Does anyone else have their first recollection of trying to win tickets from a radio show? I certainly do. It was December of 2001 and WWLS The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City was giving away two tickets to the Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma and Arkansas. I was 11 years old and in the passenger seat of my dad’s car as he held his Nokia cell phone up to his ear, waiting to get on the air. The question was simple: What two teams played in the only No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in Cotton Bowl history?
We thought out the question together and were absolutely positive we had the right answer. It was OU vs. Texas! Duh! All we had to do was get on the air, and boom, we’re going to Dallas on New Year’s Day. After a few wrong answers from other callers, my dad got on the air. My heart was beating out of my chest as he gave our answer to the late Bob Barry Jr.
We were only half right. The next caller said Texas vs. Navy in 1964. He was headed to Dallas and we weren’t. I was crushed. Literally, I think I moped around for the next week.
When’s the last time you gave out tickets on your show and how did you give them away? If it didn’t sound like the story I just told, I bet it sounded a lot like, “Call us now! Caller No. 8 gets free tickets to tonight’s game!”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a profession we’re always trying to be fresh and innovative. Maybe there’s a better way to reward the listener other than asking them to answer a sports trivia question or to call at the right time for a prize.
If there’s an idea that’s stood out and gained traction, it’s what Danny Parkins of 670 The Score is doing with social media in Chicago. Parkins will put White Sox tickets in envelopes around various places in the city. He’ll then tweet out where the tickets are located, as well as a picture to show the exact placement. He’s even included cash in a few envelopes too. Pretty unique, huh? But that idea had to come from somewhere.
“Honestly I don’t even remember what the origin of the idea was,” said Parkins. “The first time I got access to a group of tickets, I was like, what would be a cool way to give them out that’s equitable, because I can’t give them out on the air, because we’re not partners with the White Sox. I was back in Chicago and trying to build up my social media following here and I would plug on the air that I was doing it. I’ve done it a few times now and it’s pretty successful. I’ll usually take the train around and get off and on at different spots, or drive my car around and pull over so I can be in different neighborhoods. I’ll also ask people to let me know when they get them. People will then send me a message on Twitter and reply they got them with a picture attached. I retweet that to show people they’re actually getting picked up. People seem to really enjoy it.”
Times and trends have changed over the years in sports radio, but winning a prize, especially tickets, seems to be as popular as it’s ever been to the listener. I can imagine myself seeing Parkins’ tweet, realizing one of the envelopes is close by, and racing towards it to be the first one to pick it up. It may not even be about the tickets, the thrill alone might have me chasing around the corner to search in a random bed of flowers. Maybe the individuals finding the tickets can easily afford to buy a pair at the box office, but winning them is fun.
Though the benefits for Parkins may be there, in terms of gaining new followers and fans in the process, that wasn’t his intent when the idea began.
“That’s not a conscious motivation,” said Parkins. “I just think it’s a good way to give away tickets and I think it’s different. I’ve used meet ups on social media where I buy listeners drinks. It’s marketing, right? In the sense you get, in theory, the person that gets the tickets is going to become a bigger fan of the show, the station or even me individually, but that’s just a secondary motivation behind, honestly, just doing something cool with social media.
“It’s the same thing with buying beers. If I’m going to be at the game, it’s cool to meet up with the audience. If they want to come have a beer with me, they have to be pretty cool people who just want to chill and talk sports. I’ve never had a bad experience when I’ve met up with a listener for a beer, either. Does that grow the audience? I guess one person at a time and hopefully over time I can do it with a bunch of listeners.”
The idea is great, but how does it carry over when McNeil and Parkins are on the air? Giving away White Sox tickets is never going to be huge programming on the show, so is it as simple as a quick plug?
“It’s pretty much that simple,” said Parkins. “I just plug that I’m going to be doing it so I send out a tweet the day before saying, hey, 10 a.m. is when the scavenger hunt is going to start. I’ll say the day before on the show that I’m going to do it the next day and if you’re interested in free White Sox tickets to follow my Twitter handle. It’s not like it’s a huge piece of programming on the show, it’s probably less than two minutes. I think in this day and age, you’re always creating content and figuring out new ways to interact with your audience. It supplements the radio show, sure, but I don’t look at it as a huge piece of programming.”
It’s cool how Parkins puts himself out there in an effort to be more of a accessible figure to the listener. I think there are big payoffs for that and it’s something to be learned from. It’s not rocket science to realize that even one positive encounter can go a long way in gaining a loyal listener.
Your show may be great and have a lot of listeners, but even the most established hosts can benefit from getting out of the house to strengthen their bond with the audience. All it takes is a little bit of effort.
“I’ve done it with things for my station, too,” said Parkins “I took a listener to Cubs Opening Day two seasons ago. All you had to do was retweet and follow and we selected one Twitter follower and they got to be my guest for Opening Day. I sat on the eighth row at Wrigley with a random listener for the opener. I’ve met up at people’s tailgates at Bears games, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox, I’ve done it with all the pro sports teams in town. It’s not about having loyalty to one team over another, I just happen to have access to a bunch of White Sox tickets right now, because they’re fairly readily available.”
Maybe your station is perfectly fine and comfortable with giving away prizes with the traditional on-air approach. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re looking to change things up, Parkins just may have created something that can start more creative ideas in the industry.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.