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Charity Works Better When You Know What Your Listeners Want

“It does not have to be something done only out of obligation. Find a partner that trusts you to deliver your audience your way.”

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Every station in every city across America does charity work during the year. Sometimes it is in the form of a remote from a major fundraising event. Sometimes it is an ongoing on-air promotion. The goal is always the same: activate our audience to get involved.

I want to tell you about one of the fundraisers I look forward to every year. If you read my columns regularly, you know how much I love the Shutdown Fullcast. The show is, in theory at least, about college football, but the connection to college football is tangential at best. That is why I like it so much.

Every year, the show rallies its listeners to donate to New American Pathways. The Atlanta-based charity focuses on helping refugees build a new life in the United States in a multitude of ways including job training for adults and tutoring for children.

The idea is simple. You donate money to the cause, but there is a competition aspect to it. You donate in the name of your school and you donate an amount based on a score or state that means something to that team. For instance, this year, my donation amount was based on one of the more absurd moments of the Saban-era in Tuscaloosa.

Holly Anderson keeps and regularly updates the leaderboard so that every year, a winning school can be determined. I have been following the Fullcast and thus the “Charity Bowl” fundraiser, for four years now. The names Michigan and Georgia Tech often end up at the top of the heap.

Spencer Hall, not only one of the hosts of Shutdown Fullcast but also a former employee of New American Pathways, has enjoyed watching the leaderboard aspect create competition and rivalries amongst listeners. It is likely only displays of competitive selflessness that could turn Georgia Tech and Michigan, two schools that have only faced each other once on the football field (A 9-2 Michigan victory in 1934. Hail to the Victors!), into bitter rivals.

“The Georgia Tech/Michigan rivalry is one,” Hall says when I asked about his favorite rivalries the Charity Bowl has created. “Another are schools we’ve arbitrarily grouped together — i.e. everyone versus Harvard (which is a blowout in the direction of everyone,) or the Battle of the Washingtons, i.e. Washington vs. Washington State vs. Washington and Lee vs Washington U of St. Louis. That is the most bizarre simply because of how well the two small schools do, and how truculent they are about it.”

And that friends, is why the Charity Bowl works as well as it does. It taps into the competition that all college football fans love: a chance to prove that my school is better than yours. It also is a direct line to exactly who the listeners of the Shutdown Fullcast are. Yes, we love college football, but we love it because it is such a weird sport made up of pockets of obscure, dumb history that mean the world to one fan base and are likely unknown by others. It is the kind of stupidity that can only be appreciated by those that love the cause of said stupidity.

I reached out to Joe O’Neill to better understand how radio thinks about charity campaigns. The president of 101.7 the Team in Albuquerque told me that he wants to do what will make the beneficiary happy, but understands that need for the audience to be excited about whatever it is that will be executed on air.

“I think if a campaign excites you, it’s a good barometer for whether it will excite your listener,” he told me in an email. “The important thing is the message and how you provide that message to connect to the audience and make it successful.”

Oh, it is also important to note that Hall literally puts his body on the line every year. Michigan has won the Charity Bowl every year of its existence. That means Hall has a lot of Michigan-themed tattoos on his body, including the anime character Totoro with a block M on his belly and what Hall describes as “a gentleman wolverine”.

This year, things were shaken up a bit. Hall, Anderson, and their co-hosts Jason Kirk and Ryan Nanni decided that if the campaign’s overall goal was met, Hall would be shaved completely smooth. It will be a sight to behold since Fullcast fans and SEC Network viewers are used to seeing a Spencer Hall that looks like this.

Spencer Hall Out at Vox Media After 11 Years

Hall says the Charity Bowl and those that give have moved past needing a prize for their efforts.

“It used to be about deciding something was at stake, but honestly the most sustainable and compelling thing ended up being people’s enthusiasm for getting really creative with their giving.  It’s one thing to pay for an idiot to get a tattoo. It’s another to personalize it, to aim it at a very specific rival or someone, or to come up with your own strange chain of numbers with their own personal value to you. There’s no substitute for someone feeling really invested in something, and watching me get multiple Michigan tattoos — while entertaining — can’t really compete with that feeling.”

Armen Williams is the program director of Sports Radio 610 in Houston. He told me that the key to successful charity campaigns for sports media brands is passion. The more you can tap into, the more successful your fundraising efforts will be.

“The first step is to get involved with a charity that has an impact on a part, if not all, of your target listening audience. You want the charity efforts to appeal to the most amount of listeners in order to see maximum impact that your brand can make,” Williams says. “Secondly, do you have a host(s) that is passionate about the cause? You need one or several individuals to be the voice and drive engagement and interest around the specific need in the community.”

Another aspect that makes the Charity Bowl such a success each year is that New American Pathways embraces it so enthusiastically. The 2021 campaign generated nearly $830,000 over the course of seven days. That is, in part, thanks to NAP making sure people knew what they provided and what the donations would pay for.

O’Neill says it is important to work with a group with that kind of energy if you want a fundraiser to be a true success. If a charity is trusting you to steer the ship, you need them to be your biggest cheerleaders.

“The more you can get them involved, the more invested they become. This ranges from their vision on how it may work, ideas on getting their existing supporters/donors involved, how they are going to support the event with their resources etc.”

While the hosts of Shutdown Fullcast built the Charity Bowl in a way that fits their brand and hits their listeners right where they live (“I love truculence, especially in the name of charity,” Hall says), O’Neill doesn’t always think the branding side of a campaign designed to help out a worthy cause is necessary. The branding that matters to him is the type that reflects the station’s belief that the cause or organization it is worth the air time.

“We brand ourselves heavily in all these type of events because of it’s not REALLY important to you, why would it be important to the listener?” he says.

My favorite thing about the visual aides Holly Anderson provides to the Charity Bowl is looking near the bottom of her spreadsheets to see which schools likely only had one donor come through in their name. That is almost as fun as the RTs Spencer and Holly through out to highlight each fan base’s pettiness.

I asked Hall if any of those donations still stick out in his mind. Has anyone ever donated in the name of something so petty or obscure that he still thinks about it?

It wasn’t pettiness or obscurity. It was a donation recognizing another sport entirely.

“Probably the dude who gave money in the name of ‘Dale Earnhardt.’ Not even ‘Dale Earnhardt University,’ nope, just: ‘Dale Earnhardt.’ Like we were supposed to just get that and let it happen without making him obey the same rules as everyone else. 

Timeline Photos - Remember Dale Earnhardt | Facebook | Dale earnhardt, Dale  jr, Dale earnhardt jr

“Which we did, because yeah, you can give money in Dale Earnhardt’s name, why wouldn’t a sensible person get that?”

The lesson here is pretty simple. Charity is not a waste of a station’s time and resources. It does not have to be something done only out of obligation. Find a partner that trusts you to deliver your audience your way. That is what the Shutdown Fullcast has done with the Charity Bowl and it accounts for a major percentage of New American Pathways’ annual fundraising.

Who is your target demo? What motivates them? What do your hosts get the biggest and best reaction too? Use that info to create something that not only makes a difference for a local charity, but also becomes content your listeners can’t get enough of and can’t get enough of being a part of!

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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