Tue. Aug 21st, 2018

The Power of Teasing

The brand new trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” debuted during Monday Night Football this week. I pictured rabid fans grabbing their lightsabers and Stormtrooper gear in excitement. The over/under on Chewbacca impressions was 2.7 million as plenty of mega fans salivated in their living rooms during the newest sneak peak. As expected, the Star Wars 8 trailer didn’t disappoint.

There was a lot of anticipation to see the trailer because people are dorks. Just kidding. It’s because Star Wars is incredibly popular. As much as I loooove football, I’m not going to dress up as Ndamukong Suh in full uniform at a convention, but you’ll see folks decked out as Ewoks and Wookiees at large gatherings with no shame.

ESPN is very aware of this. Throughout Monday, they promoted the fact that the trailer would air at halftime of the Vikings-Bears game. They ran commercials for it. Play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough made promotional announcements during the game. ESPN even hyped up the trailer on its Bottom Line with text appearing across the screen.

There is a link between all of these things and sports talk radio. The Star Wars 8 trailer, and ESPN’s promotion of it, show how effective teases in sports talk radio can be when executed properly.

A tease is simply telling the audience what’s coming up next. Sometimes, it’s smart to reveal everything in teases. Other times, not so much. Let’s start with the occasions when revealing everything is wise. The way ESPN promoted the Star Wars trailer provided every detail. What will be shown? The Star Wars 8 trailer. When can it be seen? At halftime during the Monday night game. Boom. There it is. They laid out all of the details.

The same concept applies in sports talk radio when promoting a big-name guest. “In one hour, we’ll talk to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.” There’s no point in being vague while promoting a name that big. ESPN didn’t promote “an upcoming glimpse for a really well-known movie franchise.” They promoted a movie trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” At times, it’s smart to be very specific.

Now, for the trickier part — the latest Star Wars trailer didn’t reveal every detail about the movie. The goal for both movie trailers and sports talk teases is to peak the audience’s curiosity without revealing everything. Imagine if the Star Wars 8 movie trailer was like, “This dude dies, this girl is betrayed, and this character turns to the dark side.” That’s a bad tactic.

It kills me when sports talk hosts reveal everything in their teases. “Coming up, the Packers beat the Cowboys. We’ll talk about it.” I’d hate to see the movie trailer they’d put together with that lack of creativity. It’s called a tease for a reason — it is generally wise to leave a portion hidden. For instance, “The one NFL team that is hurting the league’s ratings above all others.” If I hear that, I’m thinking, “Well, who is it? Maybe it’s this team. Maybe that one. Hmm.” I need to hear the answer.

Something else to consider when teasing a topic — don’t tell the audience everything, but don’t be so vague that they know nothing. “Coming up next, a shirt, a toothbrush, and the New York Giants.” Huh? I’m not even interested because the tease is so random. Avoid being too vague.

At this point I’m probably starting to sound like Goldilocks: “This tease is too basic. This tease is too vague. This tease is just right!” Think of it this way — what would intrigue the audience to stick around and listen more? Better yet, what would intrigue you (the host) to stick around and listen if you were in the audience’s shoes? Be creative without being too revealing. That isn’t asking for the moon and stars.

It’s also important to follow through after utilizing a strong tease. Be a teaser and a pleaser. I’ll never forget something Rick Scott — a sports talk consultant, radio veteran, connoisseur of fine wines — once told me years ago. He worked with a radio station and conducted a focus group with listeners. He said there were many listeners that were “pissed” when a host delivered a good tease, but didn’t pay it off.

Imagine going to a movie after seeing an awesome trailer, and instead it turns out to be a completely different movie. How would you feel if you went to see Blade Runner 2049, but the theatre played the LEGO Ninjago Movie instead? No diss toward LEGO Ninjago (shout-out to my nephews), but you wouldn’t be pleased at all if you got something you weren’t expecting. It’s vital to pay teases off.

Some hosts resist teasing. They’re either too lazy or they think teasing is so commonplace that they’ll blend in with other talking heads. What if Star Wars 8 took the same approach? “Ehh, movie trailers have been done before. We don’t wanna blend in. Screw it. No trailer.” Do you think that would’ve been the better approach? Of course not. Teasing is a common practice for a reason — it works.

If you put together a good radio show or movie, it makes sense to promote it. Teases are the movie trailers of sports talk radio.

Have a positive outlook about using sports talk teases. Instead of seeing it as a burden or annoyance, think of it as a clever challenge and a ratings booster. If a host is creative enough to command a show, that host is creative enough to tease effectively. Put on your grown-up pants and crank out those teases. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” –Yoda

“Hhhrrrrraaaaarrrrr” –Chewbacca (co-signing Yoda’s wise words)

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