By Amy Nicole Tangel
In a time when life has been more than challenging for most, keeping connected and having something to look forward to is of utmost importance. For one man who has based his radio and marketing career on bringing joy to others in-person, being thrust into reinventing promotions to remain engaged with communities and keep listeners’ spirits up has not slowed him down.
“Big Mike” Sangiamo began his career in radio in the fall of 2015 when he was hired as a member of the promotional street team with Connoisseur Media Long Island, home to stations such as 94.3 The Shark, 103.1 MAX, and WALK 97.5. With years of determination and hard work behind him, Mike brings experience to the table after having worked field events years prior, and he said slowly, but surely, he stepped up the ladder to become the current Director of Local Marketing and Promotions for all five stations belonging to Connoisseur Media Long Island.
“Part of that is also being an on-air personality, being out there in the field, and really just trying to engage listeners out in the community as much as possible,” he said.
Of course, the world of in-person events was pre-pandemic, but Mike said step-by-step the pause is lifting and he is looking forward to once again entertaining and connecting with people across the island in whatever way he can through the radio. The best part of field events for Mike is always meeting new people, and he said the sense of no two events ever being the same is what makes his job so fun. For Mike, he said the best part of all is when people win prizes; to share that joy with them and to make them smile is one of the greatest aspects of the job.
Radio during Covid has been especially challenging for Mike, and for the work he has done to try to reinvent the way local marketing and promotions have been executed during the pandemic, but he said he is grateful to still be working when many others in roles like his have lost their jobs. During the recent holiday season, Mike said promotions did begin to finally pick-up with giveaways and some appearances at locations.
Stop & Shop, T-Mobile, and Tropical Smoothie Café are businesses he has worked on major promotions with for vacation and gift card giveaways, and said the biggest difference now is the crew he used to have is temporarily gone; leaving most appearances up to himself and what he calls his “Number One,” Liana Neidig. In spite of the times, Mike said he takes pride in all of the recent innovative work done alongside a great team and strong leaders in the industry, such as Director of Operations, Patrick Shea and General Manager David Bevins. For Mike, he said he is grateful for the faith the company has placed in his approach, and everything he has done has been more personalized because of it.
“The fact that I was able to keep WALK 97.5 and our other stations active during the pandemic was quite a challenge. I had to go back and rely on everything I ever learned during my time at Disney, Subway and yes, even the funeral industry to figure out a new approach to a routine element of radio during an economic crisis caused by a global health catastrophe,” he said.
Mike’s career in public relations unknowingly began when his passion for Subway sandwiches took over, and he created the unofficial fan club of Subway restaurants with his fellow Subway-loving friends at the age of only 15 years old. He said he and his friends simply really loved the food, and back then growing up in Queens there weren’t many locations, so he and his friends had to travel by bus for 45 minutes to get to their nearest Subway.
“It just became this thing my friends and I started to identify with,” he said.
In a twist of paths and an unconventional combination, Mike’s time before Connoisseur Media and his Subway career involved attending school to be a funeral director and a taking a college internship with Walt Disney World. After graduation, Mike said he was at a crossroads between becoming a funeral director or a having career with Subway.
He applied for Subway corporate jobs across the country, and in 2005 he was hired in the Nassau County development office as Promotions Coordinator and Field Evaluator; visiting restaurants for quality checks throughout the county and doing voiceovers for their commercials. Eventually, Mike said this turned into a promotions and marketing role when he saw the need for local marketing. It was through his local marketing with Subway, which led to the position he holds today. It happened when Mike said he attended a local event and was struck when he saw a guy at a table from the radio set-up with music and a prize wheel; instantly knowing that was what he wanted to do.
“I was like, ‘I could do that; I could do that,’ so I started selling my services to Subway Restaurants to do grand openings and anniversaries,” he said.
From there, Mike created a street team for Subway’s in-person events and even developed two Subway sandwiches including “The Feast,” also known as “The Feast of Sangiamo,” an Italian-American sandwich that was sold nationally. Mike said this experience led him in a round-about way into broadcasting and the radio industry. While Mike still consults occasionally with Subway today, he said his full-time dedication is with Connoisseur Media.
“To have the type of involvement and impact on a brand like that for some kid from Queens…it was all because I loved the product,” he said.
Although Mike said he is not a full-time jock, the on-air portion of his position compliments his first love of appearances and endorsements. Presently, Mike hosts “Midnight Snacks” at midnight on 103.1 MAX FM weeknights and occasional Fridays with 94.3 The Shark from 7 to 10 p.m., live from The Studio at The Paramount in Huntington, along with various character spots for the Anna & Raven Show on WALK 97.5.
In addition to wanting to reach people through the airwaves and in-person as much as possible, Mike has also reached countless people as an author of his book, “The Fattest Guy in the Room-10 reasons why being fat sucks! (and 3 reasons why it’s not so bad),” which is available for purchase through breakthescale.com and depicts what life has been like for him living as an overweight person from childhood through adult life with a humorous twist.
“It will make you laugh; it will make you cry, and then it will make you laugh again,” he said.
Mike said he always had a desire to write and publish a book from the perspective of the beginning of his career and relied on memories of being the “funny fat guy in high school.” When he realized he could be funny, he said he put everything together to become his character of, “Big Mike.” As life went on, he grew into an adult, and Mike said he felt like he had something to say about his life experience and wanted to share with others in the hopes of helping just one person.
“I don’t like the idea for anyone to feel bad, or ashamed about being overweight and the way that they look,” he said.
As part of his ever-evolving promotions persona, Mike has combined his writing work with his character performance and said he loves to dress in character when he goes out for the radio stations. He celebrates with characters for almost every major holiday and memorable names he created to go along, such as “Frosting the Snowman,” “Jingle Bell the Elf,” as well as four different leprechaun characters; all who have been created to lend happiness to each radio station and its following. Mike said he just wants to bring joy to others. During the holiday season, he incorporates, “Santa’s Lonely Helper,” a self-described “Dr. Seuss style” poem/story he is author to, which he reads at various events across the island such as, Brookhaven’s Holiday Lighting Spectacular in Suffolk County.
What radio stations will be able to do in future will be limited, according to Mike, but he said there are still safe and socially distant events happening. They are just few and far between. In the meantime, Mike has also been working with Adventureland in Farmingdale throughout the pandemic, hosting almost all of their movie nights, and he said he has even called bingo before the start of the films from time to time. No matter what Mike is doing anywhere on Long Island, he said his number one goal is to always take the radio stations with him.
“Thankfully, we jumped into action, participating in thank you parades for health care heroes, birthday parades, graduation parades; then drive-in movies and drive-in concerts all the way through to socially distant holiday attractions. Wherever I go, I am going out as the radio station, so if I go the radio station comes along,” he said.
To follow Big Mike on social media you can find him on Instagram @thefeastman, and you can catch his podcast, The Big Mike Radio Program on Apple Podcasts. For local appearances, be sure to check your favorite Connoisseur Media Long Island radio’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Photos courtesy Big Mike Sangiamo