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Developing Your Brand’s Baseball Season Strategy

Jason Barrett

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Before you know it, opening day will be here. And when it arrives, listeners will return in full force to hear their favorite local teams games on the radio, and to listen to talk show hosts offer up their perspectives and opinions on the season.

It’s easy to dismiss baseball as a thought until April, but if you’re looking to capitalize on the sport for the entire season, it benefits you to brainstorm and develop a strategy prior to the season’s first pitch.

Too often in sports radio we fly by the seat of our pants. We don’t lay out game plans for an entire season, instead we implement new ideas when they come to us. The focus is on each day’s show, except sometimes when you’re reliant on the day’s top stories, you don’t get handed a lot to work with. That’s especially true during the dog days of summer.

But if you venture into other media worlds, whether it be digital, television or advertising, they have a calendar in place to take advantage of annual opportunities and to develop sustainable campaigns which consumers can rally around. This is something every media executive and talk show host should have at their disposal as well.

So what do you do?

It starts with the brand manager having a vision for how they want to attack the baseball season. By the way, what I’m suggesting can also work for a station entering the football, hockey or basketball season.

The first question that needs to be answered is “how important is the team to the local audience”? Do they care only about the game or are there topics, features, guests and other interesting elements worthy of exploration around the club that the local audience will want to hear about on your talk shows? Knowing how relevant and important the franchise is to your on-air content strategy is necessary. This is how you determine whether it’s a daily hit or a sporadic conversation.

From there you start reviewing your assets and how to best take advantage of them. If your station is carrying a local team’s games, how often are promos, liners and creative themes emphasized to make them sound important? Are you simply announcing the matchup and game time or adding some intrigue to the game that will make people want to tune in? Is there a theme song used to drive the season long campaign that sounds cool and connects to the game, team or biggest storyline?

Then you determine if there are personalities on the team who would be attractive on a regular basis to your audience, advertisers and talk show hosts. If there are, you work with the player, their agent, and/or the team to structure an agreement to have them appear on your brand for the duration of the season.

My advice, if you’re going to compensate someone for making the time commitment, make sure you have a working agreement that calls for a weekly appearance. It’s hard to build listening occasions when things don’t take place consistently, and most audiences don’t remember and respond favorably to bi-weekly or monthly guest visits.

The second suggestion I’ll pass along, if you’re going to add the expense to your station’s budget for a player to appear weekly, make sure you get something back beyond the weekly 10-15 minute conversation. It’s very hard for a station’s sales department to maximize your investment when all they have to work with are commercials and a :05-:10 tag for the weekly phone call sponsorship.

Whether it’s an on the field meet and greet with your listeners, a player voicing a free commercial for one of your key sponsors, arranging a private luncheon or round table chat with the player and your key clients and listeners, having the player take over your Twitter or Facebook Live account, developing an in market autograph signing with the player at one of your key advertisers’ place of business or creating a charity event which they participate in, there needs to be more on the table than fifteen minutes of time each week.

From a promotion standpoint I’d also be sure to have an updated weekly appointment promo on the station (content promo built around the guest which highlights the day and time they appear) and social media posts scheduled so they run on the day of the guest’s appearance. Don’t waste your time promoting it 4-5 days before the guest appears. Your audience won’t remember it. Focus on when they’re available to be reached (the day of), and hammer it home so they give your station an extra quarter hour of listening.

Next, start taking a look at how your brand’s relationship with a team can strengthen the loyalty you receive from your audience. For example, tickets are always a huge attraction. When you have an opportunity to reward your audience for spending time with your brand, they appreciate it. Are you able to schedule regular ticket giveaways, trip giveaways, stadium tours, meet and greets or create a few other cool and unique experiences? All of those things matter.

From there, you have to examine your on the street game plan. Are you scheduling live remotes or appearances for your brand at or near the stadium? How are you dressing up those broadcasts to make them attractive to the audience? If you’re going to sit inside a gas station with a small table, station banner and your engineer’s equipment sitting on the table, I’m not sure I see the value. If though you can put the show in a highly visible location and turn it into an actual event which helps your station increase its connection to local fans and influence their ability to help you deliver bigger ratings then it’s worth pursuing.

Depending on your station’s business relationship with the organization, maybe there’s a possibility of promoting your brand inside the stadium either through remotes, video placement on the scoreboard, digital LED signage, ad space in the team’s program guide, or thru sponsoring an in between innings feature. You may even be able to create synergies with the team’s television partner to promote your brand on their airwaves, and them on yours.

If you add up all of those assets it’s a pretty impressive list, but even then there’s still an opportunity to do more.

What’s your strategy on social media? Do you have someone dedicated to posting key updates before, during and after the game? Are your personalities conducting chats during or after the game on Facebook Live? What original content videos and podcasts are you developing regularly to showcase the brand’s commitment to covering the local team in strong fashion? Maybe your digital team has someone with personality who can record on the street bits and turn them around for your morning show.

Whatever the case, being active, focused, and creative in the social space is paramount to reaching your audience.

Spring training is often a dead zone for sports radio. February and March traditionally rate lower, which means it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the airwaves to create a unique week or day and generate listener buzz while also making the product more attractive to advertisers.

Let’s say for example you were in Cincinnati and the next big opportunity to drive a larger audience to your shows occurs when the Reds return to the field, if you created a “Reds Celebration Week” or “State of the Reds” in March, and during that week the station secured big interviews with current and former members of the organization, gave away tickets, ran vignettes featuring some of the best moments in franchise history, dressed up the station’s website and social media pages to reflect the mood of the week, created a public town hall event, and all callers that week to your station’s shows were involved in discussions about various Reds topics, you’d have the audience more engaged, interested, and excited about your content. The alternative is to approach the calendar with your normal enthusiasm and rely on the news of the day which doesn’t generate as much enthusiasm or urgency from the audience.

The other way to capitalize in March if you’re a brand manager is to use the slower period to sit down with your talk show hosts and producers and get their brains racing with ideas for the upcoming season. Challenge them to come up with their next big promotion or appointment setting weekly feature. Review the team’s calendar and look at what you can deliver consistently and what key match ups will generate buzz that you might be able to build something creative around.

Sometimes hosts come out of the room with something simple such as a feature which is fun for them but not as sexy for advertisers or listeners. Other times they come away by adding something new and beneficial such as a Flashback Friday conversation (weekly interview for 26 weeks with 26 former high profile players/coaches), a Hall of Fame Report (26 weekly interviews with 26 members of the HOF) or a special Baseball Hour featuring two former members of the team who live in your local area appearing in studio with one of your local shows.

Regardless of what you come up with, the point is to get everyone in your building thinking of how to attack the airwaves for 6 months delivering baseball content that matters. By putting into affect creative imaging, unique benchmarks, promotions, a social media strategy and exploring ideas that will excite your audience, give your advertisers a reason to want to open up their checkbooks, and generating natural enthusiasm from your hosts, you’ll put yourself and your brand in a position to win the game that really matters most, the ratings and revenue game!

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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