I am one of the lucky ones. At a young age, I would take my Fisher-Price recorder and tape St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, sit in my bed and listen back to them. That’s when I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting. More specifically, in radio.
I started at 19. I interned. I ran the board. I produced. I did updates. I did high school and college play by play. I did a morning sports show. I’ve been a PD. I’ve been a GM. I’ve been a Regional GM. I’ve been a Market Manager. I’ve been in an ownership group. Currently, I am heading up sports sales as a GSM for Entercom in Kansas City.
I have an incredible passion for radio (my wife refers to it as a sickness!). It’s what I do and it’s all I know. And I love it. I love it today more than ever, now that the focus is more on targeting an audience (which sports radio has been doing for 30 years) and integrating our core product with digital and what can really set you apart – events. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d be at the station the next day. I’d be late, but I’d be there.
I hope to bring that same passion to this column each week and maybe even throw out a good idea or two along the way. I also want to feature top sellers and managers in the format, so if you know of someone that should be featured, please reach out to me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mostly, I will just be sharing tales from a twenty-three year journey that is only just beginning. Like this one…
I was having a conversation with a General Sales Manager of our News-Talk stations the other day. It was after-hours, just a couple of GSM’s chatting about this and that.
Somehow, the topic of hiring new Account Executives turned to selling ideas and integrating sales in with programming. Being in a cluster of 8 stations, 4 spoken-word and 4 music, we were going through some of the stations and thinking of the features and sponsorships that could be sold. When the conversation ended, we both realized just how fortunate we feel to be selling spoken word radio.
For me, specifically, sports radio – or as I like to call it: “The NASCAR of radio formats,” because everything is for sale, and it’s the most sales friendly format out there.
If done correctly, sports radio sales should be about the passion for sports, the teams, the players, the fans…whatever the client is passionate about. And there’s a good chance that most clients or prospects will be passionate about something in the world of sports. Dig for that passion and find a way to make it part of the idea/solution you present, and your chances of closing a deal go up exponentially.
I was GM for Flinn Broadcasting’s WHBQ in Memphis back in the early 2000’s when this first worked like a charm for me. I walked in to a business, and on the wall was a large mural with Bear Bryant all over it. And when I say this was a large mural, it was huge.
The client and I talked SEC football (I mainly listened) for an hour and I sold him a package to be a sponsor of the Memphis Grizzlies broadcast, which we had spent approximately 45 seconds discussing. I told the client that we were running an SEC football report (something that came down from a network), and that if he bought the Grizzlies sponsorship, I would make him the sponsor of the SEC football report AND make sure the Alabama report was always first (little did he know the reports went in alphabetical order).
The lesson for me was that once I discovered his passion for the Crimson Tide, when the mural darn near smacked me in the face, my strategy completely changed. I went in and got him going on SEC football and found a way to tie his love in and closed a deal.
This can be done in sports radio easier than in any other format. Not every client or prospect is going to be as open about their passion as Bear Bryant’s biggest fan in Memphis, but sports is such a universal language that it is a great topic to try and connect with the person across from you.
Sports radio (and news-talk to a lesser degree) allows you the flexibility to make these “passion plays.” It allows you to create a piece of content or a feature to tie in with an advertiser’s interests or tag line or overall ad strategy. The format lends itself to being creative to create revenue – which is why I feel most fortunate to be selling it.