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Marc Bertrand Has Fought Like Hell

We’ve had a great run. We’re fully aware of how great this has been and how lucky we’ve been to have this run of success.”

Brian Noe

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Marc Bertrand

Laurence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, once said in The Matrix, “You take the blue pill – the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Marc Bertrand is a successful sports radio host in Boston. Although he can’t dodge bullets and contort his body at lightning speed like Matrix characters, he once faced a similar choice.

Take the blue pill and remain at WEEI, the heritage station he had dreamed of working for as he commuted to college. Take the red pill and work at the Sports Hub, an upstart with potential but lots of unknowns. Marc chose the red pill, and the rabbit hole has been way better than he ever imagined.

For the past 14 years, 98.5 The Sports Hub has been Marc’s radio home. He’s hosted middays with Scott Zolak for eight years now. Marc talks about how much it means to him to be recognized by his peers as the number one midday show in a major market. He also talks about his humble beginnings in the industry and the lengths he went to for real opportunities. Marc is an awesome storyteller. He describes the meaning behind his nickname and shares funny stories about Deion Sanders and Mary Lou Retton. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: How was everything in Phoenix for Super Bowl week?

Marc Bertrand: Well, it was my first time back since the pandemic. The last time we were there was Miami right before this mess began. My impression of it was that it was back in a big way. It’s changed for sure; it’s not all radio anymore. It made me a little bit sad when I came down the escalator at the convention center and saw that a sign said Media Row and not Radio Row. But it’s great. It was lively. There were a ton of big names in the room, which is great to see. It looks healthy, is what it is.

It’s changed a little bit. There’s social media people there. It’s not all radio, like I said, there’s TV in there. I’m just glad that it’s a big deal still, that there are outlets that still want to be there and be a part of it. It is my absolute favorite part of this job is doing radio row. It’s the thing I look forward to every single year in this job is going and doing that week. I was happy to be back and I’m happy to see that it’s still a pretty good event.

BN: Do you have any funny stories from all those times being on Radio Row?

MB: Here’s probably the funniest one. Going back to the Super Bowl in Houston when the Patriots were there to take on the Falcons, we managed to get Deion Sanders on our show. Deion Sanders didn’t do a lot of radio hits, but he came on our show. Zo talked with him about getting picked off by Deion twice in an interview. And in that interview, he decided midway through that he was done with the interview because he saw Antonio Brown walk by. So he just got up and dropped the headset on the table in the middle of the interview and walked away. And that was the end of our interview. [Laughs] There have been weird things like that happen.

I also love, I think it was that same year, Hardy [Rob Poole], who’s on our show, met a childhood idol of his in Mary Lou Retton, which is the last person you’d expect to see on Radio Row. He told her a story about how he went to a shopping mall in suburban Detroit 25, 30 years ago to meet her when he was a kid, and how they were reunited and she just loved the story. They got these great pictures together hugging. It’s just sort of the funny stuff like that happens. Some of the guests, you don’t have to try too hard and their presence can be funny.

BN: That’s funny, man. I love both stories, but you couldn’t script that any better where Deion’s like ‘Oh, it’s AB, I’m outta here’. That is just hilarious to me.

MB: Yeah, and then it ended. It was like there goes Deion Sanders, the greatest cornerback that ever lived.

BN: [Laughs] Thanks for the time, Deion.

MB: And when he was on, he was funny. He was engaging. He was great to talk to and then when he decided it was time to get up and go see a friend, that was it. The interview was over and he left us without even a goodbye.

BN: That’s great, man. What did you think about the way the game played out?

MB: I liked the end result because I was rooting for Patrick Mahomes. I think he’s the most marketable, most likable player in the sport. I like the Chiefs and I like the fact that they’ve got a great quarterback. I believe in quarterbacks. It’s sort of a thing that I have. Having watched Tom Brady for two decades with the Patriots be the reason why they won so many games, I just sort of believe in that way of doing business, having great quarterbacks.

The game itself had a bunch of points. Points scored in different ways, a defensive score, a long punt return, there was a lot to like about that game. I’m not the least bit angry about the holding call at the end of the game. I have no issue with the call. I think the Chiefs took it to the Eagles in the second half and the Eagles couldn’t get a stop. At the end of the night, the better quarterback, you let him hang around, he’s going to win a game. That’s how it played out.

