Meet the Market Managers – Chris Soechtig, iHeartMedia, Tampa Bay

Meet the Market Managers – Chris Soechtig, iHeartMedia, Tampa Bay
Meet the Market Managers – Chris Soechtig, iHeartMedia, Tampa Bay

Let me begin by admitting my bias. I’m a lifelong fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My Uncle John didn’t work for the group, however he labored for IBM and the group was considered one of his shoppers in the late 80s and early 90s. He didn’t have a son, so any time he would get kids-sized swag from the group, it acquired despatched my means.
Between that fandom and being a Southerner, I’ve at all times thought-about WDAE one thing particular. As far as I used to be involved in my faculty years, the tent poles of Southern sports activities speak have been WJOX in Birmingham, WFNZ in Charlotte and WDAE in Tampa.
Since we began the Meet the Market Managers collection at the side of Point-to-Point Marketing, I’ve wished to focus on Chris Soechtig and the job he does at iHeartMedia Tampa Bay.
In our dialog, we hit on the significance of play-by-play as a advertising software, unconventional competitors, and the way the world of unbiased media has influences his gross sales employees.
Demetri Ravanos: Around the sports activities world, we all know the influence that Tom Brady had on the Buccaneers as a group and as a tradition. But what about on the broadcast? What did you see occurred to promoting and curiosity in the Buccaneers’ radio broadcast when he got here to city and performed these three years? 
Chris Soechtig: Oh, man. The Brady impact was completely large. First of all, once you simply take into consideration the Buccaneers earlier than Brady, I wish to say that we didn’t make the playoffs for 12 consecutive years. 
DR: I grew up an enormous fan of the Buccaneers. I felt each little bit of the drought. 
CS: Exactly, so you understand. Brady simply elevated the requirements and the expectations for profitable on that group from day one and that was contagious. I imply, this can be a soccer city. There’s simply no two methods about it. When he got here to city, it simply modified everyone’s perspective.                
Even on the broadcast aspect, there was simply an air of confidence and swagger that got here together with having Brady as a part of our group. Whether it was on the group or simply in the neighborhood, he simply demonstrated he’s a champion in so many alternative ways in which folks wished to emulate, from the means he skilled to his work ethic to self-care.                   
You know, when it got here to monetizing simply soccer on the whole on Sunday, there was a lot hype round the Bucs. We’ve acquired a singular broadcast relationship. The flagship is 98 Rock, and truly, it’s actually designed to be a advertising play for us. The group truly sells all of the stock in-game and pre and put up. There’s super worth for us on 98 Rock, however actually we feature that pleasure of soccer, and all of our packaging and all the pieces is on WDAE.               
I do know there are a few smaller gamers in Tampa, however we actually are the unique sports activities station in Tampa, which is clearly an enormous sports activities metropolis, you understand and the Brady impact was completely an enormous purpose why. There’s simply no two methods about it. 
DR: Are we too early to understand how that modifications going into subsequent season or are there stuff you already find out about the broadcast that you could see “Oh, yeah. That great three-year interval is certainly over”? 
CS: Well, you understand, earlier than the season begins, we’re all primary, proper? But that being mentioned, I feel I do imagine that there are extra reasonable expectations of what the season may appear to be. You know, I imply, clearly, we’ve acquired Baker Mayfield at the helm and Kyle Trask remains to be on the radar. Look, we’ve acquired an excellent group. As far as I’m involved, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are a few the finest receivers in the league. And we’ve acquired a very good protection with Vita Vea, Devin White, and LeVonta David and also you undergo the checklist, however that being mentioned, there’s no query about it.                
I do imagine that there’s extra reasonable expectations. But, look, even throughout that stretch after we had 12 years of dropping seasons, like I mentioned, that is nonetheless an enormous NFL city and there’s only a excessive stage of enthusiasm round the Bucs and the NFL.                 
How that impacts broadcast, you understand, it’s attention-grabbing, even throughout dropping seasons you see a better stage of engagement at a sports activities radio station. People like to name in and critique our group and discuss what we have to do to enhance and what are the strikes we have to make. 
We’ve shifted gears. If you truly hearken to our exhibits, on WDAE, we’ve actually constructed a robust stay and native lineup. That’s fairly distinctive in a number of markets. We’ve acquired stay mornings, middays, and afternoons. On air, there’s just a bit little little bit of realism, however but type of that pre-season optimism. 
DR: You hit on this earlier. You guys are the solely main devoted sports activities station on the town. But you do have a competitor that I don’t assume many different markets must take care of in that sizzling speak format that Cox has on 102.5. They do have some play-by-play, however they aren’t a sports activities station.            
Tell me somewhat bit about what sort of competitors that’s for sports activities radio when you have got one thing which may be targeted on the identical viewers differently. 
CS: The station you’re referring to just isn’t a sports activities station.  It’s a “man speak” format.  They are merely airing the Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play and don’t provide that very same kind of content material integration you may get with stations like WFLA and 95.3WDAE.    
