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Rich Ohrnberger Is Finding The Funny in Everything

“I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally.”

Brian Noe

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Work hard, play hard. That’s the basic approach Rich Ohrnberger brings to sports talk radio. He spent six years in the NFL as an offensive lineman, including two years with the New England Patriots. When you think of head coach Bill Belichick, I doubt you immediately think rockin’ good time and belly laughs. Belichick is detail-oriented, serious and dedicated. That’s part of what Ohrnberger brings as a host. He’s a grinder who’s meticulous when it comes to being prepared and getting better.

The other half of Ohrnberger’s approach is lighthearted storytelling and finding the funny in everything. He’s doing a great job of blending two different worlds — serious yet fun. “It’s time to work,” versus, “It’s happy hour, baby!” When a host can find the balance of being fully dedicated while maintaining the fun factor, that mixture is ideal.

Ohrnberger hosts a weekday morning show for San Diego Sports 760, and also weekend national shows for Fox Sports Radio. This would be his sports radio scouting report: Adaptable — an East Meadow, NY native now living in San Diego. Perceptive — quickly recognizes what appeals to his audience and delivers more of what they want. Most important attribute — funny and entertaining. Areas to improve — could lose a few pounds. (Just kidding, just kidding.)

There are several great viewpoints and stories from Ohrnberger in the conversation below. He shares an awesome story about a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Russ Grimm. He talks about what it was like to entertain the entire Patriots team from time to time. Ohrnberger also talks about not being a sports junkie as a kid and how his perception of the media has changed. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: You’re a seven-day-a-week show host. How’s everything going with your schedule in general?

Rich Ohrnberger: It’s awesome to be perfectly honest with you. I love the idea of immersing yourself in work that you love to do. I remember feeling that way about football because the football season my entire life has been that. It’s always been a seven-day-a-week job. Now in broadcasting, it’s no different. Part of the reason why I wanted to get into sports broadcasting is to stay close to the game of football. Part of that is living the grind a little bit. I’m not nearly as sore on Mondays, I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. But I appreciate feeling purposeful and having something to do every single day of the week. And because we’re not launching rockets, and we’re not doing brain surgery, there’s still plenty of time for family outside of travel for game broadcasts and things like that.

BN: There are a lot of people in sports radio that have been sports junkies their whole life, and that wasn’t the case with you. What were you into during your childhood and how big or little of a part did sports play in your upbringing?

RO: Yeah, I grew up in a household of musicians. My dad is a really talented and proficient guitar player. My younger brother, he ended up picking up the guitar and teaching himself how to play and then eventually became an even better guitarist than my dad. He played in bands. My dad, when he was a kid, played in bands. My sister was an operatic singer. She had an opera trained voice and she went to college as a vocal performance major. My mom even was a clarinetist in high school and ranked in the state. I don’t really know exactly how that works with bands, but she was pretty good at it.

I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was a little bit of the oddball in my family, but I was always a really physical kid with a huge amount of energy. I needed an outlet and sports seemed like the best outlet for all that. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about watching. I didn’t really love sitting down and turning on a football game as entertainment, or watching baseball. I got involved in a sport that isn’t as popular nationally as say, football, baseball or basketball. I got involved in lacrosse.

I loved lacrosse, and I played lacrosse my whole young life. Then I started playing some basketball as well. I would say my earliest memories of even watching sports was just really falling in love with how great Michael Jordan was and thinking like, oh my gosh, he’s doing things that you just don’t think are possible and he’s making it look easy. I would be in my driveway bouncing the basketball and thinking to myself, maybe I could do that one day. I was convinced that one day I would be Michael Jordan. [Laughs] It was just ridiculous, but in my mind, I was like, well, he can do it so clearly it’s possible.

My love for sports really was fostered by playing it. I didn’t enjoy watching it as much as playing it. I fell in love with superlative athletes and I really tried to mimic what they did at first, and that was my education. I didn’t live in a house of huge sports fans. I had to rely on my peers to teach me about sports, sort of fill in the blanks that I was unaware of.

BN: What area do you think you’ve grown the most as a sports radio host?

RO: My awareness of the host I want to be. What I want to be — and what is paramount I think to all broadcasts — is just be entertaining. There were times where I would turn on the microphone and really think like, oh my God, okay, I’m a former player, I need to inform everybody about all the things I know about football from a former player standpoint. Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. That’s important.

Then there were times where I would turn on the microphone and be like, okay, I need to make sure that I argue against a take that I disagree with and make sure that I can very clearly take down and make counter-arguments to this ridiculous, outlandish take that I just don’t seem to agree with. Yeah, sure, that can be a part of a show too. But the most important thing is to be entertaining.

