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4 Lessons In 5 States Sports Radio Should Learn From The Election

“Let’s focus only on how the votes shook out from the winning side’s point of view, because every victory in every walk of life happens for a reason.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I am still not entirely sure how to classify this election. It’s over. The votes have been counted. Joe Biden won.

Biden wins 2020 presidential election: Live coverage

It seems like the story will continue with multiple lawsuits and at least one recount. People close to Donald Trump are worried that he will have to be dragged out of the Oval Office, so I guess that is something to look forward to?

Let’s put the future to the side for a moment. Let’s focus only on how the votes shook out from the winning side’s point of view, because every victory in every walk of life happens for a reason.

As I have digested the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, there are five states that stand out to me. All of them have something to teach us – a lesson that our industry should be paying attention to. After all, just like Joe Biden and Donald Trump, everyday we are trying to get the public to pick our programming.

GEORGIA – THERE IS NEVER A LOST CAUSE

I grew up in Alabama. It is the deepest, reddest part of the South you could imagine. There has never been a time where I thought it or any of the states surrounding it would ever vote for a Democrat. That may still be true in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, but it isn’t in Georgia.

After Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race in 2018, she made it her mission to get every Black Georgian she could registered to vote. She wanted to show them that even in a state with an egregious history of voter suppression, they had power. Two years later, Joe Biden appears to have won that state, and both Senate races are headed to runoffs.

There is no ratings battle that is out of reach. There is no revenue goal that cannot be met. If Georgia has taught us anything, it is to first have a clear plan and goal. Next, do the groundwork. Then take care of the foundation you’ve built. Finally, have patience and execute your plan every single day.

Stacey Abrams deserves all of the credit for turning Georgia blue because she knew that her ultimate goal wasn’t just getting people to register. She had to get them to vote too.

Narrowing the ratings gap on competition is good. Incremental revenue growth is good. Do not let those things give you enough satisfaction to take your foot off the gas. Be ready to set a new goal the moment you hit the original one.

ARIZONA – POPULATIONS CHANGE

Arizona was a reliably red state for years. Why did it go blue in 2020? Well, pundits seem to give a lot of credit to the work of Cindy McCain. The widow of Senator John McCain endorsed Biden, and never let the people of her state forget how cruel President Trump was to her late husband.

Sorry, I don’t buy that. I am sure Mrs. McCain’s endorsement of Joe Biden didn’t help Donald Trump, but anyone that hasn’t been turned off by his cruelty on the macro-level isn’t going to be swayed by something against one dude.

Arizona got younger and it got browner than it was four years ago. Donald Trump pardoned a sheriff that was in prison for openly terrorizing young, brown people. Donald Trump didn’t change anything about his strategy from 2016 and it burned him in Maricopa and Pima Counties. They’re the two youngest and two most populous in the state.

If your station isn’t evolving, it is dying. Even if it is thriving right now, the longer you sit still, the tougher it is to fend off challengers.

You don’t need to go shaking up your lineup every year. You should have a plan for the future though. What has to change in order to get to the next level? What is working now compared to the competition, but not with the same level of success it was working a few years ago? Is your imaging current and relevant? That is the voice most identified with your station.

You cannot use the same strategies and liners you were using five or ten years ago. Your listener base and their needs have changed.

FLORIDA – EVERY MESSAGE DOESN’T WORK FOR EVERY AUDIENCE

If you are worried that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to open the door to unchecked socialism, I’ve got good news for you. Go check out their records. There is next to no reason to believe the redistribution of wealth starts on their watch.

It doesn’t matter if it is true though. That was Donald Trump’s line of attack and in Florida, a state that used to be the battleground key to just about every election, it worked and it worked for two reasons. First, Joe Biden just kind of ignored Trump’s accusations, and accusations of being a socialist hit very different with the Cuban and Venezuelan populations in Miami-Dade County. Dismissing them as “mularky”, or whatever other old man swears Joe Biden uses, instead of actually laying out his record and making his case cost Biden votes in a county he needed to dominate in order to win the state.

Will Cuba Tip Florida to Trump? - The New York Times

There isn’t a single message or style that works for every sports fan all the time. It’s why we do focus group testing and build lineups of shows that sound different.

Go back to the point about Arizona. It’s why imaging even exists, let alone evolves. Not everyone will respond to the same thing, so don’t bother thinking about how you can tell fans you have everything they need. You want to make it clear to the largest possible audience that you have something for them.

PENNSYLVANIA & MICHIGAN – IMPROVE ON YOUR WEAKNESSES, BUT LEAN INTO YOUR STRENGTHS

What was the narrative coming out of 2016? The Democrats had lost touch with the white working class. The party was too wrapped up in identity politics to actually address the issues that plagued that particular population, a large one that traditionally voted blue.

So going into 2020 there was a focus on winning back the factory towns across the Midwest. Pennsylvania and Michigan were key to the Democrats’ strategy of creating a “blue wall”, and they were successful. Is that because the Democrats put all their eggs in the white working class basket?

Nope. They paid attention to where they previously had a blind spot and nominated a candidate that population could see itself in, but Joe Biden ended up overtaking Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Michigan as the results of mail in ballots came in because most of them came from Philadelphia and Detroit respectively. He won by not losing site of what Democrats always do – dominating in the country’s largest population centers.

How Joe Biden gained an edge in Michigan - ABC News

If you have a host that can thrive on access, look for places to inject some personality into his or her show, but don’t lose site on what brought the listeners in the first place. If you have the chance to secure a major play-by-play partner, go for it, but weigh what the costs will be if it means having to lose talent or support staff that make your station what it is.

Winning anything worth winning is hard. It is why it’s worth paying attention to how big victories happen, even if it didn’t go the way you hoped.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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