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Year: 2016

Intro videos are not for dancing, they are to incite a riot

Intro videos are not for dancing, they are to incite a riot

It’s game time, and the excitement in the stadium/arena is palpable. But you want your crowd not just excited, you want them loud, you want them foaming at the mouth, you want them to do things that would make last year’s holiday party look like a boy scouts meeting (Dave in accounting knows it was no boy scouts meeting.)

You’re sick, Dave. Source: professionalcourtesyllc.com

The intro video is the culmination of all those pregame jitters and anticipation prior to every sporting event. It’s the moment where you get to show off your team’s athletic prowess and incite the crowd to stomp their feet so hard that it shakes the whole building. The intro video IS the tone-setter for the entire game; making it crucial that it strikes a chord with the crowd in a visceral way.

No doubt about it, the song that you pick out for your intro video is the heartbeat that drives the emotional momentum. You want the song to reflect it’s sport, but you don’t want to go so far into whatever genre that is that it alienates your audience. Also, you are probably dealing with upwards of 50-70 events per year. It’s important to have several different song variations in order to keep things fresh on a game-to-game basis. So many places make the mistake of sticking to one song for far too many games, and for your biggest fans, it goes stale quickly. I highly recommend using old hair-metal songs (AC/DC, GNR), early 90s rap/rock (Rage, Beastie Boys), and modern Trap remixes (Trap City and Trap Nation). I’m personally not a fan of orchestral epics, just because they don’t really incite the hostile environment I look for. Once the song is picked out, try to cut it down to under a minute. For how intense you are aiming to make this moment, there’s only so much epicness you can make your crowd feel, and a minute seems to be the right length.

In the video I am demoing today, you can notice a few things.

  1. There are a million cuts
  2. There’s only one play call
  3. And there are not a ton of video effects

You can usually tell if you picked out a good song if you have to make as many cuts as there were in that one. It probably means you have a fast, yet fun beat driving the rhythm. The play call thing is another personal preference. I find that having too many play calls can take away from the song, and kills the momentum of the video. Though, having that one play call in there allows for a swappable moment for updates throughout the season. Finally, you see a lack of video effects except for key moments in the video (bass drops, finale, etc…) I do this because I like to have a large variety of songs/videos throughout the season. Essentially you can either dedicate a ton of man-hours towards making one video awesome looking or you can have a plethora of videos to choose from throughout the season.

Another short note: sync your fascia boards and rings (and stadium lights if possible) to your intro video! It makes a world of difference when the atmosphere you are trying to create reinforces the entire environment your crowd is standing in.

For anyone that has had the fortune of working on an intro video, they know that what the fans want is very different from what the team might want, especially if the coach is very hands-on. It’s important to find the right balance between the two groups. When it comes down to it though, don’t sacrifice ­­the crowd’s enthusiasm for what the team might think is a good idea. I recommend having an administrator willing to go to bat for you in these situations, otherwise you might find yourself getting bullied into some pretty bad ideas.

 

 

 

Your in-venue show starts when the gates open, not when the clock starts.

Your in-venue show starts when the gates open, not when the clock starts.

Security company motto, “It will all be over soon.” Photo Source: The Advocate.com

Something I hear from a lot of institutions is that their fans don’t show up to games until after the clock starts ticking. We act like this is the fault of the fan culture, but in reality it’s the fault of the organization. The second those gates open, it is your responsibility to entertain the people that went out of their way to be there early. Many of us fall into the habit of not owning the pregame, because we are so focused on what is going to happen in-game. But the reality is that if we want our fans to be there for entire games, we need to start courting them the second they walk in the doors. Well, maybe after they pass security. Ya, definitely after they have to deal with security. The point is it’s really hard to build the kind of atmosphere that garners a home field/court advantage if your fans aren’t even there on time.

So how do you entertain fans for the 60-90 minutes prior to a game? Well the obvious answer is pre-produced content; organization TV show, game previews and interviews, etc… But if you’ve ever met me, I’m very much for minimizing the amount of pre-produced content you use in an in-venue environment. They take a lot of time to put together and they are not very engaging. There’s a time and place for it, but if people wanted to watch TV they wouldn’t come to watch the game in person. People are there to be active and participate, so anything you might do pregame should fulfill those desires.

One of my favorite, new ideas that we will hopefully be implementing in the future is “bar trivia.” Obviously we’re not calling it bar trivia, but the concepts of the game will stay the same. Working with our rewards app developer, the idea is that we will display trivia questions on the video board relevant to the sport and within our rewards app fans will be able to compete against one another. Leaders each night will claim reward points, and boom; suddenly we’ve created not only an incentive for fans to come early, but for them to get involved.

