of Instagram Stories, doing a press conference at Twitter’s headquarters, and creating a digital headquarters in San Jose around its All-Star Game.



NBC Sports Group


STYLE 
POINTS:


NBC Sports experienced tremendous growth across its major social media platforms and executed unique partnerships with Buzzfeed and Snapchat around the U.S. Olympic team trials and the Rio Games. Johnny Weir’s tweet-powered brooch was the talk of the Kentucky Derby.



WWE


STYLE POINTS:


Embracing new technology and platforms, especially livestreaming, WWE had the No. 1 sports channel on YouTube and was a pioneer in the use of Snapchat Live Story and Instagram Live Story production, giving followers a candid, vibrant look behind the scenes of its biggest events.

Photo by: ENGINE SHOP


Engine Shop


STYLE POINTS:


Growth infused all of Engine Shop’s work, creating the Bud Light Down South Tailgate Tour and the Budweiser Country Club at the Battle at Bristol, and creating and managing Mercedes-Benz activation platforms in tennis, golf and football.


Photo by: GMR MARKETING


GMR Marketing


STYLE POINTS:


Engaging with the biggest events on the sports calendar, GMR managed events and hospitality for more than a dozen sponsor clients at the 2016 Rio Games, including Procter & Gamble, Visa and Cisco, and retrofitted Houston’s House of Blues into a multilevel NFL House for Super Bowl LI.


Photo by: THE MARKETING ARM


The Marketing Arm


STYLE POINTS:


Mobilizing fans, The Marketing Arm executed more than 1,000 events in men’s and women’s college athletics around Nissan’s Diehard Fan Experience, assisted State Farm in its Roadhouse tailgate activation in the NFL, and drove experiences for AT&T across multiple properties.


Photo by: WASSERMAN


Wasserman


STYLE 
POINTS:


Fueled by technology and innovation, Wasserman created the Microsoft Creator’s Lab — where fans customized helmets, jerseys, footballs and cleats using Surface products — at NFL Experience for Super Bowl LI, and managed the inaugural Dew NBA 3X Tour across six U.S. cities.


Photo by:WME-IMG


WME-IMG


STYLE POINTS:


At the NFL draft in Chicago, WME-IMG executed activations for Visa, DirecTV and Courtyard by Marriott, and launched ELeague in partnership with Turner Broadcasting, with more than 60 live event activations hosting more than 28,000 esports fans.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


CAA Sports


STYLE POINTS:


Marking its 10th anniversary, CAA Sports helped launch PowerForward, a B2B digital, video-based leadership development program for Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and facilitated Tim Tebow’s minor league baseball debut with the New York Mets organization.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Excel Sports Management


STYLE POINTS:


Active on and off the field of play, Excel recrafted Derek Jeter’s deal with Jordan Brand to allow him to take on a more corporate role, and helped NASCAR driver Danica Patrick launch a line of athleisure clothing.


Photo by: OCTAGON


Octagon


STYLE POINTS:


A major player in the Olympics, Octagon landed multiple new endorsements for Michael Phelps, the comeback story of Rio, and gymnast Simone Biles, the breakout star of the Games. It also expanded Steph Curry’s endorsement portfolio in China, including a deal with smartphone company Vivo.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Roc Nation Sports


STYLE 
POINTS:


Roc Nation guided Kevin Durant through his high-profile free agency negotiations, getting him a max deal with the Golden State Warriors. For L.A. Rams running back Todd Gurley, the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year, it secured deals with Gatorade, Bose and Carl’s Jr.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Wasserman


STYLE POINTS:


Known for helping clients at the center of cultural issues, Wasserman represented Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics in a hijab, and landed her endorsements with Mini Cooper, Visa, Gap, Nike and United Airlines.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Anheuser-Busch InBev


STYLE POINTS:


Perennially the biggest sponsorship spender in sports, A-B InBev’s properties range from the NFL to the Drone Racing League. Highlights include the old — an ad celebrating the Cubs championship with archival Harry Caray footage — along with the new: esports and virtual reality initiatives.


Photo by: BRIDGESTONE


Bridgestone


STYLE POINTS:


Bridgestone increased visibility and awareness through its Olympics, NFL, NHL and motorsports sponsorships effectively enough to help sales grow 2 percent last year, when the overall tire category declined.


Photo by: ESURANCE


Esurance


STYLE POINTS:


Esurance’s “every egg in one basket” strategy with MLB, MiLB and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has helped significantly increase both brand awareness and purchase intent in a category with as much marketing noise as any.


