Sports Media Watch caught up with PromaxBDA President and CEO Jonathan Block-Verk on Friday, to discuss the upcoming Sports Media Marketing Awards. In particular, topics of conversation included how the event attracted some of the bigger names in the sports media industry, the Lifetime Innovator award being given to former Anheuser-Busch exec. Tony Ponturo, and the inclusion of the sports media blogosphere.
Sports Media Watch is one of the sponsors of the event.
SMW: This is the first year of the Sports Media Marketing Awards. What went into the decision to really start this?
Block-Verk: PromaxBDA is the organization that’s putting it on. It’s a 55-year-old organization focused on the media marketing industry. As an organization, we have well over a dozen conferences and award shows around the world, and the flagship one that happens here in the states in June, and we bring together thousands of executives, creatives, strategists, media planners, PR and communication executives from the media marketing industry.
We recognized that the sports industry, specifically the sports media industry, is a section that’s underserved and really not in anyway recognized as the creative and strategic leaders that they are. Recognizing that there’s this whole massive industry out there, we decided to tap into it and try to celebrate the creativity and excellence emanating from the sports media marketing industry.
SMW: This event has quite a few big names in terms of judges. How did you decide who to go after, and how did you arrange to have those people involved?
Block-Verk: You go after the best. Because of PromaxBDA’s stature in the media industry, connecting with the leaders in the sports media industry was really more or less a phone call. From the early days, we got [NBC Sports President] Dick Ebersol, [HBO Sports President] Ross Greenburg, [Turner Sports President] David Levy, [ESPN EVP Sales/Marketing] Sean Bratches — all of them committed real early to support and get behind either in an active or even an inactive way. We have a tremendous reputation in the media industry internationally, and the segue into the sports media marketing world was a relatively logical step.
The sports media marketing folks do some of the best, most creative and innovative work in the media space, and before this came along, there was no-one recognizing the work. There was no-one recognizing the marketing, the promotional, the creative work coming out of the sports media marketing world. Effectively, the big names saw this as a great opportunity to support their marketing departments, their marketing executives — and many of them are marketers themselves, if not all of them.
SMW: This year, you will be honoring [former Anheuser-Busch executive] Tony Ponturo, giving him a lifetime innovator award. Can you give some details on that?
Block-Verk: Well Tony, in his years with Anheuser-Busch, he’s been instrumental at creating new and innovative platforms for media brands. He’s pushed the envelope, he’s pushed media companies to think strategically. Holding the purse strings, he was the one pushing media companies to think differently and really leading them on a global level in innovation.
SMW: Sports Media Watch is a sponsor of this year’s event, and there’s a couple of other sports media blogs [Sports Business Digest and Mediabistro.com's SportsNewser] that will be sponsoring. What went into the decision to include the blogosphere as much as you have?
Block-Verk: All anybody’s talking about is social media, and social marketing, and social connections. That’s the way these media industries are connecting with their audiences these days, because that’s the way their audiences are consuming media. The blogosphere, the social media outlets, the interactive brands, are the real leaders. The traditional media, there’s definitely a time and place for them, but I think the new and innovative and creative and exciting media is really the vibe we’re after. We’re marketers. We’re about what’s next, not what’s now. And that’s what this whole movement is about.
SMW: Is there anything new you’ll be trying? Any other kinds of sports media initiatives?
Block-Verk: Absolutely, yes. This year, we’re launching the Sports Media Marketing Awards. By any measure, they’re a huge success. We’re basically sold out, there’s a couple of single tickets left, but basically the event is sold out. In every way, it was a huge success, this event. The industry has called for it, and we’re going to blow this out and make it a proper conference next year. …
We’re inviting everybody out for a screening of the finalists on November 17 in New York, so if anyone wants to check it out, they’re more than welcome. It’s at the Tribeca Theaters in lower Manhattan. It’s going to be a really spectacular evening. We’re kind of touting this as, ‘this is not the Emmys’. This is not the old-school way of doing things. This is about new, fresh, innovative, unexpected, exciting — and we have one of the coolest venues, one of the most exciting venues in the city, where we’re hosting this thing. It’s at the Angel Oransanz, a former synagogue that’s been turned into a gallery. What better place to celebrate the best in sports than in a house of God?