December 2023 Party in the Back Podcast

The Best of 2023 Awards Audio Roundtable on Host Jon Cudo is joined by three industry insiders who look at the winners and most influential teams and promotions of the year. Featuring Amanda Greco, Ben Hill and Tyler Cofer.

December features a Roundtable Discussion about the Best of 2023 on Awards.  While the show of course features lots of attention and love for the winners, this is also a great collective on game presentation from some important industry voices.  

We learn not only who won, but how these top ideas shape the industry, provide added value to fans and influence how sports is presented.

It’s a fun hour talking about both the winners and influential leaders in sports, filled with thoughtful insightful about game operation and presentation.

The Roundtable covers all the winners, honorable mentions, staff picks and industry thoughts on the seven categories of the Best of 2023 on

It is indeed time….

The Panel this year featured:

  • Amanda Greco began her career with the Utah Starzz and Utah Jazz.  She has been an event producer for several Olympic venues, LA Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, and sporting and entertainment events like the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In 2022 Amanda co-founded Shine Entertainment.
  • Benjamin Hill has been writing for since 2005 when he started his run of league-leading coverage of the  quirky and off-beat world of minor league baseball promotions.  His popular promotional prose is must read material for sports executives across the county. 
  • Tyler Cofer is a master of Live Programming & Entertainment, Fan Engagement, Event Marketing, and Brand activation.   He’s been all over sports including New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Odessa Jackalopes, OKC Thunder, Vegas Golden Knights, University of Oklahoma and now the NFL’s Seahawks.
  • Jon Cudo is the founder of His wide-ranging experience includes the Minnesota Timberwolves, Nike Sports Entertainment, Portland Fire, Cleveland Cavaliers and WWE…plus the last 25 years producing

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The Party in the Back Podcast:  If Sports Marketing was a mullet hairdo this podcast covers ‘The Party in the Back‘. We’ll let someone else do the data, analytics, spreadsheets and budgets… We’re talking about the FUN: In-game contests, theme nights, mascots, dancers, social media, atmosphere and giveaways. Join us at the Party in the Back for our monthly discussion with industry leaders on the fun side of Sports Marketing.

Time Codes for the Award Discussions

Best Entertainment Group Award (5:00)

Amanda, Jon, Benjamin, and Tyler discussed the best entertainment group. Jon announced a three-way tie between the 216 Stix from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Saint Paul Saints’ Ushertainers, and the Banana Nanas. Benjamin praised the Banana Nannas for their unique concept and high-level entertainment, appealing to all demographics. Amanda also expressed support for the 216, a group she has previously chosen, commending their versatility and ability to engage fans. Tyler emphasized the importance of originality and consistency, mentioning the Savannah Bananas as a prime example of a group that adapts to their fan base. 

Best Game Night Promotions (10:45)

The roundtable discussed the importance of creative and effective promotions for minor league baseball teams. Benjamin highlighted the significance of promotions in enhancing the overall fan experience and fostering a culture of creativity within each franchise. Jon emphasized the need for promotions to resonate with the fan base and show a connection with the community. Amanda pointed out the importance of integrating promotions into the game in multiple ways, while Tyler underscored the importance of starting with the fan base and ensuring the idea resonates with them. The winner for the best game promotion were the Vancouver Giants for Ref Appreciation Night.

Best In-Game or Contest Award (16:00)

The Brooklyn Cyclones for the Elaine Dance Off, both recognized for their entertainment value and repeatability. We discussion revolved around the importance of creativity and attention to detail in in-game promotions. Amanda emphasized her admiration for the Guardian’s Hot Dog Race, which features distinctive characters and a broadcast personality that added to the promotion’s finale. Benjamin shared his experience with the Brooklyn Cyclone’s Seinfeld Night, noting its success in attracting dedicated fans and generating buzz. The conversation underscored the significance of authenticity, creativity, and fan engagement in the planning and execution of in-game promotions.

Best Mascot Award (23:30)

Cudo introduced the fourth category,  Best Mascot. The award considers a mascot’s ability to engage and entertain fans, create innovative content, and create a multi-dimensional character. The winner was Gritty from the Philadelphia Flyers, who has been a four-time winner for the last five years. Jon also gave a shout out to several other mascots, including the Phoenix Sun’s Gorilla, Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ Melvin, and Portland Sea Dogs’ Slugger. Benjamin, the guest, shared his perspective on Slugger’s performance and the unique aspects of Ellie the Elephant’s character.  Ben raised a question about the lack of female mascots in sports, noting that when female mascots are introduced, they often become love interests rather than primary mascots. Tyler discussed how the NFL and collegiate sports, like BYU’s Cosmo, have established strong mascot characters despite the challenges of rotating performers. Amanda highlighted the importance of Ellie, a female mascot in the WNBA, for breaking this mold and serving as a strong character without needing a secondary love interest. 

Best Act Award (32:00)

The team discussed the importance of quality entertainment for fans during halftime shows. This year the award was a three-way tie between David Girabaldi, Simon Sez Steve Max, and The Amazing Tyler.  Cofer emphasized the importance of presentation, making the performance feel bigger than it is, and using camera angles and video coverage to enhance the experience. Benjamin mentioned the growing range of performers who can engage with the crowd and provide improvisational entertainment throughout the game, like the Amazing Tyler.  Amanda discussed appreciation for various performers, with a particular fondness for Red Panda. Cudo noted a panelist who raved about the improvement of David Girabaldi’s performances and the emergence of new, fresh acts.

Best Team Introductions (38:00)

The Vegas Golden Knights received the award for best team introductions.  Tyler, who had previously worked with the Vegas Golden Knights, attributed their success to their fostering of creativity and their focus on keeping their show unique and engaging for their supportive fan base.  Jon highlighted the success of the Savannah Bananas and the Party Animals, who have sold-out shows and dynamic introductions. Benjamin suggested that minor league teams could learn from their approach, even though their methods might not translate directly to affiliated baseball. Amanda praised the Vegas Golden Knights for their execution and creativity.

Best Team Operations (44:25)

The Savanah Bananas won for best team operations, with the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia Union, and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp as honorable mentions. Amanda also praised the Milwaukee Bucks for their attention to detail and ability to improve on successful promotions. Benjamin discussed how the spirit of minor league baseball has remained intact despite industry changes and the Covid-19 pandemic. He highlighted the unique promotions and events organized by the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, such as Salute to Swedish Furniture night and Duct Tape Night, as exemplifying the spirit of minor league baseball. Cofer emphasized the importance of creating an entertaining and engaging environment for fans, regardless of the team’s performance. Jon praised the Savannah Bananas and the Atlanta Braves for their successful approaches to game operations. 

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