Sports Promotions

For our “Sportsmen Of the Air” package, we sell one year contracts for our sports coverage billed monthly. Our sportsmen receive commercials in all sporting events that we broadcast on KBOW AM550.

Our radio station was one of about three in our area that carried a college sports football and basketball broadcast season. The network had no market restrictions. To make matters worse, we are only a 1,000 Watt AM against three FM’s (one of which was 100,000 Watts). Here’s how we competed.

We took a :30 commercial position in each half and ran a sports trivia question. We had the trivia question voiced by our sports anchor from the morning drive shift and produced it with all the bells and whistles. Teaming up with a local TV and Appliance store, we threw out a trivia question each half of the game…of course where in the half varied from game to game. Listeners had the chance to call in and qualify for a home entertainment center featuring a big-screen TV.

We gave away the entertainment center at the end of the season with a big celebration at the TV store. We made the final cut of the qualifiers by setting up a game-show type setup in which our morning A/T was the host of the game show and asked the questions to our qualifiers. The winner took home the entertainment center and we included season tickets to the home games of the team for next season. The promotion was a huge success not only for our sponsors, but for the station’s loyalty factor with listeners and advertisers alike.

We had people straining to hear our AM signal just to hear the trivia question each broadcast!

We implemented a fun way to sell Cardinals baseball games that is simple yet very effective.

If the Cardinals win, the sponsor pays, if they lose they don’t.

I limit it to 10 sponsors to put urgency on decisions.

We broadcast 156 games; for revenue purposes I figure a 50% win/lose ratio. ( You can use lower win ratio and change the rate per game to get to revenue number you are wanting to achieve for the season)

Using our schedule of 156 games and a 50% win season WLPO 1220 AM will bill approximately $7,000 on Cardinals Baseball this year. Not bad considering we used to give it away.

Clients really like this “gamble.” They like to the chance to beat us out of free advertising. My account execs have fun with it too. If the team is on a winning streak, They contact their clients to congratulate them on being a part of such a hot team. If the team is losing, they have fun with clients by saying something like, “I hope you are enjoying all these free ads your getting from me, I hope this doesn’t go on much longer, I need to eat, you know.”

Billing is done at the end of each week; Traffic is given a win/lose sheet for the week.

We don’t have much trouble selling our sports events. We are in a small town in Montana, and everybody is interested in the local high school and college sports. We broadcast all high school football games, girls and boys basketball games, volleyball matches, wrestling, and summer baseball. We also broadcast all the college football games, and girls and boys basketball.

We have two broadcast teams that travel to all the games. We run special promotions for all the games. We usually have 32 to 35 sports sponsors on an annual contract. We have a special show on Thursday mornings call More Than The Score. We interview people from all the school departments and play some of the sports sponsors ads on a rotating basis. The sports sponsors also get ROS ads during the week, included in their contract.

We also broadcast all of the Class C football and basketball games that fit into our schedule. Those games are on a separate contract.

You can hear our games over our website, There is a “Game Audio” button on the front page that allows the listener to hear the games. We can stream two games at a time. The games are stored on the site for a couple of weeks. We get emails from all over the nation, plus some foreign countries, telling us they heard the games.

Something that helps make radio sports sponsorship more tangible for the sponsors is to have them record the promos instead of the announcer. Short, simple liners like, “I’m Jim Smith, owner of Smith’s Pharmacy in Sturgeon Bay inviting you to listen to Sturgeon Bay High School Boys basketball this Friday at 7:30 PM on 96.7FM WBDK, proudly sponsored by Smith’s Pharmacy.”

We have packaged high school sports with two goals in mind: getting the client results (four :30 second ads in each game) and getting the client response (10 mentions recorded by the client and scheduled on each of four stations) for a total investment per game of $100.00.

We did 674 high school basketball games last season. Then there was high school baseball, soccer, football, college teams, pro teams, motor racing, and even little league baseball.

Two high school teams and one “County Schedule” are sold to a sports guy who pays us a flat fee (profitable) for each game broadcast. One college basketball schedule is also sold to the school that pays a flat (profitable) rate. All we do is offer the air time and assign a board operator. One check comes each month, without asking, for the high school broadcasts and one check for the whole season from the college. No billing, no affidavits, no traffic—no work, really.

