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Meet the 2023 Sponsorship Excellence Award Winners

Celebrating Excellence in Sponsorship: Honoring the Innovators and Visionaries

In the world of sponsorship, excellence knows no bounds, and the second annual Sponsorship Excellence Awards at the Sponsorship Mastery Summit in Chicago were a testament to the industry’s remarkable innovators and visionaries. These awards shine a spotlight on the individuals and brands that have made a profound impact, set new standards and created lasting social change. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the outstanding award recipients who have redefined what it means to excel in sponsorship:


Innovation Award: Coors Light

Under the banner of the “Keep Your Fanxiety Chill” campaign, Coors Light got creative to leverage its status as the official beer sponsor of the newly expanded Leagues Cup.

In addition to onsite activations, retail parties, and strategic social media partnerships, Coors Light unveiled a unique scarf designed to help soccer fans keep “chill” all summer.

This campaign wasn’t just timely, it proved to be a testament to the power of sponsorship to engage fans and make a real impact. With the surge of soccer’s popularity in the United States and the excitement surrounding events like the Women’s FIFA World Cup, Coors Light’s innovative approach is a perfect example of how sponsorship can seize the moment and resonate with fans on a profound level.

Because of its work on the “Keep Your Fanxiety Chill” campaign, selected Coors Light as the Innovation Award winner.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lesa Ukman

With a strategic mind, innovative spirit, and an unwavering commitment to positive change, Hollis was a fitting choice for this year’s Rising Star Award during the second annual Sponsorship Excellence Awards.

Like Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, and Khaleesi, the mother of dragons, Lesa Ukman is the sovereign of sponsorship.

She’s a legend.

Lesa founded IEG in the 80’s, effectively giving life to the sponsorship industry and, over several decades, nurtured it into the global industry it is today. Like so many seasoned pros in the industry SMA CEO Paula Beadle was inspired by her brilliance, tenacity, and fashion sense 30 years ago.

Lesa is a thought-leader. She is fearless. She is a visionary. And it was Paula’s privilege to present Lesa with the Lifetime Achievement Award last week during the second annual Sponsorship Excellence Awards during the Sponsorship Mastery Summit in Chicago.

Social Impact Award: United Airlines

If there is one brand that has truly harnessed the power of using sponsorship to create lasting compassion and empowerment in our communities, it’s United Airlines.The list of partnerships that have a social impact is truly remarkable, from its long-standing relationship with Special Olympics International, to its collaboration with the Chicago Bulls on the STEAM program at Infinity High School.

And then there’s the partnership with the Golden State Warriors: The United Franchise Fund. This program has funded business training for 25 Bay Area minority-owned businesses, enabling them to work with enterprise-level customers.

United’s actions serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. The organization has shown us that sponsorship isn’t just about logos and activations; it’s about making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. With that in mind, United received the Social Impact Award at the second-annual Sponsorship Excellence Awards. We would like to extend a special thank you to Derek Russell for accepting the award on behalf of United.

Rising Star Award: Hollis Brown

This year, Hollis Brown was our Rising Star extraordinaire! Nominated by a peer who knows brilliance when they see it, Hollis embodies the essence of our Rising Star Award.

She’s not just rising; she’s rocketing to the top, leaving a trail of inspiration in her wake. As the Senior Coordinator of Partner Strategy and Management with the Milwaukee Bucks, Hollis is a powerhouse of creativity, advocacy, and passion.

She’s the go-to for fresh ideas and genuine impact, consistently putting partners first and thinking beyond the box. In her role with the Bucks, she’s been a driving force behind their success, cultivating partnerships and spearheading strategic initiatives. But wait, there’s more! Hollis cohosts “Outnumbered with Kelli and Hollis,” a platform that ignites growth, inspiration, and connections in the sports community. As if that’s not enough, she champions gender equality and empowerment in sports, wearing her Miss Wisconsin USA 2022 crown with pride.