Live From Super Bowl LIV: 49ers Studios Delivers a Content Plan That Places Quality Over Quantity
A team of 34 video pros blanket Miami for iconic franchise’s return to the Big Game
Within the four walls of a professional sports franchise can be a pretty superstitious place. Things are no different at the San Francisco 49ers’ Santa Clara headquarters where one wouldn’t dare utter the words “Super” or “Bowl” prior to the team’s dominating win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago (just call it “The Dance” and anyone would get the gist).
But, let’s be honest, a video production team would never be able to take on an event the size and scope of this absolute king of American sports championship events, without a comprehensive plan of attack. And plan 49ers Studios has, as Robert Alberino who is in his seventh season as Vice President and Executive Producer with the San Francisco 49ers, is taking pride in just how buttoned-up his operation is in the franchise’s first appearance in the Big Game since 2012.
The content plan here in Miami for 49ers Studios is one that focuses on quality over quantity. Feeding the insatiable beast of fan’s hunger for content on the web can be a truly intimidating task when a team reaches an event like this. That’s why Alberino’s message to his group is to stay focused on what their role and keeping doing what they have done well all season.
“The fan appetite is extensive,” says Alberino, whose 25-year career in the NFL has taken him previously to the Kansas City Chiefs (ironically enough), the Philadelphia Eagles, and NFL Films (where he grew up under the legendary Steve Sabol), “but at some point, if you could put out one or two great interviews with players in a closed room, to me, that’s more valuable to the fans. They can get most every press conference and interview – things were are still putting out – anywhere, but the guts of our production is producing really good filet mignon, maybe four or five times a day and let that run alongside a load of content from [our] social [team].”
Alberino also noted that a big part of the plan was to stack the team’s shooting schedule on Monday and Tuesday so that Wednesday and Thursday could allow for his group to focus on postproduction, before making the dramatic shift to game day operations. He also acknowledged that despite that focus on higher quality content, there still is a substantial spike in the sheer amount of video being produced by the entirety of the 49ers organization. He estimated the increase at about 10 times greater than what his team puts out on a standard regular season week.
49ers Studios’ chief content goal is to put 49ers players first. Get their faces and their voices as front and center as possible. Whether through long form interview sit downs or quick edits from press events like Monday’s Opening Night.
“We just want the fans to feel like they can pick up their devices, look at their devices, and feel like there wasn’t a middleman between us and the players,” says Alberino. “It’s like the players were right there and talking to them. But I think we do that really well if we were in Week One in Tampa Bay or at the Super Bowl in Miami. I don’t think we changed the course of what we would deliver.”
Alberino’s team is also continuing to put out new episodes of its highly-produced, popular inside access series 49 Hours and Brick by Brick, which it produces after every 49ers win (of which there have been 11 more of than last season). Those are two shows that require significant attention and care throughout the regular year and they are taking it to new levels through the use of music. Alberino coordinated with a Bay Area music management company to land music contributions of California-based artists like Roddy Rich, Derek King, Jay White, and Jose Santana.
49ers Studios is also expanding its content strategy to include not just football coverage but also lifestyle of the experience of what it’s like to be here in Miami. Senior reporter Keiana Martin will carry on her role supplying reports on the state of the team and the players leading up to the game, while Alberino has brought on Kirsten Moran, a digital producer and host for Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game and local news affiliate KRON and a former 49ers cheerleader to provide colorful reports of South Beach and beyond.
When the plans make a hard shift on Super Bowl Sunday away from the festivities and onto the game itself, the crew will do its best, high-end shooting with their Sony CineAlta PMW-F55, with a supplemental cache of Sony and Canon cameras and lenses. The crew has also been given permission from the league to place microphones on three players in the game. That’s the most players the 49ers Studios crew has been able to mic up in a game (during the regular season, they typically have one). Six cameras on the sidelines will be dedicating to capturing on-field footage of those players.
The entire visual production team that Alberino oversees – every staff member of 49ers Studios – is here in Miami. That’s an estimated 34 video production leads, social and digital media coordinators, producers, editors, photographers, reporters, and more. Alberino’s crew that is shooting, producing and distributing visual content includes Director, Gameday Production and Broadcast Operations Aron Kennedy, Director, Production Wil Blackwell, Senior Manager, Photography Services Terrell Lloyd, Manager, Production and Media Assets Nate Steele, Senior Producer Josh Conner, Producers Steven Garcea, Daniel Mapes, Nick Schebetta, and Sarina Soriano, and Team Photographer Meg Willams.
Coordinating that entire crew comes down to aggressive levels of organization; a precise plan with specific roles for every member of the team.
“To me, it’s always having A, B, and C plan,” says Alberino. “Over-communicate. At all times. And eliminate forms of communication that slow down the communication as a leader. For me, Slack is awesome. We love it, we use it, but it’s like a river; things flow and all of a sudden it’s gone and you may have missed something. Finding someone and looking [them] in the face and giving [them] direction is still, for me, the most important thing.”
A big part of Alberino’s staff management strategy is delegating and trusting his people. He believes that letting his talented team do what they do best but demand their absolute best for this stage. He’s relaying that message to the staff by distributing a popular essay by Elbert Hubbard used in many military education circles entitled A Message to Garcia. Published in 1899, the essay describes the mission of U.S. solider tasked with delivering a message a leader of Cuban insurgents with virtually no direction on where he might be located or who he was. The moral celebrates an individual’s initiative and ability to solve a problem or accomplish a mission on one’s own hard work and dedication. It’s that message that Alberino attempted to relay to his team heading into Super Bowl Week. When the team is so busy and everyone is scattered across the city of Miami capturing and distributing content for fans, he’s empowering his staff to do what they do best and “get the message to Garcia.”
“You’ve just got to do your job,” says Alberino. “Communicate when you have to, but achieve your goal. I think a lot of our team believes in that: get your message to Garcia as fast as humanly possible and then get back to me and let me know that it was received.”
On Super Bowl Sunday, Alberino will play the role of servant to his staff, laying back in more of a directing and producer role, hopping around the field to all of his staff and shooters, ensuring they have everything they need from footage, to batteries, to water, etc. Doing whatever he can to put 49ers Studios in the best position to succeed.
“Our hope at the end of this thing is we can tell the story from every angle and that’s going to be key for us in a big, big way,” says Alberino. “That is, in itself, arguably the biggest task that we’ve probably had in my seven years here with the team. It’s a big event. It’s a big event.”
And when things get stressful or the team is starting to get tired, Alberino just has two words to keep perspective: “Champaign problems!”