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Do Sports Radio Stations Need Slogans?

Jason Barrett



Turn on a sports radio station today, and you can’t go an hour without being reminded of the station’s slogan. Over and over again you’re beaten across the brain with a fancy message that tells you how great your local radio station is, and which city they operate in.

But do they matter? Do they make a difference? Are they necessary?

blankWell that depends on who you ask.

Some of the most opinionated, right-seeking people on the planet, work in the sports talk format. Line up 10 people and ask them to weigh in on this subject, and you’ll get 10 different answers, and they’ll all be pretty convincing, and interesting.

Except nobody is right. It’s simply a matter of personal preference. What we often forget, is that there are multiple ways to create a brand, and communicate the radio station’s position, while developing an identity and delivering winning results.

blankFor example, listen to a local CBS sports radio station and then listen to a local market ESPN radio station. You’ll notice a stark contrast between the two.

On a CBS sports talker you’ll hear a lot of calls, a looser content flow, and commercial breaks without programming promos. Instead the station’s use liners in and out of segments to promote special broadcasts, games, giveaways and other special events.

When you turn on an ESPN sports radio station, you’re likely to hear a lot more production, a tighter format, less calls, more audio clips, and commercial breaks usually include at least one or two programming promos.

blankWhile CBS prefers to use their inventory time during breaks to focus solely on commercials, and return to content, ESPN prefers to mix it up between commercials, and promote programming benefits that occur on the radio station.

In both cases, it works because there’s a different strategy for each product. If the on-air presentation reflects the station’s vision, and it’s producing results, that’s all that matters.

So after listening to a number of sports stations this week, and the different ways they position themselves, it got me to thinking about whether or not slogans are really critical.

musicslogansFor example, when you listen to a music station, you’re going to endure an avalanche of messaging. The stations usually are programmed so strongly with songs, and commercials, that when that little bit of time is available to them to say something, they reinforce who they are.

The difference with sports talk is that we have opportunities to promote our messages during commercial breaks, AND during content, whereas songs restrict a music format’s ability to do both.

Rather than approach this strictly from a radio point of view, I want you to think about some of the world’s best brands, and the way you view and talk about them.

If I said to you, Nike – chances are you’d know the slogan “Just Do It“.

geicoIf I asked you to name a slogan used by Geico, McDonald’s and Budweiser, you’d likely recall “15 minutes could save you 15% on car insurance, I’m Loving It and the King of Beers or This Bud’s For You“.

When a message is promoted heavily, and it represents the brand in an accurate way, it can have a major impact. No example is better right now than Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again“.

While you may like or dislike Trump and his positions, everywhere you turn that message is reinforced. He’s wisely worked it into every interview he conducts, and every press conference he holds, and it reflects what he wants to do if he’s elected President of the United States of America. Whether he can deliver on his slogan’s message is another story for another time.

As an industry, radio isn’t necessarily strong when it comes to creating powerful slogans. That’s scary because we’re often tasked with writing commercial copy, promos, liners and on-air mentions. If anyone should be skilled at writing and creating strong positions, it’s us but there aren’t a lot of companies who analyze the writing, and effectiveness of a message created by the programming and production departments. There’s also a lack of coaching and training available to radio professionals as it applies to improving as writers.

feelOne other aspect of slogans that I see radio stations miss on, is that they’re often built around telling listeners what to think, how to feel and why the brand is so great. The focus gets put on the brand’s view of itself, not the benefits or connection it provides to the audience. I’m not sure how you feel about it, but I like to form my own opinions. I don’t need a packaged liner playing every 15 minutes to help me decide how to feel about a product.

People who listen to sports radio want to feel important to the brand they spend time with, and they want to believe they carry a little bit of influence in determining how the brand operates. When the message is built the needs and desires of the audience, the listener will spend more time helping you spread it.

As someone who has written a lot of promos, liners, on-air mentions, and bits, throughout the years, I’ve certainly delivered my fair share of clunkers, so I know how challenging it can be. While we all want to be creative, and produce an amazing message, our strengths are often in verbal communication, not written form.

blankEven when we do create something powerful, and effective with our words, it takes a lot of time, and patience. Unless you’ve been part of the process of creating a brand message, people on the outside fail to understand that being creative is a process, and it can’t be scheduled. Ideas come to you when you least expect them, and you can’t put a 30-minute writing session on your calendar, and expect that you’ll come out of it with the world’s best slogan. It doesn’t work that way.

When you try to operate that way, you usually come away with something terrible like this:

“(Name of City), home for the best local sports talk, (Station Dial Position)”

You can put the voice of Jim and Dawn Cutler, Paul Turner or Steve Stone behind it, and they’ll make it sound as good as humanly possible, but even they can’t turn turds into diamonds.

Are we really convinced as programmers, talent and executives that if we don’t create a slogan for our brand, that the audience won’t know what it is? Isn’t the audience smarter than that?

WFANWhen was the last time you had a conversation about a sports talk radio station with a friend, or family member, and said “I listen to WFAN, because it’s my Flagship Station for New York Sports“? That’s not how people talk when describing your brand, and why they enjoy it.

If they’re talking about your product, they’re going to recall three specific things – the personalities on the air, the station’s dial position, and the name of the brand. The conversation sounds more like this – “I listen to 98.7 ESPN NY because I like the Michael Kay show“.

