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Radio & Advertisers Need Each Other’s Loyalty

“When you deal with a personal relationship you realize how much a decision to not advertise could impact those people. It’s not just clearly a budgetary decision it’s now a relationship and even a personal decision.”

Tyler McComas

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Remember that extra radio spot you gave to a client, just to show how much you appreciate their business? The client does. What about that extra on-site remote you gave them during their busiest time of the year, remember that? The client does. What about the time you told them to come on the air for a sponsor interview, even though it wasn’t in the contract? You guessed it, the client remembers that, too.

There are really loyal people in this world. Some of them are the business owners that advertise on your radio station. How do I know? The good deeds that were bestowed upon them over the years, are now being paid back by being loyal to my radio station during these challenging times. 

Here’s an example. 

John Whitson of Brown O’ Haver in Moore, OK has been a client to the radio station I work at for several years. He’s never once considered pulling his advertising off the station. He’s a loyal listener and avid sports fan, so he’s well aware that not having games makes this a much more difficult time for sports radio stations. So why does he continue to advertise?

“It’s because we value the partnership we have with SportsTalk 1400,” Whitson said. “To be candid, we also advertise with The Sports Animal (in nearby Oklahoma City) and value that relationship, too. Just because we’re all going through a tough time, we hope that the relationship is worth something, right? We demonstrate that by going through these tough times together. So that’s part of it. 

“The second thing is, I still think people are tired of the news. They can only take so many graphs of curves being flattened and things of that nature. They still need some sort of release from the world. Normally that’s what sports talk provides. In this case, it’s more life talk. Its guys sitting around talking about stuff that doesn’t have to do with the coronavirus and that can actually be pleasant. I think people still seek that. It’s also not a politically charged medium, where there’s an agenda.”

If there’s been a common theme over the past week on BSM, it’s what Whitson just talked about – the importance of having strong relationships with your clients. It’s as critical as ever, and can mean even more than the solid ratings you post amidst the pandemic. 

Jim Costello owns a Firehouse Subs based in Norman, OK and has seen his business reduced to curbside orders. Obviously, that’s quite an adjustment, but if there’s one thing restaurant owners appreciate during this time, it’s the opportunity to tell the community about the service they’re providing. 

“What Firehouse Subs appreciates is that in this Covid-19 situation, SportsTalk 1400 proactively reached out to me,” Costello said. “My sales representative even offered assistance in three ways. It looks like the assistance has been helpful in producing positive results for our Norman business. We are very appreciative of the relationship we have with SportsTalk 1400!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the question of “so what the heck are you guys talking about since there’s no sports on?” I’d be willing to make a wager that every host reading this has too. But advertising on sports radio hasn’t lost its luster. Sure, there are no live games to talk about, but with as many talented hosts as there are across the country, the format is still the ultimate escape from all of the economic and Coronavirus fears that flood the headlines. 

David Goodspeed of OEC Fiber says he knows the radio station needs him as a client, but that he also needs the radio station to survive.

“If we don’t take care of each other, the way that we are wired as Oklahomans, when we come out of this there may not be a sports talk radio,” Goodspeed said.

“If there’s not a sports talk radio station, then I’m sitting around here and saying, ‘well, nobody’s coming in to my business and nobody’s paying attention to what we’re doing.’ We’re not trying to abandon anybody or anything and I would hope that other people would not.

“There have been times where the station has done things for us that wasn’t in the contract. There were times that we did things for you that wasn’t in the contract. I think it’s a case of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’. This is the point in time where we sit there and say, ‘let’s not worry about contracts and what we are paying.’ It was already in the budget. We should’ve already had that money. We shouldn’t be worried about this and that, because when we get past this, we still need the radio station there.”

But what if the doomsday scenario hits and the football season is seriously altered? Relationships can keep things afloat when all we’re missing is baseball and basketball, but few, if any, can survive without football. What then? Is there a point in time where advertisers will have to cut bait, even if it means throwing away a loyal relationship? 

“I think realistically you’d have to have way too negative of an outlook to believe that,” Whitson said. “I think if there was going to be no football, we’re going to know that really quickly. But I think businesses are going to be in a lot worse position when they are deciding whether to use radio money or not if there’s no football. I just don’t think that’s the case. Most business owners have a positive outlook and expect things to turn around quickly. In our case, we’re still operating and need to get the word out.

“We are actively looking for a way to let people know we’re open. That’s why we’re going to continue advertising. Sports radio still provides the best option for us. I just think there’s a really big improbability that they would consider suspending college or the NFL. Local businesses on local sports radio is not the same economic driver as advertisers on ESPN and other network stations during football season. Those people are going to drive football to make sure it’s being played. I think well before it makes it down to the local businesses, the big ones are going to say, ‘look guys, we need you to play some football.’”

Again, the theme continues to be relationships, but what about them exactly do business appreciate? 

“The short answer with The Sports Animal is they reliably demonstrate their reach within the community,” Whitson said. “Their numbers reflect a strong audience and that’s the reason why we want to stay there, because we want to still reach that audience especially during this time. With SportsTalk 1400, in particular, it’s a community relationship. We have a good relationship with the owner, Randy Laffoon. We have a good relationship with our sales rep and a good relationship with the talent. 

“When you deal with a personal relationship, you realize how much a decision to not advertise could impact those people. It’s not just clearly a budgetary decision, it’s relationship based and even personal, and it says, ‘Hey, if we don’t advertise, what message does that send to the other advertisers? What does that do to the people that are working there?’ Maybe if we demonstrate a level of loyalty, when things get back to normal, that’ll be brought back to us. We hope so. We’re not doing it to be paid back, but we’re doing it to continue to build the relationship. SportsTalk 1400 has always treated us well. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to repay that same sense of loyalty.”

Sports radio has arguably the most genuine feel of any format. That’s why it has the ability to reach so many different kinds of people. Maybe that’s even why the relationship between station and client can be one that’s about helping each other out in time of need.  

“Pre-pandemic, I always felt any business would fit in any kind of sports radio advertising, because pretty much anything anybody does touches someone that listens to sports radio,” said Goodspeed. “Doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, a kid, young adult, whatever. It always fits. 

“There is loyalty. We were talking with our contractor this afternoon about the fact that March was a record month for us in the fiber world with the amount of installs we did and the amount of people that have signed up. That was the first month of our pandemic in the United States. So I told him, the only way we can do that, the only way we can survive this, is that it’s not so much we’re partners, but we’re friends. You need me, and I need you. I get it. So let’s figure this whole thing out.”

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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BSM Writers

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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BSM Writers

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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Barrett Media Writers

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