I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally. I just want to do that. How can I incorporate it? I think what I’ve gotten the best at is finding the funny in everything. Even sometimes when you’re talking about tough stuff or boring stuff. Where’s the angle that’s going to make somebody smile or feel like, oh wow, he said something a little clever there. Those are the things I search for as I’m waiting to speak or listening to somebody and try to catch something that they said that we can move the conversation in an entertaining direction. Those are the shows I like to listen to. That’s the broadcaster I want to be.

BN: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve grown in not letting that be a bad thing. You can’t be a perfectionist and have a good state of mind in sports radio; you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Just do the best you can, celebrate the wins, work on the losses, but don’t be handicapped by them, because you easily can be.

RO: I’m so glad you shared that because I was very much so a perfectionist for a long time. To the point where there were times where I’d be so ashamed to hand in something that I worked on that sometimes I just wouldn’t even hand it in. Or I’d feel like even if it’s a good grade, it’s a passing grade, I’d be like, well, I think it sucks so what use is that?

I had an offensive line coach named Russ Grimm in Arizona. Just an old, grizzled former player, Hall of Famer, big mustache, chewed tobacco. One time I remember he was critiquing my technique. He gave me a compliment. He paused the tape and he was like, now that’s exactly how it’s done. I’m like yeah, but I kind of stepped behind myself and I probably need to widen my base a little bit if he bull rushes me. He goes, dude, fuck all that. It’s never gonna be perfect. He was like, Rich, sometimes good enough is good enough, and that was good enough.

Then he hit play and the film continued. I was like holy shit. I mean, this is coming from somebody, obviously, who is definitely far more talented than I was when he was playing. And he had this belief that the job just needs to get done, so good enough is good enough sometimes.

BN: Your NFL days obviously help with knowing the X’s and O’s and all of that. But as a sports radio host, it might be even more valuable being surrounded by so many characters. If you’re trying to be an entertaining host, having teammates that say hilarious things in a locker room setting, does that help you more when you’re trying to pick out what’s funny or entertaining about any topic?

RO: Yeah, and also if you speak to enough of your teammates, you get a really good look at what America looks like. When you’re in a locker room with a bunch of different guys from a bunch of different areas of the country, a bunch of different races and cultures, different families and different backgrounds, well you have to find a way to communicate with all of them. That, in sort of a microcosm way, is connecting with an audience the same way it is on a mass level. Can you do that? Can you be appealing broadly?

A locker room environment, especially when you can get a bunch of guys in a locker room laughing, or listening intently, and there have been many times where I’ve been called in front of teams that I played on and I had to perform, not just as a rookie. I remember in New England there were a couple of different times where Bill Belichick would just call me out. He would just call me out because he knew that I would have a story from my life that would make the team laugh a little bit, or just get guys rolling, or add a little levity to a serious-natured work environment.

He would have me go in front of the room and I would just tell the guys a story. It was fun. It was a great experience because you realize the power of your words. If you can carefully choose them, and if you can deliver them with a certain level of enthusiasm, you can make everybody’s day a little bit easier, a little bit better. That has really carried over into what I do today.

BN: When Belichick said something like, ‘Hey, Ohrnberger, tell the team a story,’ what was that experience like for you?

RO: It made me feel like I was a part of the team. A lot of people would probably get real nervous, but I was like, oh yeah, he sees value in me. I felt like, yeah, this is something that I can offer that nobody else in this room can. Tom Brady can’t do this. He can’t get in front of the room and captivate a roomful of players telling a story about his life, not the way that I can.

Look, I can’t throw a football like him. I don’t have the brain he has. I certainly did not play as long as he has. My durability pales in comparison, but I could get in front of a room of my peers and just introduce them to a story they’ve never heard before about my life, and just have them eating out of my hand, laughing and sometimes crying laughing. It was the best. It was a great feeling because it felt like I belonged, like there was a reason that I was there outside of just being a football player, that there was value beyond just what I was doing on the field that I brought to the team.

BN: If you could give me the CliffsNotes version of one of the stories you told that had people belly laughing, what’s something that comes to mind?

RO: Oh, my gosh, I would tell them the most personal horrifying stories that have ever occurred to me.

Without going into too great detail, imagine the most embarrassing moments of your life. You may have been walked in on doing something, you may have had an accident of some kind or another, and you felt like a complete fool in the moment, but you know it would make a great story if you were just brave enough to tell it. Well, that’s what I was doing in front of the team and it was killing.

BN: [Laughs] Man, that’s awesome. I think you sidestepped the landmines on that one very nicely.

RO: [Laughs] I was trying not to give too much away. Also, look, that could definitely be something that comes up on a slow day on our show.

