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Knowing Your Business, Yourself and Your Purpose

Jason Barrett

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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity took place last week in France and it provided a star studded guest list of some of the world’s best and brightest minds in the entertainment business. For media professionals seeking wisdom, advice, and information on content creation, brand development, audience engagement, and connection strategies, this week long event offered a lot to sink your teeth into.

Although a trip to France remains on my bucket list of future adventures to enjoy, this was one trip I wasn’t able to make. But thanks to the power of technology, I was able to watch a number of different speaker sessions and read a lot of articles to get a full understanding of the key takeaways.

Two sessions in particular stood out to me. The first one involved movie star Will Smith.

When you think of the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, you likely identify him as a successful actor. Others may recognize him as a rapper or musician due to his success on the charts with the songs “Men in Black”, “Getting Jiggy with It” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand” just to name a few. But few would label him as a marketer. Yet that’s exactly how he identifies himself.

During his session in Cannes, the Hollywood star explained how the movie industry was affected by the explosion of social media. He shared stories of what he discovered about himself that required fixing before he could become the superstar that he is today, and offered advice to individuals and brands on how they can better connect with their audiences.

“There was a bit of a lag, a slump in my career—around the Wild Wild West time—where I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win, versus promoting something because I believed it was helpful,” Smith said. “I had so much success that I started to taste global blood. My focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win. I wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world.”

His passion to win blinded him when identifying projects that would fit his brand. Instead of seeking out projects with a deeper meaning and concentrating on creating powerful content, Smith got caught up in the hype for each project and allowed the lure of fortune and fame to influence his decision making.

It didn’t take long to realize that a bad film doesn’t do much for a talented actor. In fact, it can permanently damage their brand. As consumers began to gain power in the way they communicated through social media, Smith knew he had to make changes and find a stronger connection to the work he was doing. If he wanted to reach people and have them care about the projects he was involved in, he had to become more selective and discover what truly mattered to him.

“In the 80’s and 90’s you’d have a piece of crap movie and you’d put out more trailers with all of these explosions and it was Wednesday before people knew your movie was shit” said Smith. “Now today, it’s 10 minutes into the movie before people are tweeting ‘Hey, this movie is shit, don’t see it. Will’s movie is shit, go see Vin Diesel’.”

The audience’s growing influence led to a permanent shift in Smith’s mindset. He challenged himself to figure out what his brand stood for and started asking questions to determine whether or not a project was the right fit. Making those adjustments helped steer Smith towards films with deeper meanings and helped him better understand how the audience perceived him and what he needed to provide in order to satisfy their needs.

“When I read a movie script, it’s not, ‘Is this going to make a lot of money?’. I’m asking myself, ‘How does this improve lives?’ It doesn’t have to be deep. If it’s just comedy and people come to get a laugh, it improves lives” explained Smith. “In making the shift from product to people, I am trusting that if I have a deeper comprehension of people, the product I create is going to be more successful. Smoke and mirrors marketing is over. People are going to know really quickly, and they’re going to know globally, whether your product is keeping its promises.”

By placing a stronger emphasis on the way his films improve lives, identifying projects that align with his brand, and valuing the opinion and connection to his audience, Smith has found a formula that’s catapulted him to the top of the entertainment industry. His films “Seven Pounds”, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, “I Am Legend” and the “Men In Black” series have all performed strongly at the box office, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6e8kXLjtoM

The second session which caught my attention featured Stephanie McMahon and John Cena from the WWE. Given that I enjoy professional wrestling I’m more likely to be enamored by their commentaries than some others who don’t enjoy the WWE product, but it was their views on content, strategy, and connecting with the audience which drew me in.

When you think of the professional wrestling business, you don’t necessarily consider it to be similar to the sports radio/television industry. Many would say they’re worlds apart but when you cut to their core, they both focus on selling content, personalities, and brand associations, and developing loyal and passionate connections with an audience.

Stephanie began her session by pointing out how astute the audience is and why campaigns miss the mark. She pointed out how many brands attempt to push unwanted messaging on to their fans and it’s rejected because it lacks a connection to the product they’re consuming. She said the key to making a campaign work requires going the extra mile to create customized content so that it integrates in a way that is entertaining to the viewer yet still relates to the brand.

Social media was another area of focus. McMahon believes that brands must engage with their fan base, not just push messaging out to them. Failing to engage, poll and acknowledge feedback can result in a brand losing its most loyal consumers. To help people better understand the WWE’s strategy, she hammered home three critical points. Every sports radio and television company should take notice of these.

  1. It Starts with the Content
  2. Have a Strong Content Ecosystem Strategy
  3. Make Sure Your Brand Has a Purpose and Value

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvYxsuQmRnw

To wrap up the WWE session, John Cena talked about his five point plan. In my opinion, this was one of the highlights of the entire presentation. It’s something that every single sports media personality, program director, and corporate executive should be able to relate to.

If you watch WWE programming, you’re aware that John Cena is one of the company’s top superstars. To compare his role to the sports media industry, he’d be the star talk show host or anchor on a popular radio station or TV program. He’s been the face of the WWE franchise for 15 years and his success has enabled him to make a strong transition into appearing in movies and on television. In fact, this July he’ll become the first pro wrestler to ever host the ESPYS.

While many hosts isolate themselves from the rest of their company’s business, Cena takes the opposite approach in his line of work. He’s aware of how the company is performing in the business world, what the expectations of the audience are, and how his personal brand fits with each storyline. He takes an interest in the ratings for each television show and familiarizes himself with the audience’s viewing patterns. He also serves as a goodwill ambassador for the company using his profile and platform to benefit charities and make a difference in people’s lives. In doing so, it brings the company a ton of mainstream media coverage but further demonstrates what type of person he is outside the ring.

Cena certainly has his fun inside the squared circle but outside of it he’s very much a businessman. He’s even gone as far as pushing for the company to expand into new territories. Recently he pushed the WWE to take a stronger look at expanding into China. After announcing that they would pursue the opportunity, Cena demonstrated how important of a move it was by learning and speaking mandarin at the company’s introductory press conference with the Chinese media. It’s that type of commitment and understanding of his business that has elevated him to the top in his profession.

Here are the five areas of focus in John Cena’s five point plan.

  1. Know Your Business
  2. Know Yourself
  3. Know Your Audience
  4. Never Be Afraid To Ask Questions
  5. Love What You Do

After listening to Will Smith, John Cena, and Stephanie McMahon talk about their careers, brands, and formulas for success, I understood why each of them have taken the elevator to the top of their professions. They are more than just entertainers. They are business people. They’ve been blessed with a gift to entertain, and they maximize those talents, but they also recognize how branding, connecting, and creating a successful business plan factors into every decision.

If I can stress two things to you from this article it’s to understand your business and take an active role in learning the elements of it that you’re not familiar with. Creating content is fun but it has little significance if it doesn’t register with the audience and your advertisers. When you immerse yourself in your company’s ratings and business strategy and understand the role you play in creating success, it helps make the journey to the top of the mountain more manageable. Play your cards right and you might just be there for a while.

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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