You might hate him for winning, but damn you can't deny that this guy knows his trivia. Photo Source: Men's Health
You might hate him for winning, but damn you can’t deny that this guy knows his trivia.
Photo Source: Men’s Health

Once fans feel involved, that involvement will turn into energy, that energy will turn into cheers, and those cheers will culminate into the home field/court advantage we are all looking for. If nothing else, I guarantee that the one weird guy that wins your local trivia night every week will start showing up to your games.

Most days we all like to chalk up our failures to the supernatural; “our fans never show up on time,” “the fan energy was dead.” But when we really look at it, we can always find where we as show-runners might be lacking, and better yet, find new, creative ways to engage our fans. What I’m getting at is that there’s a reason for the way our fans act, and it’s typically because we cultivate the culture they take part in. So take charge of your pregame (and post game for that matter!) Give them a reason to come early and stay late! It will pay dividends when you need your fans most.

The necessary evil that is the student-worker (Collegiate)

The necessary evil that is the student-worker (Collegiate)

Sorry professional organizations, this one is for my college bros/sistas.
And now, my screenplay which is a recreation of a typical headset conversation with a student-worker….

 

“Camera 4, you’re looking kind of hot. Can you iris down a little bit?” -Me 

I could only assume this guy sucks in real life. Source: CityMac.com
I could only assume this guy is a terrible human being in real life. Source: CityMac.com

“O, um, ya.” – SW

“Okay, that was your focus ring.” -Me

“Sorry, which one is the iris again?” -SW

“O dear god. IT’S THE 30TH GAME OF THE SEASON!?” -Me

 

Pretty much every collegiate institution is reliant upon student-workers in order to make it’s gameday productions. So just like how it is with the amateurs on the field/court, your fans are expecting a professional grade product from you in the production booth. As impossible as that may be on certain days, there is a means to finding success and that is through constant training and nurturing of your student-workers.

If you have properly prepared for a production, you should always have sufficient time prior to any game where you are doing nothing. I typically have a three hour cutoff for any new materials to be inserted into the show. That way I have an ample amount of time to get settled in before the stress inducing ride that is a live event. One mistake I use to make early on in my career was that I would fax my cameras and then I would wait until our script would begin. What that caused was a never ending cycle of student-worker headaches and on-the-fly teaching moments like the conversation above. The last thing you need to be doing in the middle of a broadcast is to be clogging up your communications with these moments, because it will lead to a number of compounding problems.

This is why you need to take advantage of your pregame downtime in order to constantly educate your student workforce. These kids are already college students, and they are (for the most part) eager to learn, so treat each gameday as if it were a classroom and have a lesson plan ready. Typically you can find 30 minutes every gameday to teach the students about camera controls, situational sport practices, troubleshooting, depth-of-field relations, shutter speeds, social awareness, etc… If you don’t have that time available to you, fight for it and make it available. There is always something new to teach these kids, and it is your responsibility to educate them. Especially for how little you pay them (if you even do pay them.)

God help my kids when I have them.

One last thing. Keep in mind that these are young adults, and they do not respond well to yelling. I know most control room environments involve some form of harsh criticism, but it is my personal belief that speaking to anyone in a belittling manor will only hinder their performance. If you facilitate a hostile environment, you will find that your workers will be scared to branch out and try new, creative things. So keep in mind that your student-workers are amateurs and try to provide the nurturing environment needed for their, and your, success.

How to advertise your program, without advertising

How to advertise your program, without advertising

I’m going to assume that none of you reading this were frozen cavemen and all of you have heard of the Internet. If you haven’t, congratulations! You are reading this on THE INTERNET. And with it’s evolution has come the content era. Think about it, when you are surfing the Internet, all you are doing is searching for more and more content. Whether that’s a Bad Lip Reading video or some football highlights, everything fun you do on the Internet has something to do with content consumption, and god forbid that you see an advertisement, because you installed ad-blocker and that’s not suppose to happen! Even this blog is content; it’s why I try and fail at being entertaining. It’s because I want you suckers to come back.

So how are you suppose to advertise your institution without advertisements? Clearly you need to make content, for content is king. What this is called is content marketing: a strategic method to distribute valuable and applicable content that will attract consumers to your brand. Luckily for us in athletics, there is a never ending supply of possible content if you’re creative enough. Athletics is such an open format that as long as you aren’t offending anyone, you are safe to do as you please; e.g. movie posters, documentaries, highlights, sketches, and so on. There’s a place for informative pieces, but don’t expect them to do much other than raise awareness.

Pictured: Chris Sabo. If he had more arms, he would be holding more trophies.

