An Interview with Vinny DiMarco- Sales Director at ESPN New York [VIDEO]

Charlie Cadbury and Norbert Hovarth sit down with Vinny DiMarco, Sales Director at ESPN New York, and explore the world of sports radio.

Speakers: Charlie Cadbury, CEO, Say It Now; Norvert Hovarth, CTO, Say It Now; Vinny DiMarci, Sales Director, ESPN New York.

Read the full transcript here:

Charlie Cadbury 0:00
So, we’re here day two in New York with Vinny DeMarco from good karma brands. Obviously Norbert’s here as well. And just to contextualize, introduce yourself, who you are and what you do.

Vinny DiMarco 0:12
Sure. Vinnie DeMarco, as you said, market manager for good karma brands, we’ve got two radio stations here in New York City 98, seven FM and 10:50am. ESPN programming both stations are ESPN formatted combination of network content, and more national shows, as well as local shows on 98. Seven. We’re also the radio home for the New York Jets, the New York Rangers, the New York Knicks, New York Islanders, and also currently carrying the Mets in Spanish on 1050. So we got the Met games at night. I know we also operate digital sales operation here selling geo targeted to select cities around around the country.

Charlie Cadbury 0:58
Awesome. It’s quite a footplates portfolio and you know, in your background, and how what did you do to get to this point.

Vinny DiMarco 1:06
So I was a started out actually at these radio stations back about 18 years ago when they were owned by ESPN and Disney and spent some time here as the director of sales before I moved over to the more on the corporate side, and the national side, where I was selling ESPN Radio Network and new business development and helping develop business for our ESPN Radio affiliates around the country which there are hundreds of and also spend time working on our digital business on that side of of the house, as well as it most recently before I left ESPN, working also on our podcast business. And then good karma acquired these radio stations back on March 1 of this year. And they asked me to come over and run the radio stations and market for them.

Charlie Cadbury 1:55
Awesome. So if they can aggressively kind of fresh into it slightly new role what’s what is your day to day look like?

Vinny DiMarco 2:02
So the day to day, it looks like you know, I’ve got a we’ve got a sales team here, I’ve got two sales manager actually, I’m sorry, three sales managers here focused on their specialties of the digital, the digital side of our business, as well as, of course, our radio talk shows and our play by play business. And then we’ve got a marketing team here, also. And so my role is primarily managing the operations of the market from from kind of top to bottom, managing the relationships with the teams, managing overseeing the talent and the programming side of the of the house. As well as just making sure things are running smoothly and try to think strategically about what’s the next thing for us, and how do we continue to grow our business in this environment?

Norbert Horvath 2:49
In our series of interviews with different radio stations, there’s the first one that is sports centric, we just say that there’s a significant difference in programming or strategy or operations in terms of sports, radio versus average.

Vinny DiMarco 3:03
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, sports, you know, sports is, I’ve sold it throughout my career, I’ve sold other formats, I’ve sold the news formats, I’ve sold music formats in my, in my previous life prior to ESPN, you know, sports is unique in that it may not be the highest rated programming across the country, but it’s the most passionate audience. And so it’s a different it’s a bit of a different cell, we spent a lot of time really working with our, our clients, our partners to understand how those associations with our sports teams or with our programming are different on our hosts can enhance their, their business, right and so it is definitely different from other formats. And it is you know, with Spoken Word format is certainly one that allows for you know, that foreground listening and impactful campaigns for our partners right a little bit more so it’s your sports, especially when it comes to the live sports. You know, it’s not something you can you can record or listen back on a live sports live sports and by the time it’s the game is over, you already know the score. And so it’s really his appointment listening for people, for our fans, and then allow us again that association for our partners. So let’s have a ratings, seller audience sell as much as it is a passion sell and finally creating those associations for our for a partner. So certainly different than in the music side of the business.

