On Sunday morning I awoke to a flurry of messages on my phone and social media. They were all related to Holly Holm knocking out Ronda Rousey and pulling off the biggest upset in UFC history on Saturday night.
I don’t care if you love Ronda, or wish harm to her inside the Octagon, the reality is that unless you’re related to Holly Holm, you watched that fight on Saturday (and every other fight she’s been involved in) because you were attracted to her era of invincibility.
The public is drawn to greatness. Perfection in sports gives us fuel for bigger conversations. Whether it was the undefeated New England Patriots in 2007, Mike Tyson, the Michael Jordan led Bulls teams of the 90’s, or Floyd “Money” Mayweather, when the best are on display, we become attached to the story and compare it to the historical performances of others.
After the fight, athletes, media people, and celebrities weighed in on what had just taken place. Two responses in particular drew even larger attention – a post from Lady Gaga on Instagram, and a tweet by Donald Trump on Twitter.
For the next 24 hours I watched as people continued to celebrate Ronda’s loss and vent their displeasure with her style. As they did so it hit me – Ronda may have lost the physical battle in that cage on Saturday night, but the power of her brand actually grew from this defeat.
Until she steps in that cage again, everything is going to revolve around “how could this happen to the unstoppable Ronda Rousey”. Only she can answer that lingering question, and when she finally does, it’s going to result in a record payday for her, and more pay per view buys and media coverage than any fight in UFC history.
As a personality, you’re tasked each day with finding a way to connect with the audience. How you do it isn’t as important as getting them interested. There are numerous entertainment options available to people, and it takes tremendous skill and intelligence to launch, develop, and preserve a powerful brand. Each decision you make becomes part of your identity, and your audience forms many of their opinions based on your choices.
In Ronda’s case, she created a mystique that divided the audience. Her fans see her as a ruthless badass with an “I don’t give a damn” attitude (which they love). Her critics meanwhile see her as a bully and a trash talker, and someone who doesn’t display class towards her opponents. In both instances, the audience is emotionally invested in her character.
If you work in sports media as an on-air personality, the goal should be to be relevant, interesting, and important to the audience. Being liked or disliked isn’t as imperative. The strongest personalities in this industry are prepared, highly opinionated, inquisitive, unique, and unflappable, and they carry this larger than life presence with them that results in attracting legions of fans and haters.
When you create a brand that matters, the audience will eat out of the palm of your hand whether they want to or not. To stir human emotion and make a person to think requires great skill, and those who possess it, often generate big ratings, and laugh all the way to the bank.
Remember, the same people who made plans to stay up late on a Saturday night to watch Ronda fight, are the same people driving to and from work Monday through Friday. They’ll also be the same people buying the rematch between Ronda and Holly and reliving every single emotion they just experienced this past weekend.
People are drawn in by greatness, confidence, drama, unpredictability, competition, and mystique. Whether it’s sports, radio, movies, concerts, or any other form of entertainment, people are drawn to these characteristics. Does your show provide them on a consistent basis? If it doesn’t, how do you plan to change it?
In terms of wins and losses, Ronda Rousey was a loser on Saturday night. But any individual who has the power to generate that type of connection to an audience, is a huge winner in my book. In fact, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. I’m sure Dana White agrees.
Crunching The Numbers:
101 ESPN in St. Louis turned in an impressive October book, the station’s first with Bernie Miklasz in morning drive. The station produced a 7.9 with Men 25-54 which was 2 points higher than its September book, and good enough for 3rd place. Even more impressive was the station finishing ahead of the market’s dominant News/Talk brand KMOX, which carried St. Louis Cardinals games during the month.
Under The Radar:
Damon Bruce had his contract renewed for another two years at 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. The afternoon talk show host will be with the radio station into the early part of 2018. Congrats to Damon and the radio station.
Chris Hoffman has been hired by Cumulus Salt Lake City to program AC station B98.7. Additionally he’s been named Operations Manager inside the cluster and one of his responsibilities will be overseeing Salt Lake sports station 1320 The Fan.
ESPN’s 30 For 30 “Chasing Tyson” was the #1 rated sports program last Tuesday night. The show delivered a 0.6 and 1.203 million viewers among the 18-49 demographic, beating the World Series of Poker Final which produced a 0.4 and drew 1.147 million, and the College Football Rankings Show which turned in a 0.4 and 1.097 million.