TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Radio Row at the Super Bowl is usually one of the most happening spots during the week, reaching peak levels on Thursday and Friday as players, celebrities and entertainers bounce from one interview to another, promoting various brands and talking about the big game.
Because of COVID-19, it was nearly empty this year.
According to NFL spokesman Michael Signora, 33 stations were scheduled to broadcast live, down from approximately 100 a year ago. It seemed even fewer showed up to do their shows at socially distanced tables at the Super Bowl Media Center inside the Tampa Convention Center.
Still, virtual interviews made it possible for brands to book guests on multiple radio stations throughout the week.
SiriusXM normally has five or six different sports, entertainment and music shows on site airing simultaneously from their set. They only sent one this year. SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan hosted their show, “Movin’ The Chains,” from Radio Row on Thursday and Friday.
“It was different and everybody was socially distancing and obviously not as many media outlets but I credit the NFL for pulling this off,” said Miller, a former quarterback for the Steelers and Bears. “We still had live guests, including live guests from the Chiefs and Buccaneers. It was just done virtually, a credit to technology. The listeners and fans still got in-person, live interviews with key components that will drive the story lines leading to the game.”
Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley, San Francisco 49ers two-time Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle, WWE’s Mojo Rawley and former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer were among several guests who appeared on the AP Pro Football Podcast from Radio Row.
Although virtual interviews worked well, many are eager to see the normal spectacle return.
“Athlete media tours on Radio Row have been an annual pilgrimage for The Brand Amp staff and clients going back decades,” said Jason Farhadi, PR Manager at The Brand Amp. “We expect we will be back to multiple athletes promoting multiple brands in Los Angeles next year.”
Alex Onaindia, CEO at Distinction Agency, booked Washington safety Deshazor Everett and WNBA star Erica Wheeler on several shows virtually.
“Radio Row is a spectacle every year that has a buzz and excitement for media, athletes and sponsors,” Onaindia said. “Due to the pandemic, all of our interviews in Tampa were virtual and there was less scheduled than a typical year. One of the benefits of Radio Row is the organic networking that happens between everyone in attendance. We all missed that this year.”
The idea of Radio Row at the Super Bowl originated in 1992 in Minneapolis when New York’s WFAN broadcast on-site from a local hotel.
“Other media and radio personnel saw this and thought it was a great idea,” Signora said. “So, the following year at Super Bowl XXVII, which was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the NFL headquarters and Media Center were in Los Angeles, and that is where ‘Radio Row’ as we know it was born.”
It may have been quieter inside the Tampa Convention Center and the sights looked different, but the sound on radio stations across the country was the same.