BN: Yeah, and that’s the other thing too, that stuff not only kills in a locker room, it kills on whatever show you bring it to. Have you brought similar things to San Diego?

RO: Oh, yeah. Anybody who’s ever listened to a radio show I’m on, I think one of the things I try to do is talk about me. We’re definitely covering sports because it’s sports radio, but I think part of the partnership that the listener has with the host is trust, and how the heck do you develop trust with anybody other than getting to know them?

The first thing you’ll do when you’re starting to get to know somebody is find out about their background. Where are you from? What did your parents do for a living? Are you married? Are your kids? What are their names? How old are they? Those sorts of things are so important to sort of build out a whole character. Otherwise, you’re just this surface-level update guy.

Trust me, that serves a role too because again, you need to have information intertwined into your show, and there’s nothing wrong with that profession if that’s what you want to do, but when you’re hosting a show, in my opinion you gotta go deep. You have to dig in and show people who you are. I think the shows that most entertained me growing up were the shows where I felt a connection with the host who was on the mic.

BN: I never really made the connection, but something that Belichick has done a great job of, I think would be a great approach for any sports radio show. You lived through this, he’ll sit there and quiz his players about their teammates and be like, hey, what’s this guy’s wife’s name? What are his kids’ names? Where’d he go to college? All this stuff. It’s like, know your teammates. It’s not just employee 26917. Like, it’s a guy. He’s got a family. He’s got a story. He’s got loved ones. I think that sports radio misses the mark all the time when it comes to that because it’s just human nature to not dig into the details of getting to know someone. If we did, I think shows would be a lot stronger.

RO: Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. Another really good comparison back to the days in New England, because I remember that was one of the more nerve-racking experiences was when Bill would go around the squad meeting and would point to guys. You could be quizzed on anything. You could be quizzed on the game. You could be quizzed on your teammates. He kept everybody on their toes.

He really wanted people to have a deep level of appreciation for each other on the team, their story, how they got to where they are, and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the league. In terms of the opponent, almost the same thing. Like, tell me about this player. Don’t just tell me that he plays safety. Tell me the routes that he struggles defending. Tell me if he’s aggressive on play action, and he’s going to have backfield eyes when there’s a good, hard play fake from the quarterback to the running back. Tell me those things. That’s how you know if somebody’s really paying attention. That’s one of the things that Belichick required in those rooms was having everybody paying close attention to the details.

BN: I think Belichick should go into sports betting when his career is over.

RO: [Laughs] He probably would be like one of those 75% hitters, like one of those unicorns out there.

BN: Right? I swear he’d have something for in-game betting, prop bets, he’d be all over it. How has your perception of the media changed since being a player, especially under Belichick?

RO: [Laughs] Boy, my perception has changed immensely. My original thought process was that the media — and that’s such an interesting word because that’s a term that’s couched with so much negativity, like the media. The media, all that means is the various different ways that people can reach information — whether it be audio, radio, podcasting, written media, magazine writers, online writers, newspaper writers, or television — whatever medium that you’re taking in your information, that makes up the media.

It’s like this boogeyman, right? That’s the way I used to look at it like, oh, the media. But that’s not what it is. What I’ve learned now leaving football and joining the media is we’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people don’t have the time to pay attention to because they have jobs, and they have families, and they have other important things that they need to do.

They’re just trying to grab a little bit of something that they can carry with them into the office to talk to their buddy about by the water cooler, or on the Zoom call, or when he hops on the phone with his dad, like, hey, you see how Geno Smith is playing? Yeah, I was just listening to the radio, this guy is leading the league in blah, blah, blah. You’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people really don’t have the time to go and look up themselves. My opinion of the media has changed greatly. I think it serves as a great asset for people. It’s not this enemy that a lot of coaches build it up to be.

BN: As far as your future goes, what do you want to accomplish and what do you think would make you the happiest?

RO: The things that make me happiest are just advancing, whether that means entertaining a wider audience, doing a better job. That’s really important to me. Every single day committing myself to doing a better job. I’m not afraid to say it; I’m going to be a stronger broadcaster next year because I know I’m going to work at it. I’m going to learn things. I don’t claim to know more than I do. I know there’s plenty that I haven’t unearthed in this career that I can’t wait to. I know I’m going to put in the work to figure out what those things are.

My main goal is to just keep advancing as I learn more about technique and learn more about connecting with an audience and just keep doing more of that. I don’t want to set any goals in terms of career or where or when. I just know that if I get better every single day, if I make that very simple commitment, opportunities always seem to come. That’s really been how I’ve lived my life. That’s how I lived my life as an athlete and that’s how I’m living my life as a broadcaster.

