Magazine article Marketing

MacKenzie Plans Sports Revolution

Magazine article Marketing

MacKenzie Plans Sports Revolution

Article excerpt

Kelvin MacKenzie has rebranded Talk Radio as talkSPORT and given it a 70% sports bias to give the brand greater focus and to target a young male audience, writes Poppy Brech

Kelvin MacKenzie's latest marketing ploy -- rebranding Talk Radio as talkSPORT -- may lack the derring-do of previous stunts, such as News Bunny and topless darts, but it could prove his most inspired move to date.

Talk Radio's rebranding as the UK's first sports radio station -- a one-stop shop for sports news, commentary, interviews and comment -- is the conclusion to its gradual repositioning over the past year as a male-biased station, with a strong sports emphasis.

The repositioning has included axing mainstream magazine-type formats, such as Anna Raeburn's agony aunt show, in favour of a 70% bias toward sport, fuelled by a series of acquisitions of exclusive sports-related rights, such as coverage of Manchester United's home Champions League matches and England's winter cricket tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

"Our research showed a high level of misappropriation," says Tim Bleakley, managing director of Impact, the newly established sales company for Talk Radio's parent company, The Wireless Group. "People wanting to tune into Manchester United in Europe wouldfind us on the dial and think they were listening to Radio 5 Live. Our association with sport wasn't strong enough."

Improved focus

The repositioning is being backed by a [pounds]6m investment in marketing and a seven-figure investment from MacKenzie's own wallet.

"Rebranding serves as a focus, both for the listener -- who no longer has to dart in and out -- and for us. We no longer need different marketing for the breakfast show and the afternoon programmes," says MacKenzie.

The pressure will be on to make the repositioning work; Rajar results for the three months to September 1999 saw Talk's weekly reach drop by 17% from 2.3 million the previous quarter to 1.9 million. But Bleakley claims tracking by the station shows audiences for the fourth quarter are back up to two million, and that the average listener -- younger, male and more upmarket -- is starting to mirror the station's positioning.

Another key reason behind the repositioning was that the Talk brand simply wasn't sexy enough for the station's target audience of 25-to 44-year-old ABC1 men. …

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