Some of the best content marketing in athletics is done by my good friend Chris Sabo, the producer/director of The Season: Ole Miss Football. The Season is a 22 minute documentary that airs weekly throughout the fall and features profiles, mic’d up segments, campus life moments, and the best highlight footage in the nation. Now you might ask who has time to watch an entire episodic, and the answer is about 30-40,000 people on average; not including TV airings. That’s what happens when you create content that people want, they consume! One day I’ll get into the details as to why The Season is so successful, but for this blog I’ll just stick to telling you that good content, means a more involved audience. A more involved audience, means a higher likely hood of consumerism. Since it’s introduction, The Season model has now been transferred over to every sport at Ole Miss in some kind of fashion.

Up to this point I have spoken from a consumer angle, but even more importantly is what this content does for all of you in the college athletics world and the prospective student-athletes you are constantly chasing. When it comes to recruits, you are dealing with a bunch of millennial hooligans who do nothing but live on their phones and computers. The only way to really show what their experiences might look like on campus is through the content you share. For schools that might have a harder time getting prospects out to them, this might be your only way to entice student-athletes to even consider you. If content isn’t a part of your recruitment strategy, and no I’m not talking about just highlight videos, then you are truly missing out on one of your greatest tools.

Like I said, content is king, and if you don’t want your institution to be falling behind, it’s time you start accepting that as fact. Now yes, content is expensive, but without it you will do worse than just stagnate; you will find the gap between your institution and the more elite organizations grow exponentially larger. That content chasm will lead to your job becoming more difficult on all fronts and it all becomes rather cyclical from there. So start pumping out that content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and make your content the constant medium between you and your fans!

You might not be creative enough to go viral, but here’s how you can fake it

You might not be creative enough to go viral, but here’s how you can fake it

Actual photo of Tina Fey impersonating me. Source: NBC Universal

If there is something I’m willing to bet my firstborn child on, it’s that every person in productions has had a superior come to them and say some variation of, “Let’s make this go viral.” Now personally, I have a problem with body language on certain days, and the first time I heard that request my eyes rolled back so far that they bounced against my brain stem. But it’s not our job to explain the impossibilities of making viral content. It’s our job to best meet the criteria laid out for us, and the easiest way to meet that sometimes is through social participation.

According to Youtube’s Head of Culture and Trends, Kevin Alloca, making viral content is comprised of several things including surprising your audience, tastemakers disseminating it, and social participation. Making surprising/interesting content is something only a few people have mastered, and honestly, if I knew how to make it consistently I’d probably be living in a much bigger house. That’s not the part we want to focus on. What we can focus on and do easily is social participation.

Source: Youtube

Does anyone remember the ALS ice-bucket challenge? Of course you do! Every single one of your obnoxious Facebook friends posted their personal ice-bucket challenge. Why? Because it was desirable, socially relevant, and every Joe-schmo could find a bucket of ice to dump on themselves. What’s different with working in athletics is that you have many more resources at your disposal, so in turn that means you have the opportunity to participate in viral content that most can’t. The best part is that once you decide on your “viral-content-homage” you can find new ways to differentiate it and cater it to your fans.

Today’s case study is Ole Miss’ spoof on the DirecTV Rob Lowe ads, Andy and Randy Kennedy.

Yes, I made this promo. It’s my blog, I can brag on myself if I want! Clearly, this promo is the furthest thing from original, but it’s because we took quite a few liberties with the original premise in order to make it relevant to our fan base. The largest of which is that we used a character with a name instead of a bizarrely described counter-part. This change came as a tip-of-the-hat to Rebel fans over at Red Cup Rebellion who came up with the original character, Randy Kennedy. From there it was simple enough to contrast the failures of Randy Kennedy with the successes of our talented head coach, Andy Kennedy. The piece ended up being interesting, informative, and culturally relevant. Immediately after the release, the video became a hit with the Ole Miss faithful and drove a substantial amount of traffic to the season tickets page.

Thanks for the nod, Rob!
Thanks for the nod, Rob!

And then came the tastemakers. One of the first to Tweet it out was ESPN and soon after, the man himself, Rob Lowe was tweeting it to his 1.24 million followers. Then came Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, and yes, Red Cup Rebellion (which easily had the best commentary.) So in the middle of July, the unthinkable happened. Ole Miss basketball became the national story of the day.

The success would lead to Randy Kennedy taking on a life of his own. Since the release of the original video he’s done the ultimate Nae-Nae dance, he’s had nationally televised press-conferences, and when a desperate nation came calling, he ran for president. And like most losing presidential candidates, he’ll probably retire from the public eye soon enough. If you didn’t get catch my drift on that one, I’m hinting that you shouldn’t run your material into the ground.

The bottom line is that making original, interesting content is difficult. There’s no two ways about it. So take advantage of what is already socially relevant in the world, cater it to your purposes, and I guarantee you will be able to stir up some form of conversation about your institution. But be careful, because if you execute your spoof/remake poorly, you might find yourselves dealing with the sour side of the Internet. See the comment section of the new Ghostbusters trailer for proof.