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OKC company responsible for producing prestigious awards



You know that seemingly endless slate of college football bowl games that has kept you sequestered along with your big screen over the past few weeks? Well, lean forward in your recliner the next time the network flashes a shot of the winner's hardware, and get a closer look.

There probably won't be a visible name tag stuck to the trophy revealing its maker, but the fingerprints will be unmistakable.

They belong to Joe Kennedy, head of sports marketing for MTM Recognition, a company better known to locals over the past four decades as Midwest Trophy.

MTM Recognition is the largest awards manufacturing business in North America, and Kennedy's subtle, hands-on approach has helped the Del City-based company secure deals with some of the most prestigious sporting events on the planet.

When the BCS Championship Game brings down the curtain on another college football season this Thursday night, MTM will have produced trophies for 20 of the 34 college bowl games. It also manufacture all of NASCAR's annual awards and has significant dealings with the PGA, LPGA, USGA, NCAA and a handful of other major sport entities.

How many people know the Heisman Trophy is made right here in Oklahoma? MTM also produces championship trophies for the Big 12 Conference, as well as the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference.

Although between 65 percent and 70 percent of MTM's sales are corporate-based " producing company service awards such as rings, watches and other fine jewelry " the high-profile sports side of the business has afforded MTM even greater national recognition.

"Honestly, our main focus is working with those larger corporate accounts, because that is the bulk of what we do. It might not be as sexy as the sports stuff, but it's been key to this company's success over the years," said the 31-year-old Kennedy.

He joined the Midwest Trophy staff in 1999 while still attending Oklahoma Christian College, where he was a member of the varsity basketball squad. The Mustang native has worked for MTM in various capacities, including the last six years in the sports marketing department. During that time, he has been responsible for sales and marketing, but more importantly, for nurturing relationships with many representatives from the world of sports.

"Basically, my job is to facilitate what a particular company wants and to see the project through from its beginning to its completion," Kennedy said. "The most rewarding aspect has been the relationships I've developed in the sports industry over the years. I've had the good fortune to get to know a lot of interesting people."

Kennedy describes a 25-year partnership with Jostens Corp. as one of the keys factors in MTM's long-term success. In December 2001, Midwest Trophy's acquisition of Josten's Recognition division " located in Princeton, Ill. " further bonded the two companies and eventually led to the name change from Midwest Trophy Manufacturing to MTM Recognition. The Princeton operation  has produced more than 25 Super Bowl rings since 1970.

Thirty-seven years after CEO Dave Smith initially founded Midwest Trophy, the company is a $90-million-a-year business and growing every day. "Jay C. Upchurch


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