Where do you come down on the holiday decorations debate? Are you someone that is all for stores and maybe even a few houses in the neighborhood throwing lights and wreaths up the day after Halloween? Are you someone that believes Thanksgiving is its own holiday entirely and deserves its own celebration before we breakout the Christmas trees and menorahs?
It doesn’t really matter what your answer is. The Target around the corner from my house in North Carolina started assembling its Christmas aisle midway through September. My local mall (the nice one, not the scary one) had reindeer at its main entrance on October 20th and a sign saying Santa would be taking up residence in less than 30 days…as in BEFORE his traditional Black Friday arrival. Like it or not, the holiday season is here.
How do we celebrate the holidays on sports radio? It would be weird if a sports station hosted a holiday concert like the Jingle Bell Jam put on each year by Alpha Media’s KINK in Portland or the legendary Almost Acoustic Christmas sponsored by KROQ in Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything.
I am taking it upon myself, as Barrett Sports Media’s official czar of the holidays, a title I earned by being a voting member of my HOA’s Christmas lights contest committee, to give you some ideas to bring a little holiday spirit to your airwaves over the next two months. I have broken my ideas down into three categories.
1. LIVE EVENTS
So if not a concert, what kind of live events make sense for sports stations around the holidays? I thought of a couple that could become a great holiday tradition.
First, why not consider staging or sponsoring a comedy show every year in December? You could even build the event around someone like the Sklar Brothers or Sarah Tiana, both have decent followings and both are huge sports fans. They would be great for promoting the event as well as performing. It would be the perfect event to partner with a local club or charity on.
Next, call a memorabilia dealer. With enough planning, you could make a sports memorabilia and autograph show a major holiday tradition for your listeners. It is obviously perfectly branded for you.
These dealers want to get the biggest bang out of any event they are a part of, so you know they will have plenty jerseys and balls signed by members of local teams, and may have an inside line on getting some of those guys to come out and sign more stuff and pose for pictures. It could be a huge longterm win too. Imagine the market’s sports fans knowing they are going to shop for dad or grandpa every year at your station’s event!
Holiday contesting is a must in the music radio world. It translates perfectly to sports radio too. The 24 Days of Christmas promotion is perfect no matter the format. Pick one or all of your local shows to give something away once a day from December 1 through 24. You can do movie passes, restaurant gift cards, whatever. It doesn’t even have to be 24 of the same thing. You’ve got advertisers that would love to pony up a prize for something like this.
Another big one that works in every format is paying for someone’s holiday. You can do this a lot of different ways. You can partner with a local restaurant to give away a Christmas meal. You can work with a few sponsors to put together $500 to $1000 to pay towards one lucky winner’s credit card bill. If you have three sponsors on board, you can do a lot with everyone kicking in like $200.
One promotion that I don’t understand why more stations don’t do is give away Christmas trees. When I first started in radio in the late 90s, I was working on a Triple A station in Mobile, AL called 92 Zew. The first Christmas I was with the company our sales manager worked with a local car lot to purchase twenty $50 gift cards to a local Christmas tree lot. Everyday from the Monday after Thanksgiving through the first week of December we gave away two trees per day. I don’t remember taking less than 15 calls anytime it was my turn to give one away.
Years later I remember seeing that sales director at a bar when I was back in town and told him I thought it was the coolest idea he ever had. He told me that he received a letter from a woman that won a tree that year. She wrote that it would be the first Christmas in a long time that she could afford to have a tree and how thankful she was to the station. My understanding is that letter was framed and hung in the studio until the station was sold years later.
Ah charity! This is the category you have to pay attention to at the holidays for a few reasons. First, it is so easy to do something. So many organizations make it possible for you to participate. Next, it is expected of us. Our P1s are ready and willing to give to organizations with our stations’ seals of approval! And finally, the spirit is in the air. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is true. People want to do good for one another this time of year. Capitalize on that!
Let’s start with the ease. Think about all of the charities you can piggy back onto. Maybe each show could pull their one child or one family from a local mall’s angel tree and ask listeners to help fill their stockings. Any number of charities run their own Christmas tree lot. Can you do your afternoon or evening show live from one? Become a Salvation Army celebrity bell ringer.
Next, listener loyalty can make a world of difference. Think of all the different types of drives you could hold. Take a barrel with you on remotes or see if local teams will let you put it in the arena for a night. Shelters will always accept jackets, canned food, and hats and gloves. If you go a more unique route, you may find that you can make a bigger impact.
How many charities need blankets they can hand out to the along with a hot meal? Homeless shelters will always tell you they can never have enough socks and underwear. Asking your listeners to chip in something unique may do more good and it will certainly make your station and the goodwill it earns more memorable for listeners and non-listeners alike.
Finally, that goodwill is out there. Ask listeners to tell you about the family in their neighborhood who’s dad will be in Iraq for the holidays. Can you send out a street team to decorate the house for them? Ask listeners to tell you about the person at their church with a kid in the hospital. Can you put together a menagerie of stuffed animals or enough donations from listeners to buy the kid a Nintendo Switch and a few games to take their mind of the daily grind they have to go through?
All of this is not to say you shouldn’t add in on air elements to your plans. By all means, give “Baba O’Reilly” a rest and bump back with The Kinks’ “Father Christmas” for a few weeks. Get guests and local celebrities to record holiday greetings for your imaging. No one is saying that you need to roll out Christmas-themed liners tomorrow. It’s just that now is a good time to start planning (if you haven’t already) to make a big impact in December.
Christmas and Hanukkah are more than just holidays. They are part of our national pop culture. Don’t avoid them. Embrace them right along with bowl talk and debates about what is wrong with the Houston Rockets. I’m encouraging you to REALLY embrace the season and swing for the fences. This is a time of year where we don’t need singles and doubles. Make sure your promotions and street team efforts are going for grand slams with every merry idea!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.