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Day Spent With: Omaha Productions

“We want to tailor it to what we think is going to be the best episode, and that can be anything.”

Derek Futterman

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Day Spent With – Omaha Productions

The fourth edition of BSM’s a ‘Day Spent With’ shifts to the digital world. Derek Futterman spent time in Las Vegas with Omaha Productions shadowing Kevin Clark and the production team to learn what goes into content creation with ‘This is Football.’ During the time that Futterman was on site, Baker Mayfield and Steve Young appeared on the show, each conversation cutting through as a result of Clark’s preparation and strong ability to listen and follow up.

In addition to observing Clark’s pre-show preparation process and talking with him at lunch about a variety of factors related to his program and work, Futterman also spent time with the production team consisting of Anthony Rodriguez and Michael Flynn, and Omaha’s Head of Audio, Richelle Markazene. As a digital content brand, the programming isn’t restricted by a programming clock. That allows the hosts to focus on quality, and the production team to be selective. Once decisions are made on which content to amplify, the final touches are made to make sure it’s both compelling and visually appealing.

My thanks to Jamie Horowitz, Ben Sosenko, Richelle Markazene, Kevin Clark, Anthony Rodriguez and Michael Flynn for providing BSM with access to capture a day in the world of ‘This is Football.’ Next week, we move behind the scenes to educate readers on what goes into a day of programming at the ESPN Radio network. Derek spent a full day in Bristol with the majority of the network’s programming team and I’m sure you’ll find it to be as interesting as today’s feature.

Still to come are a day in the life of a market manager, social media manager, sports television show and media buyer. We’ve also left one slot open to see which of a few possibilities makes the most sense as we move deeper into the series. If you or your brand wish to be involved and have an idea you want to pitch, please email [email protected].

– Jason Barrett

As Omaha Productions host Kevin Clark prepares for an interview on his digital program, This is Football, he jots down his thoughts and elements of his research on standard yellow legal paper. The notepad does not have developed questions, but rather words or phrases that will prompt Clark to summarily craft a query apropos to the conversation itself.

Being on NFL Media Row for Super Bowl LVIII, he is aware that the content his show generates will be competing for the attention span of a variety of consumers. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas is filled with radio, television, digital and print media outlets all looking to document different facets of the week and disseminate a story to an audience. It is up to Clark to be distinctive and stand out.

While previously reporting for The Wall Street Journal and The Ringer, Clark recognized how essential it is to have a compelling value proposition to urge consumers to interact with his content. Amid an era with dwindling attention spans and imperfect methodologies, storytelling has to adapt to appeal to a wide audience. Although the first interview Clark is preparing for on this day is only scheduled to last for 10 minutes, he has committed several hours to studying previous media appearances by his guest and reading articles divulging different aspects of his career.

“I think the most important thing is getting these guys to tell you the best thing you’ve ever heard,” Clark said. “I used to have an editor who used to say, ‘The lead quote in every story should be, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ because you should literally be giving people something that has never been out there before and hasn’t even been thought of before.’”

Clark recently joined Omaha Productions after a four-year stint with The Ringer, transitioning into hosting his own digital media program in partnership with ESPN. Aside from being able to ask Peyton Manning questions about quarterbacks, he immediately observed that no two days are the same and evinces the many different ventures with which the company is involved.

“My feeling was with the way Omaha was set up and then the ESPN partnership and what I’m able to do with ESPN TV, when this all came together it felt like a no-brainer to me,” Clark said. “I love the Ringer; I still love these people [and] they’re still some of my best friends. Bill Simmons is my favorite media person ever, and I’m so lucky to have had him as a boss for so long and he taught me so much. It just felt like the right time, and there’s nothing but love for The Ringer.”

Omaha Productions recently completed its third year working on the Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli alternate broadcast, which averaged 1.24 million viewers across nine games this past season. In addition to its visual content, which includes iterations of the Places series on ESPN+ and the critically-acclaimed Quarterback series on Netflix, the network has an offering of original podcasts with video components. Knowledgeable and prominent personalities host these shows including Kevin Clark, Mina Kimes, Greg McElroy and Cam Heyward among others, many of whom were on site in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl.

“I think it’s important for us to have them here,” said Richelle Markazene, head of audio at Omaha Productions, “to have the presence and also just the exposure, and the content that we’re getting here is extremely important for their shows.”

Last year, Omaha Productions received an investment from The North Road, an outside investment firm owned by Peter Chernin, that reportedly valued Omaha at more than $400 million. Omaha’s portfolio continues to grow with various projects and partnerships with companies such as ESPN, Verizon, Caesars Entertainment and PGA of America. Markazene observed the programming throughout the week on Media Row and took notice of various digital outlets on site ahead of the Super Bowl matchup.