BN: Tom Brady is known as the GOAT. On his Pro Football Reference page, it says he’s also known as the Pharaoh. I’ve never heard one person refer to him as the Pharaoh. Have you guys ever done that?

MB: I’ve never referred to him as the Pharaoh and I have no idea where that started.

BN: [Laughs] I don’t either.

MB: No idea.

BN: None either. I’ve never heard it one time. How about your nickname though? Beetle — how did that come about?

MB: So Tony Mazz (Tony Massarotti), going back to 2009 when we first launched the station, decided that he needed a nickname for me. I wish there was a good story behind it, but Mazz tried out a handful of nicknames over the course of the week. For some reason that one stuck, and I don’t even really know how it started. At one point, we had a producer who said he thought it started from the Beetle Bailey cartoon, going back I don’t know how many decades ago that comic strip was.

It was one of about three or four nicknames that Tony Mazz tried out one week as like a running joke that he needed to establish a nickname for me, and that one was the one that stuck. It took a little bit of time, but he called me that enough times that it lasted. Now it’s become a nickname that almost everybody listener-wise calls me. It just sort of stuck. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s terrible, I wish I had a cool story. I wish it were actually based on something. But it most definitely isn’t.

BN: I actually think it’s better that way. I love that story. Do you remember the two or three other nicknames that were in the running?

MB: I don’t, but they all were B’s. They were all B nicknames to have the alliteration with Bertrand. I wish I could recall; we’re going back 14 years ago now. I don’t remember, but it was so contrived, and so forced that I can’t believe that it stuck. I really can’t.

BN: You just signed a new extension, how does that feel to you?

MB: It feels great. To still be in the same place that I was 14 years ago when we started the station, it’s home, it’s my radio home. It’s where I’ve worked for the overwhelming majority of my adult life. And so, it’s great. It feels great to have the security of a new deal. It’s comfortable, is what it is to come to work every day and know all the people you work with and know who they are and know what they’re about.

Now on middays with Zo and Hardy, we’ve been together for eight years. That’s a really sort of comfortable situation that there’s not working through any newness. We’re still doing it, man. It feels great to still be doing it and still be doing it at a sports station that is still doing so well. We’ve had a great run. We’re fully aware of how great this has been and how lucky we’ve been to have this run of success.

BN: Is Zo any different off the air than he is on the air?

MB: I would say that on the air he’s subdued from what he is in real life. [Laughs] And so yes, he’s slightly different off the air in that he might be just a tad bit crazier, and I say that with all the love in my heart because Zo’s a fun guy to be around at any given moment. It’s sort of funny, because on trips to radio row and trips to the Super Bowl site every year, you spend a lot of time with your co-hosts. You sort of live with them for a week.

We got to the airport last Friday night coming back to town from Phoenix and we all went our separate ways. It’s sort of like, oh, what are you doing tomorrow? They sort of become like members of your family. I spend more time with Zo and talking to Zo than I do my own wife and children. For the most part he is the same guy, but I would say he could be a little bit more wild and a little bit more fun when he’s off the air.

BN: Your show was just named the top major market midday show on the Barrett Sports Media Top 20. When you get recognition like that, being number one in your daypart, what’s your reaction to that?

MB: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s still a thrill, don’t get me wrong. We love it. We watched out for it last week when it dropped that morning to see if we won again. I love that it’s people that we work with in the industry, which I think is the best kind of recognition. People that do this job, people that are managers in this job, people that really understand programming and understand radio.

I think that’s the thing that makes it probably the most rewarding that it’s recognition from within the industry, people who have a clue. It’s not some fan contest or listener contest, it’s people that understand the job. That is why we’re still really happy to get that respect. I can’t thank the people enough that thought we were worthy of their vote. It’s great. I don’t know any other way to put it other than we love the fact that we’re number one again.

BN: Getting recognized by people in the industry, does it cause you to reflect on the beginning of your path and how you initially started out?

MB: I totally agree with that. I do think it’s, for me, really rewarding to say I went from doing updates on weekends, to now having a show that my name is on, and is being recognized not only by people here in Boston but people across the country. To be number one in anything in the country is huge. So yeah, I do, I definitely have reflected on that. Especially with having won it more than once, which is remarkable. If it had happened once, it would have been a big deal. For it to now happen three times, I’m over the moon for it. It’s unbelievable. I think there’s definitely some reflecting.

