“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!” –Vince Lombardi
When I first started in Sports Radio, a local team losing was thought of as good for the station. Losing created conflict between players, coaches, administration and led to all sorts of great potential content. Probably the best example of this was the first year of the Score in Chicago–1992. It was the perfect storm. The Bears were having a terrible season. For this brand spanking new sports station, this created endless content.
Additionally, The Score had a weekly luncheon/interview with Coach Ditka. Ditka was so done with dealing with the media; he would only talk on his weekly radio show on this brand new radio station. The beat reporters, tv stations, and columnists covering the Bears had to attend the shows or listen, to get their quotes from “Da Coach” for their stories. This was radio gold. Especially for a brand new station during the infancy of the Sports Talk format. As long time host Terry Boers said, “It would be fair to say that Ditka did more for the Score in its first year than anyone. I will never ever underestimate his impact on the first year of the Score. Nobody could have done more for the Score at that time than he did.”
Over the past 26 years, the format has evolved, matured, and been taken over by corporations with shareholders to answer to. Additionally, as verbal attacks became a regular part of the format, something changed. Winning was no longer seen as boring to the format, but instead an incredible springboard for success. Higher ratings, greater interest in the format, increased marketing and sales opportunities and that all important “buzz”.
Right now that is all happening in Washington DC and Las Vegas as their teams battle in the Stanley Cup Final. Vegas is the Cinderella story of an expansion team making it through the Western Conference to the final, while Washington has not been to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years and features one of the NHL’s biggest stars in Alexander Ovechkin.
106.7 The Fan is the FM DC rights holder for the Capitals. Caps programming has dominated the station in addition to the typical flagship Play-by-play and pre and post-game shows. The Fan’s PD Chris Kinard notes, “We’re seeing sustained audience engagement unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We’ve had days with bigger overall ratings, higher streaming numbers, etc., usually focused around Redskins content. But the meter counts, cume influx, streaming spikes, and social media engagement have been consistently near record-levels since the Caps beat Pittsburgh to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals….We’re moving fast to create opportunities for our clients to be involved in the party. We’re on the streets marketing the station and capturing the scene on social media. And I think, while all of this is happening, we all have to keep in mind the lasting impact that a championship can have on a radio station. Listeners will remember how they experienced the Cup run, and our station can and should be a part of those memories if we create compelling content and experiences.”
Across town, Chris Johnson, Program Director of the DC’s The Team 980 says “We’ve seen a tremendous surge of audience. Specifically starting with the day after the Caps eliminated the Pens. That morning we did a special show bringing in Caps TV announcers Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. The show had a huge response on-air and on social media. We’ve also added special pre and post games shows along with Caps and NHL guests over the past 3 weeks. Steve Czaban is broadcasting live from Vegas and we’ll be live from the Capital One Arena as well.”
In Las Vegas, where this improbable team and story has taken hold, ESPN Las Vegas afternoon drive host Steve Cofield talks about the Knights run to the finals and their impact on the local community, “Since I got here in 1996, Vegas has mostly been a disjointed community amongst the locals. Many work on the Strip where you get tired of personal interaction and just want to escape to your house in the suburbs 15 minutes away. In the past, they’d drive home, pull in their garages and hardly speak with their neighbors. Now VGK game nights are a massive meet up at local bars where sports and non-sports fans bond. Those bars, dominated by the video poker machines, used to be quiet. Now there’s a buzz before, during and after the games.”
From a sales standpoint timing and quick-turnaround are key during a winning run. So says Dave Greene, General Sales Manager for 610 Sports in Kansas City and fellow BSM columnist, “Momentum can come from a lot of places and sometimes even completely unexpectedly. Earlier this year when Kansas State made their run in the NCAA tournament that was something we clearly weren’t expecting. We knew if we acted quickly we could capitalize on the success of the team from a sales standpoint and we were able to. Our format thrives on passion and the fan base is never more passionate than after postseason success.”
In conclusion, over the past 20+ years things have changed. A winner in town is a huge opportunity for local sports radio stations, but it also takes the PDs, Hosts, Sales Managers, and Marketing directors to act quickly to take advantage of the opportunities. If they do so, the teams aren’t the only winners at the end of the day.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.