By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
December 17, 2014: Despite the diversity of goals, strategies and achievements this year's Top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year encompass, they have one thing in common: They took the challenge to become the best and settled for nothing less.
Whether it was about building awareness to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, creating campaigns that raised eyebrows as well as understanding, working to expand the realm of a virtual currency, putting jeans on people and putting those people into a $1.2 billion stadium, building the DSF category within the $15 billion world of fantasy sports or proclaiming "The King Is back, long live the King," for the top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year, it was all about being creative, relying on teamwork, overcoming challenges and never settling for anything but quality results.
The Top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year were selected by NYSportsJournalism.com via a careful review of the stories, articles, Q&A's, features, social media strengths and marketing and business efforts from and about companies, people, organizations, teams, leagues, agencies, medial outlets and others in 2014.
These final ten will now go to a vote among the public-at-large. Ultimately, one of the ten will become the Grand Sports Marketer of the Year and join past winners including BBVA Compass (2010), Mission AthleteCare (2012) and Stand Up to Cancer with MLB and MasterCard (2013).
The Top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year for 2014 (in alphabetical order): ALS Association, BBDO Worldwide, BitPay, Daily Fantasy Sports (category), Epix, Foot Locker, LeBron James, Levi Strauss & Co., Under Armour and Upper Deck. VOTE HERE
A synopsis on each follows for the Top Ten Sports Marketers of the Year. Congratulations to all for the work and achievements you have had in 2014, and to the achievements to come in 2015 and beyond.
• Countless people are working endless hours and making unyielding sacrifices to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, widely known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and the ALS Association took a front-and-center position this past year with two campaigns — celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Gehrig's "Luckiest Man Alive" speech and the Ice Bucket Challenge — that both raised awareness and funds worldwide. See the full story here.
• It's not an easy feat to get characters to appear out of character, but BBDO Worldwide accomplished that with great success in campaigns that included Godzilla, Johnny Manziel, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Manny Pacquiao and a group of Nobel Peace Laureates while continuing to bring to the forefront impactful issues in conjunction with Autism Speaks, Sandy Hook Promise and "Ban Bossy." See the full story here.
• You know you've put in a hard day's night when you can make bitcoin a part of the college football vernacular along with College Football Playoff, National Championship Game and The Heisman Trophy. BitPay did exactly that when it took title sponsorship of the nationally televised Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl and put the digital currency option in the hands of more than 100 local businesses. BitPay also signed a multi-year pact to become the sponsor for the football and basketball programs at Georgia Tech, has a deal with the NBA's Sacramento Kings and worked with Fifty Cent regarding bitcoin payment for his release, Animal Ambition. See the full story here.
• Fantasy sports is a $15 billion category and growing, and the division of Daily Fantasy Sports in 2014 was a major catalyst to that development. There are some 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada alone who are regarded as loyal fantasy sports participants, and many this past year discovered the thrill of victory (and the agony of defeat) in signing with such DFS sites as DraftKings, FantasyDraft, FanDuel, DailyMVP, Draftser and FantasyAces, which in turn attracted respective official alliances and/or marketing endorsements from the NBA, MLB, NHL, sports teams and athletes. See full story here.
• Epix, a joint venture among Viacom Inc., its Paramount Pictures unit, Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, had numerous solid hits in 2014 with in-depth and hard-hitting stories about the likes of Dwight Howard, David Ortiz, Oscar de la Hoya, Bethany Hamilton, the "Forgotten Four" and the NHL, among others. Launched in 2009, the multi-platform premium entertainment channel over the past year firmly established itself as a go-to destination for original sports programming and has no intention of looking back. See the full story here.
• Shoe business is alive and kicking in Foot Locker, which in November posted its 19th consecutive quarter of "meaningful sales and profit growth," got rival athletes to reconcile, made matches where a ring full of boxing promoters and agents have failed, helped prep cross-country runners cross the finish line and saw to it that the dreams of athlete-scholars became a reality. See the full story here.
• "The Decision" in 2010 dropped LeBron James' stock among segments of the public and media, but "The Decision II" in 2014 helped James to not only become the most popular athlete in the U.S. (according to one survey) but also the most powerful athlete based on on-field and social media strength (according to another survey). That was good news for his domestic and global marketing partners — including such newcomers as Kia and Progressive Insurance — who employ James' services to the tune of some $50 million a year. In addition, the acquisition of Beats Electronics by Apple in August netted James, who is a Beats investor, some $30 million. See the full story here.
• Levi Strauss & Co. wants to put its jeans and apparel on people one customer at a time, or, in the case of Levi's Stadium, upward of 75,000 people at a time. The iconic clothing company is using the new $1.2 billion venue to drive sales and raise brand awareness, working with such sports entities as the San Francisco 49ers, which call Levi's Stadium home; the NHL, which will hold its Coors Light Stadium Series jewel event there in February; the NFL, which named Levi's as host for Super Bowl 50 in 2016; and college football's Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 30); as well as a solid roster of marketing partners that have made the Santa Clara-based destination "one of most environmentally friendly and technologically advanced sports stadiums in the world." See the full story here.
• From humble beginnings spurred on by Kevin Plank's desire to sweat less while playing football and working out at the University of Maryland, Under Armour has grown to a multi-category destination that now resides in the tony $3 billion revenue neighborhood which in October said that it had achieved its 18th consecutive quarter of more than 20% sales growth. The company this year unveiled its "I Will What I Want" women's campaign. and this month signed a deal with NBCUniversal for the launch of Radius, a premium fitness media brand. Among others, UA works with The Wounded Warrior Project, The V Foundation, Habitats for Humanity, and with the NFL and GE on the Head Health Challenge. See full story here.
• In 1989, premium card company Upper Deck, a rookie in the industry, made then MLB rookie Ken Griffey Jr. card No. 1 in its first set. In 2014, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company launched a year-long celebration in honor of its 25th anniversary, which has included special product, multi-media marketing, social media activations and contests intended to reward consumers with unique sports and entertainment memorabilia. Exclusive deals that either were signed or launched in 2014 include the NHL and NHL Players’ Assn., American Hockey League, the Canadian Football League and the CFL Players’ Assn., Euroleague Basketball and the University of Notre Dame. Of equal and, in many cases, more impactful is Upper Deck's Heroic Inspirations cards, which honor people who have been risen above their adversities to motivate others. See the full story here.