We do a schedule of a girls team, and the boosters bring a check for the whole season prior to the start of the season. Little league baseball games are scheduled weekends prior to or just after St. Louis Cardinals broadcasts on one of our Cardinals stations. The leagues are given a list of dates and times available and are required to deliver a certain number of sponsors or viable leads and we sign and bill them. Most of our stations follow one or two high schools, but one of our sports stations picks and chooses from six to eight high schools (all without regular coverage) from a much larger community in the coverage area. Games are sold separately with a few corporate sponsors that take them all. That station does two half hour coach’s shows from the eight schools we cover scheduled each evening Monday-Thursday during sports season with a Friday night local preview show. Each show has separate sponsors.

All of the games on air are online, but a few are online only. This year we have begun sponsorship of a high school audio and video extracurricular club and will do webcasts including audio and video of some home JV games (with students handling all facets) and then switch to the air feed with regular announcers for the varsity games. The biggest problem with online video is bandwidth available (even from the school).

We work hard to get games of interest that aren’t broadcast on a local radio signal, but are broadcast by another of our stations on more than one of our station websites. A station might be carrying one local high school on air and online, but another local school might also be available on the first station’s website by putting a link to the other station’s online feed.

It’s a work in progress and we will probably move to a combined sports stream page for our own games, much like Network1 Sports (which we use some). Our web people are pretty much non-sports fans so it requires direction from management right now.

Most are sold by school or sport, but there are discounts for multiple commitments. We have begun to steer away from plans budget billed year round because of coop billing problems—no ads in July, for example—and the complaints about paying for “nothing in the summer.”

We meet with athletic directors and get help with leads for sponsors. Many of the broadcasts feature contests for listeners during the broadcasts and some have school centered contests throughout the week. A few stations do football tailgates, especially when two of our high school teams are playing each other.

We do not brand our coverage the same across the group, but do offer a combined “TOC Sports Ticker” using Twitter; our board operators send a tweet each time a team scores in football, and after each quarter for basketball, since our stations are really pretty close together.

There are fifteen stations and twenty transmitters in the group. Every one of them does locally originated sports broadcasts.

WUGO, Grayson, KY carries high school games of our two county schools, East and
West Carter. We alternate the games we broadcast and try to keep the number even between the schools in football, boys and girls basketball, and in baseball; we do some key season games and post-season. We seldom tape-delay unless both teams are in big tournament action at same time.

We have been a Cincinnati Reds affiliate since 1967 and carry University of Kentucky football and basketball, so it’s a full schedule. We sell these in a “Sports Club” form with a sponsor taking the entire season of East, West, U.K. or they can split spots between the high schools. Packages offer a set equal billing amount over a seven-month schedule based on from two :30 sec. spots per game up to 6 per game. A total sports package carrying everything including Reds, also offered with a 12-month billing.

WGOH broadcasts Kentucky Christian University with complete football schedule and selected mens and womens basketball games through that season, post-season with again as a sports club package. We stream all local games on our website and promote schedules on the web, on daily sportscasts and in printed schedules.

The High school sports club takes sponsors through the District Tournament with their team, but then we carry every game of the Regional Boys and Girls Tourney. This we sell separately. The season packages include naming rights on the broadcast table, pre and post game coaches shows, halftime show, and stat of the game and starting line-ups.

During post season , we get a little more “crazy” and offer naming rights to the three point line, the foul line, the officials (to an Optometrist), position arrow and rebound
garbage buckets (to the Sanitation Dept) since there are rights fees to pay for those tourneys!

I have done games for 47 years and our statistics guy for 44 years. But with so many games, we have another play-by-play man, a 12-year veteran who is doing college games and lot of the high school, and we have a college color guy and fill-ins. We always go on 25 minutes prior to tip-off with pre-game to catch people who may be coming to the game, and a 20-minute post-game with coaches for those heading home. We maintain three sets of remote equipment and the Marti unit, but still using mostly POTS lines, trading out lines with area schools, but have units capable of cell service as needed. We have a tremendous relationship with our schools, and while we pay no rights fees, we help sponsor their preview tourneys each year, ads in programs and help with about anything they ask in promoting their programs.

We also run the local community Cable TV station and play back video of key games with tapes supplied by the school. The home college games are broadcast live on using our audio.

Fairfield Broadcasting had one FM and three AM stations in Kalamazoo, MI, and we ran a ton of sports on the AMs.

We had good success bundling them up rather than trying to sell each team separately.
We offered advertisers a choice:

• The Grandstand plan included our local college and high school teams, and several (but not all) of the available college and pro teams.