Photo by: JPMORGAN CHASE


JPMorgan Chase


STYLE 
POINTS:


High-visibility sponsorships like the U.S. Tennis Association, Madison Square Garden and Chase Center in San Francisco — future home of the Golden State Warriors — have helped the financial services giant attain and retain customers in one of the most competitive categories.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Pepsi Beverages


STYLE POINTS:


Pepsi continues to fuse its music and entertainment assets as artfully as any brand, if not better. Pepsi was the most discussed brand at Super Bowl LI, with #PepsiHalftime as the most tweeted brand hashtag on Super Bowl Sunday.


Experience


STYLE POINTS:


Already an influential player in ticket and fan experience upgrades, the Atlanta-based Experience continued to push the envelope on subscription-based ticketing and piloted a new product, InWeGo, that pools access to a large group of Atlanta sports teams and attractions.


Photo by: GAMETIME


Gametime


STYLE POINTS:


The concept of last-minute ticket buying owes much of its existence and popularity to this San Francisco company. Gametime has attracted some of the industry’s heavy hitters, including Wasserman Chairman Casey Wasserman and Accel Partners, as investors.



ReplyBuy


STYLE POINTS:


While many ticketing players continue to layer in new technology to their products, ReplyBuy has accelerated its growth curve through text-based ticketing, offering unmatched speed and simplicity. The firm has aligned with several major primary ticketing companies and more than 100 pro and college teams.



2016 TCS New York City Marathon


STYLE 
POINTS:


The official marathon mobile app, developed in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services, brought a new level of depth, immersion and social engagement to the event. Ninety-eight percent of the more than 51,000 runners were tracked live on the app by friends and family.


Photo by: CATAPULT


Catapult


STYLE POINTS:


The Australian sports analytics company continues to grow rapidly, purchasing XOS Digital and Irish GPS tracking firm PlayerTek for nearly $64 million combined, expanding its presence in basketball and football, and making successful entries in wearable technology for baseball and hockey.


Photo by: EPHESUS


Eaton’s Ephesus lighting solution


STYLE POINTS:


The upstate New York outfit has played a leading role in the sports industry’s shift to LED lighting at stadiums and arenas across the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA. Ephesus also was selected to “Light Up Martinsville,” becoming NASCAR’s first track with LED, and landed installations at more than a dozen major college venues.



Intel


STYLE POINTS:


A sharply heightened emphasis on sports saw the technology giant make an eye-catching series of big bets last year in virtual reality, player performance analytics, and advanced video replays, in turn partnering with many of the world’s biggest sports entities. Click here for video from last year’s MLB All-Star Game.



Teamworks


STYLE 
POINTS:


Teamworks’ group organization platform has become a preferred provider for more than a thousand pro and college clients, streamlining a wide array of scheduling and messaging needs into an elegant mobile-based solution.


Photo by: CBS SPORTS


CBS Sports


STYLE POINTS:


CBS continued to show the power of broadcast sports, producing the biggest events (like the NFL, the Masters and SEC football) and negotiating rights deals for the NCAA tournament and Big Ten basketball.


Photo by: ESPN


ESPN


STYLE POINTS:


In a climate of cord cutting, ESPN has been at the forefront of signing new carriage deals with services such as DirecTV Now, Hulu, Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV. Throw in its first Academy Award, for “O.J.: Made in America,” and it was another stellar year for ESPN.


Photo by: FOX SPORTS


Fox Sports


STYLE POINTS:


Fox was at the center of two of the biggest events in sports: the first Super Bowl to go into overtime and the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. Its FS1 channel also registered impressive growth, especially in prime time, where its audience doubled.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


NBC Sports Group


STYLE 
POINTS:


“Sunday Night Football” remained prime-time TV’s top-rated show for the sixth straight year, and “Thursday Night Football” came in at No. 2. Throw in the massive audiences for the Rio Olympics — both on TV and online — and you quickly run out of superlatives to describe NBC Sports’ year.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Turner Sports


STYLE POINTS:


In addition to carrying the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on cable for the first time, Turner renegotiated its NCAA tournament deal to run into the 2030s. Turner was a first mover in the fast-moving esports realm, with its ELeague partnership with WME-IMG.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Univision Deportes


STYLE POINTS:


The Spanish-language network posted year-over-year ratings growth for a fourth consecutive year, thanks to a steady diet of soccer programming, like the popular Copa América Centenario, which posted demo wins over English-language networks like ESPN, FS1 and NBCSN. It also negotiated rights to 16 of Liga MX’s 18 teams.