The other part that I reflect on when something like that happens is all the people that go into that. It’s easy for Zo and me and Hardy to be the faces of the show and to be the guys who sort of get this credit and recognition. But we’ve got so many people that help us do our job. Our producer, Tom Morgan, he took over for Jim Louth two years ago. Jim Louth has now moved on to be our APD. Tom Morgan stepped up and has been fantastic is his first time as an executive producer. I can’t tell you how great he has been over the last couple of years since taking the job, and taking on more responsibility, and how much that guy helps us every day.

Tyler Milliken, who’s also on our show, these guys put in more hours and more work to make us look good. I think about those guys and how much they do to make this show happen every single day. I don’t know that I could do it all myself. Zo couldn’t do it all himself. The support we get from our two producers, just always actively involved, as is Rick Radzik, who I know does get credit. They put his name in the story. We have so much great support behind the scenes across the board that make it possible to be in this position.

BN: I’m curious what you would have been more surprised by, if someone had told you when you were a weekend update anchor that you would have risen to the position that you’re currently in, or if someone had told you when the Sports Hub launched, that it would turn out to be the ratings juggernaut that it is, which would have surprised you more?

MB: Oh, that is a talk radio host question right there; the very difficult either/or. I can tell you this, I dreamed of being a host in this market. They didn’t call it manifesting when I was in college, but I used to drive by on my way from where I grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, back and forth to college at UMass Amherst. I used to drive by on the Mass Pike, the New Balance building where WEEI used to be when I was in college. I used to drive by it with my girlfriend, now my wife, and I would say I’m going to work there someday. I used to say that. And she was like, okay, fine, whatever, you’re going to work there. I used to say, I’m going to work there someday. That’s where I want to be. I’m going to work there.

Then I got an internship there in college and even did updates on weekends. That’s what I dreamed up. That’s just something that was in my mind was being a host on the best radio station in the market for sports. I did not dream when the Sports Hub started that it was going to be the monster that it turned into. I was going to the Sports Hub if I’m being honest in 2009, because it represented an opportunity, and it represented more hours of work, and a little bit more money. At the time, that was really important, working part time, very little guaranteed money, guaranteed role, guaranteed anything.

There were people in my own family that said, what are you doing? You’re on the air at the station you always wanted to be on, and now after a year and a half you’re gonna walk out the door for the upstart? You must be crazy. Maybe I was a little crazy. Maybe it was a little shortsighted, but I thought it was going to be a good opportunity.

I fought like hell to get the job. They were focused on who their hosts were going to be filling out the dayparts with the major headliners and the names; I was just looking for an update job. I badgered Mike Thomas until he gave me the job, and sat in the lobby at the radio station without an appointment, telling the receptionist that I did have an appointment with Mike Thomas, and sat it out, and waited for hours until he agreed to come out and talk to me.

I look back on it now and say, there’s no way I could’ve predicted this. I could not have predicted that the station was going to be this successful, or that I personally was going to be this successful, but it all worked out in the end. It’s worked out better than I could have ever imagined.

BN: Man, that’s an amazing story. When you initially began at the Sports Hub, maybe you thought more long term, but if I were in those shoes, I would’ve been thinking more about the here and now. Did you make a decision thinking of the next 10, 15 years?

MB: No, absolutely not. I was not thinking about the next five years; I was thinking about the next year or two. What could I do in the next year or two to make myself a better candidate for whatever that next job might be? That to me was the thing I was thinking about was the opportunity to get on the air more, the opportunity to do more. That’s what it represented. That’s what I was most concerned with was having more reps.

That’s one of the things that really was different in the beginning for the Sports Hub, is everybody was on board, everybody was really eager to do well, everybody was eager to sort of have David slay Goliath. That’s what we were in it for, was this massive challenge and how it wasn’t going to happen without people really putting in the work. I was lucky because I got the chance. I got on the air and had the chance and was given an opportunity and got a whole heck of a lot better along the way, which I don’t think I would’ve ever received had I stayed doing the weekend updates on EEI.

