Hey Radio, Are You Ready For An NFL Bake Off?


“Touchdown” cake by Freed’s Bakery

Almost every program director I’ve ever worked with has had that competitive streak.  You either have it or you don’t.  Yes, the ratings are a natural battleground, essentially evenly matched between all stations in a given market.  Sales managers are playing games with Miller Kaplan rankings (or whatever is used to measure billing in a given market).

Back when I worked in Detroit radio, there was a softball league comprised of radio stations and ad agencies.  Everyone competed hard.  There were lots of “sub-agendas” going on, whether you were up against an agency (who had just left you off an important buy!) or whether your opposition was another station in town.  When stations competing directly against one another for the same listeners met on the softball diamond, it was like fighting a mini-war.  I can’t overestimate the intensity of those feelings even though we were playing softball games.

And the nice thing is that when the game ended, whatever hard feelings there were seemed to dissolve over beers at Mr. Joe’s, a nearby watering hole that was also a driving range – perfect for apres softball.  

But then there was a different form of competition, usually predicated by a very popular band playing in concert at one of the local venues.  In my hometown of Detroit, there was always a fever pitch for a concert with one of the biggest bands – Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who, Journey, etc.  It was all about which station could outdo the other in visibility, merch, ticket giveaways, and the broadcast from the venue.  Everyone competed hard on all these fronts, trying to one-up the competition.

When things got really crazy was when a beloved hometown band like Bob Seger or the Romantics decided to play locally, often setting up a series of several concerts spread over a number of days.  Talk about pressure to perform.

That’s why when I saw a recent competition among all 32 NFL teams that had nothing to do with football, it caught my attention.  And it took me back to those halcyon days of fierce rock radio competition to see who could own the streets.   At one time, there were four “AOR” stations vying for ratings in Detroit, we were all doing well, and everyone knew everyone.  Radio in those days wasn’t just the conduit for new music – it was how the locals learned about concerts, ticket sale particulars, and other important details.  We were the Internet.  If you needed info, you came to us. 

There were no electronic ticket sales.  If you wanted to see the Who at Joe Louis Arena, you braved the weather and stood in line outside the ticket window on the morning of the sale.  It was crude, but communal. And it was a chance for a morning show or character to broadcast from the sale, supplying coffee to those in line.

Fast-forward a few decades and the ways in which major brands compete with each other isn’t on a softball diamond but on the gritty fields of social media.  That’s how it shook out for each NFL team looking for the most creative, attention-getting, and sticky way to unveil their 2024-25 schedules.  Interestingly, the league provides the week-by-week matchups, and it’s up to every team to game out how they’re going to unveil the rundown of their competitive battles on the gridiron.

Talk about a Bake Off!  The last few years the competition has intensified as the social media wings of all these teams are going all-in to make their schedules exciting, fun, and great for their franchises.  Clearly, these aren’t just vanity efforts.  The degree to which a team can gin up interest for its schedule might determine key economic results, from season ticket to merch sales.

Given how anybody can become a star or a joke on social media, the even quality of this video Bake Off made for an impressive competition.  It was like handing pie tins and ingredients to every NFL franchise, standing back, and seeing what they could all cook up.

Logic might dictate the very best teams might have the most capable and exciting social media units.  If you jumped to that conclusion, you’re about to be gobsmacked by the actual entrees.  Yes, some very competitive teams came up way short in this competition, specifically the  Dolphins and even my Lions (more on their post-season video fail later in this post).

Meantime, the Falcons, Chargers, and Patriots – all underachievers on the field this year – produced very entertaining and clever videos.  With a topic as ordinary as presenting their schedule of opponents, a number of teams produced “must see TV.”

USA Today reporter Jordan Alvarez watched, rated, and commented on them all.  I went ahead and zipped through them as well.  And from the group, I selected my three favorite efforts.  They mostly agree with Alvarez’s rankings, but not entirely.

It’s also noteworthy how some teams obviously invested much time, resources, and money into their productions.  Others found a way to keep their efforts simple and fairly easy to produce.

The bottom line?  They’re all humorous in their own way.  Hubbard programming honcho, Greg Strassell, always asks this question when evaluating personality shows:

“Where’s the funny?”

Greg, I got your “funny” right here!

My three faves:

The Los Angeles Chargers

The concept: a parody of The Sims video game franchise

This 3:20 gem is loaded with all sorts of subtleties and inside jokes.  And while I have no affinity for this second L.A. team, this schedule video is brilliant.  There’s lots of buzz for the team, thanks in no small part to Jim Harbaugh, now former University of Michigan head coach who left the school to take over this struggling team.

