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Do Sports Radio Stations Need Slogans?

Jason Barrett

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Turn on a sports radio station today, and you can’t go an hour without being reminded of the station’s slogan. Over and over again you’re beaten across the brain with a fancy message that tells you how great your local radio station is, and which city they operate in.

But do they matter? Do they make a difference? Are they necessary?

blankWell that depends on who you ask.

Some of the most opinionated, right-seeking people on the planet, work in the sports talk format. Line up 10 people and ask them to weigh in on this subject, and you’ll get 10 different answers, and they’ll all be pretty convincing, and interesting.

Except nobody is right. It’s simply a matter of personal preference. What we often forget, is that there are multiple ways to create a brand, and communicate the radio station’s position, while developing an identity and delivering winning results.

blankFor example, listen to a local CBS sports radio station and then listen to a local market ESPN radio station. You’ll notice a stark contrast between the two.

On a CBS sports talker you’ll hear a lot of calls, a looser content flow, and commercial breaks without programming promos. Instead the station’s use liners in and out of segments to promote special broadcasts, games, giveaways and other special events.

When you turn on an ESPN sports radio station, you’re likely to hear a lot more production, a tighter format, less calls, more audio clips, and commercial breaks usually include at least one or two programming promos.

blankWhile CBS prefers to use their inventory time during breaks to focus solely on commercials, and return to content, ESPN prefers to mix it up between commercials, and promote programming benefits that occur on the radio station.

In both cases, it works because there’s a different strategy for each product. If the on-air presentation reflects the station’s vision, and it’s producing results, that’s all that matters.

So after listening to a number of sports stations this week, and the different ways they position themselves, it got me to thinking about whether or not slogans are really critical.

musicslogansFor example, when you listen to a music station, you’re going to endure an avalanche of messaging. The stations usually are programmed so strongly with songs, and commercials, that when that little bit of time is available to them to say something, they reinforce who they are.

The difference with sports talk is that we have opportunities to promote our messages during commercial breaks, AND during content, whereas songs restrict a music format’s ability to do both.

Rather than approach this strictly from a radio point of view, I want you to think about some of the world’s best brands, and the way you view and talk about them.

If I said to you, Nike – chances are you’d know the slogan “Just Do It“.

geicoIf I asked you to name a slogan used by Geico, McDonald’s and Budweiser, you’d likely recall “15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance, I’m Loving It and the King of Beers or This Bud’s For You“.

When a message is promoted heavily, and it represents the brand in an accurate way, it can have a major impact. No example is better right now than Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again“.

While you may like or dislike Trump and his positions, everywhere you turn that message is reinforced. He’s wisely worked it into every interview he conducts, and every press conference he holds, and it reflects what he wants to do if he’s elected President of the United States of America. Whether he can deliver on his slogan’s message is another story for another time.

As an industry, radio isn’t necessarily strong when it comes to creating powerful slogans. That’s scary because we’re often tasked with writing commercial copy, promos, liners and on-air mentions. If anyone should be skilled at writing and creating strong positions, it’s us but there aren’t a lot of companies who analyze the writing, and effectiveness of a message created by the programming and production departments. There’s also a lack of coaching and training available to radio professionals as it applies to improving as writers.

feelOne other aspect of slogans that I see radio stations miss on, is that they’re often built around telling listeners what to think, how to feel and why the brand is so great. The focus gets put on the brand’s view of itself, not the benefits or connection it provides to the audience. I’m not sure how you feel about it, but I like to form my own opinions. I don’t need a packaged liner playing every 15 minutes to help me decide how to feel about a product.

People who listen to sports radio want to feel important to the brand they spend time with, and they want to believe they carry a little bit of influence in determining how the brand operates. When the message is built the needs and desires of the audience, the listener will spend more time helping you spread it.

