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What Can Sports Radio Learn From Squid Game?

“Netflix saw a wave and realized that it was time to surf. You have to do the same!”

Demetri Ravanos

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Let me say this right off the top. I have not seen Squid Game. My wife and I have both said that we want to see what the hype is about, but it is really hard for me to watch dubbed movies and TV shows because the out-of-sync nature between what I am seeing and what I am hearing gives me a headache. So far, it has been easy not to want to get started, although I am sure I will eventually.

Should fashion play with Squid Game? | Vogue Business
Courtesy: Netflix

I started thinking about this topic because of a conversation I had with a program director last week. I told him that it was shocking how few show promos he ran on his station. Didn’t he want to highlight reasons for listeners to come back and check out the station at other times of the day? That’s marketing 101!

He cited the Netflix. “If content is good, people will find it. Look at Squid Game. It’s good. People started saying it was good and other people went and watched it. That was more important than any commercial for the show.”

The idea that people will just naturally be drawn to good content has been proven false so many times that I genuinely wonder how people say that line with a straight face anymore. Great shows fail on TV and radio all of the time. Quality is an afterthought to marketing. The best-selling album of all time is The Eagles’ Greatest Hits. What more proof do you need than that?

Credit where it is due, Squid Game really is a surprise hit for Netflix. The show is about a game where desperate people are given the chance to play children’s games for money. If they succeed, they could win billions. If they fail, they are killed. It is a show that various studios around the world had passed on for decades. As the Wall Street Journal described it, “Squid Game is the dystopian hit no one wanted—until everyone did.”

Now, let’s talk about what actually happened. Netflix had a model it could follow. Just like Squid Game, Tiger King was a wild ass story that no one was really looking for. Then all of the sudden, people saw it, tweeted about it, posted memes, made jokes on late night TV and suddenly, Tiger King was everywhere.

Word of mouth marketing should only ever be a jumping off point. For studios and stations and whoever else that knows what they are doing, it will never be the entire strategy. Do you think all of these stories popping up about Squid Game are an accident or born totally out of interest in the show? No! Netflix has a large team of very good PR agents sending emails and making phone calls to networks and publications asking if they would like to do a story on the show or talk to its creator and stars.

Netflix saw a wave and realized that it was time to surf. You have to do the same! If you see or hear that you have a great product, that is more than enough reason to double down on the promos with the details of who these people are and when they are on the air.

Audiences won’t always find what is good, because what is good is subjective. What if someone that might really love your show was only exposed to it for a moment and thought what they heard was boring? Are you really okay letting a single impression be the only impression?

Last year, I looked at five states and how they dictated the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election in a distinct way. My message was every victory happens for a reason and it is important to understand why. Squid Game is no different and it is important that hosts, producers and programmers understand how it has become a sensation.

Squid Game is a totally original thing. This isn’t something based on an old movie or a toy from the 80s. The story didn’t come from a comic book or a series of novels with a huge, built-in fanbase. The love for this show is based on this show. It has themes that audiences connect with and tension to give us the dopamine hit we crave and are willing to come back for over and over again.

No one is going to tell you that a well-constructed piece of entertainment will not win people over. You can follow Squid Game’s lead and build something original and valuable by following a playbook. Book big name guests to give listeners reason to show up. Be creative and funny in the escapism you create for your audience. Connect with them through shared local experiences.

Maybe the most important lesson of Squid Game is to be where they are when they want you. Is your content easy to find and available on-demand? That is pretty damn important in 2021.

What I will tell you is that if you have a show hosted by entertaining people that know how to satisfy an audience, you should put effort into making sure the audience knows that show exists. If you don’t view promoting content as important as creating it, you can’t ever maximize your audience.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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