Where do you come down on the holiday decorations debate? Are you someone that is all for stores and maybe even a few houses in the neighborhood throwing lights and wreaths up the day after Halloween? Are you someone that believes Thanksgiving is its own holiday entirely and deserves its own celebration before we breakout the Christmas trees and menorahs?
It doesn’t really matter what your answer is. The Target around the corner from my house in North Carolina started assembling its Christmas aisle midway through September. My local mall (the nice one, not the scary one) had reindeer at its main entrance on October 20th and a sign saying Santa would be taking up residence in less than 30 days…as in BEFORE his traditional Black Friday arrival. Like it or not, the holiday season is here.
How do we celebrate the holidays on sports radio? It would be weird if a sports station hosted a holiday concert like the Jingle Bell Jam put on each year by Alpha Media’s KINK in Portland or the legendary Almost Acoustic Christmas sponsored by KROQ in Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything.
I am taking it upon myself, as Barrett Sports Media’s official czar of the holidays, a title I earned by being a voting member of my HOA’s Christmas lights contest committee, to give you some ideas to bring a little holiday spirit to your airwaves over the next two months. I have broken my ideas down into three categories.
1. LIVE EVENTS
So if not a concert, what kind of live events make sense for sports stations around the holidays? I thought of a couple that could become a great holiday tradition.
First, why not consider staging or sponsoring a comedy show every year in December? You could even build the event around someone like the Sklar Brothers or Sarah Tiana, both have decent followings and both are huge sports fans. They would be great for promoting the event as well as performing. It would be the perfect event to partner with a local club or charity on.
Next, call a memorabilia dealer. With enough planning, you could make a sports memorabilia and autograph show a major holiday tradition for your listeners. It is obviously perfectly branded for you.
These dealers want to get the biggest bang out of any event they are a part of, so you know they will have plenty jerseys and balls signed by members of local teams, and may have an inside line on getting some of those guys to come out and sign more stuff and pose for pictures. It could be a huge longterm win too. Imagine the market’s sports fans knowing they are going to shop for dad or grandpa every year at your station’s event!
Holiday contesting is a must in the music radio world. It translates perfectly to sports radio too. The 24 Days of Christmas promotion is perfect no matter the format. Pick one or all of your local shows to give something away once a day from December 1 through 24. You can do movie passes, restaurant gift cards, whatever. It doesn’t even have to be 24 of the same thing. You’ve got advertisers that would love to pony up a prize for something like this.
Another big one that works in every format is paying for someone’s holiday. You can do this a lot of different ways. You can partner with a local restaurant to give away a Christmas meal. You can work with a few sponsors to put together $500 to $1000 to pay towards one lucky winner’s credit card bill. If you have three sponsors on board, you can do a lot with everyone kicking in like $200.
One promotion that I don’t understand why more stations don’t do is give away Christmas trees. When I first started in radio in the late 90s, I was working on a Triple A station in Mobile, AL called 92 Zew. The first Christmas I was with the company our sales manager worked with a local car lot to purchase twenty $50 gift cards to a local Christmas tree lot. Everyday from the Monday after Thanksgiving through the first week of December we gave away two trees per day. I don’t remember taking less than 15 calls anytime it was my turn to give one away.
Years later I remember seeing that sales director at a bar when I was back in town and told him I thought it was the coolest idea he ever had. He told me that he received a letter from a woman that won a tree that year. She wrote that it would be the first Christmas in a long time that she could afford to have a tree and how thankful she was to the station. My understanding is that letter was framed and hung in the studio until the station was sold years later.
Ah charity! This is the category you have to pay attention to at the holidays for a few reasons. First, it is so easy to do something. So many organizations make it possible for you to participate. Next, it is expected of us. Our P1s are ready and willing to give to organizations with our stations’ seals of approval! And finally, the spirit is in the air. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is true. People want to do good for one another this time of year. Capitalize on that!
Let’s start with the ease. Think about all of the charities you can piggy back onto. Maybe each show could pull their one child or one family from a local mall’s angel tree and ask listeners to help fill their stockings. Any number of charities run their own Christmas tree lot. Can you do your afternoon or evening show live from one? Become a Salvation Army celebrity bell ringer.
Next, listener loyalty can make a world of difference. Think of all the different types of drives you could hold. Take a barrel with you on remotes or see if local teams will let you put it in the arena for a night. Shelters will always accept jackets, canned food, and hats and gloves. If you go a more unique route, you may find that you can make a bigger impact.
How many charities need blankets they can hand out to the along with a hot meal? Homeless shelters will always tell you they can never have enough socks and underwear. Asking your listeners to chip in something unique may do more good and it will certainly make your station and the goodwill it earns more memorable for listeners and non-listeners alike.
Finally, that goodwill is out there. Ask listeners to tell you about the family in their neighborhood who’s dad will be in Iraq for the holidays. Can you send out a street team to decorate the house for them? Ask listeners to tell you about the person at their church with a kid in the hospital. Can you put together a menagerie of stuffed animals or enough donations from listeners to buy the kid a Nintendo Switch and a few games to take their mind of the daily grind they have to go through?
All of this is not to say you shouldn’t add in on air elements to your plans. By all means, give “Baba O’Reilly” a rest and bump back with The Kinks’ “Father Christmas” for a few weeks. Get guests and local celebrities to record holiday greetings for your imaging. No one is saying that you need to roll out Christmas-themed liners tomorrow. It’s just that now is a good time to start planning (if you haven’t already) to make a big impact in December.
Christmas and Hanukkah are more than just holidays. They are part of our national pop culture. Don’t avoid them. Embrace them right along with bowl talk and debates about what is wrong with the Houston Rockets. I’m encouraging you to REALLY embrace the season and swing for the fences. This is a time of year where we don’t need singles and doubles. Make sure your promotions and street team efforts are going for grand slams with every merry idea!