Norbert Horvath 4:33
Right. So in terms of audience insights, we just say it’s a better understanding of your audience given the format versus a news or

Vinny DiMarco 4:42
music. Yeah, I would say it’s a I would say we have to have a better understanding of our of our fans and you know, you have fans, us carrying multiple sports teams that we have. We have the fans that are Ranger fans are a passionate bunch and we need to speak to them individually. And those fans are going to be Different than a New York Jets fan or a New York Knicks fan. So we have to understand those fans, and we have to program to them. And we have to speak to them individually. And they’ll right now the Rangers are about to embark on game two of their playoff run, which we hope will be a good long one. And so we have to customize that content. We know our fans are coming here to talk about to hear about the post game, you know, kind of talk to talk through the game tough loss the other night and game one after a triple overtime. So we need to be relevant and speaking to them. You know, with our morning show that day following yesterday, we have to make sure we’re leaning into that content, because we know our fans are coming. Whether whether the team wins or loses, those fans want to come and talk about it. Sometimes it’s actually they want to talk more about it in a loss than they do with a win. So we have to be able to speak to that and customize that content.

Norbert Horvath 5:49
So that means you also have a closer relationship to your advertisers. Because you understand your offense better. Would you say that us?

Vinny DiMarco 5:58
Yes, I would say that. I would say that’s absolutely the case. And we have in most cases, we have direct relationships with our clients directly, right? Yes, well, we’ll work through their ad agencies, for sure. We’re getting involved in just kind of doing doing the doing the paperwork of the buys and things like that. And we have tremendous relationships inside those ad agencies. But the partners are the ones that will we have to work closely with to customize their messaging inside of whatever content they’re inside of whether it’s a Rangers partner, who was also investing in our talk radio shows, and working with them to customize and understand what they’re trying to achieve with that associate that team association that we’ve helped them help them to create. Right?

Charlie Cadbury 6:40
And then how do you get token to understand the kind of your audience base? And do you have any kind of two way communication with them, and you can have grown social channels to listen to what they’re asking for you?

Vinny DiMarco 6:49
We are we’re actually, you know, we need to get better at some of our social social media, you know, some of our social media, we had to get a little bit better at it. We’re working on that and focusing on that. So yeah, we do have to understand those fans and social media is a great way to great way to do that. But yeah, I mean, that’s that’s really the two way communication is, you know, in a lot of our shows whether we have our, our excuse me, our show handles that we speak to our fans from or some of our talent have their own their own social media channels that daily use as well to speak to their fans individually, you know, if we have like the Michael K show is made up of Michael K. So So with Don McGregor and Peter Rosenberg, Don, Peter and Michael have their own individual followings outside of just the show following. So they speak to those fans as well, individually. And so it helps to just engage, engage with fans and different through different channels.

Charlie Cadbury 7:43
Cool. Now, we’re looking a little bit about best practice in kind of audio advertising, right. And so one of the questions we’re asking everyone is, if you can think back to maybe the first audio radio ad that you heard, or like one that stands out to you from from a while back?

Vinny DiMarco 8:00
Yeah, I think I think the the catchy jingles will always work. You know, radio is always traditionally been a frequency medium. So the more you can get that message heard, and you know, it’s always we’ve always heard the metric of, you know, making sure there’s a call to action and that messaging, right. And so, I think the combination of something that’s catchy, and being heard frequently, and with a very clear messaging on how consumers can, can react, and what that call to action is, is has to be there. And so we will try to work with our clients and consult them in terms of best practices, we’re helping them write their radio copy, we do a lot of we do a lot of pre recorded commercials that come from production houses, we also do a lot of live read commercials are our talent. You know, doing those live reads you create now the the association with ESPN, New York, we have created that association with that individual talent. And so we find those to be really powerful. And we’ll we’ll work with our clients directly to, you know, to help them to really design the right creative not only for their brand, but for the hosts that may be doing those reads and understanding that host and kind of what makes them tick so that that creative can really be customized for their brand and for the host that’s actually reading them. So how

Norbert Horvath 9:18
do you frame up the efficacy of a campaign and a scenario? How do you measure success?

