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Peer Q&A: Reaching Your Fans

with Brian Cain, M.S., CAA, North Country Union High School, Vt.

A Vermont atheltic director explains how his student-athletes use the radio to reach their fans and sponsors.

Two years ago when Brian Cain came to North Country Union High School (Newport, Vt.) as its Athletic Director, one of his biggest goals was to generate a greater amount of positive interest within the student-body about sports and the profession of athletic administration. The more positive interest within the student-body, Cain believes, the greater ability a school has to market its athletics program to its community.

Cain began his task by revamping the student-run athletic council, which governs NCUHS's sports-related community service projects. One such project developed is the Falcons Nest Talk Show, a weekly high school sports radio program that promotes North Country Union's athletics program. One major reason why this radio show was created was due to the sheer size of school district's 60-square-mile radius. The Falcons Nest Talk Show helps NCUHS's sports teams communicate with their fans, some of who cannot always make it to games.

WPJK is the local radio station that had broadcast most of the school's games and hosted the radio talk show. Although the show undergoing programming changes for the 2006-07 school year, Cain worked with the station to make sure that the format was similar to that of an ESPN radio show. The format included fan call-ins, student-athlete and coaches interviews, sports highlights, game analyses, and on-air sponsorships. The shows were taped live mid-week and generally broadcast on Friday nights.

Cain talks about how this type of media has been an effective tool for maintaining a stronger relationship with the Newport community.


FFS: Where was the Falcons Nest Talk Show set up and how did the program work?
BC: The show took place at a pizza place right next to the high school. Although the business closed recently, the owners were tremendously supportive of the school and the athletics program, and the plan was to go there on Wednesdays and a have a radio show. The station highlighted different North Country teams each week, or they'd bring in various players from different (NCUHS) teams and talk to them about what's going on with them and their sports. They'd also interview the coaches.

It was a fun place for family and friends to be able to get together one night during the week to have some pizza and really support the program. It was also neat because the station would have people call in and ask the student-athletes questions. It is a great community service piece for us, and it's something that we want to make sure that we keep it going.

What time did the radio show air and how long was a typical broadcast?

The show usually began around 6 p.m. until about 6:30; maybe 6:10 to 6:40. Generally, we'd try to shoot for 6 o'clock. Practice usually gets out around 5, 5:15. It gave kids time to shower and get ready to get down to the pizza shop and get situated.

The program itself went anywhere from a half-hour to 45 minutes. In terms of setup and on-air time, it's right around 30 minutes with commercials. The radio station provided all the equipment and would do some pre-recordings for the following week's show, or it would take some snip-its and play them during the week to promote the show. In total, we were usually there for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

How many call-ins were received per session?
You get anywhere from three to seven. Usually, it's friends of the student-athlete calling from his cell phone or calling from outside. Sometimes they'll call and ask a stupid question, and the whole place laughed. We'd also get parents or student-athletes' relatives calling in. What's also really important is that we do have a strong following of older Falcon fans who are unable to make it to an athletics program on a consistent basis. They would often call in and ask more serious questions.

Were clips ever used during halftime or for a pre-game show?
I really can't say. I'm usually running around coordinating stuff during the game, but our radio guy did a fantastic job. Before the game, he came down to the field—or even during the day he'd come to the school—and interview the coach and talk to some of the kids. He'd use those clips during the pre-game or halftime shows. Sometimes he'd also call the coach from the other school, and use that for his pre-game report, as well.

What role, if any, did non-student-athletes at NCUHS have with the Falcons Nest Talk Show?
Oftentimes, we'd highlight a "Fan of the Week." Or, if we had homecoming or a festivity going on where we have a dance, we may bring in a member of each class, whether the person was an athlete or not, to be interviewed. Regardless, the person on the air would talk about what was going on academically and socially at the school. We have had a few student-leaders on the radio show who were winter or spring athletes coming over to talk during the fall season about their sports.

When do you anticipate the new Falcons Nest Talk Show to begin?
We may not get this going again until mid-way through the fall season or toward the end of the season. But we're trying hard to get this going pretty soon. Luckily, sponsorship hasn't been one of the issues. A lot of the businesses support the high school, and anytime when they can do something to further that support, they do.

Students at NCUHS can take business classes where they work with teachers and/or school administrators on sports marketing and campaigning. Did these students approach businesses to sponsor the Falcons Nest Talk Show, or were the sponsors approached by the radio station? Who took care of the advertising money: the students and administrators or the radio station?
Both questions are correct. The station kept the funds raised from the advertisements, but we are currently working out a compensation plan.

Can you give an example of what an on-air sponsorship would be for the radio show?
One of the on-air ads was from the Derby Village Store. The Derby Village Store is a big supporter of Falcon athletics, so its ad would be something like, "If you like the hot dogs that you eat at a North Country football game, you can get those same hot dogs at our store."

Our sponsors do a good job to real tie in their ads to the radio station and into the athletic program, which is nice.


For more information on the Falcons Nest Talk Show, please contact Brian Cain at: bcain@ncuhs.org.



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