Slogans may feel necessary in the conference room, and they may look great on a white board, but unless they’re powerful, focused on the listener, and important to the identity of the brand, you can do without them. The time that gets spent in trying to create clever messaging for a :10 second legal ID, station liner, or station promo, can make your head spin.

purposeIs this critical to what we do? Is it where our time is best spent? Would the station you work for suffer tomorrow if the audience wasn’t aware that you were their city’s destination for sports radio?

In researching this topic, I found a few messages that impressed me, and some which didn’t. Bear in mind, these are my opinions, and yours may be different, so take it for whatever it’s worth.

Here are the three slogans that didn’t register with me.

  • “Real Sports Talk”
  • “Sports Radio With Balls”
  • “All Sports, All The Time”

“Real Sports Talk” implies that nobody else in the market talks about sports in a serious way, and it suggests that the brand never deviates from that plan, which isn’t true. It also doesn’t create a sense of power for the audience, or something memorable to identify with. If other brands in the market also talk about sports, how does this make the station unique?

In the case of “Sports Radio With Balls“, I’m guessing that the station is trying to play off of the fact that they carry LIVE play by play except, they don’t have the rights to the market’s only major professional sports team. This particular message is one that is going to come out of the mouth’s of every on-air talent. While it may feel, and sound natural for some, it won’t for others. Also, as sports radio adds more women listeners, do you think they want to hear this? It comes across very male-focused, and while I understand it, especially when considering the competitor they’re up against, and the Men 25-54 focus, I think there’s room for something else that represents the brand, and gives the talent more pride when they say it.

The final one, “All Sports, All The Time” is actually pretty solid, but if you know the brand I’m referring to, it’s not at all accurate. The content experience, and personalities on the radio station, focus much of their material around guy-talk, and they’re outstanding at it, and the audience loves it. Yes they talk sports too, but they’re built around entertainment, and lifestyle so if the message isn’t going to reflect what the brand represents, why use this approach?

espnWhen a slogan is created well, it can register and make a difference. For example, ESPN bills itself as “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” which many would say is exactly who they are. I also liked Apple’s “Think Different“, TNT’s “We Know Drama“, TBS’ “Very Funny” and Outback Steakhouse’s “No Rules Just Right” because I believe they provide an accurate description of each brand.

Looking at those last few examples, notice anything similar? Each of them is short, sweet and in line with their brand’s presentation. If you can’t describe the brand, what it does, and what it stands for in 10 words or less, make adjustments. The more you need to explain, the more confused people become. There’s a reason why these companies, and the others I listed earlier in this column, stand out. They say a lot with very little.

In listening across the country, I did hear a number of brands that I thought were very good. In each case, I noticed that they weren’t only strong performers in their respective markets, but they also keep the message very simple. This made it easy to recall, and that’s important when trying to invade a listener’s head space.

  • Arizona Sports 98.7FM (the brand name, dial position, frequency)
  • The Mighty 1090 (focus is strictly on the brand name/dial position)
  • Rip City Radio 620 – Portland’s Blazers Station (highlights the brand name which plays off of a term that local people are proud to be associated with, dial position and the relationship with the city’s only professional franchise)

I noticed that many CBS Sports Stations keep it simple, and focus solely on the brand name and dial position which is similar to what Arizona Sports and the Mighty 1090 are doing, and I think that is smart. ESPN Radio stations that I listened to highlight the four letters, and cities which they operate in, which is part of their operational philosophy, and also makes sense.

WHBThere was one slogan I liked a lot, but learned is no longer being utilized. Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City used to use the position “Powered By Fans“, which was excellent because it gave the audience a sense of pride, passion, and ownership in the radio station. They’ve since switched to “The Power of Sports” and I’m sure there was a reason for it, but I personally preferred the original one.

I don’t claim to be right on all of this, but I’m simply making the point that the format can thrive without the use of a slogan. There are a lot of things that we do in this business, simply because someone else before us did it. That doesn’t mean it’s right, needed or valuable.

slogan-changingmindIf you look at sports radio and the way it has grown over the last 30 years, it’s very different. Yet we continue to do some of the same things that we originally did because we’re creatures of comfort. We preach about the importance of change, taking risks, and introducing new ideas, but as soon as someone does, they’re met with resistance.

As our format faces new challenges, and enters unchartered waters during the next 30 years, we can’t afford to be one track minded, and stuck in our 1990’s views. That mentality will cost us listeners, and a whole lot of revenue.

If you can show me a radio station being weakened with its audience, or a station’s ratings suffering due to the loss of a slogan, I’ll gladly adjust my line of thinking. But there is value in my point of view, and I believe failed performance goes a lot deeper than the loss of one simple brand message.

If you’re going to use a slogan on your radio station, make it mean something. Otherwise you’re cluttering your airwaves with additional white noise, and taking away time from your best asset – your on-air talent!

bowdenI once read a quote from former Florida State Football Coach Bobby Bowden which stuck with me and it fits perfectly for this subject. Bowden told his sons when they were considering entering the coaching profession “If you can live without coaching, don’t get into it. But if you can’t live without it, go right ahead“.

Now give that some thought, and ask yourself “Would my radio station’s slogan be missed if it was pulled off the air tomorrow“? The answer you come up with should determine what you do next with it!

Barrett Blogs

Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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