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Sports/Talk Expanding Commercial Envelope as Traditional Norms Fade Away

| October 23, 2013

By Al Herskovitz
H&H Communications

BRADENTON — Of all the subsets of talk radio, sports/talk appears to be the most innovative and pioneering when it comes to finding new and appropriate sales opportunities. After you think you have heard it all a category comes along from out of the blue that really throws you.  It’s a relatively new category of commercials that currently is most prevalent on sports/talk stations.  The category – “Strip Joints”…euphemistically referred to as “Gentlemen’s Clubs.” The spots primarily are voiced by females using seductive tones as they list the club’s attractions through indirection. Considering the  sports/talks audience make-up, it does make a great deal of sense.

If I have a favorite commercial among them, it’s one that I recently heard which describes its leading attraction as a “Sarah Palin look-alike!” Now that’s a good reason to run to the club!  Another I heard was done  by a woman with a British accent. General thought regards British accents  as high class.

Sports/talk stations appear to be in the forefront of ferreting out commercial categories that can be married to the format.  Another popular one — jewelry retailers. Now they’ve been around in all kinds of radio for a long time. But if you give it a moment’s thought this kind of market targeting  also makes a great deal of  sense as a guide to male listeners around such holidays as Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Males are considered to be, true or not, kind of klutzy when it comes to gift-giving. The month of June gains prominence since it  traditionally is associated with weddings and wedding engagements.

While beer and wine long have been radio ad staples, hard liquor advertising now is making a tentative appearance.  A recent one for a popular rum was a dramatization of pirates sailing on the high seas celebrating after a successful raid by rewarding themselves with the product. “Aye, matey!”

Music and sound effects to emphasize a commercial are useful in many cases. The sound of whining bullets with a spot for gun shops and firing ranges is attention-getting and appropriate….another category that has popped up liberally on sports/talk. However, live-reads are very effective too because they give the sales message a sense of honesty and implied endorsement particularly if the sports/talk host is a former athlete with a little bit of name recognition.  It is a field that articulate ex-jocks are attracted to.

The signal from all of this should be  a message to sales reps. Just about anyone who wants to sell  just about anything to just about anybody is now fair game particularly as societal norms have changed and are ever-changing. The type of advertiser and the kind of language that once was considered inappropriate for radio is now quite acceptable. In fact a sales meeting to discuss the boundaries would be a good idea. Not only to cover what kind of accounts, but what words are ok and/or are taboo.

Also on the agenda should be commercial placement. In this era of clustering, spots with subject matter that conflict could end up abutting each other resulting in a very jarring effect doing neither advertiser any good. One I heard: a gun shop adjacent to one for baby food.

There was a time when placing two different car dealers next to each other was unacceptable.  Now it occurs with regularity. Here again the sales rep must step in to do whatever is possible to protect his/her account. It is understandable there are occasions where nothing can be done, but that doesn’t mean that the rep can’t try.

The overall message here is that sports/talk has opened new vistas and a place for new ideas that can be wedded successfully to basic, traditional concepts and spread across all variations of the format.


Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications and a marketing specialist for TALKERS.  He can be phoned at 941-708-6520 or emailed at   

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Category: Sales