Radio stations have sponsors.

Sponsors keep the lights on and send the station manager’s kids to college. As mentioned, even a local radio station is a multi-million dollar business.

As a potential guest, host or advertiser, you are technically one of those sponsors.

Most stations have billboard, print, events and web-based advertising and outreach programs. As a potential advertiser, you’ll be asked to contribute to all of these by most savvy radio sales executives.

The only difficult part about being a sponsor is measuring how well these mediums perform.

Broadcast media is woefully ill-prepared to give you such precise statistics as how long a listener is listening to you, how old they are and where they came from.

In the world of the internet and social media advertising, you can market to left-handed, single women who just read last month’s issue of Cosmopolitan and live in Boise. Targeting has become freakishly precise online.

Broadcast? Not so much.

Here is an example of how one advertiser and media channel set up a rather basic and profitable venture to convert the power of broadcast  with the appeal of direct response.

Radio station: “Advertise with us…people will hear about you….”(yawn…so what? Says the car dealer)

Car dealer stated: “If you can get a listener to take a test drive, our closing ratio is doubled. We would pay $35 for a lead like that.”

My marketing buddy (who spent half his life producing informercials and is a DR fanatic) came up with this win-win scenario.

Radio station plays “joke of the day” (probably more than once a day) or snippets from a comedy show. Humor…fun and relevant to the demographics of the station.

The host announces, “If you enjoyed that, you can get a FREE 1 hour CD of all of XYZ comedy tour by visiting Main Street Nissan!” Just stop in for a test drive to pick up your FREE CD”

Instead of charging dealer by the minute on the radio they charge by the CD.


Station drops off 200 CD’s a month. They go and pick up 100. Dealer owes him $3500 (at $35 per CD)

The car dealer LOVES this system. Their test drives (and sales) went up significantly. The radio station loves the DR because they actually made MORE money (and more importantly) they had tangible numbers to keep the client engaged.

NOTE: These numbers are made up…you get the point. It’s a way to make both parties responsible for RESULTS, not impressions.

Direct response is highly appealing for advertisers as it let’s you give a very specific number to the cost of acquiring a client.

When you work with an advertiser who has your best interest at heart as well as their own bottom line, deals like this can be accomplished. It’s a bit out of their comfort zone and a test may be required to pull it off.

Sponsoring Your Show

When I migrated from the 2nd largest talk show in Chicago to the largest station (WLS which is owned by ABC/Disney) the cost per show tripled. We were investing well over $20,000 per month to host a show and promote our program. With a $6500 high-ticket item to sell, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Some month’s it was.

We looked into getting a few sponsors to take the edge off our ad spend and pay for our program.

We were evolving into a real program.

With some experience under our belt and vertical companies flush with cash, we were able to get mortgage companies, developers and even some of our former guests to buy airtime on our program to help fund it.

And it killed us.

When you give up airtime for dollars in the short run, you may develop a cash cushion to relieve some of the burden. If it was a daily show, no drop in the audience would be noticed.

However, with a weekly show and only 48 minutes of air time, even selling 5-6 minutes of commercial time quickly drained our ability to keep our audience focused and engaged.

Don’t sell out. Increase YOUR product offerings. Own your clients-not the airtime.