Sports Radio’s Lost Opportunity

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip August 18, 2004

This is not one of those articles advising Sports stations to be more Guy-Radio and less Sports-Radio. It should go without saying that appealing to Men along the entertainment dimension will attract more audience than Sports alone. But fundamentally, you don’t get into the Sports game and the audience doesn’t get into a Sports station for the same kind of show Howard Stern produces. There’s a deeper dimension to Sports – one that precious few Sports stations exploit. And it’s on full display right now in Athens, Greece.

What Sports Radio Means

Sports Radio should be about heroes, not about Sports.

The problem with many Sports stations is that they’re aimed at super-fans, not regular fans. Super-fans are stat-centric, they’re trivia junkies. Regular fans are not. That’s why listenership tends to peak during play-by-play – it’s the type of Sports radio the regular fan can appreciate, because it’s about the drama of the game and of its heroes. It’s not trivia-centric. It’s hero-centric.

Why do we Watch the Olympics?

Olympic athletes are like us and extraordinary at the same time. They do the things we would do if only we could. And they do them on an international stage, competing not only for the honor of their country but to be the best in the world. You and I don’t have those qualities, but we aspire to them. And so, we watch.

The Olympic Games are not targeted towards Sports “junkies,” they’re targeted towards regular folks who root for heroes and aspire to those heroic qualities in their own lives. They’re about dedication and achievement and toughness and tenacity – the proverbial thrill of victory and agony of defeat. Whether the hero is a spellbinding diver, a thrilling gymnast, a courageous soldier, a heroic web-slinger, or a brave Jedi warrior, its that inner drama of feeling and being heroic that attracts the audience. And it’s that very drama which is so often lacking on our stations.

Is your Sports Station about “Heroes”?

When Nike said “Just Do It,” that wasn’t simply a slogan. It was a challenge proclaiming the virtue and courage of action. We would wear the shoes not because we were Michael Jordan – but because we wanted to be LIKE Mike. If the Radio industry had been at the helm, today Nike would probably be called “The Shoe.” Which do you think would be the more popular brand, Nike or “The Shoe”?

Where are your stories of heroism? What images should your audience aspire to? How well does your audience know the athletes? How vivid do you make the inner drama of the game? In what ways, if any, is your station “like Mike”? It’s not about yuck-yucks, and it’s not about T&A. It’s about ennobling life.

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