BN: When you think about your future, considering the way you had to battle in the beginning to get opportunities and to move up to where you are, do you think that causes you to think more about what’s now instead of what’s next?

MB: I think the job makes you so busy with the here and now that sometimes it’s really hard to think beyond tomorrow’s show, or this week’s shows. That’s a little bit different as you get older because when I started at the Sports Hub, I was 24. I now have the show to take care of every day. That is a lot more time consuming than being an update anchor or a weekend guy.

I have far more responsibility in the job now than I did when I was 24, but I also have way more real life responsibility at 37 than I did then. I’m married now and I have three kids. The time to sit there and ponder anything beyond this week and what time is basketball practice for a nine year old, it’s just a busy life. It’s hard to think about anything beyond what I’m doing in the here and now.

I’m sure as time goes on, there could be chances for more opportunities to do something that is different from the show. Nothing in this job is permanent. Nothing. This is where I want to be. This is the show I want to be on, and when you get a new contract you don’t have to think about the what ifs. What if there is a change? What if they do go in a different direction? Things of that nature.

I often say, I’ll be doing sports radio here or nowhere. That’s what it comes down to. I would not want to work in another market because I just don’t know that I’d be invested enough. I care about the teams here and I care about the people here because it’s my friends, my family, it’s everything. I don’t know that I could do it somewhere else.

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Pregame Shows Have to Stop Ridiculous Pretend Pep Talks

“Audiences want access, but they want real access. Adults playing make believe is the peak of cringe TV.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Lou Holtz, Stephen A. Smith and Jimmy Johnson give pregame pep talks on pregame shows.

ABC caught a lot of deserved heat for its pregame show on Sunday. What was supposed to set the stage for a huge Game 7 between the Knicks and Pacers in the NBA Playoffs was actually something out of Stephen A. Smith’s fantasy. The show was more about the Knicks than it was anything else going on in basketball, but it was more about him than it was about the Knicks.

The network showed Smith’s arrival to the arena. To me, that was the peak example of just how bad the show was. It wasn’t the worst moment though. Sure, showing an analyst’s walk-in alongside each team’s biggest star was a new low in self-indulgence, but it didn’t match the pep talk.

Stephen A. Smith is not the first analyst to give one of the teams playing in the featured game his version of the pep talk. ESPN used to make this a regular feature of College Football Final when Lou Holtz was on the show. We saw it earlier this year on FOX NFL Sunday when Jimmy Johnson delivered an over-the-top speech to the Dallas Cowboys via the television during a halftime report.

I wish I knew whose idea this was. Who was the first producer to tell a former coach or player that they needed to give the audience an idea of what they would be doing in the locker room right now? I’d like someone to point that person out so I could slap the hell out of them.

Audiences want access, but they want real access. Adults playing make believe is the peak of cringe TV. I would rather watch literally anything else.

Even before the ManningCast, networks had learned that the access the audience wants is explanation, not bluster. Look, you won’t find a bigger critic of Urban Meyer as a coach than me, but I will be one of the first to tell you that he breaks down plays and decision making as well as anyone on TV. I understand the chess match between the coaches better after watching Meyer with a telestrator. I trust Nick Saban will bring that same quality, maybe even at a higher level, to College GameDay this season.

The men and women hired as analysts are smart. Regardless of the sport, if you’re hired to be part of a pregame show, chances are you have played the game. You have been in the locker room in these moments. You don’t have to convince the audience. They know it’s true.

Sports media is in a really interesting place. I have written before that I struggle to see how ESPN can justify a raise or a long-term extension to Stephen A. Smith in a landscape where the audience tells us over and over again that the only thing that really makes a difference to them is live games.

Star power matters because networks aren’t giving out the kinds of contracts they once did. Maybe that is why the former players and coaches don’t push back when asked to make fools of themselves in this way. They can tell us it’s about their personal brand, but if you’re doing something the audience isn’t responding to just because it puts you in the spotlight, are you building anything?

Pretend pep talks do not work. Does your respect for someone grow when you watch them get worked up over a situation they have imagined in their head? Probably not.

I have seen some studio shows take a moment and ask the former coach at the desk how they would respond to it. That makes a lot more sense. 

