Much like television and digital, radio is ready for a blockbuster upfront season focused on leveraging content, listener loyalty, influencers, promotions and experiential to help marketers build, extend and nourish their brands throughout the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.

In April 2016, the ANA and PQ Media released "The U.S. Brand Activation Marketing Forecast," which is the first study of its kind that clarifies and determines allocation to the disciplines, platforms, and channels used in brand activation marketing.

The six marketing disciplines of brand-activation were identified as Relationship Marketing, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Promotional Marketing, Experiential Marketing and Retailer Marketing. The study revealed that advertisers spent $560B on brand activation marketing in 2015, which is expected to grow to $600B in 2016 and $740B by 2020. This represents nearly 60% of overall marketing expenditures in 2015. Just over 25% of the overall marketing expenditures were allocated to traditional and digital advertising and 15% to trade promotions. Further, the study indicated that 57% of brand activation marketing is outsourced to media and other companies.

As the upfront season progresses, we find radio networks and individual radio groups meeting with advertisers to strategize for the coming year, with the goal of tailoring programming and promotional platforms and tactics to address individual brand objectives. Some of the exciting programs that you may not be aware of include:

Working with its partner Skyview Networks, ABC Radio has engineered its platforms to be in-step with the needs of CMOs and Fortune 500 brands. There are few in the audio space that can deliver the national brand synergies of ABC Television and ABC News. In 2017, ABC Radio will continue to leverage brand power to create momentum and opportunities for advertisers – whether it's content or personalities from GMA, television's #1 morning show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! or ABC Radio's original programming, the platform is engineered to deliver high-engagement experiences across radio, television, digital and events. Audience from ABC Radio's 1,500-plus affiliates is available to advertisers based on lifestyle to ensure the best ROI. Skyview Networks is the exclusive sales arm of ABC Radio, and is the leading broadcaster for major league sports play-by-play, delivering the hometown fan. Skyview Networks is a broadcast technology and national sales solutions company that provides services to ABC Radio and professional sports teams.

Premiere Networks' strategy during this upfront season and beyond is providing advertisers with a 360-degree experience that uniquely and seamlessly integrates brand messaging across all touch points through the most relevant programming. Premiere designs custom activations utilizing its roster of high-profile entertainment, talk and sports personalities to connect brands with millions of listeners in meaningful and impactful ways. Rush Limbaugh, Ryan Seacrest, Delilah, Steve Harvey and Colin Cowherd are just a few of their highly-recognized talents who have single-handedly helped build brands through these customized opportunities. In addition to the "traditional" buy within one of their programs, advertisers can extend their investment in voiced endorsements; digital and streaming audio – including podcasting and iHeartRadio; social media and e-newsletters; personality and station websites; branded content; national and local events; and a variety of targeted networks. These varied opportunities provide advertisers with multiple, effective ways to engage listeners. In addition to serving as a media partner, Premiere also works with advertisers in a consultative manner on best practices for social and digital integrations.

The United Stations Radio Networks provides unique programming allowing advertisers to reach their audiences in ways that no other medium can. The USRN Impact Network is the #1 ranked Nielsen RADAR-rated network in primetime, Monday-Friday 6a-7p. With over 1,100 affiliated stations, this Network covers 100% of the U.S. with multiple stations in top markets. The Bloomberg Radio Network provides unparalleled global news and financial information from Wall Street to Main Street. National advertisers have the opportunity to associate with this hard-to-reach, upscale audience through this unique media vehicle. AccuWeather presents localized, branded forecasts and severe weather bulletins to radio stations across the country and provides national advertisers the ability to tie their brand messaging to both the local markets and the meteorologists that deliver the forecasts. USRN's Hard Drive Live Concert Tour features some of the biggest names in the Cutting Edge/Hard Rock music genre, providing advertisers multidimensional sponsorship opportunities that include national radio, major market events, digital and social to target a hard-to-reach younger audience.

Heading into the 2017 upfront, Westwood One will reveal advertising case studies that depict how investing in Westwood One builds brands and drives results. Westwood One campaigns grow advertiser awareness, improve brand images, and create consumer consideration and purchases. Radio is America's #1 mass reach media, and Westwood One knows that the bigger the reach, the greater the advertiser target. Westwood One is excited to announce some new advertiser opportunities as well, with brand ambassadors, custom content, podcasts, and social amplification across our unbeatable portfolio of programming including the NFL, NCAA, NASH, and more.

Finally, to get you thinking about how radio can help to amplify any brand activation plan in a customized, efficient and effective way, check out the highlights below -- just some simple reminders of the various platforms that broadcast radio will bring to your marketing efforts:

  • Relationship Marketing: Radio stations have some of the most loyal followers in the business. With tens of millions of loyal listeners who have opted in to receive radio station e-blasts and newsletters across the U.S. (not to mention their hundreds of millions of mobile and social followers), you have a very strong platform for a CRM-based campaign in any market, anywhere at any time.
  • Content Marketing: Consumers crave great storytelling in an audio form. The rise of podcast consumption is evident in every available measure – the percentage of Americans who are listening to podcasts, the level of public awareness, and how many podcasts are being hosted and downloaded continues to experience double-digit growth. Great storytelling can find a home in the form of broadcast and digital vignettes, HD side channels, podcasts, contextual content bits adjacent to news, weather, traffic, sports and music, and so much more. Radio is a platform designed for great content that listeners turn to the platform to discover.
  • Influencer Marketing: Last quarter's Matter of Fact included the "Personality Makes a Difference" story that talked about radio DJs and the unique relationships they have with their listeners. Radio DJs are local and national influencers who achieve results every time they endorse a brand – listeners see it as a recommendation from a friend, more so than they do sponsored Facebook posts, sponsored tweets or pre-produced television commercials featuring celebrity endorsers.
  • Promotional Marketing: "Be the 7th caller," "text to win concert tickets," "send us your selfie," "get your bills paid" - any of these sound familiar? Radio stations have been running successful contests, sweepstakes, giveaways and promotions for as long as they have been broadcasting. They are contemporized with the times, but the fundamentals don't change and they shouldn't – because they work. Listeners look to radio to provide them with access and radio stations continue to deliver.
  • Experiential Marketing: Invented by the radio industry, radio stations are nimble enough to broadcast live from concerts, festivals, street fairs, advertiser locations, cruise ships, resorts, wherever and whenever, immersing their listeners with the culture embodied by the radio station and its partners. Radio enjoys relationships with the content owners it purveys – whether it be record labels, recording artists, talkers, news sources, sports leagues, teams and athletes – making it a core equity for stations and broadcasters to produce and manage immersive experiences for consumers and brand partners.
  • Retailer Marketing: Radio is the last medium a consumer engages with before entering a retail establishment and there are several success stories of brands that leverage radio and its assets to drive promotions, experiences and more at point-of-purchase.