As someone who has written a lot of promos, liners, on-air mentions, and bits, throughout the years, I’ve certainly delivered my fair share of clunkers, so I know how challenging it can be. While we all want to be creative, and produce an amazing message, our strengths are often in verbal communication, not written form.

blankEven when we do create something powerful, and effective with our words, it takes a lot of time, and patience. Unless you’ve been part of the process of creating a brand message, people on the outside fail to understand that being creative is a process, and it can’t be scheduled. Ideas come to you when you least expect them, and you can’t put a 30-minute writing session on your calendar, and expect that you’ll come out of it with the world’s best slogan. It doesn’t work that way.

When you try to operate that way, you usually come away with something terrible like this:

“(Name of City), home for the best local sports talk, (Station Dial Position)”

You can put the voice of Jim and Dawn Cutler, Paul Turner or Steve Stone behind it, and they’ll make it sound as good as humanly possible, but even they can’t turn turds into diamonds.

Are we really convinced as programmers, talent and executives that if we don’t create a slogan for our brand, that the audience won’t know what it is? Isn’t the audience smarter than that?

WFANWhen was the last time you had a conversation about a sports talk radio station with a friend, or family member, and said “I listen to WFAN, because it’s my Flagship Station for New York Sports“? That’s not how people talk when describing your brand, and why they enjoy it.

If they’re talking about your product, they’re going to recall three specific things – the personalities on the air, the station’s dial position, and the name of the brand. The conversation sounds more like this – “I listen to 98.7 ESPN NY because I like the Michael Kay show“.

Slogans may feel necessary in the conference room, and they may look great on a white board, but unless they’re powerful, focused on the listener, and important to the identity of the brand, you can do without them. The time that gets spent in trying to create clever messaging for a :10 second legal ID, station liner, or station promo, can make your head spin.

purposeIs this critical to what we do? Is it where our time is best spent? Would the station you work for suffer tomorrow if the audience wasn’t aware that you were their city’s destination for sports radio?

In researching this topic, I found a few messages that impressed me, and some which didn’t. Bear in mind, these are my opinions, and yours may be different, so take it for whatever it’s worth.

Here are the three slogans that didn’t register with me.

  • “Real Sports Talk”
  • “Sports Radio With Balls”
  • “All Sports, All The Time”

“Real Sports Talk” implies that nobody else in the market talks about sports in a serious way, and it suggests that the brand never deviates from that plan, which isn’t true. It also doesn’t create a sense of power for the audience, or something memorable to identify with. If other brands in the market also talk about sports, how does this make the station unique?

In the case of “Sports Radio With Balls“, I’m guessing that the station is trying to play off of the fact that they carry LIVE play by play except, they don’t have the rights to the market’s only major professional sports team. This particular message is one that is going to come out of the mouth’s of every on-air talent. While it may feel, and sound natural for some, it won’t for others. Also, as sports radio adds more women listeners, do you think they want to hear this? It comes across very male-focused, and while I understand it, especially when considering the competitor they’re up against, and the Men 25-54 focus, I think there’s room for something else that represents the brand, and gives the talent more pride when they say it.

The final one, “All Sports, All The Time” is actually pretty solid, but if you know the brand I’m referring to, it’s not at all accurate. The content experience, and personalities on the radio station, focus much of their material around guy-talk, and they’re outstanding at it, and the audience loves it. Yes they talk sports too, but they’re built around entertainment, and lifestyle so if the message isn’t going to reflect what the brand represents, why use this approach?

espnWhen a slogan is created well, it can register and make a difference. For example, ESPN bills itself as “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” which many would say is exactly who they are. I also liked Apple’s “Think Different“, TNT’s “We Know Drama“, TBS’ “Very Funny” and Outback Steakhouse’s “No Rules Just Right” because I believe they provide an accurate description of each brand.

Looking at those last few examples, notice anything similar? Each of them is short, sweet and in line with their brand’s presentation. If you can’t describe the brand, what it does, and what it stands for in 10 words or less, make adjustments. The more you need to explain, the more confused people become. There’s a reason why these companies, and the others I listed earlier in this column, stand out. They say a lot with very little.