“I started in this business in linear years ago and just what I’ve seen over what I consider a few short years is unbelievable,” Markazene said. “In this day and age where content can go out in any way, I think it’s fantastic for content creators, including us, and I love to see all of the new creators here, and for us to be a part of it is amazing.”

Former NFL offensive lineman and current broadcaster Ross Tucker complimented Clark during Super Bowl week, stating that his clips cut through his digital timeline. Rather than asking a few questions, carving time for a product plug and then thanking them for their time, Clark genuinely does not know the direction his interviews could take the show.

Instead of operating with a formulaic approach, he embraces his role as an active listener and is a welcome participant in the interview that sounds more akin to a discussion. There are benchmarks Clark wants to hit when he has a guest on the show, but there are still plenty of opportunities for free-flowing, extemporaneous talk as well, some of which comes through pertinent, direct follow-up questions.

“We have these guys for this set amount of time and can go anywhere with it,” Clark said. “We don’t have to ask them the score prediction [and] we don’t have to ask them what they think of [Patrick] Mahomes, although that could be a great question. We want to tailor it to what we think is going to be the best episode, and that can be anything.”

Going into his first recorded interview of the day, which was with free agent quarterback Baker Mayfield coming off a career-best season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Clark knew that he wanted to mention the unforgettable offensive frenzy in a collegiate game against Patrick Mahomes. Mayfield led the Oklahoma Sooners to a 66-59 win over Mahomes and the Texas Tech Red Raiders in October 2016 by throwing for 545 yards on a 75% completion percentage, attaining a 266.3 quarterback rating in just 36 pass attempts.

Before he broached that topic though and other football-related questions, Clark offered an icebreaker question by asking Mayfield if he was a Vegas guy. In response, Mayfield said that he has had some good and some bad experiences in the city, causing Clark to follow up and ask what happened. This led Mayfield to delineate that when he was 21 years old, he arrived in the city and ran out of money quickly. As a result, he asked his friends for money to buy water, off which Clark handed him a water bottle. Another probing question elicited Mayfield to reveal that he lost his money by playing craps and that he can only handle about three days in the city.

Clark says he has usually had about 10 minutes to speak with NFL quarterbacks throughout his career, necessitating that he is efficient and intentional to best optimize his time. In order to ensure he does not waste a question and crafts an informative, entertaining discussion, preparation is imperative so he can approach a conversation with the necessary background knowledge needed to thrive.

“When someone comes on our show – and it’s a different goal if it’s a writing thing or it’s a journalistic endeavor – but when someone comes on, we just want to have the best hang possible and give people a story they’ve never heard before; analysis they’ve never heard before, and I feel like with Baker we did that,” Clark said. “Talking about how he salvaged his career; the doubt he had last year; how he kind of simplified everything – my takeaway was that Baker was really good for 10 minutes. I really enjoyed it.”

The interview remained close to the plan Clark originally outlined with his producer Michael Flynn, who was keeping detailed notes throughout the conversation sitting alongside the video and audio engineers. The setup in its entirety contained three cameras, several microphones and lights to enhance the quality of the production with wires running to power stations and other computers.

After the interview concluded, Clark and Flynn reviewed the segment and identified topics within the conversation that could work to repurpose into standalone clips. In the end, they determined that Mayfield’s story about losing money in Las Vegas satisfied that criteria. Moreover, they also concurred that Mayfield’s anecdote about reigniting his career would also constitute interest from the audience.

The editing process began almost immediately after the conversation ended with the intent to post the interview as part of a show episode that same day. For Super Bowl Week, Clark recorded new episodes of his show that were released daily.

Generally speaking though, new episodes of This is Football are posted on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the NFL season. He uses the rest of the week to book guests and prepare for upcoming interviews. Clark does not have sentiments of complacency and indifference, retaining ambition that he hopes will allow him to balance the Omaha Productions work with another writing endeavor in the future.

“I want to write – it’s my favorite thing in the world – but if I said, ‘I’m just a writer,’ I never would have gone to The Ringer. I never would have said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this podcast,’” Clark explained. “….You can take storytelling you used to be able to do in writing and bring it to the digital space, and it gives you a unique perspective.”

Although he realizes he does not have the esoteric knowledge about football that some former players do, he can contextualize current situations and relate it back to previous experiences. For example, in his interview with former NFL quarterback Steve Young, Clark acknowledged that he did not know as much as Young. Consequently, he wanted to learn how Young reached a stage in his career where he was content with doing what is necessary to execute a play rather than demonstrate his immense talent at the quarterback position.

