Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City has become one of my favorite ballparks in America. The fountains in the outfield, the fact it’s easy to navigate and the accessibility of a 24 oz. Summer Shandy, make it a routine summertime destination. Two weeks ago was no different, as a friend and I took the 5-hour trip north to catch a weekend series with the Yankees. I had a feeling I’d be impressed by something, but I thought it would be in the form of a 500 foot home run by Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. That wasn’t the case. Instead, the sports radio nerd came out in me as I noticed how much of a footprint 610 Sports has inside the ballpark.
It pays to be the home of Royals baseball. I say that, because 610 Sports was in my face at every turn. As I walked in, there’s 610 Sports’ logo on the ribbon boards across the stadium. As I walked down the left field line, there’s a 610 Sports trailer that houses all the pre and postgame talk during home games. As I looked up in the giant scoreboard in center field to see Brett Gardner’s batting average, you guessed it, 610 Sports’ logo was there for everyone in the crowd to see.
As a show host, I found myself incredibly impressed as well a tad envious. Here’s a station that’s reaping the benefits of having major signage across Kauffman Stadium. If I’m any sort of a Royals fan at all, I’m tuning into 610 Sports because I know they’re going to talk about my favorite team and air their games.
In our business, not every station has this advantage. I wanted to learn how it has benefited 610 Sports to partner with the Royals so I reached out to PD John Hanson who was gracious with his time and happy to answer a few questions.
TM: What exactly is 610 Saturday’s at Kauffman Stadium? It’s always listed next to the promotions on the Royals’ website.
JH: We partner with the Royals on that. Each Monday morning, we have a code word that fans can use on the Royals website to get tickets to that week’s Saturday’s game for $6.10. I think there’s a limit of a hundred. This is my sixth baseball season at the station and we’ve been doing it since before I got there.
TM: OK, so you have 610 Saturday’s, but what was the trailer in the left field portion of the stadium for on Friday night?
JH: That’s actually for our pregame show. The title of it is “Vern’s Pregame Show.” The Royals pregame show picks up 30 minutes prior to the game, so we pick up our local pregame show, just in Kansas City, 30 minutes prior to that. On 610 Saturday’s we actually extend our pregame show by another 30 minutes, so essentially, we have 90 minutes of pregame coverage on Saturday home games.
TM: I saw the 610 Sports logo on the ribbon boards of the stadium and on the scoreboard. Where else is there signage inside the ballpark?
JH: Right by the broadcast booth, as well. Then we, have some down the both the first and third base lines. And then occasionally, if they’re not sold out, we have some behind home plate, which is nice.
TM: Besides the obvious of more people seeing your brand, where have you seen the biggest benefits of all that signage? Especially since, before this season, the Royals have been really good.
JH: Any kind of branding is not super tangible, in terms of the results you see. But Kansas City clearly knows that we’re the baseball station and having that signage in the ballpark really helps emphasize that for us. The addition of the mobile studio we have that houses our pregame show, has enhanced that perception as well, because it’s not only signage, but it’s also live programming to go along with it. We also have games that are incorporated in our pregame show that includes listeners live on the air from the site. It just helps our overall perception in town that people know when baseball season comes around, if they weren’t already with us, they’re now going to be.
TM: So, the idea is, if you like the Royals then 610 Sports is the place for you?
JH: Absolutely. You have no choice (laughs). And we like to make the choice even easier, because aside from providing the actual game, we have the pregame show and the postgame show. When the Royals were in the post season, we went absolutely crazy with our coverage, we were doing all-night coverage. Literally, we were on the air until the morning show came on.
On top of that, some of the broadcasters from the Royals are exclusive to us. We also have former Royals players that do hits with us, as well as beat writers. We kind of have it all covered.
TM: You do get access to big-name guests from the Royals that others in the market don’t. Which of those guests have you seem the most reaction from with listeners?
JH: Well, I would say that (TV color guy) Rex Hudler has been a huge boost to us. He’s real fan favorite and a very entertaining personality. You never know what you’re going to get with Rex. Often times, he brings on some of his baseball buddies that are big names in their own right. He’s just a guy with an incredible amount of energy that never, ever stops. We love having him on the air and he’s with us twice a week. (Manager) Ned Yost is a guy who has really developed a great relationship with our morning show. The thing we get out of it is the chance to show who Ned is as a person, which is a pretty funny guy. Sometimes, we talk very little baseball with Ned, at least very little Royals baseball. Sometimes we talk about his famous friends or funny things that have happened on a road trip. Those are a couple of standouts for us in terms of our coverage.
TM: Maybe ‘all-in’ is the wrong way to say it, but how did 610 Sports decide to go all-in on the Royals?
JH: Well, Kansas City is a baseball town. It’s also a football town, really, it’s just a great sports town. Honestly, our partnership with the Royals has just been super strong and only getting stronger. There’s a love affair in this city with the Royals that we have not just capitalized on, but have helped to connect the fans and players. Our Royals insider, Josh Vernier, has been unbelievable. He’s called “The Voice of the Fans” because he’s connected so well with them. He’s brought the stories and the personalities, such as (General Manager) Dayton Moore, the players and coaches to the fans. It’s been really special over the last several years. Maybe even the kind of special you don’t get in other markets, where the connection between the player and the fan is so personal. A great example, is we’ve been involved with charity events and connected players to certain charities. Some of the players have connected with us, in return for the charity’s benefit. It’s really paid off and been really cool.
TM: The Royals have been good in recent years, so it’s a no-brainer to cover them as much as possible. But what about in a year like this when they’re really struggling? Do you change your strategy at all?
JH: We want to talk about what Kansas City sports fans are talking about, regardless of what that may be. We have a strong commitment to the Royals with some of the features we do and we certainly maintain those commitments, but we find a way to make them entertaining if the play on the field isn’t great. For instance, when you hear Ned Yost, when you hear Rex Hudler, you’re going to hear a lot more story telling than you would about last night’s game. We just cover it a little bit differently but certainly, whether the Royals have been good or not so good, we’ve always have the philosophy that we talk about what Kansas City sports fans are talking about.
TM: If you could just point to one specific area where the partnership with the Royals has benefitted 610 Sports, where would it be?
JH: They bring a lot of listeners to our station. We get an opportunity to showcase ourselves to a lot of people that may have not had an interest in us before. They can find out about the prizes we give away or the talent we have on the air, or the Royals coverage we provide that isn’t the actual game. It’s brought a lot of people our way and been a great benefit to our station.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.