One of the biggest challenges the programmer of any brand faces is the endless pursuit of keeping it fresh and exciting. What can you do to attract new consumers and keep current ones coming back more regularly? Regular readers of our Tuesdays With Coleman blog know that behind the obvious potential perceptual and ratings benefits for audio brands, there’s science behind surprising your listeners as well.
For the radio stations, podcasters, and streaming services we work with, their listeners develop expectations of how the respective products are presented. For music stations, air talent introduces song. Talent plays song. Talent has talk content. Commercials. Repeat.
You could say the same thing about Monday Night Football or any sportscast. Set up play. Call the play. Talk about play. Other talk content. Repeat.
That is, until Peyton and Eli Manning.
Instead of the traditional calling of the game, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (also known as the “ManningCast,”) is an alternate version of Monday Night Football that airs on ESPN2 that features the former NFL quarterback siblings doing exactly what the viewer is doing – watching the game and making comments about it. The Mannings conduct A-list interviews with everyone from Jon Stewart to LeBron James. While the game is on. Star players like Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Buffalo’s Josh Allen (Go Bills) sit in on their bye week. You can really start to feel the viral and must-see nature of the ManningCast. You could tell former NFL Defensive End and current Good Morning America anchor Michael Strahan was exhausted when he started speaking in the opening of GMA last Tuesday. But, he admitted he had to participate. “It’s the Mannings!,” Strahan exclaimed before transparently sharing, “I was up past my bedtime.”
This isn’t the first time Monday Night Football has tried something new. After a five-year ratings slide, the show teamed comedian Dennis Miller with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts in 1999. The ratings tanked, and Miller and Fouts were let go two years later. Bringing on a sarcastic comedian as a sports show co-host was risky. But the way ESPN2 is presenting the game on the ManningCast has been (kinda) done before.
Starting in 1988, Mystery Science 3000 turned the act of movie reviewing on its head. The viewer watched the movie along with the characters, as they riffed and cracked jokes along the way.
Beavis and Butthead turned music video watching on its head. The viewer watched the videos with them, as they riffed and cracked jokes along the way.
Ever watch a livestream of a group of gamers playing video games? (If you target younger consumers, you should because they do.) It’s got that same raw quality, abandoning the traditional play-by play for a more companion-style experience.
The Manning experiment has been a big success so far, growing from 800,000 viewers in its first week to a record 1.9 million. Overall viewership for Monday Night Football (including both broadcasts) is up 17% from 2020 and 15% from 2019.
There are a number of lessons in why it works: It’s unique, innovative, and unexpected. It has star power. But the Mannings also fit the Monday Night Football brand. There’s a reason you don’t put Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football and why you don’t play “Stairway To Heaven” on a Hip Hop station. Popularity isn’t everything.
Is there a way you can offer your product in a fresh way like Monday Night Football has done with the Mannings? Which of your star talent can present your content from the vantage point of the listener? How could this be used in a News show? Or a countdown? Or a behind-the-scenes podcast? Should it be a specialty show, a podcast, or both? How can you leverage it to lift the overall brand, like the “ManningCast” has for Monday Night Football?
Surprising your listeners is great. Surprising your listeners when it supports and lifts the brand is a home run. Err…a touchdown.