Photo by: CAA SPORTS


CAA Sports


STYLE POINTS:


CAA Sports lit up the sky over Flushing Meadows with Chase’s branding of Arthur Ashe Stadium’s new retractable roof in time for the U.S. Open, and added more than a dozen new clients, including big league sponsors Tissot, New Era and Xbox.


Photo by: GENESCO SPORTS ENTERPRISES


Genesco Sports Enterprises


STYLE POINTS:


In a year of big wins, Genesco negotiated Hard Rock International’s naming-rights deal for the Miami Dolphins’ stadium and added new clients in Optum, Papa John’s, Advance Auto Parts and Molson Coors.


Photo by: GMR MARKETING


GMR Marketing


STYLE POINTS:


Always active in the Olympic space, GMR evaluated, negotiated and will activate Xfinity’s USOC sponsorship and managed growing partnerships for Procter & Gamble, Visa, Hershey’s and Cisco.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Momentum Worldwide


STYLE 
POINTS:


Experiencing unprecedented growth, Momentum managed and grew sponsorship and activation for Buffalo Wild Wings, Mondelez, United Airlines, UPS and Verizon, and added agency of record duties for SAP.


Photo by: OCTAGON


Octagon


STYLE POINTS:


Driving passion for clients, Octagon grew Taco Bell’s popular Steal a Base, Steal a Taco platform in MLB and adapted it to the NBA, and helped Delta Air Lines create stories and content, including mischief involving mascots.


Photo by: WME-IMG


WME-IMG


STYLE POINTS:


WME-IMG got the industry buzzing about Topgolf Crush and its stadium tour, ushered Bud Light and T-Mobile into esports, and put GE on the Boston map with the Celtics jersey patch.

Photo by: COPA AMÉRICA CENTENARIO


2016 Copa América Centenario Knockout Round


STYLE POINTS:


Held outside of South America for the first time, the 100-year-old tournament found success in the U.S., with more than 1.5 million fans in attendance and record television ratings for rights holders Fox Sports and Univision. The Argentina-Chile final was played in front of more than 82,000 at MetLife Stadium.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


2016 Indianapolis 500


STYLE POINTS:


With a crowd of about 350,000 after a marathon promotional buildup, and a TV audience of more than 6 million in the U.S., IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the 100th running of the Indy 500 the biggest the track had seen in decades, by almost any business metric.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


2016 Ryder Cup


STYLE POINTS:


The Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club saw the trophy return to the U.S. for the first time since 2008 in front of record crowds. Its new look draped the stands in red to create a home-field advantage while also putting sponsorship branding on hole signage, video boards, entrances and tee-box signage.


Photo by: MLB


2016 World Series


STYLE 
POINTS:


The Chicago Cubs’ epic seven-game victory over Cleveland drew MLB’s largest TV audiences in more than a generation and shifted baseball off the sports pages into a much larger cultural story. Ticket resale prices for the three games at Wrigley Field were the highest ever seen in baseball.


Photo by: BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY


Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol


STYLE POINTS:


Tennessee and Virginia Tech squared off in front of a record 156,000 fans inside Bristol Motor Speedway in a setting as unique as one ever created for a college football game. All that was missing was the smell of burned rubber.


Photo by: NHL / NHLPA


World Cup of Hockey 2016


STYLE POINTS:


The NHL and NHLPA relaunched the international tournament 12 years after its last iteration with a two-week event in Toronto. It also served as a testing ground for the sport, with the introduction of player and puck tracking, and digital dasherboard advertising.

Photo by: MLB


Major League Baseball


STYLE POINTS:


Total revenue approached $10 billion and attendance remained at historically high levels, a dramatic World Series enthralled the nation, and a major investment deal with Disney over the development of BAMTech pointed toward the potential future of media. Efforts such as the Fort Bragg game and a return to Cuba showed out-of-the-box thinking.


Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


National Basketball Association


STYLE POINTS:


With a new labor deal and an expected record $8 billion in revenue, 2016 ushered in the NBA’s most prosperous era. Last year’s Finals brought record TV viewership, and franchise values continue to soar, reflecting the NBA’s powerhouse position in sports.