• The MVP plan was more expensive because it included the most popular college and pro broadcasts.

• And of course, if an advertiser wished, they could buy an individual team only. These advertisers tended to have a close affinity for this particular team—a local private church-affiliated high school.

Many of these parents owned small businesses, and the last names in the starting lineups often were the first names of the advertisers’ businesses.

Basically we’re doing what other stations have done to keep the sports revenue coming year ’round: It’s called the Sports Club, and for a very low price per month, clients are sponsoring every sports event we offer on both stations throughout the year.

All sponsor spots rotate equally during each sports broadcast. During the months with no sports on the station, they receive fifteen-30 second spots per week that air ROS. It’s a great way to keep your base revenue coming in for the whole year, and your salespeople don’t have to sell the football season and then turn around and sell basketball. They are free to focus on bringing in regular business in the door each month.

Our main anchor for the package is to sell clients on the most popular sport—fall football. Right now is prime time for us to get it done and lock sponsors into an annual contract. Of course, if they want only individual sports broadcasts or a shorter contract, they will pay a higher rate.

For years, the Bucyrus, Ohio FM station was a music station which carried high school football. Tom Moore, the longtime owner-operator, thought that after interrupting the music for a 2½-hour football broadcast, expecting to recapture the music audience was a stretch, so he ran football information non-stop from the time the play-by-play ended, from about 10 PM to 1 AM. He had sports reporters stationed at games through his area. They called in their reports and listeners could join in the “football talk” all evening long.

After the post-game show aired for a couple of seasons, it actually brought in more revenue than the games did.

I’ve been brainstorming, to try to come up with some ideas concerning sports sales. I don’t know if this is of any value, but I’ll share it with you anyway!

1. Early bird gets the worm. With increased competition from other stations, local cable systems and the like, the earlier that you get out there the better. I’ve just finalized our schedule, and that’s relatively late for us. I try to make it one of the priorities of the Summer to get the football schedule solidified.

2. Package things up. We find that our best value for both us and our clients is a season ticket package of sorts. We do a “Game of the Week” feature and cover six area high schools. This means that we cover each team 3-4 times during the season. Sponsors enjoy the ability to sponsor all of their team’s broadcasts, along with the weekly coaches show, and any other sports that we might cover in the Fall, most notably volleyball. We broadcast at least one volleyball match from each of our area schools, as a gesture to let the female athletes know that we realize that their sport takes as much time and commitment and effort as football.

Our sports announcers add fun to the broadcasts by awarding. . .

• The Player of the Game, sponsored by a local restaurant that also gives that player a free meal
• The Smooth Play of the Game, sponsored by Smoothie King, that also gives a gift certificate to the player who made that play
• The Rib-Cracking Play of the Game, sponsored by Stonewall’s Barbecue, with a meal to the player who made that hard hit
• To make sure the defensive line has a chance to win a prize, we give the Trench Warrior of the Game award to the best defensive player, sponsored by The Sonic Drive Inn

A couple of years ago, we added a trivia question, based on national, college and local football, to allow our listeners to call in and guess the answer. The first to get the answer right wins a station tee shirt, or whatever we have in the prize closet that we can give that week. Local businesses actually call me and ask if there is anything they can sponsor; last year First Bank sponsored the First Play of the Quarter—no prize, just the first ad to run in each quarter of the game.

We charge a lower price for these sponsorships since most are getting only one ad per game, and are giving a prize. Those who get more than one ad per game pay more. We usually have six “full” sponsors, and the above special sponsors who come back year after year.

Through the years, we’ve added the High School Scoreboard Show from the Mississippi Network. This show gives scores from all over the state, with coaches or parents calling in with scores. We air this live from 10-11:30 PM, and bonus our full sponsors ads during this show.

This year, we’ll also give our sponsors the opportunity to buy ads on stadium seats (non-traditional revenue), with each sponsor getting 25 seats, and donating the rest to the Football Boosters to sell at the games. All fun!

This year, I’m looking for a sponsor for the #1 Maroon Tide Fan award, which will be $20.00 in gasoline to that fan. Our announcers will look for the fan present at the game that best shows team spirit. I will either find a gas station to sponsor this, or charge $20 extra per week and we’ll buy a gas card.

Here are some random notes about our sports; most come from our Princeton station, where we do the heaviest load of sports sponsors.

