CSMA Master Class: BaylorVision ‘Rises Up’ With Ad Campaign
Since its inception, the College Sports Media Awards have recognized the best in the college-sports-production arena. As technology and production techniques improve, the ability to create high-quality video on any budget has proliferated significantly. At the College Sports Video Summit, six universities and two professional networks were honored for their work in sports video. Each Thursday this summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at these personalities and programs that have raised the bar for what college sports video is capable of.
The wheels were turning in the head of Ben Huelsing, Baylor University’s video production coordinator and creative director.
As the Bears’ football program geared up for the 2010 season, the Big 12 was in turmoil. Knowing that it would be an important season for both his school and the conference, Huelsing wanted to do something big for Baylor’s football-ticket promotional campaign. So he knocked on the door of friend and colleague Bryan Bray, director of BaylorVision, the school’s video-production–services provider.
“I have an idea.”
That simple phrase has the power to change many things. On the campus of Baylor University in Waco, TX, it helped define a football season.
“He presented me with it,” says Bray, “and I told him, ‘That is a whole lot more than we normally would do. Are you sure you can pull this off?’”
Despite having never run a production from scratch, Huelsing felt strongly about the campaign and persuaded Bray to let him take the reins.
Huelsing’s idea gave birth to a series of commercials that took home the title for College Academics — Promotion or Marketing Campaign at the College Sports Media Awards at SVG’s College Sports Video Summit last June.
Going Above and Beyond
Before that discussion, BaylorVision was prepared to usher out a routine series of commercials promoting football-ticket sales.
“We were just going to do what we normally did: highlights, music, voiceover, stick a donut at the end of it where you can put any information, and kick it out,” says Bray. “It’s pretty much a standard formula that a lot of people use.”
As it happened, the marketing department had developed a campaign slogan, “Rise Up,” long before the commercial series was a twinkle in the video department’s eye. At a time when the conference appeared to be breaking apart, Huelsing saw the slogan as a fitting mantra to bring pride to Baylor and the Big 12.
“When I saw the Rise Up posters, I thought to myself that that would be a good call to action,” says Huelsing. “It was such an important season for Baylor, its athletes, and its fans alike to show their support. So ‘Rise Up’: I thought that would be a pretty powerful statement, and it definitely generated some interest.”
From Concept to Commercial
As Bray had anticipated, the Rise Up campaign was a far more ambitious project than Baylor was used to conducting, and putting Huelsing’s vision on-screen was going to take gear that the university didn’t own.
“It required using a couple of extra resources,” says Bray. “We ended up using a boom-crane rental and bringing in other pieces of equipment on rental that we normally wouldn’t use to get the shots done.”
The benefits of renting gear are clear for schools looking to tackle special projects, especially for athletic seasons as short as football’s: some schools have only four or five home dates a year.
For example, the production team used a Sony XDCAM EX PMW-EX3 camcorder to shoot and produce six short commercials featuring Baylor football players and head coach Art Briles.
If purchased in full, the EX3 can cost more than $8,000 for the camera alone and can push $10K with all accessories included. That’s a tough sell for a video coordinator to an athletic director. On the other hand, the same product can be rented (with a tripod and batteries) for $350 a day from Bexel Broadcast Services.
Using a rental service helped BaylorVision not only cut costs but acquire gear to make elite, professional-looking videos.
“It was a great collaborative effort overall, with everyone at BaylorVision and Baylor Athletic Marketing,” says Huelsing, who has since left Baylor to live with his family in Colorado. “It was a total team effort, and, when you have a good cooperative effort like that, good things usually come of that.”
Inspiring a Local Icon
The Rise Up campaign was an instant hit in the Waco community, with two commercials released each month in July, August, and September 2010. The campaign made such an impact that it motivated Baylor alum and Waco native David Crowder of David Crowder*Band, a popular Christian Modern Worship rock band, to join his alma mater in the campaign.
Upon seeing the first commercial featuring Bears’ senior linebacker Antonio Johnson, Crowder went to his small, personal recording studio in his house and began work on a song, “Rise Up.”
“He recorded it just on a little MP3 recorder he had in his house and sent it to me,” says Bray. “He said to me, ‘Hey, if you guys like this, I will go get it mastered.’ So I heard the song, thought it was pretty exciting, and said, “Sure, master it up. Let’s go!’”
University administration and marketing enjoyed the song so much that Bray shot Crowder performing the song in the Baylor locker room to use for the stadium open video. Crowder’s “Rise Up” became the anthem for a Bears team that went 7-5 and reached its first bowl game in 18 years.
“[The campaign] basically became way bigger than what it was to begin with,” says Bray, “specifically because, in the beginning, one of my guys decided he wanted to do a little more than what was expected.”
Crawl, Walk, Run
It can be tempting for an athletics department looking to dive further into video production to head straight for the deep end. A common piece of advice given by speakers at June’s College Sports Video Summit was to avoid the temptation to bite off more than one can chew.
Bray concurs: “One of the things I say to my crew — they hear it over and over again, my bosses hear it all the time — is ‘crawl, walk, run.’ Start by doing what you’re doing now really well. Learn how to crawl really well, start off with the highest-quality small production that you can.
“Don’t try and get ahead of yourself,” he continues. “Do what you’re doing really well before taking the next step. Then take the next step and do that really well; get good at it. Do your best work, do high-quality work, and eventually you will get yourself to where you are out there running around.”
Bray and the BaylorVision staff are proof that teamwork can produce an outstanding final product, but it’s not something that can be accomplished overnight.
“We haven’t always been the flashiest, coolest production Baylor University has,” laughs Bray. “I’m going on my tenth season. I think now we’re getting to the point where we’re thinking about running.
“It’s one of those deals where you’ve got to have the reputation,” he adds. “You’ve got to have the bosses and the people you are working for feel like this guy is consistent, this is a guy that can get the job done.”