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Always On Stage

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I was able to unveil my most accurate impression of Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy last weekend — “I’m a man! I’m 40!” That’s right, I officially turned the big 4-0 last Saturday. My girlfriend, the lovely Christina, took me to sunny Miami so that we could celebrate while catching my beloved Dolphins play the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.

Aside from hearing the familiar “Raaaaiderrrrrs” chants from Silver & Black fans and noticing that the Dolphins o-line would struggle to block me without drawing a holding penalty, something else stood out. Make sure you’re sitting down for this — two opposing fans got into a shouting match. I know. I was shocked too.

It turns out that a Raiders guy rocking a Marshawn Lynch jersey, and a Dolphins girl wearing a shirt that said, “B*tch, I’m a Dolphin,” didn’t exactly mesh well together. There were f-bombs galore. Middle fingers were flying around as if there was a rewards program for each one used. The girl’s mom also had to cover her daughter’s mouth while pulling her hair so she didn’t run after the guy as he left. Yikes.

It made me think about something my mom mentioned to me recently. She thought it would be cool if I got a “Noe Show” license plate. On the positive side, it’d be a good way to promote my sports talk radio show. People who already know me would see me driving to work or putting gas in my car just like them. People who didn’t know me might do a Google search and check out the show at some point.

My mom’s suggestion really changed how I view myself though. I’m a good guy overall, but I’m not a candidate to be included on the list of recognized saints one day. Occasionally, I’ve suggested that a fellow driver could jump into a river. Those suggestions might’ve included sign language that either provided directions to the nearest river, or an easy-to-translate message indicating how unhappy I was.

That should never be the way I behave. Plus, on the heels of my mom’s license plate suggestion, what if that other driver was a listener?

Sports radio hosts are constantly given pointers on how to be more successful. Make sure you pay off your teases. Maintain clock integrity. Don’t waste time getting to your point. Yada yada. All of that stuff is great advice, but it’s absolutely meaningless if you act like a lunatic in everyday life when there isn’t a microphone in front of your face.

Everything you do matters. The tweets you send matter. How you treat the cashier at the grocery store, the server at the restaurant, the driver that tailgates you — it all matters. We had a work party in Albany, NY years ago. I told the bartender to have a good night and shook his hand before I left. It wasn’t anything special, but the same guy sent me a message saying that he really appreciated the gesture.

Ratings are impacted by much more than just the hours during a show.

If you’ve had a bad day, you can’t allow it to impact the radio show. Why should it be any different off the air? If a listener bumps into a host who’s in the middle of a bad day, the listener either doesn’t care or fails to consider that possibility. The host is simply considered a jerk. It’s the same concept when fans have negative autograph stories about athletes that blew them off. Regardless of the circumstances, people never forget how you make them feel.

Whether you have a license plate that displays your show’s name or not, operate as if you do. Instead of that “kick me” sign on your back in grade school, act like it’s the title of your show. Carry yourself as if everybody is aware of what you do and who you are.

Another story comes to mind from my time in Albany, NY. We used to host events at a local sports bar during NFL Sundays. I wasn’t hosting on this particular Sunday, but I stopped by to watch ball and support my friend and co-worker, Bruce Jacobs. The first thing he said to me was, “Did you just roll out of bed, Noe?”

The answer was very close to yes. I mean, at least I put a shirt on, right? My clothes weren’t even business casual though. I was wearing some baggy Nike training pants. Man, those things were comfortable. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good look. At the time I felt like, “Hey, it’s Sunday. This is my day off. I want to be comfortable while I watch games.”

My thinking was somewhat understandable, but the first part is what really stands out to me now. “It’s Sunday. This is my day off.” For public figures, there really isn’t a time when you’re offstage or off the clock. I didn’t need to wear a tuxedo, but I failed to realize that I was still onstage.

One more story from Uncle B. I’ll never forget about a time when my nephews were much younger — Mini Matt was probably five and Ty was about three years old. My sister pointed out that they didn’t understand sarcasm. If I said, “Man, it’s a heat wave today,” but it was only 15 degrees, my nephews thought that I was literally saying it was really hot outside.

I can’t remember exactly what my playful and sarcastic comment was at the time, but my sister said to me, “Little eyes are watching you.” Just then I looked at my nephews as they were staring at me with these big eyes while soaking in every word I said.

The same lesson still applies — eyes are watching us. It could be the fan sitting two rows back at the game. It could be the father who’s grabbing food at the local sports bar. It might be the slow semi-truck driver that takes two hours to pass another slow semi-truck driver. They all witness and evaluate our behavior. If you happen to be a radio host they actually recognize, the stakes are raised significantly.