• We do a Friday night block of sports programming leading up to our game, featuring stuff like the SEC Report.
• We have a half-hour Coaches Pre-game which is sold separate from the games.
• This year, for the first time, we are doing a home-game-only tailgate party from 5:15-6 PM at the new ice cream parlor across the street from the studios.
• We do a Saturday morning program at the local McDonald’s with myself and the head coach.

We have a lot of the in-game stuff sold:

• Kickoffs
• Conversions
• Timeouts
• Billboard countdown to kickoff sponsor
• Halftime report
• Post-game report
• Players of the game
• Area schedule
• Coin toss
• Tonight’s officials

Some of those football-only in-game items change when we go to basketball, like:

• Coaches post-game comments
• Three-point shot
• Tipoff and beginning of quarters

Ninety-five percent of our sports contracts are at least ten months and go through baseball and softball. Playoff games are billed extra per game.

We also carry post-season soccer, but that is sold separately from other sports contracts.

At our station we carry our local high school, plus some area schools when possible—especially during tournaments. We also have a four-year local college that we carry.

We carry the traditional football, boys and girl’s basketball, boy’s and girl’s hockey; we also carry volleyball, baseball, softball and some wrestling matches and tournaments, too.

We sell packages. Because the bulk of the local broadcasts are September-March, we add the area professional teams as part of the package and bill the sponsors so much per month, 12 months a year, although we do allow some sponsors to be on the package September-March. (If we just billed September-March, it would be a prohibitive cost per month.)

We also carry the neighboring NFL team, but their price per season keeps getting higher; we discussed a lot this year whether to sign a two-year contract. We eventually did, after some negotiation with the team. We have been fortunate to go out and sell three exclusive sponsors to cover the rights fees, and then add our sports packages as fill for the rest of the local avails.

For the first time we are in the process of negotiating with the local college; they might pay us a certain amount of money to carry the games we do in football, basketball and hockey, primarily because of the high price of gas and transportation.

Because of $4-a-gallon gas, the question will be, Do we carry as many athletic events this school year as we have in the past? We average at least 150-200 local sporting events September-March.

How much can we raise our current sports package? We decided on .028%, which is very, very minimal, but you have to know the market and economy and so on.

How many more sports packages can we sell? This is a twofold question:

1. How many more new sponsors can we get (as we have most of our clients, both businesses and non traditional advertisers tied up)? Is there any more room to get above and beyond what they are spending now and not just trading dollars?
2. We are close to the limit of amount of advertisers we want, as it’s getting harder to make sure they get on each game we carry.

I personally do a lot of the sports. I have a 2½-year-old Yukon (Yes, I know, an SUV) that has over 100,000 miles on it—and doesn’t include the other person who does sports. (We bought him a much more economical vehicle to use this year.)

We are probably best known for our sports broadcasting and the job we do on our website for sports. I personally would never (I guess, you should never say “never”) take a feed for our local high school games. If we can’t afford to send somebody, then we shouldn’t do it. (Last year we did send quite a few feeds to other stations.)

We have a great relationship with the schools, which is paramount. We use phone lines in their gyms and stadiums where available; and when you’ve done sports for over 60 years, you nurture relationships with area radio stations and have reciprocal phone lines with them. I only had to put one phone line in last year for the whole year; that saves a lot of money. We don’t use cell phones unless absolutely necessary.

I’ve been doing sports for over 34 years and I am old school, but I feel we give the best coverage to our teams with play-by-play; interviews before and after with coaches and players; sideline reporters for football games; contests during games (first sack in a football game and the first caller gets a medium-size pizza).

We have Players of the Games (local high school); they get a tee shirt with “KXXX Radio Player of the Game”; it is good to see the kids wearing them around school and around town—which also gives us more exposure.

We have three stations here in Vidalia, GA and broadcast three football games every Friday night. We don’t stream them yet because it hasn’t proven cost effective.

Our Football Weekend starts Thursday night with a two-hour show with five area high school coaches at a restaurant (which feeds them).

Friday starts at 4 PM with a Tailgate Show at a local fast food place; it is simulcast on all our stations and includes cheerleaders and sports pundits. At 5:30 we do Football Friday Night, which previews the games with player/coach interviews. Then we do a short pre-game show from the stadiums at 7:15 for a 7:30 kickoff.

We sell multiple sponsors for all of the above, the games and a scoreboard show from the end of the game until 11 p.m. Friday.