Vinny DiMarco 9:25
Sure, well, you know, our clients will our partners will tell us often how their how their ads are performing, right? And different brands have different metrics, of course, right? We all want to pay attention to what those KPIs and understand them upfront what exactly the brand is using as a measurement. So some of our partners will are just looking for that branding Association. And those are a little bit tougher to measure on the radio side, versus someone who’s more of a direct response based partner and is actually measuring phone calls or measuring website traffic. We’ve used some outside third party analytics companies previously that have you know, figured out ways to create some type of of a metric of looking at web traffic within a certain window of when spots air and we share or log times with them and things like that. So it really depends on the advertiser what the goal is of the campaign. But most of the time, our partners will let us know how we’re doing is what if they ever works? I mean, ultimately, it’s bringing customers to their business and then making more money and that that’s how they determine success.

Charlie Cadbury 10:29
Not not obviously the you know, we, we are a big proponent of actionable advertising, you know, that you can talk back to using your smart speaker. And obviously, that gives us another layer of insight in the moment, how important do you think that kind of engagement and insight is going to be moving forward on smart speakers?

Vinny DiMarco 10:46
I think it’s incredible. I mean, I think that the smart speaker has really opened up a new channel for audio specifically, you know, terrestrial audio has always been our bread and butter, right. But we’ve seen more people, we actually just recently launched our own app about a week ago, specific to ESPN, New York and our content. And so, but on the smart speaker side, it’s certainly interesting, especially in this environment, where more people are at home. And so that at home listening on radio is traditionally terrestrial radio, anyways, traditionally been that in car listening experience, right now, of course, there’s, you know, there are smart speaker type of capabilities in the automobiles, but to be on those platforms, and have the ability for consumers to interact with, with with an ad on the radio or on that smart speaker, which is just an extension of radio on a different platform, is it can be really powerful. And I think that, you know, advertisers going to are going to really welcome that.

Norbert Horvath 11:43
Right. What would you what would you expect out of interactive voice in the future? How could it serve you not just in content, but also in content monetization? What would be the most ideal outcome for you?

Vinny DiMarco 11:55
I think, look, as we just talked about, you know, advertisers want to see results. And so if we’re anyway, that we’re able to help them better measure audio, which is not as measurable as a digital media. So any way that we can help them measure those results, we know that radio works, it’s it’s it’s a, it’s proven. We know it’s been around for a long time, radio advertising and radio in general. And so we know it works. And oftentimes we have, it’s, it’s a challenge to show those metrics, aside from their cash register ring more. So if we can help to, you know, bring radio to a place where it’s measurable, like digital media is measurable, that’s incredibly powerful. And something that I think will help us see advertisers and partners swing more of their budgets to radio where rightfully,

Charlie Cadbury 12:46
it should be great, amazing, and it’s kind of building on kind of its swinging revenue towards towards radio, you know, you said that, you know, you’re growing the team here, what what’s, what’s your outlook on, on growth for this industry? And what do you think’s driving it?

Vinny DiMarco 12:59
I think I think my outlook is, is really positive, we’re actually doing really well right now in terms of our ad revenue, where we’re exceeding goals. Right now we’re seeing exceeding budgets, we’ve seen some new revenue streams open up in the last couple of years sports book has certainly been one that’s affected this, this state. And we’ll continue to affect this state and other states beyond as we kind of move forward and state different states legalize sports, gambling, but my outlook is strong is I think that you know, we see, we know that radio works, as I said, and so what we see it you know, in over the last decade or so, digital media has been kind of the shiny new toy, right? And again, it’s the measurability of it and it’s the instant feedback that advertisers are able to see from that and so but we also know that radios or to traditional medium works and especially when we talked about in car listening where you see you know, people are closer to that point of purchase and so we know that there’s there’s some powerful there and if we can if we can figure out that way to reach those folks on on radio and have an actually prove it out more of a digital metric and prove to people how it works. I’m encouraged about radio isn’t going away.