In listening across the country, I did hear a number of brands that I thought were very good. In each case, I noticed that they weren’t only strong performers in their respective markets, but they also keep the message very simple. This made it easy to recall, and that’s important when trying to invade a listener’s head space.

  • Arizona Sports 98.7FM (the brand name, dial position, frequency)
  • The Mighty 1090 (focus is strictly on the brand name/dial position)
  • Rip City Radio 620 – Portland’s Blazers Station (highlights the brand name which plays off of a term that local people are proud to be associated with, dial position and the relationship with the city’s only professional franchise)

I noticed that many CBS Sports Stations keep it simple, and focus solely on the brand name and dial position which is similar to what Arizona Sports and the Mighty 1090 are doing, and I think that is smart. ESPN Radio stations that I listened to highlight the four letters, and cities which they operate in, which is part of their operational philosophy, and also makes sense.

WHBThere was one slogan I liked a lot, but learned is no longer being utilized. Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City used to use the position “Powered By Fans“, which was excellent because it gave the audience a sense of pride, passion, and ownership in the radio station. They’ve since switched to “The Power of Sports” and I’m sure there was a reason for it, but I personally preferred the original one.

I don’t claim to be right on all of this, but I’m simply making the point that the format can thrive without the use of a slogan. There are a lot of things that we do in this business, simply because someone else before us did it. That doesn’t mean it’s right, needed or valuable.

slogan-changingmindIf you look at sports radio and the way it has grown over the last 30 years, it’s very different. Yet we continue to do some of the same things that we originally did because we’re creatures of comfort. We preach about the importance of change, taking risks, and introducing new ideas, but as soon as someone does, they’re met with resistance.

As our format faces new challenges, and enters unchartered waters during the next 30 years, we can’t afford to be one track minded, and stuck in our 1990’s views. That mentality will cost us listeners, and a whole lot of revenue.

If you can show me a radio station being weakened with its audience, or a station’s ratings suffering due to the loss of a slogan, I’ll gladly adjust my line of thinking. But there is value in my point of view, and I believe failed performance goes a lot deeper than the loss of one simple brand message.

If you’re going to use a slogan on your radio station, make it mean something. Otherwise you’re cluttering your airwaves with additional white noise, and taking away time from your best asset – your on-air talent!

bowdenI once read a quote from former Florida State Football Coach Bobby Bowden which stuck with me and it fits perfectly for this subject. Bowden told his sons when they were considering entering the coaching profession “If you can live without coaching, don’t get into it. But if you can’t live without it, go right ahead“.

Now give that some thought, and ask yourself “Would my radio station’s slogan be missed if it was pulled off the air tomorrow“? The answer you come up with should determine what you do next with it!

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022

“A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series kicks off with a look at the Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022. These shows have the largest reach in America, and are distributed by the largest networks in the industry, airing across hundreds of radio stations, as well as on various digital and television outlets.

As you review this year’s selections, please remember that the results represent the collective opinions of forty six (46) industry executives. I’d like to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s National Sports Radio Shows. For only the 2nd time in 8 years, we have someone at the top other than Colin Cowherd. The winner this year for best National Sports Talk Show of 2022 is The Pat McAfee Show. It was a close race, which included Cowherd earning more first place votes, eighteen (18) to McAfee’s twelve (12), but Pat scored seven more votes in the 2-5 range, allowing him to prevail by seventeen points. McAfee’s show is now consumed through podcasts, YouTube, and social media but 2022 did include eight months of distribution on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. We congratulate Pat, AJ, and the entire crew on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which appeared on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd earned a category best eighteen (18) first place votes. The Pat McAfee Show was second with twelve (12).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Outkick 3602 Pros & a Cup of Joe, The Zach Gelb Show, Spain & Fitz, and Bart & Hahn.
  • The closest contest saw You Better You Bet edge Ben Maller by 4 points.
  • Of the 101 shows eligible for consideration this year, 9 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Tuesday February 7 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022
  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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