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Hill: Inside the radio row circus coming to Las Vegas next year

PHOENIX The star-studded pictures and video of radio row at the Super Bowl often make the center of daytime activity at the event appear full of glitz and glamour.

In reality, it’s an almost strictly transactional spectacle that is dressed up by the eye candy of some of the bigger stars of the football world and beyond.

Don’t take that as a condemnation of the circus. In most cases, it’s safe to ignore any media person who has the audacity to complain about the process or the hours or the travel or any other part of the job.

This is just a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how things go throughout the week, especially with next year’s Super Bowl coming to Las Vegas, and an answer to how some of the interviews you may have heard on some of your favorite national and local shows came about this week.

And you better believe Las Vegas was mentioned a great deal. It almost got to a point where the game in Arizona started feeling like nothing more than an appetizer for the first Sin City Super Bowl next year.

Star power ramps up

Anyway, back to what really should be called multimedia row at this point because of all the different platforms represented on the floor of the convention center. One of the last people in the building as the crowds started to wane Friday evening was Jackson Mahomes, the brother of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in the TikTok booth creating a video to post on his popular account.

While the floor is essentially open 24 hours for those outlets operating around the clock, the main action starts at about 8 a.m. each day and runs until late afternoon.

Athletes and notable personalities from all genres stream through the doors, nearly all of them with a product to promote and a team around them to decide which of the hundreds of outlets to place them on. The level of star power typically grows exponentially each day between Monday and Friday as more notable people arrive in town closer to game day.

Some of the outlets have aggressive producers and runners who immediately spot someone they want to have as a guest and make their way over to the booker to make the case for their show. Other outlets just kind of wait to be approached.

Either way, the conversations typically go the same way: “I have a defensive lineman from Team A here. We can give you a 10-minute interview as long as he gets two minutes to talk about this new shampoo brand he’s promoting.”

And so it goes until the celebrity’s availability window is filled. Then there is the fun of watching the handlers furiously wave their arms at the on-air people once the interview starts to move on to talking about the product and then wrap it up so they can stay on schedule.

But that’s the simple part. The next level of booking is like a giant flea market.

Playing the game

Let’s say it’s Tuesday afternoon. A representative is tasked with finding 10 outlets to interview the third-string quarterback from an early ’90s Super Bowl runner-up who is pitching a mouthwash that also supposedly cures sprained ankles, and they are getting a bunch of rejections.

That’s when you hear conversations like, “Please have him on, and I will get you on the waiting list to talk to Joe Montana on Thursday.”

Word of advice for the young producers out there: You’re not getting Joe Montana on Thursday. But you do still have to play the game to build those relationships because that’s how business is done in these parts.

Those who make it work are typically the ones willing to arrive at 6 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m., only pausing for a few minutes to brave the Starbucks line, because you never know when Shaquille O’Neal might pop in and randomly agree to do five minutes with a college radio station because it just happened to ask at the right time.

Or like last year, when former NFL punter turned media superstar Pat McAfee took note of the outlets who were spending the most hours grinding away and sat down with those shows for rare interviews at the end of the week.

The immense spotlight and unabashed capitalism of the event has of course also bred a bit of absurdity.

Each day, the Old Spice deodorant mascot was making the rounds with his backwards cap, giant sunglasses and a way-too-small-for-the-costume gold chain.

I tried to ask for his Super Bowl pick, but was told I’d first have to agree to a five-minute interview with the guy in the costume about a new foot spray.

Get ready for next year, Las Vegas.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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