We’re so lucky to work in an industry important enough to justify two award shows a week.
Yet of course, there are dissenters. These professional naysayers dismiss awards ceremonies as cynical, vacuous and self-indulgent affairs that betray a deep insecurity as to the real value of sports marketing to affect change in people’s lives.
But these poopers completely miss the point.
Awards are exactly what attract the most creative and hard-working people to the business of sport.
Without these glittering incentives we run the risk of losing our most talented people to boring jobs like nursing and air traffic control.
Fortunately, for the purposes of this column, my own journey offers the definitive case study.
When I look back, it’s clear that my decision to leave the teaching profession was due to the complete absence of recognition from the broader education establishment.
This was no easy decision: middle management in the public sector is every bit as glamorous and well remunerated as it sounds.
And I still remember the touchingly orchestrated campaign to keep me in the classroom.
"Don’t go, Sir!" shouted a large group of students and staff. "Stay and do that lecture on supply-side economics again!" they said, as they carried me around the football pitch in a moving reenactment of that scene in Dead Poets Society.
Today, my universal popularity ensures regular invitations to the big black tie dos, a fact that renders my views very important.
This is what I’ve learned:
1/ Award shows reflect the meritocratic ideal
You reap what you sow. Or, to be more precise: the more tables you buy, the more nominations you get. This is a parable for life in general.
2/ Bright and shiny beats dull and worthy
The sports marketing world has taught me never to worry about appearing superficial. It does this by over-rewarding PR stunts and downplaying stuff that is actually of some tangible use.
3/ Marketers are brave
My heart soars when marketing people talk about having the courage to do great work. People bang on about soldiers and the emergency services, but have they ever pressed send on a risqué hashtag? (Answer: No, they have not).
4/ More is more
A common complaint is that award shows are great but they just don’t last long enough. This year’s Hublot Big Watch Prize for Surprising Amounts of Extra Time goes to the UK Sponsorship Awards, which may be still going for all I know. Dictatorships have been overthrown quicker.
5/ It’s all in the subtext
For example, ‘Carriages at Midnight’ is code for, ‘You’ve not been invited to the after-party’.
6/ Black tie suits the fuller figure
Before every award evening you’ll find me in the temporary toilet reciting my confidence-boosting self-help mantra: “I look like James Bond in a tux and not a fat waiter, like mummy said that time.”
7/ Don’t over-analyse a late invitation
I was once called at 7.45pm for an 8.30pm start and made it with ten minutes to spare. That’s what professionalism looks like, mixed with alcohol dependency.
8/ Know your limits
I often confuse how much you can legally drink before driving with how much you can bring through Customs (HT Harry Hill).
9/ Work on your loser’s face
There is an art to losing in public. Like the truly great film actors, the face of a losing nominee is a blank canvas upon which the rest of the table can project their own emotions, hopes and prejudices.
Paradoxically, I’m also fond of a great big queeny flounce, when a loser throws down their napkin in disgust and is out of the room before the winner reaches the podium. Such public rudeness can always be explained later as #PassionForSport.
10/ Send a magnanimous tweet
A clapping emoji says: “Clock me being high-minded and generous.”
11/ Awards teach certainty
To borrow from Gary Lineker, the popular left-wing agitator: at their core, sports marketing awards are five hours of free wine, then M&C Saatchi win.
It’s just the rules, apparently.
Richard Gillis is author of The Captain Myth: The Ryder Cup and Sport’s Great Leadership Delusion, published by Bloomsbury in the UK and US.