Monday, February 8, 2021

What Will Become of Radio Row?

The world’s most advanced trading market for influence reconvenes every year for radio row at the Super Bowl. For decades, local stations have gathered along with sponsors and stars to exchange time, money and recognition, reports Sportico.

Household names can earn six figures for a few days of promotional work, while less-known personalities attempt to grow their brands and networks. Stations get a chance to book guests they wouldn’t otherwise have a shot at, making sure to leverage their few minutes with each into bankable and shareable content. For brands, “Radio is still the greatest way to reach local audiences,” MELT founder and marketing executive Vince Thompson  said. 

Radio row expanded beyond those transmitting AM and FM frequencies in recent years, with podcasters lining up alongside online outposts like Twitter. This year, digital has taken over. Fewer than 40 stations are in Tampa this week, whereas more than 100 have congregated in the past. 

The NFL often facilitates bringing current and former NFL players to the Super Bowl city, but isn’t it didn't happen this time year. Last Monday, video of a desolate Radio Row circulated online. 

In some ways, the radio row ethos has survived, with plenty of brand-supported interviews being conducted remotely. Radio row vets said the current setup will likely end up benefiting the biggest guests, who can squeeze in more spots this week without worrying about traffic or autograph hawks.

“We are definitely hard at work getting creative and figuring out how we can find new revenue streams,” Octagon marketing VP Jennifer Keene said, pointing to branded content on social as one thing she’s seeing more of. Much of what is lost, meanwhile, won’t show up in any accounting ledgers.

When it comes to radio row and beyond, Thompson said, “Everybody is in a massive rethink on what to do now.” If and when the pandemic relents, radio stations, athletes and marketers will be figuring out whether the old-fashioned market is worth their investment. With next year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles, the sell might be easier for stars than for budget-conscious networks.

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