For the first time in the history of the award, there is a repeat winner of the Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year. Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that for the second consecutive year, Zalgiris Kaunas president Paulius Motiejunas has been selected by his peers across the continent as the best executive of the just-completed Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season. With Motiejunas showing the way from behind the scenes, Zalgiris followed up its historic run to the 2018 Final Four by returning to the playoffs. Off the court, Zalgiris remains among the league leaders in ticket sales and revenue growth while boasting a legendary game-day experience at one of the finest arenas on the continent.
The Executive of the Year award honors the person and club whose management decisions have best exemplified the EuroLeague's commitment to excellence in all facets of club direction during the previous season. Among the categories considered before casting votes are sporting merits, game-day revenues, fan experience, and marketing and communications.
Motiejunas's brilliance has seen Zalgiris become and remain a EuroLeague contender despite its small-market status. He not only made the decision to first hire Sarunas Jasikevicius as an assistant coach and, in January 2016, to promote him to the head of the bench, but Motiejunas has made sure that Coach Saras has the tools to succeed. While leaning on some of the best and most-experienced Lithuanian players and consistently developing top young prospects from the country, Motiejunas has worked tirelessly with his staff to identify young, affordable foreign talents who can take their careers to the next level with Zalgiris.
Zalgiris was just as active off the court this season, launching a campaign to entice first-time ticket-buyers to get a taste of the incredible atmosphere at Zalgirio Arena. Called #ZalgirisVirgin (or #ManoPirmas in Lithuanian), the project started with a focus group discussion to pinpoint what reasons would motivate fans to attend a game for the first time. The results were analyzed and a wide range of communications and activities were developed to attract those first-timers to experience Zalgiris up close. By the end of the season, the club had recorded a historical league-record average attendance, including 10 sold-out games, and a club record in the percentage of fans attending the games for the first time. The campaign was recognized internationally and rewarded with Zalgiris winning the gold Devotion Marketing Award this week, as voted by the rest of the EuroLeague clubs.
A long-time Zalgiris executive, Motiejunas served the club in many different capacities before he became team president and owner; he was the director of communications and later general manager, among other positions. Motiejunas also manages the staff that runs Zalgirio Arena, which is both a top-level basketball facility and a money-making arena that serves the residents of Kaunas year-round with sporting events, concerts, shows and more. The success of the arena feeds directly into the coffers that help Zalgiris's basketball team continue to compete against the best in the game. Motiejunas is also a member of the board at Vytautas Magnus University, where he completed his education with a master's degree in international relations and where the EB Institute's MBA graduate program is now hosted. Motiejunas is a member of the three-year-old Euroleague Basketball Advisory Council, a think tank whose mission is to study and promote changes in basketball operations, rules and regulations to make the game better for Euroleague Basketball fans.
The Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year has been awarded annually since 2005 and is one of the competition's two annual post-season honors, along with the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy. The award recognizes those whose efforts build Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs into success stories. Mr. Porelli, who served as president of Virtus Bologna for more than two decades, was among the founders of ULEB and later its president. He passed away in 2009.