Remember to treat people respectfully and avoid giving them the opportunity to misevaluate you. There is no such thing as being offstage. It doesn’t exist. Sports radio hosts don’t go offstage when the mic is off and the show ends. They just trade one stage for another.

BSM Writers

Dallas Cowboys: Proof That Marketing Works

“Good marketers can convince you their products are anything they want you to believe those products are.”

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Why do people still hate the Dallas Cowboys? Give me a good football reason that the Cowboys are worth your time. I get that there was an era where if the NFL was Mortal Kombat, the Cowboys were Shang Tsung, but those days ended three decades ago.

It’s 2022. There are adults in their late 20s that have never seen a Cowboys’ championship. Since 2000, the franchise has been to the playoffs fewer times than the Falcons. They have won as many playoff games in that time as the Jaguars. At this point, hating the Cowboys is about as useless as hating Luxembourg.

So why do people still have such a deep-seated disdain for the star and the players that wear it? Why was a national celebration set of on Sunday when the Cowboys lost in the stupidest way imaginable?

The answer is pretty simple really: marketing.

Good marketers can convince you their products are anything they want you to believe those products are. Great marketers can get you to behave like those products are what they say they are even when you know that isn’t true.

Jerry Jones is a great marketer.

People tune in when the Cowboys play. Maybe a good chunk of those people are hate-watching, but they’re watching. That is why the team was on in primetime six times this season. Of those other eleven games, seven of them were called by either FOX’s or CBS’s top broadcast team.

ESPN completely rebuild and rebranded First Take around the idea that Stephen A. Smith doesn’t like the Dallas Cowboys. That is it. The whole promo package for the show was just Smith wearing a cowboy hat and chomping on a cigar and laughing.

Shouldn’t we be doing this to the Patriots? Afterall, in the time since the Cowboy’s last Super Bowl appearance, New England has gone to the game an astounding ten times and won six titles.

It’s easy to read that sentence and say “Well, Tom Brady isn’t there anymore. The Patriots aren’t what they used to be. It isn’t as much fun to hate them.”

Uh, dawg, who in Dallas has been worth hating since Troy Aikman retired? You know, like 22 years ago!

Jerry Jones isn’t the man that coined the phrase “America’s Team, ” so he didn’t set its initial meaning. What it became, by virtue of him leaning into the branding is something that forces you to react. Either you buy into the blue and the silver and the star and you’re with America’s team or you recoil at the branding and the goofiness of the whole aesthetic and want to watch it burn.

Notre Dame football could be doing this too. The problem is they do not have the great markerter out front pushing that slogan over and over again.

Even “how bout them Cowboys?” is a solid positioning statement. It’s easily repeatable in good times or bad. The genius of Jerry Jones embracing that statement and that clip of Jimmy Johnson shouting those four now-iconic words is that it is a question that always has an answer.

Fans can celebrate with “how bout them cowboys” when the team wins. Haters can say it facetiously when they are on a losing streak. Either way, you are saying it and the Dallas Cowboys are occupying a part of your brain.

Positioning statements work. That is why so many stations tag their imaging with the same phrase or sentence every single time. That is why so many stations are called The Fan or The Game or The Ticket.

Admittedly, sometimes we need to rethink how our listeners are receiving the message. If we are all going for homogeny, nothing can stand out. Maybe that is a reason to rethink what I jokingly call “sports radio’s magic hat of five acceptable station names”, but the larger point is that you want every message you put out to point to the brand image you are trying to portray.

Jerry Jones’s message to the NFL and the media is no matter who they root for, fans care about my team. His positioning statements reflect that. Whether you think they are great marketing or goofy corporate branding, they work. The proof is everywhere.

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BSM Writers

Three Sports Marketing Trends You Need To Know

“Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists.”

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#1 OTT’s RAPID EXPANSION  

Pay TV lost more than 5 million customers in 2020 and that trend is going to continue and the number is going to increase. With nearly 30% more Americans cutting the cord in 2021 and almost 87% of adults 18-24 preferring the OTT option, you’d better dive in and understand just how fast video consumption is changing; especially in sports. Platforms like ESPN+, Amazon, Peacock, Paramount+ and Facebook are diving head first into the sports rights market so that they can deliver LIVE sports where Americans are consuming video.  OTT provides that sniper riffle approach advertisers are looking for as they try to increase ROI and minimize waste. 

