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What Sports Radio Stations Can Learn from IHOP

Matt Fishman

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Over the past week, IHOP hinted that it would be flipping the ‘P’ into a ‘B’ and become IHOB. Immediately I checked the calendar. Sounded like a great April fool’s prank. But it wasn’t a joke and the speculation ‘B’egan. Would it stand for Breakfast, Bacon, Beer, Bananas or Bread? It has made for great fodder, but people have been talking about IHOP.

This week they announced the B is for Burgers. Certainly burgers are not new to IHOP’s (or IHOB’s) menu. They’ve been a part of it since 1958. Their new Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley told Ad Age “One of the very first things we did was to gauge people’s awareness of burgers at IHOP. The awareness was low, quite low, I’d say. Even though we’ve had them forever, they just were clearly not top of mind.”

IHOP’s decision to re-brand got me to thinking, when is the best time for a sports radio station to explore re-branding? Brian Lischer of Ignyte Branding cites these reasons for a re-brand: (I’ll talk about each below)

  1. You’re failing to differentiate yourself from the competition
  2. You’ve outgrown your brand
  3. You need to disassociate your brand from a negative image
  4. You’re trying to connect with a new audience

Let’s start with the first rule.

  1. You’re failing to differentiate yourself from the competition

What makes your station unique? Is it a certain show, play by play, great guests? At SiriusXM we used to call it “cool shit that no one else has!” Whatever that is for your station needs to be front and center in your new branding.

  1. You’ve outgrown your brand

Your sports station has grown. Your initial branding as an upstart doesn’t fit anymore. The station is bigger, ratings are bigger, and the station sounds bigger. Bring in a new bigger sound to your imaging and change your branding lines. You can grow bigger without losing the edge you had as an upstart.

  1. You need to disassociate your brand from a negative image

I feel like this applies more now in the age of social media than it did before everyone was sharing their opinion online. We have all seen stations fire talent based on social media posts. Heck, a San Diego station never made it to air because of a tweet by its morning show host. The perception of companies has also changed, leaving many to investigate if prior associations which were once seen as strong still hold the same value.

  1. You’re trying to connect with a new audience

Typically in our format this means finding a younger audience. You may be doing great with Men or Adults 25-54 but lagging with listeners 18-34. In this case your new branding tries to walk a very fine line. Appeal to Millennials (18-34) while not offending your GenXers or Boomers (34-64).

Lischer concludes, “Whether they’re plain as day or hiding in plain sight, signs it’s time to rebrand can be just about anywhere. Often the first sign is that you’re wondering if a rebrand is necessary! With the amount of measurable benefits that come with rebranding, the investment is likely to pay off many times over.”

Conclusion:

I think the key point Lischer makes is that if you’re thinking about a re-brand than you should probably go for it. Fully assess your strengths and weaknesses. Your new branding needs to have a new voice, a new logo, perhaps new station colors and everything needs to change at once—On-Air, online, sales materials, promotional items and event signage. There’s nothing worse than an on-air branding change with a website that still has the old branding, old logo and slogan all over it.

Bringing it back to IHOP’s rebrand to IHOB. When is the last time anyone has talked this much about IHOP? There are articles, blogs, and social media posts everywhere about it. Don Draper famously says in Mad Men, “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.” In this case, no one was really talking about IHOP—now everyone is. Sounds like a win for IHOP even if they don’t sell a lot of burgers.

BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast: Rich Eisen, NFL Network

Jason Barrett

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Rich Eisen reveals how he ended up partnering with Stuart Scott, the moment he knew he made the right move joining the NFL Network, and the influence standup comedy had on his broadcast career.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3z9hErM

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3oyi0U0

Google: https://buff.ly/3vh7Tqu

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3w9hqAh

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Does FOX Need West Coast College Football Success?

“I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”

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Don’t believe them. Don’t believe those people that try to sell you on the idea that a given sport is better if a given team in said sport is good. You know, college football is better when Notre Dame is good. Maybe they tell you college basketball is better when UCLA is good. Might they say the NFL is better when the Dallas Cowboys are good? Let me tell you, whoever the they is saying those things, they are wrong. FOX isn’t living or dying on it?

I am not here to tell you college football is better when USC is good. The Trojans are ninth all-time in FBS wins with 866 victories, they claim 11 National Championships and 39 conference championships. There is zero doubt they are among the elite, blue blooded programs of the college football world. With all of that said, USC hasn’t contributed to college football’s national championship discussion in more than 15 years. But, now Southern California is back and in College Football Playoff contention.

With only Notre Dame and a PAC 12 Conference Championship left to play, 10-1 USC is in excellent position to earn the first College Football Playoff bid in school history. The Trojans would be the third west coast team in the playoffs, 2014 Oregon played in the inaugural edition and 2016 Washington was the only other PAC 12 participant. It has now been five playoffs since a PAC 12 team has been in the top four.

That brings up the obvious question, how important is it for the health of the College Football Playoff to have west coast teams involved, especially one based in Los Angeles? L.A is, of course, the second largest media market in the nation. College football is well down the list of priorities in the City of Angels but having a team in the mix might help the overall national rating.

College Football has long been criticized for becoming too regional of a sport. The results thus far do lend themselves to that belief, the only team from outside the South to win a national championship was 2014 Ohio State. The SEC has twice had two teams among the four playoff teams and two of eight championship games matched Alabama and Georgia from the SEC. 

So, does the College Football Playoff need West Coast teams for long term health? FOX is one of the rights holders for PAC 12 football and the main FOX college analyst, Joel Klatt, doesn’t think it is necessary. “I don’t know if it matters this year. This is like the last two years in an eight year term for a president,” Klatt told me on my show, The Next Round, “I think we are all looking forward to the twelve team playoff and I don’t know if it matters as much as it did in the last eight years.”

