SC Chamber and the Brand Leader’s Geoff Wasserman create an awards ceremony to celebrate the state’s best brands

Geoff Wasserman | photo by Will Crooks

The Emmys were last Sunday night, but the Brand Leader, a Greenville marketing agency, and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce are set to launch their own awards show focused on Palmetto State brands.

The first annual South Carolina Branded awards ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 2. in Columbia.

SC Branded creators say they hope to go beyond the typical chamber program and celebrate the diverse range of activities that make South Carolina and its economy what it is today.

For starters, the chamber and the Brand Leader want to highlight newer aspects of the state economy, such as technology and foodie scenes, as well as the industries that South Carolina has long been known for, such as manufacturing and tourism.

And because they’re focusing on brands and not just individual companies, they’re able to create atypical award categories such as iconic sports moment or a restaurant dish that’s authentic to South Carolina.

The two groups also see value in bringing together business leaders from various market segments — even if just for one night — in hopes that connections will be made and new relationships will be formed. The end result: a cross-pollination that could lead to new collaborations — and potentially new SC Branded winners.

Geoff Wasserman | photo by Will Crooks

“I think you’ll see some categories out there where some winners aren’t chamber members,” said Geoff Wasserman, CEO of the Brand Leader.

Fifteen awards will be handed out in recognition of an economic development project, a corporate project that protects natural beauty, a health initiative, an arts advocate, a textile product or company, an agribusiness brand, a restaurant, a brewery, a sports team or player, a tourist destination or event, an innovative product, a philanthropic initiative, a city or town, a young firm on the rise, and a company, person, or institution that has “continually given to South Carolina and its people.”

Ted Pitts, chamber president, said it wants to recognize the “brands that make South Carolina the great place that it is to live, work, and do business.”

The contest is a profit-making venture, but neither Pitts nor Wasserman say profit is the driving force.

“We’re hopeful it generates a little bit more than it costs, but at the end of the day this is about recognizing companies and individuals that make South Carolina great,” Pitts said, adding that there is no model for SC Branded.

“We really didn’t copy anybody,” Pitts said. “This is something that the chamber and the Brand Leader have worked to develop.”

Wasserman wants the ceremony to have an “Academy Awards feel,” with a lot of high-energy networking and storytelling and a unique trophy for award winners that he hopes will become iconic.

“It’s more of a celebration than a program,” he said.

The exact shape of the award, called a “Brandy,” has not yet been revealed.

“It won’t be a brandy flask, though people are welcome to celebrate with brandy afterwards if they like,” Wasserman said.

The chamber put out a call for nominations earlier this year, then sent applications to the nominees to gather more information.

A special committee of chamber members will pick three finalists in 11 categories before winners are revealed at the Nov. 2 ceremony.

Winners in four other categories – recognizing a brewery, restaurant dish, tourist destination, and iconic sports moment – will be chosen by popular vote as gathered on social media.

The chamber, which is already part of 11 award or recognition events, is handling logistics as well as selling tickets and sponsorships. The Brand Leader is responsible for creative work, branding, and marketing.

Wasserman said the awards ceremony may move to other South Carolina locations in the future.

Wasserman, a Montreal native, moved to Greenville in 1990 to be marketing director for the former Greenville Braves minor league baseball team.

He founded Showcase Marketing in 1999 and changed the name to the Brand Leader earlier this year.

The 15-employee firm specializes in branding and published a local magazine called Business Black Box for a decade before ceasing publication earlier this year.

The Brand Leader’s other work includes helping the state chamber with its annual magazine, Ascend, and other publications.


South Carolina is in the middle of an economic boom, and new development projects are bringing life to communities across the state. This award goes to the development that is turning heads in South Carolina.

South Carolina is known for its natural resources. The Palmetto Green award goes to the corporate project that is most known for its preservation and protection of South Carolina’s beauty.

With all that we have going on in South Carolina, you know our health and wellness industry is at the top of its game. This award is given to a not-for-profit or private-sector health initiative that improves the health of South Carolinians.

South Carolina is known for its passion for the arts and music. The Arts Champion Award is presented to a key champion of the arts in South Carolina.

This award celebrates our history and our future in the textile industry by recognizing the top product or company that is changing the face of what textiles mean to South Carolina.

From the peach orchards to the cotton fields, South Carolina has long been recognized for its agricultural community. The Farm, Forest, & Field Award goes to the brand that is proving to be truly revolutionary in agribusiness.

Okra, sweet tea, collards, and biscuits – we’re known for great food and the hospitality that comes with it. This award goes to the restaurant whose signature dish screams, “South Carolina.”

Which brewery do you know has the top hops? Brewery of the Year goes to the producer that has the best tasting brew and is making a name for themselves, across the state and beyond.

Every year, South Carolina has no shortage of great sports moments that garner national attention. This award goes to the team or individual that put us on the map in 2017 with the most memorable moment.

From the mountains to the beach and everywhere in-between, South Carolina is a destination unlike any other. The Destination Award goes to the South Carolina location or event that is making South Carolina a “must see.”

South Carolina is known for its high level of innovation and invention — whether from a startup company or a longtime resident. This award goes to the company whose newest development is bringing attention and growth to the state.

In South Carolina, we look after our neighbors, making this state the best place in the nation to live. The Charitable Impact Award recognizes corporate giving and philanthropy that makes a true impact for the good of the state and its citizens.

Every year we honor one city or town that is doing great things for the people that call it home. The people, good government, good corporate citizens, low taxes, and a high quality of life are factors that make the place you live a great hometown.

As an entrepreneurial haven, South Carolina is the place to start up a new business or brand. This award goes to the company founded in the last six years, that has quickly taken the market to become a player nationally or globally in its space, building on South Carolina’s brand and reputation.

The Legends Award recognizes the company, person, or institution that has continually and consistently given to South Carolina and its people. Our legends make us proud, and they deserve all the attention we have to give.


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