“Coach, the Panthers are headed to the locker room down seven and it can be pinned directly to Bryce Young throwing a pick six earlier this quarter. His rhythm has been off since then. What are you telling the young quarterback right now to get him ready for the second half?”

Analysts are supposed to be experts. The audience is supposed to feel like the analyst’s opinions have more weight than their own. Answers to direct questions give the audience insight.

My problem with so many studio shows is there is a lot of noise and not much being said. Everyone wants me to think the fellas are having a great time, so the laughter is over the top and every highlight is accompanied by a series of catchphrases that have caught on with no one. I’m not saying that I want studio shows to be completely devoid of fun. I just don’t want my time wasted.

That’s all pretend pep talks are. They’re just noise that waste my time. I don’t know a better way to describe what I saw Sunday on ABC.

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John Murphy Wanted to Go Out on His Terms as the Voice of the Buffalo Bills

“I guess I never appreciated the fact that the fans were paying that much attention.”

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Graphic of longtime Bills announcer John Murphy
Courtesy: Buffalo Bills

It’s always hard to say goodbye to a job that you love, especially when it’s under unfortunate circumstances. The Buffalo Bills organization and their many fans throughout Western New York were saddened to find out a couple of weeks ago that longtime Bills radio announcer John Murphy would be stepping away from the play-by-play position after 35 years in the radio booth.  Murphy spent 16 years as a color analyst and 19 years as the play-by-play announcer, but he continues to recover from a stroke that he suffered on January 1st 2023.

For the veteran broadcaster, the reality set in that it was time to step aside.

“I’m disappointed,” said the 67-year-old Murphy during a phone conversation last week with Barrett Sports Media.  “I’m nearing the end anyway, but you’d like to go out on your own terms and finish the way you want to finish and I’m not able to do that.  It’s disappointing but by the same token, there’s no way I can do the games talking the way I currently talk so I think it makes sense.”

Not long after the announcement, there were people, including former players Stevie Johnson, Alex Van Pelt and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who reached out to “Murph” to share their feelings about him.  Murphy also heard from so many fans and that was overwhelming to him to find out just how much he meant to “Bills Mafia.”

“It meant everything really,” said Murphy who was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2019.  “I guess I never appreciated the fact that the fans were paying that much attention.  You do this for so long and your kind of alone with the four or five who are on the air and honestly you don’t think anybody is listening. It’s pretty important, I guess, to people and that makes it fun, and it makes it gratifying for me.”

From a personal standpoint, Murphy was extremely important to me when I was a student at Buffalo State College (now Buffalo State University) from 1985 to 1989.  Nobody in my family had ever been in broadcasting but it was my dream to do it and every young broadcaster needs a mentor.  I’m proud to say that Murphy was one of them during my college years always willing to talk to me when I would see him at games that I covered for WBNY, my college radio station.

Words cannot describe what this man meant to me and my career.

We shared a lot of good times back then, especially when he hosted a sports talk show on WBEN and I would be a frequent phone caller “Peter from Porter Hall at Buff State”.  I can’t tell you how many times I would call in to the trivia contest and the prize always included tickets to a local sporting event and a bucket of chicken wings from “Rooties”, a popular restaurant in the Buffalo area back then.

To this day, it has been an honor and a privilege to call him a friend and to be able to stay in touch.

For Bills fans, it was an honor and a privilege to have a true professional like Murphy in the broadcast booth.  As the color analyst, he worked with legendary Bills play-by-play voice Van Miller from 1984 to 1989 and then again from 1994 to 2003.

“Van was great,” said Murphy.  “I learned so much about not getting in the way of the play-by-play announcer and letting him have his time and enough time to set up the play and to finish the play.  It was great to see him do that, and I learned a lot.  I learned almost everything from Van as far as the right way to do things.  He will never be matched as far as I’m concerned with the play-by-play job he did here.”

Following Miller’s retirement, Murphy slid over to assume the duties as the play-by-play voice in 2004.  It’s never easy to replace a legend, but that’s what Murphy did, and he was well prepared for the task at hand.

“I had huge shoes to fill,” said Murphy.  “I feel like, 19 years later, I’m still working on filling them.  I don’t think I ever matched what he did and the way he painted the words.  It was a great education and a great way to learn how to do it the right way.”

