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Sports Business Awards 101: How we got here

Here is the process of how we got to the 15th annual Sports Business Awards, where more than 1,000 are expected to attend the event this week in New York City.

HOW THE NOMINEES ARE CHOSEN: Sports Business Journal received more than 450 submissions for consideration across 15 categories. Submissions had to be received by Jan. 18 and focus on the eligibility period of March 1, 2021, to Feb. 28, 2022. The editorial staff of Sports Business Journal and SportTechie was split up into committees, led by a captain, to review each of the submissions and also recommend other entities that warranted attention. Not all nominees were formally submitted. SBJ reserves the right to self-nominate entities that we believe had an extraordinary year — as these are best-in-industry awards, not just awards of those who took the time to submit. Each committee reviewed submissions, conducted extra research, discussed the categories and organizations with sources and then deliberated during regular meetings. The SportTechie editorial staff handled the Best in Sports Technology category, since they officially joined SBJ at the end of 2021. After all committees held their final votes, a final group — anywhere from five to 10 organizations — moved ahead as the nominees in each category.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN: The 96 nominees were announced on March 14, and nominees could submit supplemental information for consideration in their submission. Our editorial team debated the two individual categories — Athletic Director of the Year and Sports Executive of the Year — as those two have been selected internally since we started the awards in 2008. SBJ then invited more than 50 outside judges to study, debate and determine the winners. Our aim was a diverse group, who have a passion for sports business and represent various industries, while bringing an open mind and interest in hearing various points of view. They were asked to come to New York City at their own expense and spend a great deal of time to prepare for the deliberations. Judges had to declare any conflicts of interest that would affect their impartiality. We decided to have the judging done in person, as we know that is far more effective and powerful than the virtual judging of the past two years. Judges were given the documentation, along with videos and photos, four weeks out and on May 3-4 in a conference room at the Westin Times Square, judges were split into five groups to debate and vote on two to three categories. We had 44 people join us in person, and to be consistent, we didn’t allow any judges who were not present in the room the ability to vote. The process was consistent: After introductions, I would set up a category and its history and then push and prod debate among the various judges. When we felt we deliberated enough, we agreed to a first ballot, which was tabulated by our awards manager, Megan Meade, in a separate room, and were not revealed to the group. All judges will be revealed — and find out the winners like everyone else — at the awards show on May 18. As a group, they found the process challenging yet educational, as well as a great networking exercise. I would encourage any of you interested in participating in the future to let me know.

CELEBRATION OF SERVICE AWARD: In 2017, SBJ was among the organizations invited to the Vatican as part of Pope Francis’ inaugural “Sports at the Service of Humanity” global conference. Over a fascinating few days, leaders discussed the role of sports in the global society, and each organization was charged with coming up with their own way of amplifying the mission. Sports Business Journal responded by creating our Celebration of Service Award that recognizes an organization that uses the power of sports to help the marginalized and less fortunate. Previously, SBJ used its network and knowledge to select a nonprofit. This year, we wanted to do more around this important initiative. We retained Mandy Murphy from MNM Strategy to help us develop a formal process and for the first time, the award was open for submissions for consideration. We received more than 50 strong submissions for this year’s honor, and America SCORES was selected by a panel of SBJ judges and input from MNM Strategy. America SCORES Executive Director Icy Jones will take the stage to accept the award, which will be presented by last year’s recipient, Lost Boyz Inc. Executive Director LaVonte Stewart Sr. Our hope is that both of these organizations have an impact on the audience and use the opportunity to drive interest, increase awareness and even fundraising for their respective groups. We believe the efforts to amplify this award will enhance the importance of this recognition in the future.

That’s the background and the process. Please let me know if you have questions, thoughts or comments and if you’d like to play a role in the future.

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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