#2 AI … DATA-DATA-DATA

Without a doubt artificial intelligence is changing the way marketers are deciding how to go to market with their messaging and their products and/or services.  More data is available now than ever before and you’d better understand how your client is using it to help them make their buying decisions.  Most large advertisers are not only using one, but multiple vendors and are trying to obtain as much data as they possibly can so they can better recognize trends and understand their consumers behaviors and buying patterns

#3 eSports is BOOMING

Video games aren’t just for fun and entertainment at home anymore.  Gamers are now creating leagues, generating 6-figure endorsements and have multiple contests where they compete for HUGE cash and prizes.  Marketers are actively looking for ways to take advantage of this meteoric rise in popularity of eSports and that includes product placement, team sponsorships, individual gamer(s) sponsorships and tournament sponsorships.  If your station isn’t trying to create a sellable feature around eSports then you’re missing out on a huge and very sellable feature.  There are over 234 million eSports enthusiasts world wide and that number is only going to continue to climb. 

OTT, AI and eSports are rapidly changing the sports marketing landscape and these are trends that will only continue and grow over the next 5 years.  Digitalization of just about everything is changing how, where, when and on what kind of devices sports fans are consuming content.  Sports marketing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace and you’d best know where your competition lies or where opportunity exists. 

Be the expert in the room when meeting with agencies and/or clients, it will set you apart from the pack.  Understanding these rapidly evolving trends will help you have better and deeper dialog with your advertisers. 

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BSM Writers

What Should Radio Be Thinking About On Martin Luther King Day?

“Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?”

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Monday, January 17 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A lot of you will get the day off of work. Some of you will attend prayer services or civic events to honor the civil rights leader and his legacy.

Dr. King, like all humans, had his flaws but is undeniably a man worth celebrating. In a world where the divide between the powerful and the rest of us seems to be growing out of control, it is good to take a day to celebrate and think about a man that made a career out of speaking up for the little guy – whether that means black and brown people during the Civil Rights Era or it means workers in times of labor unrest.

Across the media landscape, we will see stations and networks running promos touting their “commitment to Dr. King’s dream!”. The sentiment is great, but I do wonder what it means to the people making those promos and the stations and networks airing them.

Look at the archives of this site. Think about the BSM Summits you have attended. How often have we been willing to shine a spotlight on the amount sports radio talks about embracing diversity versus actually putting plans into action? Jason has written and talked about it a lot. Every time, the message seems to circle back to him saying “I am giving you the data. You are telling me you recognize that this is a problem. Now do something about it.”

It’s something I found myself starting to think about a lot last year when Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday. Suddenly every brand was airing ads telling me how they have known how special this day is all along. And look, I hope that is true. It seems like if it was though, I would have been seeing those ads in plenty of Junes before 2021.

I am going to put my focus on the media because that is what we do here, but this can be said about a lot of companies. So many brands have done a great job of rolling out the yellow, black, red, and green promo package to acknowledge that it is Martin Luther King Jr Day or Black History Month or Juneteenth. I worry though that for so many, especially on the local level, that is where the acknowledgment ends.

That isn’t to say that those stations or brands actively do not want more minority representation inside their company. It just isn’t a subject for which they can say they have taken a lot of action.

Look, I am not here to debate the merits of affirmative action. I am saying in an industry like sports radio, where we thrive on fans being able to relate to the voices coming through their speakers, shouldn’t we be doing a better job of making sure minority personalities know that there is a place for them in this industry? Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?

WFAN went out and found Keith McPherson in the podcasting world to fill its opening at night after Steve Somers’s retirement. FOX Sports added RJ Young, who first made a name for himself on YouTube and writing books, to its college football coverage. 95.7 The Game found Daryle “Guru” Johnson in a contest. JR Jackson got on CBS Sports Radio’s radar thanks to his YouTube videos and when it came time for the network to find a late-night host, it plucked him from Atlanta’s V103, one of the best-known urban stations in America.

That’s two guys in major markets, another on national radio, and a third on national television. In all four cases, the companies that hired them didn’t just sit back and wait for a resume to come in.

Some of you will read this and dismiss me. After all, I am a fat, white Southern man. If I were a hacky comedian, I would say “the only four groups you are allowed to make fun of” and then yell “Gitterdone!”.

In reality, I point those things out because I know there is a large chunk of you that will call this whole column “white guilt” or “woke” or whatever your talking point is now.

Whether or not we are about the be a majority minority nation is up for debate, but here is a fact. America is getting darker. I look at the radio industry, one that is constantly worried about how it will be affected by new innovations in digital audio, and wonder how anyone can think doing things like we always have is going to work forever.

I’m not damning anyone or saying anybody should be losing their jobs. I don’t know most of you reading this well enough to make that judgment. What I am saying is that our industry has lived on the idea that this business is always changing and we have to be adaptable. I think it is time we do that, not just with the content we present on air, but in how we go about finding the right people to present it.

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