The Enduring Bond of Radio and Sports

Listening to sports on the radio has long been and continues to be a favorite American pastime.

| 2017 Q3 | by Tim Robisch, General Manager KISS-FM, The Bull and KLWN New FM & 1320, photos by Steven Hertzog
 Sports Radio

Hall of Famers and KU Radio Legends: Max Falkenstien and Bob Davis circa 1984 (photo courtesy Bob Davis)

Each of us has a special relationship with “our favorite teams” that we follow with endless devotion and passion. That relationship is not just passionately listening or watching that team, or buying tickets to see them play. Our primary team is the Jayhawks, and we know about the passion for them wherever they play. That passion extends to the Lions, Firebirds, Royals and Chiefs. The deep relationship with a fan and his or her team has a significant economic impact. Fans not only love to follow and support their favorite teams, they are attracted to anything related to them and will support advertisers who sponsor them.

The 1912 the radio broadcast of a boxing match became the first radio play-by-play broadcast of a sporting event and the sport-fan relationship moved beyond simply attending a live sporting event to bringing it to the audience wherever they lived. For Lawrence and the Jayhawk Nation, that deep connection started in the 1950s, when KLWN AM signed on and started to broadcast play-by-plays of KU athletic teams.

 Sports Radio

Brian Hanni and David Lawrence calling the KU Football game from their radio booth in Memorial Stadium

Some wonder why there is such a deep relationship and connection between radio and sports. Why so many people follow their favorite teams on radio. Why so many fans listen to the games or events on the radio in the stands. It’s the connection exists the excitement and detail of every shot and play can be heard anywhere regardless of what the listener is doing. Only need a radio—no special equipment, subscriptions or “connections.”

Additionally, the ability for the spoken word to work like an artist with a brush, painting vivid, dynamic pictures demonstrating to the audience every move on the field or court, and the ability to tell that story has become an artform in its own right. We have many masters in our midst with “artists” like Max Falkenstien, Bob Davis and Brian Hanni behind the microphone—or should we say brush?

These connections and the passion of sports fans have a significant economic impact through advertising and marketing, but well beyond revenue generated for advertising and marketing programs. The ability to follow every play and support a team beyond a seat in the arena greatly expands the size of the fan base. An ad executive once said, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.” Those sales can be fan gear, brands associated with a team and even local establishments that have benefitted from fans wanting to celebrate or share the experience of the game with a group.

The local sports scene has fans just as passionate as those of major college and professional teams. High school sports, for example football, and what is called “Friday Night Lights” has steadily grown. Beyond being a vehicle to support community teams and its participants, high school sports have significant value to student-athletes, families and fans in the community. KLWN AM-FM broadcasts nearly 100 games annually for Lawrence and Free State high schools.

 Sports Radio

Libby Ross, Matt Llewellyn and Hank Booth call the football games for the Lawrence High Lions.

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by OfficeTeam, a national staffing service, found that 66% of workers found workplace morale improved when big sporting events were incorporated into the workplace. Another 21% said their productivity improved the day after a big event.

Whether it’s the Jayhawks going to the Final Four, a state championship title game or the Royals making another postseason run, the impact of sports is strong to us on a personal level, within our community and all across northwest Kansas.

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