Photo by: NHL


National Hockey League


STYLE POINTS:


Building up to its centennial season, the NHL took bold steps last year, highlighted by being the first major league to expand to Las Vegas and the relaunch of the World Cup of Hockey. Behind record league revenue, NHL clubs set full-season records in average attendance and stadium capacity.


Photo by: PBR


Professional Bull Riders


STYLE 
POINTS:


On the eve of its 25th anniversary, PBR enjoyed record ratings and attendance in major markets and reached a new deal with Wal-Mart to bring events to stores along the league’s 2016 tour schedule. PBR also saw a bump in mainstream, digital and nontraditional media coverage, and its Netflix series “Fearless” earned critical acclaim.


Photo by: USOC


U.S. Olympic Committee


STYLE POINTS:


Team USA set an all-time high mark of 121 medals in Rio, winning every category of medals for both men and women — the first time any country has done that since 1960. It also announced the long-awaited Olympic Channel with partners NBC and the IOC, and helped sign a blockbuster global deal with the Alibaba Group.

Photo by: WME-IMG


Ari Emanuel / Patrick Whitesell


Co-CEOs, WME-IMG


In the days after WME-IMG announced its $4 billion acquisition of the UFC, Dana White was ecstatic. The UFC president was already envisioning the places his sport could go with co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell charting the course as new owners..

“I think Ari is going to sell this deal in ways that we wouldn’t have,” White said. “He’ll monetize it all in ways we wouldn’t have. … This is what he does.”.

WME-IMG’s charge into the UFC, on the heels of acquiring Professional Bull Riders the year before, reflects the company’s eye on properties it can own, grow and diversify across the athletes, events and sponsorships it represents..

Emanuel and Whitesell also partnered with Turner to launch ELeague, a professional esports league that premiered in 2016, and with that extended their commitment to finding new business opportunities at the intersection of sports and entertainment.


Photo by: TURNER


David Levy


President, Turner


Turner President David Levy was beaming as he stood on the NRG Stadium court in the hours before the 2016 Final Four was about to tip off. Levy spoke of media history that was about to be made, as this would be the first time the Final Four and championship game would be carried on cable.

Levy did not stop with the NCAA tournament, a deal that he and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus extended through 2032.

Among Turner’s progressive moves: Esports is among the hottest sectors in sports, so Levy launched the ELeague with WME-IMG. Leagues are trying to attract younger fans, so Levy cut some commercials out of TNT’s Monday night NBA telecasts and launched “Area 21” to keep younger viewers tuned in. Turner’s beefed-up Bleacher Report has grown so much that it now reaches more than 250 million people each month across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Photo by: CHICAGO CUBS


Tom Ricketts


Chairman, Chicago Cubs


Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts transformed the so-called Lovable Losers into epic sports history, overseeing the demise of the club’s infamous 108-year title drought with last year’s dramatic seven-game World Series victory. Going far beyond on-field success, Ricketts also led a top-to-bottom overhaul of the franchise, reshaping business operations and preserving Wrigley Field for generations to come with a large-scale renovation of the ballpark and immediate Wrigleyville neighborhood.

For many years one of baseball’s underperforming franchises, the Cubs under Ricketts’ leadership have become an industry force, pop culture phenomenon and community anchor as the club set records for merchandise sales, registered strong increases in every other line of revenue and deepened its ties to the city of Chicago and its residents. Ricketts has also become a highly influential voice within baseball at large, and is a member of MLB’s Executive Council.


Photo by: NBPA


Michele Roberts


Executive Director, National Basketball Players Association


Facing her biggest test since becoming the first female head of a major sports union in North America, Michele Roberts successfully negotiated a seven-year collective-bargaining agreement with the NBA that increased roster sizes, returned licensing and marketing rights to the union, and provided a host of benefits for players, all without a stoppage in play.

The new CBA includes tuition assistance for players who want to go back to school and a retiree health program for players with at least three years of service in the NBA. By bringing players’ marketing and merchandising rights in-house, the union is free to sign competitive licensing and sponsorship deals, explore additional player-only licensed product agreements, and stage and sell its own events.

Roberts’ work since her appointment in 2014 has moved the union and the league toward an era of partnership to the benefit of the players.


Photo by: NBA


Adam Silver


Commissioner, National Basketball Association


Adam Silver presides over an NBA that under his leadership finds itself in an unprecedented era of prosperity. Over the past year, Silver has negotiated a new collective-bargaining agreement with the players, ensuring labor peace in the league that this year is expected to reach a record $8 billion in revenue. His dealmaking ability has brought a true sense of partnership with the players as he focuses on player-related health issues by decreasing the length of the NBA preseason and reducing the number of back-to-back games.

