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Developing Your Brand’s Baseball Season Strategy

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Before you know it, opening day will be here. And when it arrives, listeners will return in full force to hear their favorite local teams games on the radio, and to listen to talk show hosts offer up their perspectives and opinions on the season.

It’s easy to dismiss baseball as a thought until April, but if you’re looking to capitalize on the sport for the entire season, it benefits you to brainstorm and develop a strategy prior to the season’s first pitch.

Too often in sports radio we fly by the seat of our pants. We don’t lay out game plans for an entire season, instead we implement new ideas when they come to us. The focus is on each day’s show, except sometimes when you’re reliant on the day’s top stories, you don’t get handed a lot to work with. That’s especially true during the dog days of summer.

But if you venture into other media worlds, whether it be digital, television or advertising, they have a calendar in place to take advantage of annual opportunities and to develop sustainable campaigns which consumers can rally around. This is something every media executive and talk show host should have at their disposal as well.

So what do you do?

It starts with the brand manager having a vision for how they want to attack the baseball season. By the way, what I’m suggesting can also work for a station entering the football, hockey or basketball season.

The first question that needs to be answered is “how important is the team to the local audience”? Do they care only about the game or are there topics, features, guests and other interesting elements worthy of exploration around the club that the local audience will want to hear about on your talk shows? Knowing how relevant and important the franchise is to your on-air content strategy is necessary. This is how you determine whether it’s a daily hit or a sporadic conversation.

From there you start reviewing your assets and how to best take advantage of them. If your station is carrying a local team’s games, how often are promos, liners and creative themes emphasized to make them sound important? Are you simply announcing the matchup and game time or adding some intrigue to the game that will make people want to tune in? Is there a theme song used to drive the season long campaign that sounds cool and connects to the game, team or biggest storyline?

Then you determine if there are personalities on the team who would be attractive on a regular basis to your audience, advertisers and talk show hosts. If there are, you work with the player, their agent, and/or the team to structure an agreement to have them appear on your brand for the duration of the season.

My advice, if you’re going to compensate someone for making the time commitment, make sure you have a working agreement that calls for a weekly appearance. It’s hard to build listening occasions when things don’t take place consistently, and most audiences don’t remember and respond favorably to bi-weekly or monthly guest visits.

The second suggestion I’ll pass along, if you’re going to add the expense to your station’s budget for a player to appear weekly, make sure you get something back beyond the weekly 10-15 minute conversation. It’s very hard for a station’s sales department to maximize your investment when all they have to work with are commercials and a :05-:10 tag for the weekly phone call sponsorship.

Whether it’s an on the field meet and greet with your listeners, a player voicing a free commercial for one of your key sponsors, arranging a private luncheon or round table chat with the player and your key clients and listeners, having the player take over your Twitter or Facebook Live account, developing an in market autograph signing with the player at one of your key advertisers’ place of business or creating a charity event which they participate in, there needs to be more on the table than fifteen minutes of time each week.

From a promotion standpoint I’d also be sure to have an updated weekly appointment promo on the station (content promo built around the guest which highlights the day and time they appear) and social media posts scheduled so they run on the day of the guest’s appearance. Don’t waste your time promoting it 4-5 days before the guest appears. Your audience won’t remember it. Focus on when they’re available to be reached (the day of), and hammer it home so they give your station an extra quarter hour of listening.

Next, start taking a look at how your brand’s relationship with a team can strengthen the loyalty you receive from your audience. For example, tickets are always a huge attraction. When you have an opportunity to reward your audience for spending time with your brand, they appreciate it. Are you able to schedule regular ticket giveaways, trip giveaways, stadium tours, meet and greets or create a few other cool and unique experiences? All of those things matter.

From there, you have to examine your on the street game plan. Are you scheduling live remotes or appearances for your brand at or near the stadium? How are you dressing up those broadcasts to make them attractive to the audience? If you’re going to sit inside a gas station with a small table, station banner and your engineer’s equipment sitting on the table, I’m not sure I see the value. If though you can put the show in a highly visible location and turn it into an actual event which helps your station increase its connection to local fans and influence their ability to help you deliver bigger ratings then it’s worth pursuing.

Depending on your station’s business relationship with the organization, maybe there’s a possibility of promoting your brand inside the stadium either through remotes, video placement on the scoreboard, digital LED signage, ad space in the team’s program guide, or thru sponsoring an in between innings feature. You may even be able to create synergies with the team’s television partner to promote your brand on their airwaves, and them on yours.

If you add up all of those assets it’s a pretty impressive list, but even then there’s still an opportunity to do more.

What’s your strategy on social media? Do you have someone dedicated to posting key updates before, during and after the game? Are your personalities conducting chats during or after the game on Facebook Live? What original content videos and podcasts are you developing regularly to showcase the brand’s commitment to covering the local team in strong fashion? Maybe your digital team has someone with personality who can record on the street bits and turn them around for your morning show.

Whatever the case, being active, focused, and creative in the social space is paramount to reaching your audience.

Spring training is often a dead zone for sports radio. February and March traditionally rate lower, which means it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the airwaves to create a unique week or day and generate listener buzz while also making the product more attractive to advertisers.

Let’s say for example you were in Cincinnati and the next big opportunity to drive a larger audience to your shows occurs when the Reds return to the field, if you created a “Reds Celebration Week” or “State of the Reds” in March, and during that week the station secured big interviews with current and former members of the organization, gave away tickets, ran vignettes featuring some of the best moments in franchise history, dressed up the station’s website and social media pages to reflect the mood of the week, created a public town hall event, and all callers that week to your station’s shows were involved in discussions about various Reds topics, you’d have the audience more engaged, interested, and excited about your content. The alternative is to approach the calendar with your normal enthusiasm and rely on the news of the day which doesn’t generate as much enthusiasm or urgency from the audience.

The other way to capitalize in March if you’re a brand manager is to use the slower period to sit down with your talk show hosts and producers and get their brains racing with ideas for the upcoming season. Challenge them to come up with their next big promotion or appointment setting weekly feature. Review the team’s calendar and look at what you can deliver consistently and what key match ups will generate buzz that you might be able to build something creative around.

Sometimes hosts come out of the room with something simple such as a feature which is fun for them but not as sexy for advertisers or listeners. Other times they come away by adding something new and beneficial such as a Flashback Friday conversation (weekly interview for 26 weeks with 26 former high profile players/coaches), a Hall of Fame Report (26 weekly interviews with 26 members of the HOF) or a special Baseball Hour featuring two former members of the team who live in your local area appearing in studio with one of your local shows.

Regardless of what you come up with, the point is to get everyone in your building thinking of how to attack the airwaves for 6 months delivering baseball content that matters. By putting into affect creative imaging, unique benchmarks, promotions, a social media strategy and exploring ideas that will excite your audience, give your advertisers a reason to want to open up their checkbooks, and generating natural enthusiasm from your hosts, you’ll put yourself and your brand in a position to win the game that really matters most, the ratings and revenue game!

Barrett Blogs

John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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Barrett Blogs

2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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