Connect with us
Jim Cutler Demos

BSM Writers

Meet The Market Managers: Michael Spacciapolli, Audacy Pittsburgh

“There’s not a playbook you can use to guarantee success. You’re going to have to work really hard, build relationships, and understand that it’s an all the time job now.”

Jason Barrett

Published

on

If you’ve had the good fortune of spending time with Michael Spacciapolli, you’ve learned quickly that he loves what he does professionally. He’s driven to succeed, passionate about his brands and staff, and uninterested in being complacent. If there’s a way to improve even one small area of his product, Spacc as he’s affectionately known by his crew wants to hear about it. If difficult discussions have to be had to ensure progress, he’s ready and willing to have them.

Since earning the promotion to GM in July 2018, Audacy Pittsburgh’s leader has continued looking for ways to innovate. His two talk brands, 93.7 The Fan and Newsradio KDKA, have been consistent revenue and ratings performers, allowing all involved with both brands to place a greater emphasis on digital evolution. It’s all part of taking great radio brands and making them even more accessible and important anywhere consumers enjoy content.

In this discussion presented by our friends at Point to Point Marketing, Spacc and I review his personal progression as a GM, the growth of KDKA and 93.7 The Fan, what he sought when adding two new programmers to guide his sports and news/talk brands, the challenge and opportunities associated with recruiting, and which sales categories he sees future growth opportunities in. I’m sure you’ll enjoy learning more about Spacc, and I invite you to reach out to him by email to learn more about Audacy Pittsburgh.

Jason Barrett: Your 4 year anniversary is just around the corner, July 2018. We’ll dive into the specific items involving both spoken word brands in a minute but before I get into that, I’d like to ask you about your management style and core beliefs. If I asked an employee inside your building to describe how you lead, what would they tell me?

Michael Spacciapolli: I’m sure most would tell you that I am incredibly hands on. I have great leaders who work for me and I empower them to do their jobs, but I stay involved in everything we do. I think the key to running a successful operation is to have good people and good communication. Then it’s about giving your team the tools they need to do their jobs. I know that taking care of and collecting great talent is an ongoing part of maintaining a brand’s success, and we never stop working on those things.

JB: Let’s reflect on the past 4-years for a minute. The pandemic aside, you’ve enjoyed a lot of success. When you look back at the past few years, what are you most proud of, and what have been the toughest challenges and hardest lessons you had to learn?

MS: The brand extensions have been our biggest strengths. From the studio design, to the increase in video, to the growth of our app and streams, I’m pleased with the way we’re becoming more multiplatform focused. A lot of these things come down to attention to detail. It can’t just be what you hear out of the speakers anymore. We have to make our brands bigger and more accessible in multiple locations.

If there’s been one challenge, the FM signal addition for KDKA was great but we’re still trying to make sure the brand remains a viable resource to people. That’s harder to do with so many options available these days. We’re still in a strong position, but like anything, we’re always aiming to be better. On the other hand, 93.7 The Fan’s main challenge is taking a very good station to a dominant level on a consistent basis. We’ve built a product that people know and trust. The challenge is just making it one of the very best consistently.

JB: The two stations under your watch which our readers will have the most interest in are 93.7 The Fan, and News Radio KDKA. Both of these brands are extremely successful in your city, and are recognized as leaders in their respective formats. Starting with KDKA, aside from longevity, what makes the brand so important to the community that it’s remained a part of people’s lives for over a century?

MS: 100 years plus is incredible. Everyone understands the importance of this station in radio but in Pittsburgh, this brand is right there with the identity of our local sports teams. People over 18 know the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. They’re just as aware of KDKA, and what it means, and the impact it’s had on many people’s lives. It’s where people go when something happens in Pittsburgh. They turn to us for information and know they can count on us to inform them.

Our position in the market remains strong because we have a great team and lengthy track record of serving the Pittsburgh community. We’re committed to doing that. The challenge for us is just making sure that future generations care about us the way others have before them.

JB: 93.7 The Fan on the other hand has been around for just over 12 years. During that time it’s cemented its position as the go to source for sports talk in Pittsburgh. What do you attribute the brand’s success to?

MS: Jay it’s all about the consistent daily delivery of local sports. That’s what’s made The Fan important to people. Whether it’s on-air, on mobile, on digital, they’re always going to be served Pittsburgh sports talk. The Fan controls the dialogue here. We’re fortunate to be in a city where people care deeply about these teams, and we have great talent on the air talking about issues that matter to local sports fans. Because of that local sports passion and the talent we’ve put in place, people know they can come here and be part of a conversation.

