Spending four productive Pre Super Bowl days logging lots of Fitbit steps in and around the Bush Convention Center produced some great experiences, meetings and observations. Enjoy the game!
The Value of Radio Row: A few years ago the death of radio, or the spoken word, as a viable piece of storytelling to a wide audience was all the rage. However today, with the integration of social media, hyper-targeting and the growth of mobile devices, audio storytelling has never been bigger. Almost 200 accredited outlets, and many others wandering in the public area, filled Radio. They ranged from the traditional rights holders to internet startups to team-specific sites (the Redskins, Bills and Dolphins all had their digital teams there gathering content from alumni and others) with bold setups for a host of Sirius shows, and Fox radio and CBS building out its own self-contained content for both national and local stations heading to Houston.
While it can be difficult to navigate later in the week, Radio Row for the right markets, the right talent, and the right genre remains a huge opportunity for brands, especially early in the week. Booking current and former players to hawk products is low hanging fruit, but the ultra-creative can also score big, especially in the Monday-Wednesday window when stations are looking for both live and taped content to fill hours of talk. Also if you have talent that can be authentic and talk the game as well as the product, it can reap big benefits. From Miss America to Amanda Nunes, there were celebrities far and wide, and almost every football player who was interested in getting involved could find a home mixed with gambling experts and various masters of brands from every walk of life.
In addition to radio there is also the great opportunity of social engagement, which is still slowly gaining traction with traditional media outlets. Players Tribune joined any host of podcast and video platforms during the week, all looking for increased brand presence. While I am biased as I work with them Nickelodeon’s first time spot on radio Row gained great traction once media types and PR people saw the value. What vale? A new non-sports audience for brands and athletes coming through with a massive social share. How big you as? A Chad Johnson GIF was shared over 50 MILLION times in three days and a new partnership with Dude Perfect became talk away from football (eventhough the sports video stars can talk gridiron with anyone) raised even more awareness. How does that compare to a short radio interview for reaching a new audience?
Offering up selfies or video sharing by talent whether with Nickelodeon or any outlet also is a huge help in spreading the word to a wider audience. However the beauty of success on Radio Row remains in literally walking the floor with the right talent and busiling face to face relationshups that should extend way beyond the Super Bowl. Picking markets big and small, filling in a drop-by for some national audio shows, taping a podcast or two and filling time with some fan interaction and photo sharing can be a huge hit for a brand, a broadcast show and for talent looking to gain a foothold. It won’t work every time; there is a great deal of selling even early on in the week, you can’t push too much or overtly hawk a product that is a huge disconnect, and you need a face or a voice that is both authentic and recognizable in just a few seconds, and you have to make sure all the social pieces are in place and the follow-up after the show has to be solid; but for the right talent and the right amount of time, radio row is as big a hot today as it has ever been.
Some other thoughts…
If It Ain’t Catered It Ain’t Journalism: The Media Center can be a grind for thousands of talent and producers that frankly rarely see the light of day, filling hours of time with content. Many welcome the break from being on-air or recording with a quick snap or a conversation off air about other goings-on in the world. A meal for many on Radio Row is usually floors or blocks away at any given time. However this year, the Super Bowl Host Committee consolidated everything, and even brought alcohol back into the mix for the first time in years. The bar has been set high for Minneapolis as everything this year was under one massive roof.
Also kudos to Snickers, who expanded on the work Butterfinger did last year when spokesperson Terrell Owens went handing out sample size candy during his radio row trip. This year Snickers had their own staffed booth, and had their spokesguy, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, making the round passing out bars during his media swing. While the Girl Scouts who were outside the Moscone Center last year selling cookies did not make an appearance, there is still a big upside for some enterprising brands to get some viral exposure with food or drink product in and around the media center. Papa John’s coming on to make some pizzas was again a fun one timer, but to have that station empty most of the week, maybe even getting someone to broadcast from the prominent spot, would be another step up for awareness.
One group that found a way to help change the pace last year was the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association, who made trips through the media area around Happy Hour passing out free samples of wine and getting a ton of on-air mentions of gratitude. Someone needs to fill that local gap again, it’s a late afternoon natural.
For all the products being hawked, it was amazing that so few brought some little pieces of swag or giveaways as leave a behind for media when going form station to station. Some branded candy, a little memento here or there, would go a long way and are often forgotten in the mix.
New Voices: It was great to see not just one college radio station but two, make the trip and be received on Radio Row. Fordham’s WFUV was back with their usual solid work, but the big winner was the station from Ithaca College, who tricked out their own location and grabbed not just a host for guests, but built their own profile by having people tell their story. The Asman and Budick Show logged hours of content, was always professional, and probably helped secure the careers of the four who came along from upstate New York. We are hoping they make a return trip.
And speaking of college radio, just a thought. There remains a host of unused or little used space in and around radio row; wouldn’t it be another great step up (assuming the students are qualified) for the NFL to identify 2-3 local colleges with growing media departments…this year could have been Houston and Rice for example…to get some valuable experience and tell stories like the Ithaca and Fordham kids did? Maybe it even becomes a content with teams pushing some local stations. They have to follow the lead of those two there this year and be respectful and professional, but there is certainly a bit of room to have the future of audio there as well as the regulars. There were more than enough guests to get around.
Cause Marketing: So many athletes came through tied to causes, perhaps more than ever from cancer research to the Special Olympics. However one of the best displays in the NFL Experience was for #MyCause#MyCleats, which rose from the issue last season where players were being reprimanded for using their shows as a call to action for charity. The NFL responded and created an event weekend where any player could promote a cause on their shoes with an appropriate design, and a grassroots event was born. It has huge upside for every sport and college willing to band together and use those images for a call to action. We wrote more about it in December, and it was great to see the display laid out so well.
Tech Talk: Lots of talk and displays public and in the media area about innovation and broadcast, but the activations by tech brands associated with the NFL were much more confined this year. Last year SAP took to the streets of Super Bowl City with several consumer-oriented promotions that literally used the energy of the fan to generate points and competition, from Quarterback simulators to pedaling station that lit up huge displays in color and then calculated the amount of energy each peddler had against others. Chevron’s display at Super Bowl City connected contests involving core STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs to all things NFL, using science and math tied to sports as a key learning tool for all coming through their display. Intel found their sweet spot with perhaps the most coveted giveaway anywhere in the Bay Area, a custom designed glass hologram packaged in a commemorative box for anyone willing to wait on long lines to have.
This year? Very little, and all activation was in The NFL Experience where only Microsoft’s setup riled the day. Yes there was plenty of VR and experiential for the fans in the massive convention center, but the big picture activations on display for Super Bowl 50 seemed to have curiously disappeared.
With all the goings-on, one thing is for sure. The window of creativity and exposure around big events like Super Bowl continues to expand globally with no sign of stopping. Finding that niche to convey the message, and it has to be an authentic and connected message, is a challenge, but the opportunity to find that place has never been great, as evidenced by all the buzz and success big and small this past week in Houston. Now they just have to play the game.