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Don Martin Loves Everything About The BSM Summit

“This is a place you want to be because none of us are short of opinions and none of us are are pulling in any direction other than the same direction to make the vertical better.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Don Martin has a way of making everyone he talks to feel ten feet tall and bullet-proof. Seriously, if you ever get the opportunity to speak with the Executive Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia Sports, jump at it! The guy is smart, kind, and relentlessly positive.

Many of you will have the chance to speak to Don and hear him speak next month in New York. He has become one of those faces we just cannot have a BSM Summit without.

It’s hard to tell Don Martin that though, because he is always more interested in lifting someone else up.

“Well, first of all, it’s not even about what we get to do,” he says when I ask him what he is interested in teaching people this year. “I need to say that this has become the seminal event for sports radio across the country, okay?  It’s the one and only real sports talk event that pulls everybody together that’s built around our industry and I want to say thank you to you and Jason and everybody there that pulls it off.”

See what I mean?

Don will be on stage next month in New York at the 2022 BSM Summit. He will have plenty to teach, but he doesn’t think that makes him any more important than anyone else there. The value of the Summit for everyone is back-and-forth conversation.

“What I appreciate is you learn, but you also get to have your voice,” he says. “And I don’t care if you’re an on-air host or if you’re an audience member, if you’re a producer, if you’ve decided to go on your own. I don’t care if you’re a sales person that gets to go in there and figure out what’s going on within the vertical. This is a place you want to be because none of us are short of opinions and none of us are pulling in any direction other than the same direction to make the vertical better. And that’s what makes this group work so well.”

The industry doesn’t come together nearly often enough. That is why it has always been important that the BSM Summit is not just about giving knowledge, but also about giving credit.

Don Martin has watched a lot of people be called up to accept an award at events in the past, and he has noticed a trend. The awards at the BSM Summit honor industry trailblazers, standout hosts, and programmers that have built and led unstoppable brands. Martin has been impressed to see every one of them show real humility and gratitude when they step to the microphone.

“I mean, you see all of the emotion. You see that it’s legitimate. To be honored by your peers, there’s not a bigger thing I don’t think. You can get honored by the people in your building or your upper management, etc., but to be honored by your peers is sensational. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices that they’re speaking from their hearts and that it really does mean something to them.”

In Don’s eyes, there is something special, maybe even poetic, about the BSM Summit being back in New York for 2022. After all, the last time we did one of these, the country was a little over two weeks away from using the phrase “the new normal” in everyday conversation.

In 2020, the event took place on February 26 and 27. On March 13 of that year, Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19. The games were halted. Shows went from everyone in a single studio to a collection of zoom feeds and hosts learned to stretch the boundaries of the format.

“The Barrett Summit closed down the media and the Barrett Summit is now going to open it back up and it’s all in the same city,” Don Martin laughs. “We closed it down when we left New York, and now we’re opening back up by going back to New York.”

There is a virtual ticket option for those that can’t or don’t want to attend in person, but Don is right. This is going to be the first full gathering of the sports media industry since Covid became part of our lives. Hopefully, that means people are ready to get out and network.

Don Martin has a little advice. Don’t show up with your sole goal being to tell you’re story.

“When you put a lot of people into the room, there’s a diversity of voices,” he says. “So, you’re not hearing it from one side or the other. You’re hearing it from all of them and they all have a really good point. So the one thing I will tell everybody, while we all have a great opinion inside every one of these brains, the more you can listen, the more you’re going to get out of this.”

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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