JB: The Fan has the play by play rights to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Steelers are heard elsewhere in the market. Many would say those two teams are important to the local sports conversation, yet you’ve been able to establish a strong identity without them on your airwaves. Taking that into account, does that influence the way you view the importance of play by play?

MS: I still think play by play is important despite our success. We’ve seen success with the Pirates on our own airwaves despite the team not being great the past few years. Being in the sports business, we can own things outside of the play by play hours, and that’s what we focus on. We can own coverage and engagement around the Steelers, Pens and Pirates. We can provide consistent programming without interruptions due to not having games cut into our schedule. But having great play by play still matters. If you don’t have it though you can still find other ways to connect to the local teams and remain vital to an audience.

JB: Over the past twelve years, 93.7 The Fan has been led by a number of accomplished programmers. Terry Foxx launched the station, Ryan Maguire followed him, Jim Graci came next, and now the station is being led by Kraig Riley. Unlike his predecessors, Kraig didn’t have a number of stops around the country before he earned the opportunity to guide the brand, but he has spent more time inside the building than anyone else who had managed it. When you were going through the process and trying to determine who was the right person to lead The Fan forward, what was it about Kraig that gave you confidence that he was ready for the next step?

MS: I never forget that someone took a chance on me once. I’m a big believer that it’s about talent not experience. Kraig was fortunate that I was the GM because I was willing to give him a shot, and he’s making the most of it. I needed energy, talent, and someone who lived and breathed the brand every day. That’s Kraig. Attention to detail and passion are important to the PD role, and Kraig loves this station, and he works his tail off.

The challenge for anyone moving from behind the scenes to becoming the PD is getting your teammates to trust and respect your decision making. That transition takes time. Kraig knew he’d have to earn the staff’s respect to be seen as the PD not a producer, and he’s doing that. If you do the right things, are fair, and treat people good, you’ll be fine. So far, he’s done a tremendous job and I’m confident even better days are ahead.

JB: When The Fan changed direction, so too did KDKA. That was necessary because Jim Graci previously managed both sports and news. You turned to Dave Labrozzi, who’s resume speaks for itself, to lead KDKA forward. What was it about Dave’s style that you felt would put KDKA in position to have even greater success?

MS: As you mentioned Jay, Dave’s accomplishments are well known. He’s managed a number of great brands and has had a lot of success. I was lucky that this was a homecoming for him. He’d worked in Pittsburgh before, loved the area, and the timing was good.

What I can add about Dave is that he’s a great tactician. He digs into the different things that we need to do a better job of including talent coaching and the Nielsen game. Focusing on social is another area he learned a lot about at WABC. That’s something we have to be better at with KDKA. He’s interested in video, digital content creation, and he does his homework. His knowledge and ability is helping us raise the bar for where KDKA can go.

JB: Considering how strong each of these brands are, I’m sure you have expectations for where they should be when it comes to ratings and revenue. With that in mind, what defines a great year for 93.7 The Fan and KDKA?

MS: A great year in my opinion is hitting plan and growing at a substantial rate. How are we diversifying our stations? How are we doing in spot business? If we’re growing in different areas that’s important to me. Are we seeing progress in video sponsorships? Is there growth in the way people are digitally consuming us? These are two strong brands that are going to be here for a long time so we know we should perform well because they matter to people. But that’s why it’s so important to grow beyond the usual metrics. We have to stay focused on those things because the way people consume and where they invest is going to continue changing and we have to be ready for it.

JB: One challenge that every GM has to conquer in order to grow ratings and revenue is retaining and recruiting strong talent. That applies to management, on-air, sales and every other department. Given how many options exist today, and the way good talent are sought after by groups outside of radio, how do you make sure the job, the brands, and the company remain important and attractive to those already working for you or considering joining you?

MS: There’s nothing I enjoy more than recruiting. It allows me to bring in great people. It’s an everyday part of our job. If someone doesn’t believe that I think they’re missing a key part of the job. Having a great culture backs you up when you’re trying to add great people to your organization.

Now when you get great talent in the building at all levels, how you utilize them becomes the second part of recruiting, which is retention. We see a lot coming at our people, and that speaks to their level of talent. If we do the right things and put them in good situations, it gives them a reason to stay. Those applying to work for you may know your reputation but it goes even further if the message they hear is coming from those who’ve been a part of it.

