McGraw-Hill’s Bakersfield, Calif., ABC affiliate drives sales by tossing footballs into high school bleachers and by offering an always-on ad position in its morning news ticker.
Steve McEvoy took the handoff and ran 6,500 footballs into the end zone. Then, he quarterbacked a game-winning play all his own. OK, let’s call time out on the sports metaphors long enough for the color commentary.
McEvoy is general sales manager of McGraw-Hill’s KERO—ABC23 in Bakersfield, Calif. (DMA 126). But unlike many broadcasters in small markets, McEvoy says KERO isn’t struggling. “In the past three years, the market has grown 23% and so has our revenue—largely in housing and therefore automotive. Bakersfield is one of the last places in California where you can still find an affordable house.”
So attracting new business to KERO is not quite as important as supplying traditional clients with added value and fresh reasons to advertise. “Our clients are always looking for more than spots and dots. They want campaigns that get them and their logos out in the community.”
That’s why Steve knew he’d found a winner in Football Toss, a promotion developed by WBDT Dayton, Ohio. The play was smart and simple.
Every Friday night this fall, KERO staffers visit a different high school football field. Throughout the game, they pepper the stands with miniature footballs, each brandishing six logos: one each for the station and its popular 23 Yardline Saturday sports highlight show, plus one each for sponsors Pepsi, Touchdown Sports, a mattress chain and a local law firm. Fans leap from their seats to catch the footballs, which double as season passes to free or discounted merchandise or services from the sponsors.
Each client runs its own commercial promoting its involvement in The 23 Yardline Football Toss, reminding people where to claim their prizes. KERO reinforces the campaign with proof-of-performance spots, which also announce the next high school field at which 500 footballs will be hurled. The result? A nice increase in sales and/or foot traffic for sponsors plus a solid ratings boost for 23 Yardline.
While borrowing from another playbook, McEvoy and the rest of the KERO team have demonstrated that it can also create its own game breakers.
Last year, KERO managers declared war on underperforming dayparts and early morning was at the top of their list. And with Good Morning America at 7 a.m., a morning newscast was the logical option. The trick was creating a solid alternative to competing morning shows. Adding to the revenue challenge was the news department’s natural aversion to puff pieces or other advertiser-friendly abominations.
So KERO managers decided to resolve disagreements before they could arise. In a two-day offsite retreat, KERO assembled “anyone and everyone who plays a role in managing or supervising the execution of news.” Together, they addressed every aspect of the new morning show from concept and content right through sales and audience promotion. Because the competition relied on soft features and interviews, KERO targeted hard-core news viewers. Last fall, they branded and launched ABC23’s No Bull Morning News.
Part of their no-nonsense image was a state-of-the-art lower third “news ticker” displaying ever-changing headlines and weather data—precious on-air real estate that contained a golden sales opportunity. With the news department’s blessing, the left-hand section of the ticker was set aside for a sponsor’s logo, which McEvoy’s team quickly sold exclusively to a longtime advertiser, Bill Wright Toyota, which pays a premium for the daily two-hour showcase.
One year and four rating books after its September 2005 launch, viewership of No Bull Morning News has grown tenfold from a 0.1 to almost a 1.0 and it’s still growing. With only one sponsor, McEvoy can’t reveal the value of the promotion to KERO’s bottom line, but says it’s “substantial.” And how happy is Bill Wright Toyota with his logo placement? He recently told the station to “keep running it ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“til we tell you to stop.” In other words, no time soon.
Arthur Greenwald’s Market Share is a series on successful station promotions that appears every Monday. Next week, we’ll check out a station in the Pacific Northwest that’s found a way to soften the financial burden of digital transition with a high-definition sales promotion. We’re on the lookout for other good ideas for increasing local audience and revenue. If you have one (or more) to share, please contact Arthur Greenwald at [email protected]