Miller was the Bills’ play-by-play voice through the glory years of going to four straight Super Bowls following the 1990 through 1993 seasons.  After Murphy took over as the “Voice of the Bills,” the great moments were few and far between.  In fact, the Bills suffered through a 17-year absence from postseason play, an era of futility that ended in 2016.

After a long wait, Murphy was finally the voice of a Bills team that was making Buffalo sports fans talking proud again and giving them a reason to shout.

“We had a rough go,” said Murphy.  “I was the voice of the playoff drought.  To break through that threshold and to get in the playoffs each of the last five years now has made all the difference in the world.  It’s a different game when the team is a contender and the Bills have been contenders for five years now so that’s been good and good to see.”

A native of Lancaster, New York and a graduate of Syracuse University, Murphy was able to spend his final seasons with the team calling some incredible moments, many of them that brought Bills fans out of their seats at Highmark Stadium but also a few that ended their seasons before being able to get back to a Super Bowl.

There are a couple of moments that stand out.

“There was Taron Johnson’s interception against Baltimore (AFC divisional playoff 2021) in the playoffs which he ran back 101 yards for a touchdown,” recalled Murphy.  “That was an incredible play.” 

That was a great moment but there was also a sad moment that he will always remember.

“The game that sickened me the most was the loss at Kansas City that went back and forth with Mahomes and Josh Allen,” said Murphy of the classic 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff game won by the Chiefs in overtime 42-36. 

“With 13 seconds to go, Josh had the lead, and they gave up the lead and lost to Kansas City.  That was a bitter loss, but it was really a fun game to work.”

As Murphy steps away from the booth, Chris Brown is expected to be named the new radio voice of the Bills.  In Murphy’s absence, Brown finished up the 2022 season and did play-by-play for the entire 2023 season.

Murphy, who had to replace a legend in Van Miller, believes that Brown is the right man to fill his shoes.

“I’m happy for him,” said Murphy.  “Chris has a great understanding of the way things work in the league and the way players are acquired and signed and he does his homework too.  I think he’s great and will do a great job.”

While Murphy has stepped away from the play-by-play duties, he still hopes to be a part of the Bills’ gameday broadcasts.  If his speech improves by September, the plan is for Murphy to provide one or two-minute features on the pre-game show.

“I hope so,” said Murphy.  “That remains to be seen but I’m hoping that’s the way it goes.”

And so is everyone in Western New York that has been accustomed to hearing Murphy on the broadcasts for so many years.  Aside from the continued excitement about the Bills being a perennial playoff team, Murphy shares in the excitement of the organization and the fans about the new stadium that is currently under construction.

Without an agreement for a new home in the Buffalo area, there was a good chance that the Bills would have been forced to relocate to another market.

“You drive by there and you can sense that this is real and this is happening and the Bills are here to stay,” said Murphy.  “It’s very exciting and very exciting to see that the Bills are implanted in Western New York for years to come now.”

I mean no disrespect to so many other radio play-by-play announcers in the NFL, but I have to admit something. Whether it was my time at SirusXM NFL Radio or my current run at Infinity Sports Network (formerly CBS Sports Radio), I always looked forward to working on an NFL Sunday, Thursday or Monday and using John Murphy’s play-by-play calls on my updates.  As long as the Bills won, I always used his highlights.  I’ll miss those calls (but not the ones when the Bills beat the Jets) and so will Bills fans. 

Here’s hoping for his health to continue to get better and that he could still be a part of the Bills broadcasts in some small way going forward.

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Seller to Seller: Scott Speropoulos, Audacy Memphis

“I was that guy when it’s fourth and long and no time left, give me the ball.”

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Graphic for a Seller to Seller feature with Scott Speropoulos

Sometimes when you meet people, you just know immediately they’re someone you could hang out with, watch a game and have a beer (or two). Scott Speropoulos, the General Sales Manager for Audacy’s four stations in Memphis is one of those. He is high energy, a great talker and comes complete with that great southern charm and accent.

Scott knows a thing or two about media sales, too, something he has been involved with in some capacity for most of his 25-plus year career.  He started in radio as a remote coordinator before going to work for a startup television station. Along the way, he sold print as well, managed in radio, managed in print, was a Director of Sales in television and then the pandemic hit. That’s when Scott decided, “It’s time to come home, I’m back here again.”

