Olivier Bonsart, a senior executive with news publisher Ouest-France, was presented the INMA Silver Shovel Award tonight for extraordinary contributions to the non-profit association and the media industry at large.

The award was presented at the closing dinner of the 81st Annual INMA World Congress at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in New York.

The Silver Shovel Award honours newsmedia professionals with distinguished records of service to INMA and demonstrated commitments to excellence in the discipline of marketing. The award has been INMA’s highest individual honour since 1949.

Each year’s award recipient is chosen by past Silver Shovel Award recipients based on recommendations from the membership who work and know first-hand the nominee’s qualifications.

In presenting the 2011 award, New York Times executive Yasmin Namini lauded Bonsart for being the architect of an annual INMA seminar for French-speakers, his leadership as president of the association’s Europe Division Board, and organising the 2007 INMA World Congress in Paris.

Bonsart currently serves on the INMA Board of Directors, the worldwide governing body of the association, as well as INMA Europe Division Board of Directors.

A graduate of French business school HEC, Bonsart joined Rennes-based Ouest-France in 1981 working in finance, marketing, circulation and research capacities. In his Ouest-France career, he helped launch TV supplements and a Sunday edition, initiated a strategy for young readers, and participated in the development of a home delivery system and call center.

Today he is managing director of Groupe SIPA and chairs the supervisory board of SIPA local weeklies subsdiary Publihebdos. SIPA is one of the leading media companies in France, and Ouest-France is the largest French daily newspaper selling 800,000 copies per day.

Bonsart also chairs the supervisory board of 20 Minutes France, a jointly owned subsidiary of SIPA and Schibsted, along with the supervisory board of Ouest-France Multimedia. Bonsart serves as chairman of the national sales committee for regional newspapers at press association SPQR through which he was instrumental in obtaining subsidies from the French government to develop home delivery.

Senior executives from the French newspaper industry responded positively to Bonsart’s presentation of the Silver Shovel Award.

François Régis Hutin, chairman and general director of Ouest-France, praised Bonsart’s contribution to the company through his INMA involvement. “We are very proud this highly appreciated award went to our senior executive,” Hutin said. “Through INMA, Olivier acts as our window on the world and has highly contributed to the success of our publications in the last 20 years, for which we are very grateful to him.”

Said Jean Viansson-Ponté, president of SPQR, France’s regional press association: “Olivier is our Inspector Columbo: an efficient and very capable investigator, but always modest. The only difference is that Olivier does not wear a raincoat as he is not afraid of getting wet.” Viansson-Ponté lauded Bonsart for his “inventive expertise” and his “strategic vision.”