We have loved an outstanding relationship with the Lightning for the previous 30 years. It was a mutual determination to dissolve the rights deal.  I’ve nothing however nice issues to say about that group and can proceed to assist them in some ways, outdoors of play-by-play.
We only in the near past signed long-term rights offers with each the Buccaneers and the Rays and have each intention to foster these partnerships for a few years to return.
DR: So after they’re not doing play-by-play and it’s that sizzling speak content material, do you and your program director, John Mamola, emphasize that it’s actually essential that WDAE keep fairly X’s and O’s sports activities speak reasonably than venturing out? I imply, overlook attempting to do what The Bone is doing, simply the truth that you just guys are devoted sports activities speak. Is it essential in your thoughts that that’s at all times what listeners discover after they activate WDAE? 
CS: We positively keep true to our mission of delivering high-quality sports activities programming to Tampa Bay followers with up-to-date scores and information mixed with a wholesome steadiness of on-air expertise opinion.
But each present has its personal character, too. An ideal instance is Pat & Aaron in the morning.  They seek advice from their listeners as “the goon squad.” They join with their fan base in a tongue-in-cheek, personable means.  They completely acknowledge a big portion of our cume is tuning in get caught up on the newest information and what occurred in the Rays sport final evening. So they’re getting that information. Probably extra importantly, they’re on the lookout for compelling takes. You know, they wish to hear opinions of the various things which will have taken place in the sport. 
There might be instances the place they go off script and have enjoyable and discuss no matter. They need their personalities to attach with their listener base, however what I’ll say is that it’s at all times going to must be aligned to sports activities indirectly, form, or kind.
Another essential differentiation between us and a “man speak’ format is that our content material is suitable for a father that may be driving down the highway along with his son, taking him to high school.  They can lean in and hear. And you don’t have to fret about what would possibly come out of our personalities’ mouths.
DR: I do wish to soar again actual fast to what you mentioned about the relationship with the Buccaneers and it being extra of a advertising play. How does that play out by way of worth? Is it in getting in-stadium recognition or is the promotional worth extra about with the ability to say to shoppers and listeners “This is the Bucs’ station”?
CS: Well, they really have their very own gross sales group that goes out and represents that stock. When I say advertising, what I’m saying is having Buccaneer broadcasts on 98 Rock attracts a considerable cume to the radio station, Right? It’s lots of people which will by no means have listened to 98 Rock or perhaps haven’t listened in a very long time. We’re drawing an enormous viewers to that radio station. Obviously, we market to them and attempt to get them to stay round on Monday morning or every time the video games are afterward.                 
I feel it was 2017 that we truly moved the video games from US 103.5, our nation station. Ever since then, we’ve steadily watched 98 Rock’s total rankings climb. They’re persistently a top-three radio station. Definitely top-three males 25-54 and top-five adults 25-54, which is a considerable progress over the place they have been earlier than having the Buccaneers. It speaks to the worth of getting play-by-play in your radio station. So that’s the means we take a look at it.                           
As far as a advertising play by way of the relationship, in fact, we get a number of merchandise by way of this partnership. Without stepping into all the particulars, we’ve a set as a part of the deal and we’ve labored out a deal for extra tickets. We’ve acquired a promotional relationship, so there are totally different activations that we do collectively and so forth. We’ve acquired the coach’s present and the participant exhibits on WDAE.                     
They management the stock, nevertheless it’s all simply nice content material that pulls listeners. We construct soccer packages on WDAE and use all of that merchandise you understand to essentially construct phenomenal advertising campaigns for our advertisers, all related to soccer. 
DR: Let’s discuss WFLA and John Mamola. That is a really busy man, proper? Both WDAE and WFLA are full-time jobs on their very own. What did it’s worthwhile to know or hear from him promote you on the concept that he was able to taking up each of those huge duties? 
CS: John Mamola is phenomenal. He is extraordinarily detail-oriented.                      
The actuality is, truthfully, once you examine the two radio stations, WDAE is the extra sophisticated of the two, as a result of once you take a look at WFLA, though it’s an enormous model, a high three biller in the market, we do have a number of syndicated programming on the radio station. There are some new nuances which can be related to that that have to be managed, however not the identical as managing all of the stay and native content material that we’ve on WDAE and all the shifting elements and all the contributors.             
We did put a brand new morning present on WFLA, and John has a number of expertise working with groups on delivering good content material and being succinct, and staying aligned towards the mission of the radio station and what it’s we’re concentrating on. That definitely applies to each manufacturers. It’s spoken phrase, and the great thing about working with an organization like iHeartMedia is we’ve acquired a number of model experience all through the firm.
We’ve acquired people like Grace Blazer, who’s the firm’s form of model coordinator for information speak. She supplies a number of teaching by way of the precise content material itself, however John is certainly the man to form of handle all the shifting elements of enterprise in addition to anyone. 