We produce and sell a two-minute Scoreboard wrap-up; it airs six times on Saturday and four times on Sunday. We also produce a daily three-minute Coaches Corner, which airs Tuesday through Friday during the school year, to allow for coverage of all sports at the schools. One of our stations carries the Georgia Bulldogs, including their Tailgate and post-game on Saturdays, and the Atlanta Falcons on Sundays.

We get good sponsorship support, and we give back by making cash contributions to the schools’ booster clubs.

KNIM, Maryville, MO carries the full schedule of local high school games and the Northwest University Bearcats football and basketball games. Advertisers are given the choice of buying high school, college or both. According to the manager, “We find some advertisers who want to buy both schedules, some want to buy only one. . .and of course a beer advertiser is appropriate on college games but not high school.”

Sports billing is evenly spread over the seven months of September through February, plus August. In August, the play-by-play advertisers are included in three Saturday-morning hour-long season preview broadcasts.

Sports is not sold on a “mention” basis; advertisers get regular commercial selling messages. The manager says, “I think that just selling name mentions on sports is a mistake. Any ad on a radio station should do something for the business that buys it. As far as I’m concerned, the customer should use advertising to ask for business.”

Use a low-priced sports booster club approach—just $100 per month for up to 30 clients year-round. Broadcast coverage includes play-by-play of as many high school sports as possible, including wrestling (boys) and volleyball (girls). It’s been effective for us with entry level clients. After they become accustomed to using radio, we upgrade them to full advertising schedules. In small markets, professional sports is a tough sell. We lack the dominant markets and teams, so fan interest is scattered. If pro games are sold, it is usually as a bonus to local sports sponsors.

We run an “Athlete of the Week” feature with pictures of each of the winning athletes. Click on a name and you’ll hear an interview with the kid. We have $25 in radio revenue from each of five sponsors (one from each school)—money we never had before. The interviews are played on our sports talk show as well as on our website. We promote, “If you missed the interview on KSAL, you can hear it on our website.” We are taking athletes from swimming, golf, volleyball—a lot of sports that don’t get a lot of recognition on the air because we don’t have a lot of time.

We carry a multitude of high school sports contests on the Internet. We audition and choose a student to do the play-by-play of the games for his or her school, paying him or her a few bucks per game. We have it set up with our Internet service provider to stream the broadcasts, and put links on our website.

Got a daytimer? You could use your website to broadcast nighttime. WGHT, Pompton Lakes, NJ (1500 KHz) is already repeating its daytime Oldies programming after sign-off on—but now it’s putting local college basketball live on its website as programming created exclusively for the web.

Here’s a great promotion for AMs: Our radio station was one of about three in our area that carried a college sports football and basketball broadcast season. The network had no market restrictions. To make matters worse, we are only a 1,000-watt AM against three FMs (one of which is 100,000 watts). Here’s how we competed:

We took a :30 commercial position in each half and ran a sports trivia question. We had the trivia question voiced by our sports anchor from the morning drive shift and produced it with all the bells and whistles. Teaming up with a local TV and appliance store, we threw out a trivia question each half of the game—where in the half varied from game to game. Listeners had the chance to call in and qualify for a home entertainment center featuring a big-screen TV.

We gave away the entertainment center at the end of the season with a big celebration at the TV store. We made the final cut of the qualifiers by doing a game-show type thing in which our morning deejay was the host of the game show and asked the questions to our qualifiers. The winner took home the entertainment center, and we included season tickets to the home games for next season. The promotion was a huge success not only for our sponsors, but for the station’s loyalty factor with listeners and advertisers alike. We had people straining to hear our AM signal just to hear the trivia question each broadcast.

Publish a “Sports Book” containing all the schedules for all the Fall and Winter sports for all the high schools and colleges in the region, along with any other teams that your area follows (and/or that you broadcast). Put together packages of radio ads which include various sizes and locations of ads in the book—a Back Cover package, an Inside Cover package, a Full Page, Half Page, etc.—each associated with a different level of radio advertising. The station prints up 5500 of the 72-page books, which are distributed via advertisers and schools. The books cost about $4300 to produce (which is sometimes traded in whole or in part), and the station grosses $25-30,000 on the program.

The originator calls this “the greatest June and July promotion we’ve ever done.” Gather all your local high school, junior high and college football, basketball and school calendars—plus those of any other regional teams you broadcast—and put them in one book. Sell ads. Make sure the advertisers use part of their print budget! Caution: “If you promote the book on the air, be sure to include that in your ASCAP/BMI revenue statements.”