In early 2020, the Cincinnati chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Cincinnati) was starting to picture what the 13th annual Pinnacle Awards ceremony would look like. While the event was typically held in late spring or early summer, the chapter was weighing the pros and cons of an adjusted timing of the program, holding a ceremony in the fall. We decided to develop a new schedule for gathering submissions, start to coordinate judging expectations with marketers in other AMA chapters, and imagine a September event.

Then COVID-19 hit.

The Pivot to Virtual

close up of A/V professional working laptop during program recording

Thanks to great partners like Event Enterprises, the pivot to a virtual awards ceremony was as seamless as possible.

Despite the challenges all marketers were grappling with in the early weeks of the pandemic, the chapter’s passion for recognizing marketing success in our region was hardly stymied. We were settled on the new timing of the submission/judging/event cycle, but how were we going to make this work, let alone motivate the marketers in our community — who were likely stressed, fatigued and possibly not in the mood to compile work for recognition — to submit their work? The answer to that question proved itself in the team’s efforts: a little bit at a time.

With steady promotion and even a deadline extension, we collected submissions and distributed them to our peer AMA chapters for judging, AMA Omaha and AMA Charleston. As these chapters reviewed and scored submissions to determine finalists and winners, AMA Cincinnati got to work on how to bring the virtual event to life.

Regardless of format, any type of award show has to be both valuable and engaging. How to do this virtually was to tap into our network and reach out to our partners to help produce a quality, professional, yet truly fun and authentic “run of show.” Thankfully, a myriad of new and established strategic partners came through to help us out: Event Enterprises, Klocke Design, SWAGBOX and Hotel Covington. Getting all of these together ensured a smooth process when we received scores back from our judges.

Meet the Host for Our Virtual Event, Alex Schutte

film set of Pinnacle Awards recording

Alex Schutte graciously agreed to be our host for the AMA Pinnacle Awards virtual ceremony.

Alex Schutte is the director of digital marketing for Paycor and is one of the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 2020 Forty Under 40 honorees! In addition to his many and varied professional accolades, Alex is a man of many interests and talents. He is a certified bourbon steward and was a gymnast. Alex is a longtime member of the AMA, presenting at past Community events with his Paycor team.

When it came time to brainstorm a host who could hold their own in an empty room under the unflinching eye of a camera, Alex’s name came up. After positioning the ask via email, he responded enthusiastically that he would do it. In a matter of minutes. Our dream of a “broadcasted” awards ceremony was starting to become reality!

Finalists and Winners, by Category

Congratulations to all finalists and winners of the 2020 Marketing Pinnacle Awards, and thank you to all who submitted work for consideration. View the listing of categories, finalists and winners and watch the 40-minute broadcast of the virtual awards ceremony — held on September 24, 2020 — below:

Watch the virtual program (video length: 40 minutes)


Best “Non-Marketing” Marketing Program

Marketers wear many hats. This category celebrates marketers who successfully implemented disciplines like internal communications, employee relations or recruitment, or community involvement into their marketing.


  • Hoxworth Blood Center – Cincinnati Favorites Summer Blood Drive Tour
  • SageSure Insurance Managers – Employer Value Proposition
  • University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business – Carl H. Lindner Hall Grand Opening and Celebration

Winner: SageSure Insurance Managers – Employer Value Proposition

Best Collegiate/Student Marketing Plan, Campaign, and/or Program

A Man and a woman hold framed certificate and glass award in front of a backdrop

NKU Associate Professor of Marketing David Raska and a student member from the Underground Agency.

This category celebrates students who have term papers, projects or capstone courses that require the creation of a marketing plan, campaign, and an extent of execution.


  • The Underground Agency at Northern Kentucky University – Turning GoGo employees into brand advocates
  • The Underground Agency at Northern Kentucky University – Get involved!
  • The Underground Agency at Northern Kentucky University – Each & Every: Converting Gen Z and Millennials through Social

Winner: The Underground Agency at Northern Kentucky University – Each & Every: Converting Gen Z and Millennials through Social

Best Brand Launch or Rebranding Effort

Cincinnati is Brand Capital, USA. Whether a startup or a decades-old company going through a turnaround or rebirth, this category celebrates the brand or rebrand process.


  • Protective Life Insurance Company – Protective Velocity Brand Launch
  • VividBoard, a GMi Company – VividBoard Rebrand

Winner: Protective Velocity Brand Launch by Protective Life Insurance Company

Best Content Marketing

Two women with blonde hair stand on either side of a man with light hair in front of step and repeat backdrop

The AirPro marketing team, made up of Gina Bonar, David Towle and Carolyn Dickerson, won in both Content Marketing and Digital Strategy & Execution categories.

