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NBA Free Agency Provides 4 Valuable Lessons For Brands

“This column isn’t about my deflated enthusiasm towards the New York Knicks. It’s about 4 key lessons for sports media brands tied to NBA free agency.”

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Those who know me well are familiar with my lifelong frustration of being a New York Knicks fan. Each year the hype train comes to town promising big things for the future, only to deliver disappointment when fans ask for the payoff. Those wearing New York Knicks underoos will make excuses and continue holding on to hope, but those with a strong understanding of the franchise’s failures know how this story ends.

In the the span of one off-season, the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis and Julius Randle yet feel much closer to being a playoff team. The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Indiana Pacers all lost key players yet made moves to stay in contention atop the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors all were aggressive making moves to try and chase future championships. The Knicks meanwhile sell their fans on a rebuilding project once again.

But this column isn’t about my deflated enthusiasm towards the Knicks’ organization. It’s about four key lessons for sports media brands which just happen to connect to things we’ve learned in the past few days involving NBA free agency.

#1 – Substance Over Hype – How many times do you turn on a radio station and hear them touting their ‘best coverage’ yet it leaves little to be desired? How can you actually prove your brand has the best coverage anyway? If you have big guests and your competitor has the actual games, do you really have the best coverage? If the roles are reversed there’s an argument there too.

Maybe your radio station is promising a big announcement later in the day and is trying to get the audience excited about. What makes the payoff significant to the audience and not just those working inside the radio station? As someone who’s used announcements to drive quarter hour listening in the past, there’s a big difference between adding a game changer to the product and a solid weekly guest who people won’t go out of their way to listen to.

While it’s important to highlight our brand’s coverage and promote good content from people the audience is aware of, it’s not a smart decision to make it sound bigger than it actually is. You can actually piss off the audience and lose their trust if they feel underwhelmed.

#2 – Know When To Stay Silent – If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t brag about what you’re going to do and then issue excuses when you come up short. A perfect example of this is the Knicks’ response to not signing Kyrie or Durant.

The brands that perform best are the ones that do their work in the background and then speak when there’s something to discuss. It’s one thing to build interest in your talent, content, promotions, etc. but the more you talk, the more likely you are to have to explain something later, and the media loves to bury those who portray themselves and their brands in a cocky way.

This also applies to how you manage your talent. If you’re the type of executive who thinks he’s going to ‘coach up’ every single personality, including your brand’s all-stars, be prepared for them to vacate when other options are on the table. Micromanaging is a recipe for disaster. You have to learn who you can trust to deliver results, give them the tools they need to succeed, and then get out of the way. If you can’t, word will spread on your inability to manage big stars, and that will keep other big stars away.

#3 – It’s All About The Talent – This is the most important of all. Whether it’s the NBA, the NFL or Sports Radio or Television, you win and lose with talent. Without difference makers on the court, field or airwaves, you won’t excel. It’s that simple. There are many routes to go to introduce prospects but without proven performers you won’t maximize your business.

Whether you like it or not, we operate in a win-now world. Advertisers want immediate results. So too does your company. The members in your building expect the same. Depending on where your brand is in its development, sometimes you’ll receive a longer leash, but most groups are not going to give you 3-5 years to create a masterpiece.

Though the programmer or market manager may understand this, companies need to recognize it too. People are attracted to people who they consider larger than life. A brand must have big personalities who attract love, hate, and everything in between. It’s not as much about the content as it is who’s selling it. If you put players on the air who people care enough to seek out, you’ll have a ratings and revenue story to sell.

#4 – Have a Plan But Know When To Change It – What you decide today might make sense for tomorrow, but if tomorrow presents an unexpected opportunity that requires skipping a step, then you’ve got to be ready to adjust. The goal is to win. Those who do it often have their eye on the now and the future. The goal should remain the same, but smart leaders understand that it doesn’t pay to be unwilling to change. Don’t worry about whether or not your plan had to be scrapped to win. The winning itself will be what people remember about your leadership.

This also can be tied to the success of a daily talk show. For example, are you married to your rundown or changing on the fly when things don’t hit the mark? Are you booking guests and keeping them on for the entire segment because it said :02-:13 on your sheet, or are you cutting it short or extending it based on the flow of the conversation and importance of content? Is your show relying on the same drops, music beds, seasonal guests, topics, and reference points or actively looking for ways to freshen the presentation?

Mike Tyson once said ‘everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.’ The same holds true on a sports media program. Whether it’s due to breaking news, people lacking interest, hosts not selling content in a powerful and unique way, or something else happening organically that provides a better content experience, the best results come from good planning and better adjusting.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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14 Participants Announced For The 2022 BSM Summit

“The industry is rapidly evolving, so as a professional, it’s vital to learn new skills, build relationships, discover what clients want in order to generate more revenue, understand audience behavior, and pick the brains of your peers to create new ideas.”