When I was working in DC for WTOP, people would ask about non-competes and I’d say ‘if you want to leave here, we’re not going to stand in your way‘. I felt and many others did that there was no better place to work in that market, which is why most didn’t leave. I’ve always felt that if you build the right culture and give people a chance to make a great living, they’re going to want to stay for a long time. That’s how you continue growing.

JB: Another situation that you have to balance is making sure you’re doing what’s best for local while also helping corporate advance their key initiatives. That can be frustrating for sellers who want more inventory, digital folks who have to promote certain things on the brand’s socials or hosts who hear a podcast being promoted during their show and want to know why. How do you navigate those waters?

MS: We discuss that a lot. It can be frustrating when local folks don’t understand the bigger picture. That comes down to our department heads needing to communicate why we’re doing certain things. If we share information, hopefully we can get them to at least understand. They’re not always going to agree. If the company wins, it helps us, even if sometimes it may not look that way to those inside the building.

The reality is that we work for a great company, and our company is always looking to grow. They invest in a lot of areas and it requires us on the local level to help them promote things. I think we can remain successful doing what we do while still helping the company improve its business.

JB: Pennsylvania is a state where sports betting is legal. This is a space that Audacy is doing a lot of work in between local brands and the BetQL network. For sports radio, the sports betting category has been a key revenue driver the past few years, whereas others such as auto haven’t been as dependable as they’ve been in the past. So much can change in the years to come, but when you look into your crystal ball today to try and figure out which categories will provide the biggest upside for radio revenue in the near future, which ones are you most excited about and why?

MS: The event business is something we see being very important. We’ve been active in that space and have done well in it. I expect that to continue. I have great relationships in the auto industry from growing up in it, and fortunately we’ve done ok in that category even if some others have been down a bit. I think that once we have that inventory right, we’ll see a bounce back in the auto category.

Another category I think will be interesting is recruiting. Going forward, companies are going to have to tell their story more to attract people. As new industries arrive and people’s wants, needs and lifestyles change, that becomes an opportunity for us. I know there has also been some discussion of emerging businesses such as Crypto, and though some may feel differently, I don’t see that being a major play for us in the near future.

JB: Prior to becoming a leader in Pittsburgh, I know you spent time in Washington DC working for WTOP. That’s a brand that many view as the most successful station in the industry. What did you learn about leadership there that you carry with you today?

MS: First Jay, I would argue with anyone who says it isn’t the best brand in the industry. Its results year after year support that opinion. When I was there, I worked for great people. Joel Oxley is an incredible GM and forward thinker. Matt Mills, the DOS is one of the best systems guys I’ve ever been around. They’re smart people.

What I took away first was how important it is to have an incredible product. WTOP has that and it opens a lot of doors to discuss business. The culture and leadership there also matter. Everyone had a role on the team and they knew how to play it. From Joel to Matt to the former PD Jim Farley and everyone else, they all contributed to the culture and mission, which was to win. They also made it a point to look ahead often. That’s something we can do better.

Leaving there was hard. I married a Pittsburgh girl and lucked out joining a great company which has allowed me to grow but being part of WTOP was an important part of my career. A guy like Matt has had multiple opportunities to leave and become a GM and he’s never done it. It’s because he’s in a great situation. It goes back to what I said earlier, if you work somewhere great, and the culture is good, and you’re given the tools to do your job and make a good living, why leave?

JB: If you can offer a piece of advice about managing to anyone currently in management or considering a path in media management, what would it be?

MS: I say two things. There’s not a playbook you can use to guarantee success. You’re going to have to work really hard, build relationships, and understand that it’s an all the time job now. Those who can dedicate themselves to it are the ones who I think will see the best results. Balance is important, and I’m all for that but you have to be completely engaged and constantly thinking about this when you’re at this level.

As far as day to day stuff goes, I think a lot of this is about the people you work with and putting them in good situations. If you care about them, value them, and are fair and honest, you’ll have their trust and respect. You need those things if you expect to create a winning culture.

The last thing I’ll say, which I learned as a DOS, was to be honest and transparent with upper management. If you screwed up, tell them that you did and share what you’re doing to fix it. There’s very few people in the 100% club. Sometimes you’re going to be off. They see the numbers. They know. Don’t try and make it seem as if it’s always good. Give them the facts, be accountable, and have a plan for improving.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

BSM Writers

Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves

Published

on

Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori

Published

on

Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement

Upcoming Events

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.