At the end of 2020, Speropoulos returned to the group of stations he had been with from 2005-2007, which now includes 92.9 ESPN the dominant sports radio station in the market.

When asked what made him a great seller when he was getting started, he said, “I just got out there and hustled. The Director of Sales from another station called me and said, ‘Everywhere my people go, they are finding your business card, so you are going to come work for us.’ Just getting out there and hustling and getting my name built and my reputation and I tried to meet with as many people as possible.”

Speropoulos talked about what led him to pursue management opportunities after he had been selling television for six years. He said selling the television station started to feel a little bit like “Groundhog Day.” He said he looked to his younger days as an athlete and thought about how well he generally had performed under pressure.

“I was that guy when it’s fourth and long and no time left, give me the ball,” he said. “The TV station had people who had been there for a long, long time and they were not planning on retiring any time soon. And it just so happened the radio stations I had started with needed a National Sales Manager and had me come over and sell for a year and then I got the NSM role…it was just that personal challenge of taking the next step in my career.”

Clearly Speropoulos has seen many changes in our business since his sales career began back in 1997. “Back when I started, it was you buy a spot on TV and you sprayed and prayed,” he said. “Now, we’ve got so many digital capabilities where I can take more of that sniper approach. Tell me exactly who you are looking for and I can bring you those people…I can get those people without you having to waste advertising dollars on people that don’t make sense for you.”

He talks a lot about the culture of the Audacy Memphis office and says the group of air talent he works with do a great job working with the sales team and their clients.  “I am lucky because my guys here, the culture we have here is everyone is pulling on the same rope together, we all want to help each other.”

Speropoulos recently grew his sales team by one and said he found a lot of people applying who seemed scared about commission sales and “wanted everything guaranteed.” He said being a big fan of former Alabama head coach Nick Saban, it is all about discipline with him when it comes to who he is looking for.

“I can teach you sales, but I can’t teach you self-discipline. It’s someone who makes those decisions every day and knows that it’s five o’clock but goes ahead and makes that extra call. And someone who is willing to constantly learn because the world of digital changes every day. There is going to be something new that comes out tomorrow and they’ve got to be able to adapt. We can’t have anyone who is just set in their ways and says they cannot sell digital.

“It’s being disciplined. It’s making those right decisions. You have the autonomy to go to lunch whenever you are ready. Are you going to take that hour and a half lunch, or do you take a lunch where you could make an impact somewhere? Am I going to make cold calls today or am I going to push that off until Friday?

“It’s the person who makes the strong decisions and the tough decisions that hold themselves accountable. I can’t babysit you. I can’t be as tough on you as you are going to be on yourself so that’s what I am looking for, someone who is going to hold themselves accountable, someone who is going to make the tough decisions. Someone who is striving to do better every day.”

92.9 ESPN made a change in afternoon drive a little more than a year ago when Gary Parrish left for a new position and former Memphis Tigers offensive lineman Gabe Kuhn took over. Many times, changes or noise in the industry can rattle a sales team. Speropoulos said he always tells his team to focus on what they can control.

“Focus on the strategy that we have put in place for that specific client and see it all the way through,” he said. “If we stay true to what we put in place that we know is going to work, who cares if the DJ leaves tomorrow. Our goal is to help them grow their business and bring them quality consumers. If we stay true to what we believe in, all that other stuff is noise.”

Scott believes today the key is for sellers to work with clients to drill down on what their ideal target is before creating a campaign and then pick the best products that fit how to reach that person. He also said sellers have to remain on top of the changes and new products that can help their clients.

“There’s going to be new technology that we haven’t even fathomed yet that we are going to be able to utilize. So, it’s staying on top of our toes, staying educated and embracing the change as it comes.”

When asked what he does to keep it fun and rewarding for his sales team he said, “In my group everyone is a little different. Some like trophies, some would rather just go out and have a beer.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I care about every single person here and I make sure they’re happy and I put their needs ahead of mine. We have a great team. They care about how we achieve as a team.”

They have achieved quite a bit since flipping to sports in 2009 and seem headed for continued success with Scott Speropoulos heading up the sales team. He is all about the team and nobody, as they say in the south, getting ‘too big for his britches.’

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