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To most people, six months is far enough away to not think much about it. But when you’re building a conference, it feels way too close to get everything done in time that’s required to execute a high caliber event.

By now you’ve likely heard that the 2022 BSM Summit is returning to New York City on March 2-3, 2022. I shared that news on July 19th, but didn’t provide many details other than the date and venue (Anne Bernstein Theater). Tickets weren’t even put on sale because I wanted to make sure a few other items were nailed down first before we started accepting payments.

Before I discuss some of those details, I want to remind folks that for the first time ever, the Summit will be available to attend both in-person and virtually. A big thanks to Nuvoodoo for partnering with us to make the Summit available online. If you’ve been to this event before, then you know the live experience is extremely valuable. That said, due to the ongoing issues in our country with Covid-19, some may prefer not to travel and watch it online instead. We’ve gone to great lengths to make this valuable for industry professionals, including pricing tickets differently on BSMSummit.com to account for the live vs. online advantages. If you’re planning to attend, you can now purchase tickets on the website.

As far as other key items are concerned, finding the right hotel partner was important. I’m pleased to share that Hotel Edison will serve as the official hotel of the 2022 BSM Summit. I know that keeping travel costs low is vital yet industry professionals also want to stay in a nice location close to the event. I think we’ve pulled that off again. Hotel Edison is only a 3-block walk to the Anne Bernstein Theater and they’ve provided an excellent rate for attendees. Rooms will go fast though, so click here to reserve your room asap to avoid missing out.

The next part of this process involved gathering sponsors. As an independent operator who focuses more on content and consulting than sales, this part isn’t always easy. I don’t have a sales team working for me nor do I have 40-hours a week to focus solely on Summit sponsors. Fortunately, I’ve built a few great partnerships over the years, so I’d like to thank ESPN Radio, Compass Media Networks, and Stone Voiceovers for offering their support once again. I know other clients will return too, but there are many other broadcasting companies and businesses with products targeted to industry professionals who haven’t been part of this event before. So here’s an opportunity to change that. Check out our Advertising page, and if you see something that appeals to your group, get in touch so we can discuss how we might be able to work together. Your support allows us to continue doing this event for the industry.

Now that we’ve taken care of the business, let’s talk about the thing that everyone cares about most, the speakers. I usually start off by announcing some of the high profile personalities who will be part of the show. This year though, I’m going to start by focusing on some of the top programming minds in the industry. It’s an honor once again to welcome Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan, Premiere Radio Networks SVP of Sports Don Martin, Westwood One and Cumulus Media SVP of Sports Bruce Gilbert, SiriusXM SVP of Sports Steve Cohen, Audacy New York Market Manager Chris Oliviero, former WFAN Program Director Mark Chernoff, current WFAN Program Director Spike Eskin, 670 The Score and 1250 The Fan Program Director Mitch Rosen, and Hubbard’s Director of Digital Content Phil Mackey to the BSM Summit.

As great as it is to have those nine gentlemen part of the event, I’m equally excited to welcome a few new faces. Joining us for the first time will be Blue Wire Podcasts CEO Kevin Jones, The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim, Nuvoodoo Media’s CEO Carolyn Gilbert and EVP of Research Analysis Leigh Jacobs, and WFNZ Program Director and the creator of 92.9 The Game in Atlanta and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Terry Foxx.

If you’ve followed how we promote this event over the years, you know that I don’t share all the details at once. The credentials of these fourteen individuals are well documented, and having them involved is important to me. By the time March rolls around though, we’ll add 30-40 others with similar qualifications. I won’t tell you who else has committed to join us for the show, but there’s some serious firepower to be announced in the coming weeks and months. I’m especially excited to spend time on stage with one well respected executive during one of the Summit’s featured sessions.

What I value most about the Summit is that it brings the industry together and allows us to examine many different layers of the industry over a sixteen hour period with a lot of smart and successful people. In doing so, folks are able to return home with valuable knowledge and action steps to help themselves and their brands. This conference started with a focus on radio but has since expanded to cover podcasting, social media, sports betting, marketing, video, print, etc.. The industry is rapidly evolving, so as a professional, it’s vital to learn new skills, build relationships, discover what clients want in order to generate more revenue, understand audience behavior, and pick the brains of your peers to create new ideas. The more informed you are, the better your chances of being successful, and the education provided at the BSM Summit will absolutely help you grow as a professional.

Look for our next announcement early next week. There’s a lot to dive into in New York and I’m eager to spend time with the industry’s best and brightest, as we work on making 2022 a huge bounce back year for the sports media business.

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