NEW YORK – The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced its 2024 NBA Team Sales & Marketing Awards yesterday at the league’s annual NBA Sales & Marketing Meeting in Miami.
The Sacramento Kings received the NBA Team of the Year Award for their achievements across team business operations, including ticketing, partnerships, marketing and strategy & analytics. The Kings were also recognized with the NBA Team Innovation Award, which honors the execution of unique ideas that have generated a positive business impact.
The Minnesota Timberwolves accepted the NBA Inclusion Leadership Award, which recognizes a team’s excellence in creating programming that promotes inclusion, while the Utah Jazz were presented with the first-ever NBA Team Viewership Innovation Award, which recognizes new initiatives that drive game viewership and consumption. Additionally, Golden State Warriors Senior Director of Guest Experiences Alison Wright and Phoenix Suns Senior Director of Live Presentation Shawn Martinez took home the Pete Winemiller Guest Experience Innovation Award and the Values of the Game Award, respectively.
All 30 teams had the opportunity to submit a nomination in each category for awards recognizing leaders and innovators across key areas from Oct. 2022 – Oct. 2023, with a committee of league and team executives choosing the winners.
“This year’s NBA Sales & Marketing Award winners demonstrated an incredible commitment to improving the NBA ecosystem and fan experience through innovative campaigns and initiatives,” said Jonathan Tillman, NBA Executive Vice President, Head of Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO). “These best-in-class efforts helped set a gold standard for the league and the sports industry more broadly and will inspire further innovation around business operations and fan engagement moving forward.”
NBA Team of the Year: Sacramento Kings
The Kings received the NBA Team of the Year Award for their outstanding business growth and impactful fan and community engagement efforts. The team had its highest season ticket renewal campaign in franchise history and ranked No. 2 among all NBA teams in ticket revenue growth. Additionally, the Kings set a team record for digital and content partnership revenue and ranked second in partnership revenue growth leaguewide.
The Kings ranked No. 1 in game experience, launched a new e-commerce and in-arena team store that led to a 35% increase in merchandises sales and introduced the Golden 1 Skills Challenge – a new physical and digital concourse activation where participants put their basketball skills to the test for an opportunity to “light the beam” virtually. Viewership of Sacramento Kings games on NBC Sports California was up 200% compared to the 2021-22 season and the team’s “League Pass on Us” promotion generated a league-high percentage in NBA League Pass offers redeemed.
NBA Team Innovation Award: Sacramento Kings
The Kings earned the NBA Team Innovation Award for the launch of their “Victory Beam,” which became a celebrated tradition among fans in Sacramento and around the world following every team victory. Lighting up in purple following every win, the “Victory Beam” had a notable impact on the local community and team business as the initiative fueled new merchandise offerings, digital content opportunities, and more than 6,000 media stories.
NBA Team Viewership Innovation Award: Utah Jazz
The Jazz were presented with the NBA Team Viewership Innovation Award, recognizing the transformation of the team’s local game and content distribution, which included the launch of Jazz+, a direct-to-consumer in-market subscription streaming service, and a shift in their distribution of local games to the over-the-air TV station KJZZ-TV. To streamline the transition, the Jazz, in partnership with SEG Media, collaborated with the NBA’s Next Gen integrated technology platform and Kiswe to oversee the game broadcasts and distribution. Jazz+ provides subscribers with unprecedented access to the organization through live games, exclusive footage and additional original content that highlights team activities and happenings both on and off the court. Jazz games on KJZZ-TV garnered a 53% increase in average viewership compared to the 2022-23 season.
NBA Inclusion Leadership Award: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves received the NBA Inclusion Leadership Award for its expanded “Pack the Vote” initiative which launched in 2020 and focuses on providing nonpartisan voter education, increasing voter registration and civic engagement. In February 2023, in partnership with the NBA Social Justice Coalition, Restore the Vote Coalition and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition Board Member Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves leveraged their platform to support the restoration of voting rights in Minnesota as lawmakers were moving the HF28 bill through the state legislature. Collectively, this working group raised awareness around the bill and policy, which would restore the right to vote to formerly imprisoned citizens, secured support for bill passage and drove voter registration. The bill was signed into law on March 3, 2023 and went into effect on June 1, 2023, granting 50,000 Minnesotans that were previously incarcerated or on parole the right to vote.
After successfully advocating for the passage of the law, the working group is supporting implementation of the legislation by using their platform to educate the public. As part of these efforts, the Timberwolves hosted a Pack the Vote Community Conversation focusing on the Restore the Vote law at All Square, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in those impacted by mass incarceration. The panel featured Towns, MN Senate President & Chair of the MN Senate Jobs & Economic Development Committee Bobby Joe Champion, Director of Pathways Program at New Justice Project Jasmine Kitto and Author & MNJRC Community Engagement Manager Zeke Caligiuri.
Pete Winemiller Guest Experience Innovation Award: Alison Wright, Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors Senior Director of Guest Experiences Alison Wright received the Pete Winemiller Guest Experience Innovation Award. The award – which pays tribute to the late Pete Winemiller, former Senior Vice President of Guest Relations for the Oklahoma City Thunder – recognizes an individual who demonstrates innovation and enhances the live game experience for fans and guests throughout the year.
Wright played a pivotal role in elevating the experience for fans, employees and stakeholders at Chase Center by introducing and launching creative initiatives centered around leadership development, project management, employee recognition and guest feedback. She launched a new annual employee survey for part-time team members, leadership workshops and “lunch and learn sessions” which provided actionable insights across the organization that were implemented to improve the experience for all guests and arena stakeholders. Additionally, Alison participated in the NBA Game Experience Roundtable panel conversations at Chase Center aimed to drive collaboration between the Guest Experiences and Security departments, where she provided best practices to industry leaders on successful communication methods, fostering interdepartmental partnerships and fan code of conduct trainings, among other areas.
NBA Values of the Game Award: Shawn Martinez, Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns Senior Director of Live Presentation Shawn Martinez received the NBA Values of the Game Award, which recognizes an individual who embodies the NBA’s mission of inspiring and connecting people through the game of basketball.
Martinez helped lead the Suns’ efforts to recognize the local Native American community in unique ways, headlined by the ORIGINATIV program, which celebrated the cultures and traditions of the 22 Tribal Nations of Arizona. As part of the initiative, the Suns featured Native American performers and authentic in-game programming during 10 ORIGINATIV themed nights designed to honor Arizona’s Indigenous communities. In November 2023, Martinez was presented with the Man of the Year Award by the Phoenix Indian Center for his commitment to uplifting and serving the community.