You could make a pretty compelling argument Green Bay is the most unique professional sports market in the United States. For starters, with a population of just 105,000, it’s the smallest city with a pro team in the country. But as small it may be, it’s home to one of the biggest brands in all of the NFL.
There’s a small town charm to Green Bay, but inside the city and the surrounding towns, there’s a passion for football that’s unmatched. When it comes to sports radio in the area, 107.5 The Fan has to fill that passion that exists with the Packers on a daily basis.
Marques Eversoll is one of the hosts that’s tasked with this every day challenge. No matter what’s going on in sports, every show must revolve around what’s going on with the Packers. Year round, that’s what the listeners are coming for. Obviously, Green Bay isn’t New York, Chicago or Boston, but it has a football team that creates just as much content, if not more, than the football teams in those major markets.
So how does such a small market revolve around a franchise that extends from coast to coast?
TYLER MCCOMAS: You’re in the prime spot of the calendar. Are you even thinking about talking anything but the Packers during this time?
MARQUES EVERSOLL: Well right now, it’s pretty much Packers from start to finish. There’s always exceptions, of course, like last year when the Milwaukee Bucks were in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the first time they even won a playoff series since 2001. There was tension. Now, Bucks talk doesn’t play up in Green Bay like it does Milwaukee, but it was still a big story. But normally it’s Green Bay Packers 24-7/365.
It can be the middle of June and the NFL Draft is in the books and we’re not even to training camp yet, and still every single day I have to come up with a Packers topic idea to start the show. There may be a wide receiver in some other city that said something and I’ll try to figure out a way to work that back into the Packers. Nothing in Green Bay plays like the Packers, any time of the year.
TM: How much do things change, programming wise, when football season arrives? Do you change from a small market mentality to a large market mentality?
ME: I would say so. We’ll start putting our heads together and planning out the year and the thing we keep coming back to, and you see it in the ratings, more people are listening during football season, because it’s football and it’s a unique market where it’s all about the Packers.
With the promotions and everything, we’ll do way more things during football season than we do during the off-season. We always try to get together and put together a road trip or airfare depending where it is. This year it’s in San Francisco for the game on November 24, so basically the entire first part of the season, we’ll be qualifying people to get invited to the giveaway party. At the giveaway party, someone wins that trip. We did a road trip to Chicago for the season opener, and it was the same type of thing.
We do a Super Bowl party every year, regardless of who’s in it, and we’re giving away a man cave makeover of some kind. But you can just tell interest in the Packers is unlike any interest in any other sport. It is so unique in a city of roughly of 100,000 people. You can basically fit all of Green Bay into Lambeau Field. As a result of that, everything we do really does center on football season.
TM: Seeing as the Packers fan base extends all over the country, are your online numbers higher than your terrestrial numbers?
ME: To be honest I don’t know. During football season we will peak, as I understand it, the mid-morning on Monday after a game or the day before a game. At least in terms of streaming numbers, the day before and the day after a game are really big for us.
TM: Not only are you covering one of the iconic teams in America, you’re also covering one of the faces of the sport. Aaron Rodgers’ personal life has been documented so much that everyone seems to know about it. How much is that a talking point for you guys?
ME: That’s such a unique situation. We feel like we need to address it because you turn on the TV and every talking head is discussing it. There’s rumors about his personal life or behind the scenes anonymous sources on his relationship with the head coach. Well, we’re a sports radio station in Green Bay and as much as we might want to move on and talk about something else, we can’t do that. Honestly, most times that’s probably how we feel because anonymous sources only carry so much weight.
What plays nationally is always, “okay, he’s a headstrong guy that’s not going to get along with his head coach, because he couldn’t even get along with Mike McCarthy.” Well, he also worked with McCarthy for more than a decade so let’s not act like it was all that bad. The proof was in the pudding, they won a Super Bowl together. Being together for a decade is an eternity in the NFL. It’s something you need to address but it’s been kind of funny to track the national narrative with Aaron Rodgers because it’s the only coaching change of his career.
We just have to find that middle ground on the air. Sometimes he is so hard to work with because he’s competitive but nationally is covered so much differently than locally.
TM: Do you pay attention to the Wisconsin Badgers? They have a loyal and passionate fan base, so do you acknowledge them at all during football season?
ME: I actually grew up a big Badgers fan and lived 10 minutes away from Camp Randall Stadium. But I noticed in the eight years I’ve been in Green Bay that it depends where you’re at in the state for how big the Badgers are. It’s way bigger in Madison than it is in Green Bay and the same could be said in Milwaukee. It’s more Badger-centric in Madison, whereas the Packers, I don’t care if you’re in Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse or even Superior, the Packers are a big deal everywhere.
We are a Badgers affiliate and still pay attention to them. You have to. We do a weekly segment as well as the ins-and-outs of what’s going on. You do have to devote some time to the Badgers, because there are people who care more about them than the Packers. They’re few and far between, but they’re out there. But if I had to gauge how many segments we spend on them, I would measure per week, rather than per day. You just have to spend the majority of your time on the Packers.
TM: Are your phone callers more apt to be like: Mark in Chicago or Ron from Omaha who are big Packers fans, compared to Chris from Appleton who lives 10 minutes from the station, seeing as the Packers are so national?
ME: We get a ton from all over, we even get some from overseas. There’s a guy in London that calls as well. There’s some regulars like John in Atlanta, Derik in upstate New York, Big Al in New Jersey they are all over, just like Packers fans are.
We hear from these guys every day but I’ve never thought about what the breakdown would be as far as local callers versus people from around the country. But now that I think about it, it’s more even than what I would have thought. We still get a lot of calls from the guys down the street in Appleton and Oshkosh, but the hard cores could be anywhere across the country.
TM: How directly dependent is the station on what happens to the Packers? How much can one team influence sales, ratings and everything else?
ME: Really interesting question, because I’m sure there’s something to that. Let me put it this way: Before I got into radio, I’m in high school and a big Packers fan, if they lost a tough game, I always tried to just tune it out. I didn’t need to hear the talking heads ripping the Packers saying they’re terrible and the season is over. I’m going to tune it out and by Tuesday I’ll be over it. Then, maybe I’ll turn into the sports programming and check back into it. I’m sure there’s other people out there that feel that way, but when I got into the business that was a question of mine, like, ok, my first year was 2014 and the team was great. They went 12-4 and ended up in the NFC Championship Game. I just remember thinking, what are we going to do when they start to lose? What are we going to talk about?
Since I’ve been doing it it’s been part of a daily routine and not a problem at all. The Packers have either been good or really disappointing, because the standards are so high. It’s still content, whether you like it or not.
Everyone would love to go to the Super Bowl and radio row, but even if they’re bad, sometimes that content is even better because you still have something to talk about. The worse thing would be an 8-8 team where we can’t figure out if they’re good or bad.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.