To Klatt’s point, the College Football Playoff seems to be screeching towards that twelve team format and a bigger media rights deal. That deal will almost certainly include multiple networks, not just ESPN/ABC, and will be worth significantly more money than the current deal. So, it is not as if the lack of a presence west of the Rockies has hurt the attractiveness of the College Football Playoff to the networks.

On the other hand, the playoffs have never reached the lofty ratings they had year one. Was the 2014 edition just ratings lightning in a bottle or has the regional nature of the product hurt those ratings? The 2014 semi finals did fall on New Year’s Day which meant the games were played in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl which has proven to be the most successful schedule in terms of ratings success.

The college football lover in me couldn’t get enough of FOX’s Saturday night USC-UCLA telecast. There’s something about both teams wearing those classic home colors and playing in that historic stadium under the lights. They put on a great show, the show also would go on without them.

I want as many people as possible exposed to college football; it only makes the sport healthier. If that means more West Coast teams need to be in the playoffs, I hope they earn their way in. An expanded playoff will only make it easier. Until then, just keep telling people college football is better when your team is good

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HBO’s ‘Shaq’ Docuseries Tells Shaquille O’Neal’s Story With Style, Personality

What ‘Shaq’ wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts.

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Screen cap via HBO Sports

From the very beginning of HBO’s Shaq docuseries, Shaquille O’Neal tells us how important storytelling is to him. Just recapping a sequence of events isn’t enough for the Hall of Famer. As the man puts it himself, “sometimes when you tell a story, you wanna add a little barbecue sauce.”

Director Robert Alexander (The Shop, A Man Named Scott) adds plenty of barbecue sauce to O’Neal’s life story, especially in the first two parts of the docuseries. (Shaq runs four episodes, with the opener debuting Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max. Each of the following three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday.)

Nothing less should be expected from a gigantic personality like O’Neal. This isn’t a dry documentary that simply chronicles a series of events. Alexander mixes in stock, news, and archival sports footage to add embellishment and punctuation to many stories and important points. Music, creative set design, and animation also play key roles in keeping the narrative moving and the audience engaged.

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Each episode has a visual theme to it. Part 1 emulates a music video. Several comic book elements are incorporated into Part 2. Part 3 is meant to invoke a classic stage drama, a Shakespearean tragedy. Unfortunately, Part 4 is less focused in that regard, though some fun video game graphics are produced. Editors Freddie DeLaVega, Lenny Messina, and Ted Feldman deserve significant credit for making all the pieces fit together into a cohesive visual trip that gives the documentary an energy not seen in many projects like this.

Much like The Last Dance did for Michael Jordan, Shaq helps define a basketball icon for newer generations more familiar with the athletic giant from being part of TNT’s Inside the NBA panel and his many, many commercial endorsements.

The documentary begins with an adolescent O’Neal growing faster than his body and mind could handle. He wasn’t a phenom who was a superstar from the very moment he took the court, despite his obvious size advantages. And his path to major college basketball didn’t take the typical route.

Eventually, however, viewers see what those of us old enough to have watched O’Neal play at LSU remember. He looked like an adult among boys. His dunks were ferocious, raising his knees as he bent the rim to his will. And, as you might recall, young Shaq was much thinner than the diesel he became late in his professional career.

The first two episodes of Shaq chronicle O’Neal’s rise to superstardom, from college sensation at LSU to No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick by the Orlando Magic, developing into a force for whom there was no match on the court on the way to NBA championships. O’Neal was so dominant that the game had to adapt to him. Rival teams stocked their rosters with three to four big men that could each spare six fouls roughing O’Neal up and sending him to the free throw line. The NBA’s defensive rules changed to allow more double-teaming.

Parts 3 and 4 of the docuseries are less fun, as the second pair of episodes follow O’Neal’s fall from the ultimate heights of his career and difficulties in his personal life. His relationship with Kobe Bryant deteriorated and took a championship dynasty down with it. A major factor in those tensions developing was O’Neal’s reluctance to stay in shape during the offseason, continuing to put on weight, and eventually having toe surgery right before the 2002-03 season.

This is where O’Neal’s involvement and cooperation probably hurt Shaq the most. Unlike the first two episodes, when everything was going well for him, the big man doesn’t offer as much insight into his shortcomings. Particularly frustrating is his lack of accountability. At one point, O’Neal flat-out says he’s not talking about what went wrong with the Lakers.

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Looking right into the camera and accepting responsibility for his role in the demise of two championship teams (later including the Miami Heat) would have been riveting. Instead, others are left to try and explain O’Neal’s actions, which feels dishonest as teammates like Rick Fox and longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti try to cover for him.

What Shaq wants the audience to know is that success wasn’t easy for the man, despite his physical gifts. Basketball did not come easily to him as a youth, nor did championship success in college or the NBA as he grew up. But like so many great athletes do, O’Neal channeled criticism from the media and slights from opponents including Dikembe Mutombo into major aggression on the court. (His words for the 1999-2000 NBA MVP voter who prevented him from the league’s first unanimous win are profanely hilarious.)

O’Neal makes it clear that strong figures in his life provided discipline and guidance — beginning with the military-influenced upbringing of his stepfather, then coaches who could teach him how to be a great player like Phil Jackson and Pat Riley — made him who he is. He has always been a personality and time has been kinder to some of the behavior that was once considered brash. Now he’s a worldwide brand known even to non-sports fans. Those viewers, along with diehard basketball fans, will enjoy getting to know him better in this docuseries.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Part 1 of Shaq premieres Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Each of the three episodes will premiere on the subsequent Wednesday, through Dec. 14. The docuseries will also stream on HBO Max and be available on-demand, with repeat airings on HBO networks.

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