Clark took notes as he listened to all of Young’s weekly radio hits with KNBR during the NFL season before the 25-minute conversation at Media Row occurred. The program booked Young in advance, who, like Mayfield, was on a schedule of media appearances on-site throughout the day. Although the interview began 12 minutes late, Clark was not flustered and quickly spoke about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy and head coach Kyle Shanahan.

“If you come into a Steve Young interview and say, ‘I’m going to go toe to toe with you on ball talk,’ you’re going to lose, the audience is going to lose respect for you and you’re going to have no credibility in anybody’s eyes,” Clark elucidated. “But if you can come in and say, ‘Hey Steve – I’ve done a lot of leg work; I’ve watched a lot of Shanahan stuff, but what do you appreciate that I would never appreciate?,’ he knows what that means and he can give us a great answer.”

During the interviews, Clark asks a variety of different types of questions while trying to avoid closed and double-barreled constructions. The process of active listening, which is supplemented by facial expressions and salient mannerisms, are demonstrated consistently and indicative of comprehension. At the same time, Clark is comfortable admitting he has less knowledge in certain subject areas and empowers his guests to expound on areas of shrewd acumen.

Clark recorded an introduction positioning the listener for the episode following the interviews, lasting 50 seconds in duration and immediately getting to the hook. There is no close for the show, instead ending on Clark thanking Mayfield for his time. Throughout the rest of the week, he repeated a similar process with guests such as Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, ESPN analyst Marcus Spears and Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. While football is the main focus of his current work, he is open to exploring other areas to supplement the sport on the program as well.

“My feeling is to major in NFL always; that will always be the No. 1 thing,” Clark said. “Minor in college football and golf because I’m going to follow those sports and do research on those sports anyway, so I might as well talk about them.”

While Clark is enjoying his new job with Omaha Productions, he aspires to continue to grow the program to reach new audiences. One of those opportunities could be through a regular television slot, something he has yet to attain in his professional career. Clark is presently committed to growing the show with Omaha, and spending time on Media Row with current and former NFL athletes is a step forward in that direction. Just as he prepares for interviews, he ponders over how the show can continue to improve and further flourish with the company.

“The TV thing is very appealing, and I think if we can bring the perspective that we have on the show to bigger TV opportunities, I think we can have a cool thing going. That’s sort of the next year or so – I’m working on taking this show and its perspective; it doesn’t have to be this show – and growing it to new audiences, and a lot of that has to do with TV and a new audience.”

Markazene cannot pinpoint an end destination for the Omaha Productions audio division and is excited to be on the journey as it continues to broaden its reach and expand its notoriety. Clark is part of a deep roster of talented industry professionals poised to achieve stellar outcomes as Omaha Productions looks forward to what is ahead.

“It’s such an exciting place to work and the people are amazing,” Markazene said. “That’s the best part of it, but I think specifically for audio, we are a little bit over a year-and-a-half in now and also very pleased with the growth [and] pleased with the talent that we have with the shows that have been going since launch.”

Omaha Productions aims to create content that uplifts and unifies people, and Clark is already contributing to that mission through his journalistic background, commitment to the craft and passion for the storytelling process. Since the Super Bowl, there have been editions of This is Football previewing the offseason and free agency, and Clark remains invested in the space while continuing to hone his craft.

“I wish I had a better fake laugh because I don’t fake laugh at all,” Clark said. “It’s a problem because I’d be so much better at hosting if I just had a glorious fake laugh, and I’m working on it. It’s my offseason project – that glorious fake laugh.”

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NHL Network Features ‘NHL Tonight’ and a Hat Trick of Other Top Shows For Hockey Fans

In addition to the flagship program NHL Tonight hosted ably by Jamison Coyle, the network offers an eclectic trio of shows with talented on-air personalities who face off every night.

John Molori

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NHL Network

Hockey has become the neglected pup of the mainstream sports media kennel, but with exciting young talent, divisional battles, and sustained physical play that has been pretty much eliminated from football and basketball, it remains a great watch. Nowhere is the NHL better presented than on NHL Network.

In addition to the flagship program NHL Tonight hosted ably by Jamison Coyle, the network offers an eclectic trio of shows with talented on-air personalities who face off every night.

Top Shelf is a fun entry in the NHL Network lineup. The program showcases amazing shots, acrobatic plays, mind-boggling saves, and all-around uniqueness on the ice. It also provides a look at what’s new on social media including funny player reels and cool takes on the game. The show also specializes in some behind-the-scenes locker room footage. In a recent edition, they ran video of the St. Louis Blues humorously exchanging Valentine’s Day cards and hugs.

