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Sports Media and Marketing MVPs

Adweek readers select the industry's star players. Here's the all-star lineup
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Sports Media Executive of the Year
John Skipper President, ESPN; Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks The undisputed heavyweight champion of sports content, the 56-year-old last fall was tapped to replace veteran chief George Bodenheimer as the head of Disney’s most profitable division. And little wonder. After a career in print (Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Spin), Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 to oversee the launch of ESPN The Magazine. A key player in Bristol’s hegemonic rise (the flagship cable channel alone took in some $1.7 billion in ad revenue last year), Skipper spent the last six years steering programming and production across ESPN’s phalanx of media platforms.

Best Sports Brand
(Consumer Goods Marketer)
Nike
Nike’s stacked team of star endorsers—Kobe Bryant, Tim Tebow and Cristiano Ronaldo, to name just a few—keeps its signature swoosh front and center with fans. The brand also benefits from an A-list agency roster: Longtime creative lead Wieden + Kennedy keeps churning out buzzworthy spots, while R/GA and AKQA help it masterfully navigate the evolving digital landscape.

Best Sports Brand
(Sports Franchise)
New York Yankees
Despite falling short of the 2011 ALCS, the team came out of the season with some brand-boosting achievements. Star shortstop Derek Jeter became the first Bomber to rack up 3,000 career hits—just another notch for a team that’s long been one of the most iconic franchises in pro sports

Sports Marketing
Executive of the Year
Steve Phelps
CMO, Nascar
Though bracing against economic headwinds since arriving at Nascar in 2005—surging fuel costs, a housing crisis, the credit collapse, a global recession—Phelps has kept the wolves at bay. (His appearance on CBS’ Undercover Boss didn’t hurt.) Not only are ratings on the rebound, but key sponsors like UPS and Kraft have agreed to renew their pacts. Credit Phelps’ 20 years in professional sports marketing and a long-term campaign to strengthen the race-day product at the track and on the tube with keeping Nascar purring through the curve of economic uncertainty.

Best Sports Campaign
ESPN, ‘It’s Not Crazy,
It’s Sports’
We watched as fans shaved their eyebrows after bets they lost to their buddies and subjected their beer-drenched girlfriends to Jumbotron proposals. Launched in July 2010, the network’s homage to sports mania stayed strong through its second year as Wieden + Kennedy spotlighted more of the insane things people do for sheer love of the game.

Best Sports Mobile App WatchESPN
Without gimmickry, this app allows fans to simply enjoy the net’s content on their Apple devices, streaming programming from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com. The downside? Only subscribers of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS have access.

 


Best Sports Journalist/Commentator
Katie Baker, Grantland
A former Goldman Sachs analyst who once moonlighted for the likes of Deadspin, Baker ditched Wall Street last year for a gig at ESPN’s splashy new site, where her deeply authoritative and incisive long-form takes have become a must-read
for the sports enthusiast.



Best Sports Spot
State Farm,
‘State of Imitation’
To promote the insurer’s “Discount Double Check” service, which makes sure the customer is aware of all the possible deals he or she can get, DDB appropriated the popular “championship belt” touchdown move of the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Because saving money makes people want to celebrate, too.

Best Sports Pitchman
Blake Griffin
Compared to more seasoned sports stars, the NBA’s 2011 Rookie of the Year and slam-dunk champ comes up short in endorsement deals. But stunts like his slo-mo flight over the Kia Optima helped the L.A. Clippers power forward edge out basketball royalty Michael Jordan as our readers’ favorite brand frontman.

Best Sports Media
Bleacher Report
This popular destination for the sports nut has made a serious effort to professionalize its crowdsourced model, beefing up its edit team and instituting a training program for its army of fan contributors. With $22 million in new funding as of last August, it is among the hottest sports media properties around, despite howls about some of its
user-gen content.



Best Sports Technology
March Madness on Demand
Created by Turner Sports Interactive in partnership with CBS and the NCAA, MMOD lets college basketball fans watch all 68 teams duke it out in the championship tournament via their computers and mobile devices. But, heads up: last week it was reported that MMOD will no longer be the free service it was before.

Illustration: Goñi Montes