By Holland Cooke
News/Talk/Sports Radio Consultant
St. LOUIS — Do the math. For six months when habitual listening dips as listeners vacation and otherwise alter their lives, baseball brings:
• Long-TSL tune-in (“vertical maintenance” in Arbitron-speak), to…
• 162 three+ hour shows (“horizontal maintenance”), by…
• People who otherwise might not cume the station, in…
• What would otherwise be fringe evening/late-night/weekend hours,
• Many of which are suspenseful, none of which are available from iPod or Pandora, and which are loaded with…
• Inventory that sells-without-numbers.
And now that games are available elsewhere – SiriusXM, and on any connected device via MLB.com – affiliated AM/FM stations need to play defense to make-the-most-of The Game. And there sure IS “a there there,” as I was reminded this past weekend.
Serendipitously, I was in St. Louis Saturday, speaking at a broadcasting conference, when word came that Hall of Famer and most-beloved-Cardinal-ever “Stan the Man” Musial had died, 92.
I felt like I was in church
Downtown was already swarming with sports fans, for a Cardinals event, and for the NHL Blues’ opener (which, poetically, they won 6-0, as though to honor Musial, #6). After dinner, I herded my clients over to Busch Stadium, where hushed fans and TV crews were gathering around Musial’s big statue outside the third base entrance. Maybe one percent of those gathered looked old-enough to have ever seen him play. The Game is THAT special. Applause to KSDK, the NBC-TV affiliate for DB-ing “Saturday Night Live” to stay wall-to-wall with the story.
Space here doesn’t permit an adequate list of Musial’s accomplishments, on-and-off the field. He might hold the record for holding-records, all-the-more conspicuous in a year when nobody got voted-into the Hall of Fame. Musial spent his whole playing career with one team and was never ejected from a game…unlike another baseball icon we lost that day.
Iconic 70s/80s Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver holds the American League record for ejections (94). He was 82, and died aboard an Os fantasy cruise. No less mercurial than his Yankee counterpart Billy Martin, Weaver got tossed LOTS for getting-in umps’ faces. His Birds won the 1970 World Series, and three more AL pennants; and his formula was simple: great pitching and defense, lots of three-run homers, and very few bunts and steals.
These icons contributed countless Quarter Hours of listening, as their teams’ games wafted through the airwaves on summer nights. The fans who just…showed-up…Saturday night in St. Louis remind us that baseball stations can be special, if we give The Game its due. Shame on stations that simply treat the broadcast as a feed.
On-hour, do team-and-time
Most baseball stations are news/talk AMs. And smart news/talk AMs overtly invite top-of-hour tune-in, “FOR A QUICK UPDATE, EVERY HOUR, THROUGHOUT YOUR BUSY DAY.” So that on-hour ID is beachfront real estate. Give it to The Game. Beginning a week-ahead, use on-hour to count-down to Opening Day.
Because games can be heard elsewhere, take ownership of your team every way you can. Whatever you say on-hour signs-your-station’s-name. Lots of stations I hear squander those 10 powerful seconds by telling me that the news “STARTS NOW,” aping TV imaging. What a waste. That’s like writing “banana” on the yellow peel. Instead, take your station’s Reach + Frequency out for a spin, by plugging next-game team-and-time your on-hour ID for six months.
Or seven: Take major sponsors to Spring Training, when Spring Fever is pandemic, and every team is in first place.
Spring Training: BE there
Admittedly, many teams’ affinity is greater in April than September…take it from us, where I live in Red Sox Nation, where the lads melted-down, again, in 2012, after making the post-season 6-of-the-last-9-years, a record eclipsed only by The Damn Yankees.
But in March, every team is in first place. So smart baseball stations cover Spring Training, and make money doing so. Teams offer travel packages, and at client stations we’ll often spiff the trip to major sponsors who commit early, and /or the top-baseball-billing sales rep, and/or a contest winner.
And we make a point NOT to send a sportscaster. Instead, sending the morning or afternoon show sends-the-message that The Game is bigger than sports. The on-air product we’re creating isn’t about sports, it’s travelogue. As George Harrison sang, “It’s been a long, cold, lonely, winter.”
In 2013, a new wrinkle adds sizzle: The Houston Astros move to the AL West, equalizing MLB’s divisions at five-teams each, and giving fans an interleague game almost every day, lots of first-ever match-ups.
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.
See/hear/read more from Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.