Will Kicks 101.5 become Nash 101.5?


Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Nationally, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media has been gradually shifting its country stations so they are using the same name: Nash.

This week, 11 stations made the switch, including those in Charleston, S.C. and Nashville (of course!). Already, Nash is used in New York, Detroit, Lexington, Ky., Des Moines and New Orleans, among others.

Cumulus has been building the brand for about a year.

But its hometown country station in Atlanta has been well established for more than 30 years as Kicks 101.5, going back to 1981.

Although it has kept the Kicks name, a voice-over guy at the top of the hour utters the phrase "powered by Nash."

John Dickey, Cumulus vice president of programming, said in text Monday that there are "no plans at this point for Kicks" to change its name.

Of course, "at this point" could mean anything in terms of time.

Stable, brand equity has value to advertisers and provides comfort to listeners. Kicks has been the flagship country station in Atlanta so long, any country fan in the area is familiar with it.

But the brand, once dominant, isn't so dominant anymore.

Kicks is currently battling Clear Channel's 94.9/The Bull for Atlanta country supremacy and the ratings between the two are now comparable. Kicks skews slightly older than the Bull, with more cuts from the 1990s. The Bull has been competing with Kicks since late 2006.

There are advantages for Cumulus in using the same Nash name across multiple cities. They can more easily do national promotions and marketing and potentially standardize playlists even more than they already have. They can start using more national voice-tracked talent that can use the Nash name across markets. Cumulus has more than 60 country stations nationwide and more than half are now called Nash.

Last month, Cumulus said it will change Country Weekly magazine's name to Nash.

Sean Ross, a radio writer for Billboard.com and Vice President of Music and Programming at data firm Edison Research, said Cumulus will likely wait until it sees how smaller, entrenched stations such as the one in Nashville do under the Nash name before swapping out the names of its heritage Dallas and Atlanta stations. "They are clearly aspiring to create a CMT for radio," Ross said.

Only a handful of stations in Atlanta have lasted as long as Kicks with the same name and generally the same format. B98.5 has been a pop station going back to the late 1980s. V-103 has been using that name as a contemporary music station targeting black listeners since 1976. Star 94's name and pop format harkens back to the late 1980s.

Clear Channel changed its long-standing station Peach 94.9 to Lite 94.9 around 2002. That Lite name was name Clear Channel used nationwide as well. The station was dead within four years. In 2006, Clear Channel also dumped 96rock for Project 9-6-1, which lasted seven  years. (Project was a creation from the brain of Chris Williams, now the head of digital for Clear Channel.)