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The Power of Teasing

Brian Noe

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The brand new trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” debuted during Monday Night Football this week. I pictured rabid fans grabbing their lightsabers and Stormtrooper gear in excitement. The over/under on Chewbacca impressions was 2.7 million as plenty of mega fans salivated in their living rooms during the newest sneak peak. As expected, the Star Wars 8 trailer didn’t disappoint.

There was a lot of anticipation to see the trailer because people are dorks. Just kidding. It’s because Star Wars is incredibly popular. As much as I loooove football, I’m not going to dress up as Ndamukong Suh in full uniform at a convention, but you’ll see folks decked out as Ewoks and Wookiees at large gatherings with no shame.

ESPN is very aware of this. Throughout Monday, they promoted the fact that the trailer would air at halftime of the Vikings-Bears game. They ran commercials for it. Play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough made promotional announcements during the game. ESPN even hyped up the trailer on its Bottom Line with text appearing across the screen.

There is a link between all of these things and sports talk radio. The Star Wars 8 trailer, and ESPN’s promotion of it, show how effective teases in sports talk radio can be when executed properly.

A tease is simply telling the audience what’s coming up next. Sometimes, it’s smart to reveal everything in teases. Other times, not so much. Let’s start with the occasions when revealing everything is wise. The way ESPN promoted the Star Wars trailer provided every detail. What will be shown? The Star Wars 8 trailer. When can it be seen? At halftime during the Monday night game. Boom. There it is. They laid out all of the details.

The same concept applies in sports talk radio when promoting a big-name guest. “In one hour, we’ll talk to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.” There’s no point in being vague while promoting a name that big. ESPN didn’t promote “an upcoming glimpse for a really well-known movie franchise.” They promoted a movie trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” At times, it’s smart to be very specific.

Now, for the trickier part — the latest Star Wars trailer didn’t reveal every detail about the movie. The goal for both movie trailers and sports talk teases is to peak the audience’s curiosity without revealing everything. Imagine if the Star Wars 8 movie trailer was like, “This dude dies, this girl is betrayed, and this character turns to the dark side.” That’s a bad tactic.

It kills me when sports talk hosts reveal everything in their teases. “Coming up, the Packers beat the Cowboys. We’ll talk about it.” I’d hate to see the movie trailer they’d put together with that lack of creativity. It’s called a tease for a reason — it is generally wise to leave a portion hidden. For instance, “The one NFL team that is hurting the league’s ratings above all others.” If I hear that, I’m thinking, “Well, who is it? Maybe it’s this team. Maybe that one. Hmm.” I need to hear the answer.

Something else to consider when teasing a topic — don’t tell the audience everything, but don’t be so vague that they know nothing. “Coming up next, a shirt, a toothbrush, and the New York Giants.” Huh? I’m not even interested because the tease is so random. Avoid being too vague.

At this point I’m probably starting to sound like Goldilocks: “This tease is too basic. This tease is too vague. This tease is just right!” Think of it this way — what would intrigue the audience to stick around and listen more? Better yet, what would intrigue you (the host) to stick around and listen if you were in the audience’s shoes? Be creative without being too revealing. That isn’t asking for the moon and stars.

It’s also important to follow through after utilizing a strong tease. Be a teaser and a pleaser. I’ll never forget something Rick Scott — a sports talk consultant, radio veteran, connoisseur of fine wines — once told me years ago. He worked with a radio station and conducted a focus group with listeners. He said there were many listeners that were “pissed” when a host delivered a good tease, but didn’t pay it off.

Imagine going to a movie after seeing an awesome trailer, and instead it turns out to be a completely different movie. How would you feel if you went to see Blade Runner 2049, but the theatre played the LEGO Ninjago Movie instead? No diss toward LEGO Ninjago (shout-out to my nephews), but you wouldn’t be pleased at all if you got something you weren’t expecting. It’s vital to pay teases off.

Some hosts resist teasing. They’re either too lazy or they think teasing is so commonplace that they’ll blend in with other talking heads. What if Star Wars 8 took the same approach? “Ehh, movie trailers have been done before. We don’t wanna blend in. Screw it. No trailer.” Do you think that would’ve been the better approach? Of course not. Teasing is a common practice for a reason — it works.

If you put together a good radio show or movie, it makes sense to promote it. Teases are the movie trailers of sports talk radio.

Have a positive outlook about using sports talk teases. Instead of seeing it as a burden or annoyance, think of it as a clever challenge and a ratings booster. If a host is creative enough to command a show, that host is creative enough to tease effectively. Put on your grown-up pants and crank out those teases. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda

“Hhhrrrrraaaaarrrrr” –Chewbacca (co-signing Yoda’s wise words)

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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