The video is loaded with so many wisecracks, parodies, and cheap shots that you’ll want to watch more than once.  There’s a great Taylor Swift elbow thrown when the Chargers play the Chiefs and “First Boyfriend” Travis Kelce.  And the perfect childhood pillow fight to symbolize what will continue to be a fraternal rivalry between the Harbaugh brothers (John coaches the Ravens).

All in all, this is one of those productions where you see something new – and hilarious – every time you watch it.  If the Chargers’ season is half as entertaining as this video, Jim Harbaugh will enjoy a solid freshman year with this team.


The Pittsburgh Steelers

The concept: Using Dad Jokes to try to get a rise out of now-retired linebacker James “Deebo” Harrison

The defensive star is hilarious with his deadpan expressions and mock disgust over his former teammates’ efforts to make him laugh.  The players chosen to tell these lame jokes are also quite funny, reacting to Harrison’s straight face.

This is a strong video for a team that popularized “The Steel Curtain” and defensive giants-turned-softies like Mean Joe Greene.

The Philadelphia Eagles

The concept:  A take-off on how insane their fans really are

If you know the NFL, you know Eagles partisans are UNHINGED.

You saw “Silver Linings Playbook” – DeNiro and his little tribe of friends and family were perfectly depicted in this film.

And in their schedule video, a shrink plays the Rorschach test with every team on the Eagles’ schedule and a weird group of fans, mascots, and even Santa Claus (who Eagles fans pelted with snowballs in a famous game that took place back in 1968).  Eagles fans are pissed off when the team is winning, and this video is wonderfully self-deprecating evidence of that.

Special mention:  The Dallas Cowboys

In good conscience I couldn’t put Jerry Jones’ team on the gold/silver/bronze pedestal.  (It was tough enough letting the Eagles make my Tremendous Three.)

The concept is brilliant and one that will appeal to radio morning shows everywhere.  A group of Cowboys (including its owners) make prank Facetime calls to team reps, players, and celebs from each of their 2024-25 rivals.

Just like morning radio crank calls, some of these video calls are truly funny, others are awkward, and some plain weird.  But you have to give the Cowboys’ social squad points for inventiveness and a clever use of the technology.

Special mention 2: The Baltimore Ravens

With the able assistance of comedian Stavros Halkias whose zaniness and physical humor work well, this was a “coulda been a contenda” effort by the Ravens.

Coach John Harbaugh was in on the joke from the get-go. Note the cameo from his younger brother, Jim.

It looks like the Ravens pulled out all the stops for the video, flying Halkias (and crew) to those opposing NFL teams’ cities.  And that tells you how a strong effort in producing these videos for multiplatform use – especially in the social space – has an outsized impact on ticket and merch sales, as well as building the brand.  Given that the average value of an NFL team is north of $5 billion, easilly a $50K budget to produce a 4 minute video is well worth the investment.

What about the Lions?

No team turned more heads last year and stirred up more conversations than the Detroit Lions.  After decades of frustration, they came to play in 2023, thanks to a gritty head coach, a savvy GM, a wise owner, and a lot of highly motivated players with a giant chip on their shoulders.

So after coming within a bad half of getting into their first Super Bowl ever, you would’ve hoped the team would’ve put in a superlative effort for this scheduling bake-off.  And maybe just maybe even used Coach Campbell as the centerpiece of their entry.  But no.

Still, with the help of two local comedians, Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson, the “Honolulu Blue & Silver” could’ve gone all the way.  But alas, they came off in the video like that their antics had been restricted by some “pig vomit” boss.  Too bad.

This creative bake-off has it all – a prime opportunity for some of the biggest sports organizations in the world to compete head-to-head on the social stage.  And it’s obvious the teams feel a strong sense of competitive fire to produce a video that’s worthy of their fan base.  There’s not a bad entrant in the bunch – and that says a lot about just how seriously all 32 teams took this competition.

As discussed, the rewards don’t come with a trophy, but they do give their teams something to brag about as the season gets underway this summer.

It’s also a reminder you can make anything BIG if you treat it that way.  In this case, producing great 3-4 minute videos of the new schedule was taken as seriously as everything else these brands do.

Go ahead and review my picks, and feel free to post your choices in the “comments” below or on my socials.

P.S. You can order the “Touchdown” cakes shown in this post from Freed’s Bakery.  Details here.

Originally published by Jacobs Media