Valuable. Relevant. Consistent. Content marketing has become the foundation of successful marketing programs. This category celebrates content marketing done well to drive audience engagement.


  • AirPro Fan & Blower Company – AirPro Fan & Blower Company Content Marketing
  • FUSIONWRX Inc., a Flottman Company – Osborne Mint Content Marketing
  • The University of Cincinnati AMA – Recruitment Video

Winner: AirPro Fan & Blower Company – AirPro Fan & Blower Company Content Marketing

Best Customer Experience Execution

A man and a woman in business dress stand in front of a step and repeat backdrop holding awards

The Abstract Displays team, Mike and Carla Eng, won the best CX Execution category.

Customer experience has been revered as the ultimate marketing tool. This category recognizes organizations that facilitate the pathways (channels, experiences, you name it) that anticipate wants, needs and problems and addresses them in a way that makes a difference.


  • Abstract Displays, Inc. – Abstract Helps Apex Pivot with VidExpo
  • SageSure – The “Who” at the Heart of our Business

Winner: Abstract Helps Apex Pivot with VidExpo by Abstract Displays



Best Digital Strategy & Execution

We live in a world of constant digital innovation and transformation. From a website that attracts the right kind of traffic and inspires action with its user experience to the variety of campaigns (paid or unpaid, on established or emerging channels), this category celebrates digital excellence and the metrics that back it up.


  • AirPro Fan & Blower Company – Digital Strategy & Execution
  • SageSure – Redesign
  • Swivel – Swivel & Pilot Chemical

Winner: AirPro Fan & Blower Company Digital Strategy & Execution

Best Integrated Marketing Campaign

Three women stand in front of step and repeat backdrop holding awards and framed certificates

Director of Alumni Engagement Cynthia Miller, Assistant Director of Marketing Suzanne Buzek and Dean and Professor of Management Marianne Lewis, PhD, from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

This category recognizes the best thought-out marketing campaigns that use a variety of channels and vehicles (video, print, web, social media, PR, traditional paid media/advertising, events) with carefully tracked metrics to accomplish their business objectives or solve a problem.


  • Paycor – HR Center of Excellence
  • University of Cincinnati Alumni Association – Boldly Bearcat Homecoming
  • University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business + Lindner Alumni Council + UC Foundation + UC Alumni Association + Creative Partners – 35th Annual Cincinnati Business Achievement Awards

Winner: University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business + Lindner Alumni Council + UC Foundation + UC Alumni Association + Creative Partners – 35th Annual Cincinnati Business Achievement Awards

Best Scrappy Marketing Campaign

woman holds award in front of step and repeat backdrop

KayAnn Rutter, Director of Marketing and Communications for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.

No budget, no problem! This category is for marketers who fearlessly tackled the creative challenge of getting the most bang for your frugal buck, and how far it went in the end.


  • TheFUSIONWRX Inc, a Flottman Company – Snappy Tomato Pizza Girl Scout Cookie Promotion
  • Girl Scouts of Western Ohio – Camp-In-a-Box
  • M4 Knick – The Darkhorse Thought Leader

Winner: Camp-In-a-Box by the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio


Best Sales Enablement

When marketing and sales are aligned, everyone wins, but that journey can have hurdles of the organizational, technological or philosophical kind. This category recognizes the strategic use of people, processes, and technology to improve sales productivity and increase revenue.


  • N/A

Winner: Swivel & Pilot Chemical

Best Marketing Pivot

Three women stand against step and repeat backdrop holding framed certificates and award

Members from the Paycor team, Carly Graman, Tiffany Sieve and Katy Bunn, which won in the Best Marketing Pivot for the Paycor Coronavirus Support Center.

Resiliency in marketing has never been more crucial than the present. We are often told to consider the unknown, but how many of our marketing strategies were built with the need to pivot in mind? Finalists in this category were examples of true marketing resiliency who were able to pivot their strategies and campaigns to meet the needs of a world in crisis in 2020.


  • Apex Supply Chain Technologies – Order Pickup: The No-Contact Experience Live Booth Tour
  • Swivel – Swivel & Pilot Chemical
  • Paycor – Paycor’s Coronavirus Support Center

Winner: Paycor for their Coronavirus Support Center

Special Merit: In-House Warrior

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Hoxworth Blood Center Assistant Public Information Officer Jackie Marshall, Director of Public Relations Alecia Lipton and Associate Director of Public Relations Cara Nicolas.

Not every organization hires an agency partner. Great marketing can come from within the company. This special recognition is for the in-house warriors who led a campaign from brainstorm to execution and measurement, regardless of budget.