Silver’s open and progressive approach in running the NBA also has led to bold new initiatives such as the creation of the NBA’s new esports league and the first naming-rights deal for the D-League, with Gatorade. With the rebranding, the D-League will become the G-League.

From red-carpet hijinks to poignant moments on the podium, the Sports Business Awards have been a night for celebration of the people, organizations and events that have built an industry and keep it thriving.

Photos by Shana Wittenwyler, Roxxe Ireland and Marc Bryan-Brown


2008 — First presenter, Anheuser-Busch’s Tony Ponturo

2008 — First winner, Boston Red Sox, Sports Team of the Year

2011 — 2010 ING New York City Marathon, Sports Event of the Year

2010 — David Stern discusses social responsibility in sports.

2009 — Jay Blunk, Peter Ueberroth, Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough

2010 — Jerry Jones and family accept the award for Sports Facility of the Year. Jones also wins Sports Executive of the Year.

2013 — USOC’s Scott Blackmun accepts the Sports Executive of the Year award backed by his staff.

2016 — Octagon, Best Talent Representation of the Year

2012 — David Hill, Fox Sports, accepts for Best in Sports Media.

2013 — Curtis Martin, Sports Event of the Year presenter

2014 — In a big night, the NHL turns a hat trick: Bill Daly, NHL, Sports League of the Year; Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, Sports Executive of the Year; John Collins, 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Sports Event of the Year

2016 — Howard Handler, MLS; Brad Ruskin, Proskauer; Jon Miller, NBC

2011 — San Francisco Giants, Sports Team of the Year

2009 — SBJ/SBD’s first Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Peter Ueberroth, and daughter Heidi

2009 — Howie Nuchow, CAA Sports, Best in Talent Representation. 

2014 — Sean McManus of CBS and Barry Frank of IMG walk the red carpet.

2011 — Billie Jean King accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award from Chris Evert.

2015 — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver accepts the Sports Executive of the Year award from Gary Bettman.



2016 — Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and his staff celebrate the Sports League of the Year win.

2015 — NBC’s Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth, presenters for Dick Ebersol’s Lifetime Achievement Award, have some fun on the red carpet.

2010 — Gene Smith, Ohio State, Athletic Director of the Year. 2016 — Gene Smith, Ohio State, Athletic Director of the Year

2014 — Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dan Rooney with wife Patricia, Franco Harris and Roger Goodell.

2012 — Casey Wasserman, Wasserman, Best in Talent Representation

2011 — ESPN President George Bodenheimer, Sports Executive of the Year

2008 — ESPN Digital Media, Sports Online of the Year

2014 — NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and wife Amy

2016 — Bruce Bowen, ESPN analyst. 2014 — Franco Harris and Paul Tagliabue

2015 — NBC’s Dick Ebersol is joined by his family as he accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award.

2009 — NACDA’s Bob Vecchione, Minnesota’s Joel Maturi, Cal’s Sandy Barbour and Wake Forest’s Ron Wellman celebrate Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione’s win.

2016 — Lifetime Achievement Award winner Bud Selig and presenter Hank Aaron


Overall top winners, 2008 through 2016:

ESPN Digital Media (5), Sports Media (4), Sports TV (3), Technology (1)
13
CAA Sports Talent (4), Property (2)
6
NBC Sports Sports Media (2), Sports TV (2), Digital Media (1)
5
WME-IMG* Corporate (3), Property (2)
5
MLBAM Technology (2), Digital Media (2)
4
NHL League (2), Event (Winter Classic) (2)
4
Octagon Corporate (2), Talent (1), Agency (1)
4
Fox Sports Sports Media (2), Sports TV (1)
3
GMR Marketing Event Marketing (2), Corporate (1)
3
NBA League (2), Social Media (1)
3
Excel Sports Talent
2
Experience Technology, Mobile
2
Gene Smith Athletic Director
2
Golden State Warriors Team
2
MLB League, Event Marketing
2
MLS League
2
The Marketing Arm Corporate, Event Marketing
2
Momentum Worldwide Event Marketing
2
NFL League, Event (Super Bowl)
2
Pepsi Sponsor
2
Turner Sports Sports Media, Digital Media
2

*IMG became WME-IMG in 2014