Charlie Cadbury 14:15
This is awesome. I’m so like, um, you know, you’re really hiring and you know, what we’re looking to kind of build the future of this industry like if you work at a college leaver wanting to kind of get get into this what would your advice be to those fresh out of college? is just trying to try and get him what what steps needed? What should they do if they wanted to one day, be sitting in your seats?

Vinny DiMarco 14:36
Look, I think I think people who are passionate about sports, that’s certainly a great foundation. Because you know, you can you can always you can sell, you’re always more effective at selling what you are passionate about. And so we look not that we say that we look for people who are sports fans, but if we have and we’re talking all the time to young people out Whew, coming out of college, and we’re actually bringing in a bunch of interns this year, for the first time and a few years, you know, we’re getting our internship program back on track. And I think that people who have a marketing brain and are interested in you know, they focused on that in college, right? That’s been their major, or sometimes it’s not even their major, just passionate about sports, and they’ve got good personalities, and they’ll have like to talk to people and engage with people, they can be successful in this business. And that’s what we look for. It’s not necessarily did they major in sports marketing, in college, but are they good at talking to people? And are they passionate about sports and see the value in, in the associations that we can create, I mean, we have a really unique spot here, we can talk to a lot of different partners, you know, whether somebody wants to affiliate with the NFL in the New York Jets, or it’s maybe a different advertiser wants to affiliate with the New York Rangers and the NHL, and we have the ability to really speak to a different a lot of different advertisers and find the right mix for them. And of course, the digital side of our business is, is, is really important, as well, as we, you know, sell And we’re able to deliver, you know, connected TV, as well as display ads and geo targeted and all the capabilities that come along with being on

Norbert Horvath 16:17
Now, just out of curiosity, I’m radio is serving the community, how do you serve the community, what is your your outreach and help and assistance to the community.

Vinny DiMarco 16:28
So we try to be mindful of, of, you know, what’s happening around us, right, and we try to lean into that. So, you know, we’ve done a good job, I think of it continue to do a good job of, you know, just listening to the community and listening to what’s important at the moment and leaning into that. And so that’s really what it’s about. It’s about having a habit of having your finger on the pulse of the city of New York and listening to it and reacting to it and serving those those fans. Not just as it relates to sports, many people come to us because they trust us, right? They trust the ESPN brand. And they trust that they’re going to get a good experience and a good product. And they trust that we’re going to listen to what the community has to say. And we’re going to we’re going to lean in, lean in where we need to lean in.

Charlie Cadbury 17:13
Amazing. Now if I’m in closing, if anyone’s kind of listened to some of your output, you know where we’re at, where should they go? What will you be listening to on the way?

Vinny DiMarco 17:21
Well, I will tell you right away go to the go to your app store and download our new app that we just launched a week ago ESPN New York you know, that’s that’s certainly our attempt to make it easier for fans to get our product no matter where they are. But certainly 98 Seven FM on the terrestrial side. That’s that’s that’s our bread and butter. And certainly if you want to hear any of our of our games, including tonight’s New York Rangers vs penguins, Pittsburgh, penguins, you can tune into 97 and and that’s, that’s our those are our two main focuses right now. And of course 1050 on the am dial is the other place where you can get a combination of our network programming and Metzen Spanish if you’re a med fan, and you speak Spanish and you want to hear the game in Spanish, you can listen there. And so yeah, there’s a lot of ways you can consume our product and of course, on the smart speaker if you want to if you want to lean into that and ask for 98 Seven FM, you just be on New York. You can catch us there

Charlie Cadbury 18:21
Fantastic. All you had to hit download the app and tune in. Funny. Thanks so much for carving out some time for sure. I really appreciate it guys. Appreciate it. Thanks. You happy? Yeah, great. That was brilliant. The best we’ve done this since Okay, good. Really, really tight.