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Valuing Your Audience: A Lesson From College Gameday

Demetri Ravanos

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It made very little sense when the announcement was made a week ago. College Gameday, the best pregame show in America, the beating heart of college football fandom, was going to Pullman, Washington? Oregon and Washington State was a top 25 matchup, but this was a week that also included better top 25 matchups in college football meccas like Baton Rouge and Clemson. Why go to the banks of the Paloose?

If you love college football and make College Gameday appointment television every Saturday, you already know the answer. For the last 15 years, a group of Washington State alumni and fans have made sure a handmade flag bearing the Wazzu logo was in the crowd for every episode of College Gameday. The flag is called Ol’ Crimson, and its presence is every bit as important a Gameday tradition as Lee Corso’s headgear pick.

The live broadcast was something every station and network across the country, regardless of format, should do from time to time. ESPN was saying thank you to the most devoted fans of College Gameday with the grandest gesture it could make.

College Gameday live from Pullman was a smashing success too. ESPN made it all about Washington State and its fans. There was a video montage of everyone that had ever taken Ol’ Crimson to a Gameday location. They all discussed what being a part of that fraternity meant to them. Tom Rinaldi put together a story about Tom Pounds, the Wazzu fan that started the Ol’ Crimson tradition. Cougars legend Drew Bledsoe was the celebrity guest picker. Lee Corso picked Washington State to beat Oregon, and made Butch T. Cougar’s the 57th different mascot head he has ever worn.

Image result for gameday washington state

And boy oh boy, did Washington State pay ESPN back ten fold!

The crowd was the loudest I can ever remember for College Gameday! They broke out into rousing sing-along’s of Andy Grammer’s “Back Home,” which apparently is a part of Pullman’s own game day tradition. ESPN highlighted multiple fans that came from across the country to be there just for them, including one recently discharged Marine that began plotting the cross-country drive from Virginia Beach to Pullman moments after College Gameday’s visit was announced.

Kirk Herbstreit, who has been the face of the show for nearly 23 years, called Pullman “one of the best environments we’ve ever seen.” Reece Davis, who has hosted College Gameday since 2015, called this past weekend’s show “the best I’ve been a part of.”

The lesson here is to take care of the people that made your show and station what it has become. Maybe you will never be able to do something as grand as Gameday did on Saturday, and that’s okay. Responding to questions and comments on social media goes a long way. Shaking hands and posing for photos at remotes can be more than listeners anticipate sometimes. We may not feel like celebrities, but that is how our listeners think of us sometimes, and when it comes to each other, the fact that they share a common interest in our stations and shows makes them feel like a community.

Treating your audience with respect and letting them know just how important they are to your success is community outreach. That is what ESPN was doing on Saturday. You should do it too as often as possible. And when the opportunity presents itself, make it as big of an event as you can.

That is what Carl Dukes and Mike Bell did when Oconee Brewing Company told the Atlanta sports radio hosts that they wanted to brew and sell the show’s official beer. The duo took to the airwaves on 92.9 the Game and told their listeners that this wasn’t just about Dukes & Bell getting an official show beer. It wasn’t for them. It was for us!

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Dukes & Bell asked listeners what the beer should be named. They asked what should be on the can. They updated listeners on what the beer would taste like. The result, Dukes & Bell’s Hey Man Blonde Ale, flies off store shelves in Atlanta.

When the show is on location, sharing a Hey Man with the hosts is a must-do for loyal listeners. It’s not just a good beer, it is also a membership card in their not-so-exclusive club. That’s because the hosts and the station took this cool idea that could have been all about themselves and made it about their listeners.

Talking about sports is the best job in the world. The fact we get paid to do it is downright amazing, and that is only possible when we create a passionate following.

It’s why when Gameday ended with Bledsoe thanking the entire cast and crew for making the trip to Pullman, the very next thing ESPN showed were cheerleaders at Ole Miss waving a smaller version of Ol’ Crimson. Adam Amin, who was calling the Rebels’ game against Auburn, started that broadcast by welcoming Pullman to the club of college towns that had hosted College Gameday. He and ESPN understood that no matter how thankful Pullman and Washington State fans were to finally host their own edition of College Gameday, the broadcast itself was only a success because of the passion those fans displayed not just that day, but for the many years prior.

Ol' Crimson Came Home

If you’re a host or producer, be available on social media. If you’re a PD, plan big events. If you’re an AE or GSM, look for those major branding opportunities and partnerships that will turn heads and make listeners feel like they are part of a cool, exclusive club.

Say thank you as often as you can, however you can. When you get the chance, say it in the biggest and loudest way possible. The audience tells us everyday how much we mean to them. You have to make it clear that they will never know how much they mean to us.

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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