The Valentine’s Day theme continued with video of Carolina Hurricanes players offering some questionable dating advice. The guts of the program is counting down the best plays in the NHL from that week’s action. Top Shelf  offers viewers one-stop shopping to catch up on all the plays they may have missed but need to see.

The program is pretty much all video with no studio or on-screen hosts. The voice of Tony Luftman narrated the fast paced action moving from game to game and sequence to sequence. This particular episode highlighted another hat trick for Toronto star Auston Matthews, his sixth of the season.

Breakaway goals and crushing hits are the order of the day on Top Shelf. The video montages are backed by pulsating music and slick production values with quick cuts from one game to another. Voice overs on the action by NHL Network broadcasters such as E.J. Hradek and Bill Pidto add to the excitement.

If Top Shelf  doesn’t provide a fix for the NHL junkie, On the Fly might just do the trick. The program provides a recap of the night’s games with star takes, stats, graphics, and high octaneaction. On the Fly features a rotating roster of hosts including Luftman, Siera Santos, Jamie Hersch, Jackie Redmond, Alexa Landestoy, and Erika Wachter among others.

Kudos to the production team for a powerful opening sequence with in-your-face graphics of NHL teams’ logos and images of NHL cities and regions. It actually gets you pumped up for the show. The recent episode I caught was hosted by the sublime Santos, who has made an indelible mark not only at NHL Network, but MLB network as well.

Her stylish demeanor, strong voice, and edginess break through the screen. On the Fly lets  the games do the talking. Santos introduces the highlight, but then it is all action with actual game broadcaster sound. This is a cool way for fans to hear the local broadcasters for each team.

Santos provides excellent information and data leading into the highlights. Prefacing the Stars-Bruins matchup, she noted that the recent Bruins’ skid knocked them behind Florida in the tight East Division. The show also features postgame commentary from coaches and solid analysis. On this episode, Santos was joined by NHL Network personality Mike Kelly, an expert on hockey analytics and player evaluation. Santos and Kelly worked well together, reflecting on the highlights and providing pertinent statistics and historical perspectives.

There is no rest for the weary with On the Fly. The show often briskly moves from one game highlight to another with no studio chit chat. The pacing and content make On the Fly one of the best highlight shows in sports television. You better stay focused or you’re going to miss something.

Each show finishes with the Top Shelf plays of the night followed by Santos’ Top 3 Stars. On the Fly is a like a breakaway up ice – pure speed, flash, and excitement.

While On the Fly takes a look back, NHL Now provides a look ahead. The program gives you a front row seat to the latest hockey news and prepares viewers for an exciting night of NHL game action. Regular hosts E.J. Hradek and Jackie Redmond are joined by a number of NHL Insiders analyzing and previewing the slate of games.

I caught a recent episode with host Lauren Gardner alongside analysts Mike Rupp and Scott Hartnell. The look of the show caught my eye. The hosts were casually dressed sitting in leather chairs with hockey bobble heads on tables between them – a real living room setup, like you’re just hanging out getting ready to watch a game.

Hartnell, a 17-year NHL veteran, does an excellent job commenting on the games, and his insight is unique while Gardner and Rupp are two of the strongest swimmers in the NHL Network talent pool. Rupp, an ex-player who scored the clinching goal for the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, has developed into a truly engaging personality.

His gritty experience sets him apart. Rupp is a hockey guy in the truest sense of the word – not a lot of flash and dash, just on the mark insight. Lauren Gardner is one of the most engaging personalities on sports television today. Like Santos and Redmond, she’s an absolute television chameleon moving in and out of various sports with great turns on both NHL Network and MLB Network.

Gardner is total effervescence, but her enthusiasm is tempered with mad skills. More than a vibrant personality, she’s an excellent host who lets the analysts do their thing and interjects her opinion when appropriate. It’s next level hosting and Gardner’s got it. She lives up to her last name, planting the seeds that sow great conversation. Gardner, Redmond, Santos, Wachter, and Hersch are like NHL Network’s version of Madame Web – strong and talented women with powerful sports voices.

Telling graphics, quick-hitting highlights, and no holds barred commentary are the hallmarks of NHL Now, but the talent sets the tone of the show. Rupp and Hartnell are unafraid to ruffle feathers and give straight up commentary.

The Daily Rush segment of the program provides updated NHL news and headlines. Rupp was extremely candid saying that the Vancouver Canucks, currently leading the Pacific Division, are not for real. He cited their lack of playoff experience and stated that they have talent and are fun and entertaining, but not consistent.

NHL Now also features interviews. On this particular program, they queried Brody Roybal, who has played nine seasons with the US National Sled Hockey team. It’s just another way in which the NHL Network covers the entire world of hockey.