DR: This is an age with digital and on-demand media, when anyone can begin a present any time they wish to – podcast YouTube, no matter the case is – and so they go promote it themselves. Has that influenced legacy media in main markets in any respect? How a lot are you asking the expertise to essentially exit and lead the means by way of buying new shoppers? 
CS: We don’t actually deploy our on-air expertise to go and try this on a one-to-one foundation. But I’ll inform you, greater than ever, our gross sales and programming groups are aligned towards a typical imaginative and prescient and a typical aim and are working hand in hand to attain these objectives, whether or not it’s driving rankings, which finally drives income or driving income by going out and producing offers.
I feel social media has helped with the energy of influencer advertising. We know that clearly that it’s simply grown exponentially. I at all times clarify it to shoppers that when you concentrate on it, radio actually cultivated the first true social influencers earlier than social media ever existed and I say that solely due to the means that expertise connects with their listeners. It’s a really private relationship. That’s what makes influencers influencers.                 
The frenzy round influencer advertising, it’s given us the alternative to leverage the relationship our expertise have with their listener bases and exit and meet with shoppers and assist inform that story. It’s very, quite common that our account executives are going and assembly with expertise and having them put together what we name a seed if we’re reaching out to a brand new potential advertiser.
For WDAE, it may be, “Hey, that is TKrass. I simply wished to let you understand that I’m accustomed to your enterprise and I’d love to speak about it” and actually use them to type of simply get folks excited. They’re the star energy, and to have the ability to make the most of them to seize shoppers’ consideration is a bonus, however we’re probably not having them on the market pitching enterprise and shutting enterprise, you understand what I imply? 
DR: I perceive that. Alright, final one for you. A bit bit extra basic about the trade. Where do you see alternatives for income progress in 2023 and past? Is it new sectors and shoppers or is it discovering new income streams from the people which were with you for a very long time? 
CS: It’s somewhat little bit of each, I feel. I’m certain you’ve heard this, however by way of iHeartMedia, an enormous a part of it’s the enlargement of our digital platform. That’s an enormous a part of what we’re doing. Lots of people don’t know this, however that platform is the world’s largest curator and supplier of podcast content material. From the second that podcasting took off, it grew to become an actual thrilling proposition for future advertising alternatives and so forth. It’s in the audio area.
We went out and acquired a few the greatest podcast corporations on the market that have been creating content material. Combine that with all of the audio on demand that we have been already doing. That’s truthfully considered one of the hottest issues that we’ve in the market proper now could be to exit and symbolize our, you understand, our podcast platform as a result of it affords a lot of that worth.
It’s lean in listening. It has the lowest advert skip charges out of nearly any digital media on the market and simply delivers improbable outcomes. So, after we simply take a look at this yr and subsequent yr by way of simply true progress alternatives, that may be a huge progress alternative for us.                  
When you take a look at our core platforms, I am going again to what I mentioned earlier than. We most likely simply have by no means carried out nearly as good of a job as we may do representing the influencers that we’ve. Really driving the wave of influencer advertising that exists proper now, you understand, even this effort happening proper now, which  we’re calling “The Summer of Influence.” We’ve acquired all of our sellers working straight with our personalities, attending to know them higher than they already do to make the most of thos alternatives.                    
We’ve acquired a really, very collaborative atmosphere right here in Tampa. I’m truly answerable for Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. So it’s the west coast of Florida. We’ve actually tried to foster a collaborative atmosphere between gross sales and programming in all of my markets. We’re simply looking for methods to make that connection even stronger and actually lead with our expertise. That’s the place there’s simply an unbelievable alternative so far as sectors. It’s continually evolving and altering.
There are sure classes of enterprise that have been completely large for us 20 years in the past which can be comparatively small now and others which can be on the rise in additional non-traditional senses. So, it’s actually simply staying on high of traits. And a number of the traits that we take a look at are the place are folks spending the cash digitally, and actually approaching them.                    
We all know, there’s been huge progress in digital advertising. When you mix digital advertising with broadcast, the outcomes develop incrementally, and we’ve acquired the knowledge to again that up. Just consider all the companies that focus on you want in your private social platforms. It’s all these nontraditional companies. It’s superb, the kind of corporations we’re calling on now and producing a number of success.                      
We provide, not like every other broadcast firm, we provide the alternative to essentially leverage our whole platform and we are able to super-serve any marketer actually coast to coast. We’re in each market with the exception of Buffalo and Kansas City, these are the solely two markets that don’t have a radio platform, But we may nonetheless attain these folks by way of digital platforms. In my opinion, that’s considered one of the greatest modifications or considered one of the best modifications we’ve made.         
This firm is admittedly permitting our account executives to not be restricted by geographical boundaries and exit and generate enterprise from rising corporations – even overseas corporations which can be attempting to make their means into the United States and leverage our whole enterprise and platform, each broadcast and digital. That’s been an ideal progress alternative for us as effectively.

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