January 20, 2021

BIA Advisory Services, which tracks the local advertising spend for 16 different media, half of which are traditional and half of which are digital/online, is reporting that radio advertising spends will be up slightly this year. To get more revenue, and deliver stronger sponsor results, we in public radio sponsorship can work on getting more “share of wallet.”

“Share of wallet” is defined in this context as the dollar amount a client spends with a particular advertising media. Radio, historically, has not asked for enough “share of wallet” compared to the unparalleled reach that radio offers. This year, if you change your expectations and your “ask,” you can change your sponsorship revenue results.

The Radio Advertising Bureau reports the total number of radio listeners from Nielsen’s RADAR data every year.  92% of all Americans over the age of 18 listened to radio in 2019. As of August 2020, in Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, approximately 91% of all Americans over the age of 18 were listening to radio. According to Nielsen  this means that Radio is America’s #1 reach media. 241.6 million people listen to radio each week. How does this compare to TV? Television reaches 80% of Americans over the age of 18 according to the same Nielsen data.

If you add the high Time Spent Listening (TSL) metrics showing how many public radio listeners are P1 listeners, or “super listeners” (people who listen to your station more than any other) you have a case for not only strong reach, but highly effective reach with public radio.

Next, what about public radio audience’s quality? Public radio listeners tend to be highly educated and, in many markets, more than 25% of listeners have a household income of over $100k. What does this mean to sponsors? It means they have qualified buyers for just about anything. Reaching a qualified audience is important. It means that the sponsor is spending their marketing money reaching the right audience. Reaching the right audience is the first step to connection in the sales process.

If we know all this is true about the value of public radio listeners for sponsors, there are three ways to get more share of wallet this year:

Manage digital buyers and agencies

1. Ask for more.

Start asking for more monthly spend in your proposals right now. Double what you’ve been asking sponsors to spend monthly. I bet that sounds scary. I can just hear the naysayers. But wait! Even if the sponsor chooses your lowest proposed amount, it will be more than you would have proposed. Many sponsorship representatives get in the habit of asking for the same amount from most of their prospective sponsors. It’s just a habit. I bet you have two levels of sponsorship – a small level and a medium level – that you are in the habit of proposing, and that you have been using the same amounts for a couple of years. Maybe you adjusted the monthly spend you are proposing regularly down during the pandemic.

I’m here to tell you it’s not enough. You are not asking for enough share of wallet. Try doubling the two levels that you have been routinely asking for for three months and just see what happens. I bet you will be surprised. For sponsors to succeed, you need a strong broadcast schedule with enough frequency of messages to reach half your listening audience per week. You also need a budget for digital ads and streaming audio pre-roll. Everyone wants the sponsor’s schedule to work, especially the sponsor, so ask for more. Remember you represent a hard-to-reach, qualified audience of listeners with the #1 reach media in America. If public radio were a car, it would probably be a Lexus, Mercedes, or Tesla. Your qualified audience is worth the price.

2. Create stronger/larger message schedules and add digital touchpoints. 

Charlie Sislen shared a chart by the RAB from Nielsen’s Spring 2020 data in an article he wrote for Radio Ink showing the number of weekly spots needed to reach different percentages of audience by format. Here is the chart:

If you look at the “Light and Medium” levels for News/Talk formats you’ll see that to reach ½ of your weekly listeners, you need approximately 21 messages per week. This is considered a “light” schedule. The “medium” level of message frequency is 42 messages per week. We won’t even look at the “heavy” level.

How does this compare with what you have been proposing to sponsors? Many sponsorship representatives stay in the 11 message per week range or the “very light” message level which only reaches a third of their weekly listener audience. If the sponsor is on the air for 12 months, then this may work for them after three or four months, but you may lose them before that and they may go away believing that public radio doesn’t work. A study by WBUR shows that more message frequency works for sponsors and gives them great results. The most recent NPR Halo research also backs this claim:

Also, it’s important to add digital ads and streaming audio pre-roll to increase the potential for sponsorship success by adding multiple touchpoints to your listeners and website visitors. The more touchpoints and frequency reaching your audience, the greater the success for your sponsor.

3. Pick the right prospects.

Maybe this should have been #1, but if you want to ask for more “share of wallet” and you know it will deliver better results, then you need a prospective sponsor that has budget capacity, matches with your audience, and aligns with your service area. If your service area covers a large area, then matching a prospect with multiple locations within your service area is a really good fit. Then, you can break the spend down to how many locations they have. For instance, if they have five locations in your service area and you’ve asked for $2,500 per month, that’s only $500 per profit center or location per month.

Have you ever spent an entire month convincing a prospect that you liked to sponsor your station, but they only wanted to spend $600 per month? Was this a good prospect choice for you to spend your time on? Maybe they make cupcakes and they only have one location. Maybe the cupcakes are really good, but broadcast radio isn’t the right marketing choice for them. Make sure you are choosing prospects that will benefit from reaching your service area. Dermatologists, orthopedists, or allergy care clinics with multiple locations work really well for broadcast messages and digital ads and so do banks or credit unions. Automotive dealerships are a good choice. Use our prospect analysis worksheet and a client needs worksheet to determine the best prospects and how to connect with them successfully.

We have the mission to support public radio and public television with sponsorship revenue. How lucky we are to represent such strong and trustworthy brands! It’s time to ask for more and deliver success to all stakeholders.

Manage digital buyers and agencies