The Tape Room segment of the show featured Hartnell and Rupp offering locker room insight while analyzing game action from a technical and strategic standpoint. Like most of today’s sports shows, NHL Now also offers dialogue on betting lines and prop bets.

Gardner moved the discussion to the recent 2024 Stadium Series featuring Metropolitan Division foes the Devils, Flyers, Rangers, and Islanders. The talk centered on the series’ impact on the standings. It’s an interesting topic because these outdoor games have an exhibition-like atmosphere, but they actually count.

NHL Now expertly combines interviews and information in a chill atmosphere with highlights, straight talk, fun exchanges, and hard hitting action. It’s what every fan needs to get ready for an exhilarating night of hockey.

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Advertising Clients Need to Be Known Before They Are Needed

Should top-of-funnel (ToFu) marketing be a top priority or not?

Jeff Caves

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Marketing and Sales Funnel Chart
Courtesy: EComEngine.com

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with advertising budgets that don’t allow for both digital and traditional broadcast advertising, like radio/TV, have to make a choice. Should top-of-funnel (ToFu) marketing be a top priority or not? ToFu marketing focuses on broad audiences and introduces them to your brand. The goal is to make a company known before they are needed. For example, if a homeowner has a leaky roof, who do they contact? Do they have a roofer they trust by memory, or must they enter ‘roofers near me’ into Google? A good roofer memory is likely because a ToFu strategy puts that roofer in the customers’ minds. Those customers respond to lower-funnel marketing tactics if they search in Google, yelp’s Top 10 roofers, or Angies List for a roofer. A ToFu strategy may still make a roofer jump off the Google page because the customer is familiar with that company. If they don’t know any company, those battles are won by whoever ranks first, has the lowest price, or has the quickest response time. The best roofers do not always win them. ToFu strategies lay the groundwork for future customer conversions. They also take time and money, but the results can be more sustainable. Here’s a closer look at the factors to consider:

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1. Cost Considerations: Traditional ToFu marketing channels, such as consistent monthly radio/television campaigns, print media, and prominent community events, can be outside an SMBs cash flow range. However, digital channels like content marketing, paid social media, email, and paid search can often be effective alternatives for SMBs. HubSpot’s State of Inbound report found that businesses prioritizing blogging are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive ROI than those not. And, if an SMB is a Business-to-Business (B2B) marketer, the Content Marketing Institute reports that 86% of B2B marketers use content marketing to get buzz and new customers.

2. ROI: SMBs should evaluate the potential ROI of TOFU marketing versus other marketing strategies. Some ToFu activities may not directly result in immediate sales, but they contribute to brand recognition and bring customer conversions in the long term.

Target Audience and Competition

1. Understanding the Audience: SMBs should assess whether their target audience is actively searching for their products or services or if there is a need to create awareness from scratch. If the target market is unaware of the brand or solution,  investing in ToFu marketing becomes critical. For example, if you are a breakfast/lunch restaurant with a great breakfast business but need a larger lunch crowd. The customers know you for pancakes, not paninis-ToFu could be for you! 

2. Competitors: SMBs should know if competitors invest heavily in ToFu activities. If competitors are doing ToFu marketing, it may be necessary for SMBs to put money there not to fall behind or be seen as a lesser brand.

 Think Long-Term

1. Brand Building: Early on establishing a strong brand presence can pay dividends in the long run. Even with limited resources, SMBs can leverage blogs, make social media posts, and participate in community events to build brand awareness and credibility. This is a great place to get started with learning how to push content out to get business and how to be involved in your community. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 86% of Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers use content marketing to generate brand awareness and attract new customers.

2. Customer Conversion: ToFu marketing helps fill the sales funnel with leads and pulls them through the bottom of the funnel. While immediate customer conversions may be limited, laying the groundwork for future conversions is vital for sustainable growth. According to a report by Nielsen, 59% of consumers prefer to buy products from brands they recognize. It can pay well to be known before needed.

Be Flexible

1. A/B Testing: Experiment with different ToFu strategies and measure their impact. Ensure the ‘test’ is at least 6-12 months to see if you can change customer behavior.

2. Adapt: While ToFu marketing may not always be a top priority, it’s important to stay on top of shifts in customer preferences and adjust strategies accordingly. Sales Reps who call on SMBs who know the market’s pulse or share local market intelligence have value in creating more customer conversions. Most SMBs don’t get to talk to 10-15 different business owners in their community weekly like they do.

While ToFu marketing is essential for building brand awareness and attracting new customers, SMBs must balance investing in ToFu opportunities and staying on top of other pressing priorities. By evaluating how to allocate budget, knowing the target audience, and using long-term marketing strategies, SMBs can become known before they are needed and influence why customers come to them.

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