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Every Station Needs A Utility Player Like Chad Brillante

“It’s really hard to balance it. Frankly, I run out of time each and every day.”

Tyler McComas

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The definition of a utility player is “a player on a team who has the ability to play in several different positions, and often plays in different positions for their club.”

David Eckstein, Jose Oquendo, and currently Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals are just a few great utility players the game of baseball has seen. Most successful teams, even in today’s game, seem to have at least one guy that can fill any role the team needs, no matter the situation. That’s a dream come true for a manager come crunch time. 

But what’s the equivalent of a utility player in sports radio? Does it exist? If there’s such a thing as one, it just may be Chad Brillante of ESPN Pensacola.

Image result for chad brillante espn pensacola

If ESPN Pensacola was a baseball team, Brillante would essentially be the manager, shortstop, four-hole hitter and probably even the general manager. From being the sports director, to hosting a show heard and seen in four states, to even selling for the station, there’s nothing he can’t and won’t do.  

“Right now I’m doing a ton of the shows and a lot of work,” said Brillante. “I host in the afternoon with a former NFL coach, Kay Stevenson, who coached the Buffalo Bills. I also host a bunch of college shows from 1-2 p.m. because our market is pretty college football oriented with Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida and Florida State. “

Being a host and putting out a quality product every day is enough of a task, but when you combine everything Brillante does for ESPN Pensacola, you gain an understanding of just how important making the most of your time actually is. Instead of having the luxury to spend all morning doing show prep, he may be having breakfast with a client. Instead of getting audio clips ready in the afternoon, he may be attending multiple station meetings that are critical during the infancy of a new station.

So how does one split their time when they’re playing the ultimate utility player role for a station and still need to prep for a show in the afternoon?

“The one thing I do know is that I was blessed with a photographic memory,” said Brillante. “I was the guy in college, where if it was a three-month report, would study two days before, scan the book and be able to get an A on it. Tonight we’re at the Pensacola Interstate Fair in front of about 8000 people and I’ll be able to do a whole show without one single note in front of me. I’ll be able to talk about the starters in the World Series, what Gerrit Cole’s ERA is, I’ll even be able to break down last night’s Monday Night Football game, how many yards Tom Brady had and other fun categories. 

“It’s really hard to balance it. Frankly, I run out of time each and every day. At the beginning of a station, because the new ESPN has been up for about a year and a half, there’s a lot of stuff. There’s a ton of moving pieces each and every day. I just try to stay positive and do as much as I can.”

Granted, Brillante isn’t selling as much as he did at his previous station, but he’s still active in helping to bring in money. Before his current stop, Brillante was billing around $15,000 a month and working off straight commission. He wasn’t even being paid as a host for the station. After shows he would grab a drink and hangout with the local car dealers or other business owners in town. That’s the way he did business. Brillante was going to befriend you and you were going to like him right back. He did everything a salesman and a host in a small market has to do to live a comfortable life. 

He must have been super successful at it, because when he accepted his new position at ESPN Pensacola, every single one his clients followed him to his new station. 

“Every one of them,” said Brillante. “That showed a lot to me. I’ve always just been a guy where, whether we’re talking on air or for an article, or even grabbing a beer and talking at the bar is just as important to me as being on air. I’m the same person on and off the air.”

An extremely valuable asset to any station would be an on-air host that has the skills to sell in a creative manner. Amongst other things, that’s what Brillante brings to the table when approaching a potential client. He’s not going to just try and persuade someone to buy a remote for his show, he’s going to creatively use your business to help create content. 

“We have a pest control shop in town and I created a segment that’s called What’s Bugging You Out in Sports,” said Brillante. “Since we’re also on TV you have a flyswatter coming by and will smack a fly against the screen. Instead of walking into that pest control shop and saying, hey, here’s your spot rates, I create that idea for them and say, you know what, what is a budget of $750 a month look like? Stuff like that. And then they’re sold on it. 

“With ABC liquors we did a ‘Tackling Your Tailgate Mixology Report.’ So if like LSU and Alabama play, we’ll make a purple and gold concoction versus like Rammer Jammer Slammers or something with like Fireball shots and all, we’ll have taste testers such as some pro athletes that come on the show. Derrick Brooks, Emmett Smith, Bubba Watson they’re all down here and come on the show. What we’ll do is we’ll have them on the show and they’ll try these different concoctions and weigh in on them and we’ll decide who the winner is. But that’s how I normally sell places like that.”

ESPN Pensacola is about to get a whole lot more aggressive with social media. Brillante has taken it upon himself to make sure the station is where it needs to be to help grow the audience. But the station is working with a lot of advantages. Along with a signal that’s the largest in the southeast and can be heard in four states on WEBY, the show is also on simulcast from New Orleans to Panama City from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on television. The show is then replayed from midnight to 2:00 a.m. on a local TV network. All in all, there’s reason to believe ESPN Pensacola can become a mainstay in northwest Florida. 

If that happens, many people will get credit, but there won’t be anyone more deserving than Brillante and his efforts to help make the station a success. The former UCF baseball player has turned into the ultimate utility player. 

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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