Winner: Hoxworth Blood Center for the Cincinnati Favorites Summer Blood Drive Tour






Special Merit: Research and Insight Catalyst

A man stands against a step-and-repeat backdrop holding framed certificate and an award

Matt Hollenkamp, Vice President of Marketing/Communications + PR at St. Elizabeth Healthcare

This special recognition is to recognize the research and/or insights that helped spark the effort for a successful marketing campaign, initiative, rebrand, operations innovation, etc.

Winner: St. Elizabeth Healthcare for the I’m Right Here Campaign


2020 Cincinnati Marketing Legends

This prestigious award is like a “lifetime achievement” award; it is not time-bound. Individuals receiving the award have made a lasting impact and brought acclaim to the city or the profession of marketing within our City.

2020 Cincinnati Marketing Legends:

  • Matt Fisher, CEO of Curiosity
  • Jason Hauer, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at the Garage Group
  • Carol Shea, President of Olive Tree Insights

Read more about our 2020 Cincinnati Marketing Legends.

2020 Pinnacle Moment and Moments that Mattered

Think about some of the great things Cincinnati has to offer. We hosted the MLB All-Star Game a few years ago. FC Cincinnati achieved MLS status. Fiona the hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo. Events like these have an impact on our lives. They inspire our city to do more and be more. They were moments that made us proud to be Cincinnatians.

In 2019, the AMA Cincinnati board and past Cincinnati Marketing Legends wanted to recognize an organization that was not confined to a defined period of time or the parameters of a category. Something that is uniquely Cincinnati that has had impact outside of our region. In 2019, we recognized FC Cincinnati as The Pinnacle Moment for their ability to inspire and captivate new and established soccer fans. We’re proud to continue The Pinnacle Moment for 2020.

Looking back at all Cincinnati has accomplished in the past year it was hard to choose one specific moment. We’d like to recognize Moments the Mattered (in other words … the category finalists for the Pinnacle Moment):

  • Moment that Mattered:Our Tables” Juneteenth event and gathering. This Black-led, artist-driven gathering took place on Main Street, which goes through downtown and the prominent Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in which community members “symbolically take down boarded up window art and turn those walls of separation into two city-blocks of open table conversations.”
  • Moment that Mattered: The Cincinnati Zoo’s quick pivot to their “Bring the Zoo to You” program in early March that provided virtual programming, tours and events via social platforms to children during stay-at-home orders across the nation.
  • Moment that Mattered: The 150th anniversary of our beloved Cincinnati Reds with their all season promotions to commemorate 150 years of baseball in our city, including throwback uniforms, a legacy campaign, field projects, and the Great American Ball Park open house.
  • Moment that Mattered: An important piece of art in our community that was recognized by media across the nation – the Black Lives Matter Cincinnati street mural, made possible by a group known as Black Art Speaks made up of 17 local Black artists.

What a list of important moments! With such an incredible amount of moments that mattered throughout the year, we knew the Pinnacle Moment winner would have to be an impressive marketing effort that brought a crowd and community together like never before in our City. One that used art and light to unite around singular wonders. One that collaborated with every facet of our city—region, because it was both sides of the river—to promote and achieve success in a large-scale event like never before. After incredible success in 2017, it was hard to imagine it done larger, bigger and more inspiring. But they did it. And I’m willing to bet that if you live in Cincinnati you were touched by it.

We are proud to recognize our Pinnacle Moment honoree, BLINK 2019, a creative collaboration between AGAR, Artworks, Brave Berlin, the Cincinnati Regional Chamber, and the Carol N and Ralph V Haile Foundation.

Thank you, Partners

2020 Marketing Pinnacle Awards Partners

Thanks to our many strategic partners who helped AMA Cincinnati pull off this event!

  • Event Enterprises, our video partner who produced, recorded, and edited this broadcast with virtual flair
  • Klocke Design, whose graphic design work and creativity always help the Pinnacle Awards come to life
  • SWAGBOX, who provided this year’s awards and made them extra special by including a custom SWAGBOX full of swag for each category winner.
  • Hotel Covington, who provided us with the ultimate socially distanced Happy Hour space for our Winner’s Circle Happy Hour the week following the virtual ceremony for our winners to pick up their awards and swag, give air high fives, and revel in their accomplishments.


Looking Ahead

Believe it or not, there is still work to be done with the 2020 Pinnacle Awards to help the chapter look ahead to 2021. Analyzing survey feedback, considering modifications and updates to categories and descriptions, sourcing judges from other AMA chapters, and more. If you are an AMA member who enjoyed the experience of participating in this year’s Pinnacle Awards (or those of the past), please consider joining our efforts at the “time cost” of 3-5 hours per month to start. Share your interest by emailing


Next, we’ll be taking a closer look at each of this year’s categories and highlighting the work of our finalists and winners…stay tuned!