Together in a Battle: Slovenian Paralympic Team and Lidl Slovenija, Smooth Banking (Nova KBM and Filip Flisar), Slovenian Rio 2016 (NOC Slovenia), Apply with Jaffa (Jaffa Crvenka) and Best Mountain Hut 2016 ( won the five categories of SPORTO Awards 2016 in Portorož as the best practice examples in sponsorship and marketing in the Adriatic region. The special mention of the jury went to Red Bull’s excellent activation Goni Poni (Pedal Poni Bikes).

The winners and finalists were chosen by an international expert jury of seven members: Saša Ćirić (Marketing and R&D Director, Frikom), Toby Hester (CEO, Sponsorship Coach), Darko Ivančević (Marketing Director, Zagrebačka pivovara), Mitja Jereb (Strategy Director, Renderspace), Niko Kušar (Head of Marketing Communications, Telekom Slovenije), Uroš Stanić (Marketing Manager, HNK Rijeka) and Špela Žorž (Managing Director, Grey Ljubljana). Jury's evaluation presents 100% of the final assessment.

"We believe it's important to recognize and encourage good practices of sponsorships and activation. We have noticed that the entered projects are becoming more and more comprehensive and planned as part of the business and marketing strategy," noted Tanja Kavran, the Executive Director of Slovenian Marketing Association with whom we have delivered the awards for the past five years. Špela Žorž (Grey Ljubljana) who is familiar with the past competing projects as a member of last year's jury, emphasized that the quality of entered projects is indeed improving notably. "We've been seeing a lot more activation projects, not just communications," she concluded. As Toby Hester noted, "sponsorship is a wonderful industry, for which we are duty-bound to motivate and inspire the audience that we seek to influence and change behaviour in. As a marketing industry in this region we must continue to develop and grow our capabilities. SPORTO Awards is a great demonstration of how this is happening."

The jury awarded the following projects:

• Winner of the category SPORTO SPONSORSHIP AWARD:
TOGETHER IN A BATTLE: PARALYMPIC ATHLETES AND LIDL SLOVENIJA (sponsor: Lidl Slovenija, rights holder: Slovenian Association for Disabled Sports, Paralympic Committee, entrants: Lidl Slovenija, OMD Slovenija, ZŠIS – POK, Fabulatorij, Mediodrom).
The jury commented that the sponsorship was planned in a comprehensive way and connected with the business objectives of the company, and the implementation well done. Additionally, they see added value in raising awareness about disabled athletes.

The SPORTO Sponsorship Award category had the highest number of applications - 23. The jury noted that the projects are very good and selected six finalists in addition to the winner: ELES – TRANSMITTING ENERGY, TRANSMITTING VALUES (sponsor: ELES), JUMP OVER TO MERCATOR, SUPPORT OUR SKI JUMPER (sponsor: Mercator), LET NOTHING STOP YOU (sponsor: Telekom Slovenije), SMOOTH BANKING (sponsor: Nova KBM), TASTE OF HOME (sponsor: Alpsko mleko) and WE ARE THE TEAM! OLYMPIC CARD RIO 2016 (sponsor: Vojvodjanska Banka).

• The winner of the subcategory SPORTO ENDORSEMENT AWARD:
SMOOTH BANKING (sponsor: Nova KBM, rights holder: Filip Flisar, entrants: Nova KBM/Pristop)
In jury's opinion, the campaign was well strategically planned, targeted and innovative.

• The winner of the category SPORTO RIGHTS HOLDER AWARD:
SLOVENE RIO 2016 (rights holder: Olympic Committee of Slovenia)
A project that impressed the jury with the expansion of their activities in connection with the Olympic Games throughout the year. Members of the jury particularly praised the establishment of a long-term platform and the value created for sponsors.

The finalist in this category is the project RED BULL GONI PONI (rights holders: Red Bull & Agency Ekstrem), which also received the SPECIAL JURY AWARD FOR GREAT EVENT ACTIVATION. The jury praised the brand fit with the chosen activity and good targeting of the project. Additionally, the placement of sponsors was exceptionally well-executed in the opinion of the jury.

• The winner of the category SPORTO MEDIA AWARD:
The project stood out because of its extremely well designed structure, as well as creative and rich content. The jury pointed out that the project had a relatively low budget but managed to create relevant content and reach a wide audience, as well as achieve good results.

• The winner of the category SPORTO DIGITAL AWARD
PRIJAFFISE – IT'S IMPORTANT TO TAKE PART! (sponsor and entrant: Jaffa Crvenka, rights holder: Olympic Committee of Serbia).
The jury noted that activation was well used and the campaign was extremely well integrated. In addition, the digital campaign followed the defined objectives and has brought excellent results.

The finalists were HERVIS COACH (sponsor: Hervis, rights holder: Matjaž Kek, entrants: Hervis w/ SportMediaFocus & StartupMarketing and WAVE OF ENERGY (sponsor: Petrol, rights holder: Olympic Committee of Slovenia, entrant: Petrol).

Projects from each country of the applicants which received the highest score in the category of SPORTO SPONSORSHIP AWARD were qualified for the competition of the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) in the category "Best of Europe" [2016 ESA Excellence Awards]. The following projects qualified to enter the competition of the best European sponsorships projects in London 2017:

The best Slovenian project:
sponsor: Lidl Slovenia, rights holder: Slovenian Association for Disabled Sports, Paralympic Committee, entrants: Lidl Slovenia, OMD Slovenija, ZŠIS – POK, Fabulatorij, Mediodrom

The best Croatian project:
sponsor: Allianz Zagreb, rights holder: Croatian Paralympic Committee, entrants: Allianz Zagreb and Vetturelli

The best Serbian project:
sponsor: Vojvodjanska Banka, part of NBG group, rights holder: Serbian Olympic Team, entrants: Vojvodjanska banka and DNA Communications

Karen Earl, ESA Chairman (now "former"), praised the SPORTO Awards 2016 projects: “The three entries that we had from SPORTO Awards showed dramatic increase in the understanding and the use of sponsorship in those territories. I was also on the judging panel and I was really impressed with the way these three sponsorships projects make use of money. There might not be huge budgets involved, but the use of them is so clever. I honestly think that is something that the UK and other bigger European entrants should take note of, that it is not always the big money; it is the way you use your money and spread your budgets. That was very impressive in SPORTO's three entries. I am also delighted that ESA can partner with SPORTO Magazine, a sponsor of the category.”