On the Gridiron: Silver and Black Productions, Las Vegas Raiders Build New Roots During Allegiant Stadium’s Inaugural Season
Social media tethers fans back in the Bay Area
Many professional sports have opted for a return to play inside of a sanitized bubble, but not the NFL. Without skipping a beat, the league is soldiering on with regular season games in all 30 stadiums across the country. Similar to our At the Ballpark series, On the Gridiron will examine the new routines, habits, and production philosophies of in-venue personnel on any given Thursday, Sunday, or Monday.
Whether good or bad, this NFL season is undoubtedly creating moments that will have a lasting impact. For two franchises in Los Angeles, the Rams and the Chargers, a fresh set of memories will be made inside the same city and state at SoFi Stadium. As for the Raiders, they set sail eastward to Las Vegas’ latest architectural icon, Allegiant Stadium. Silver and Black Productions, the team’s creative and production department, is running with a reimagined content strategy during its first season with Raider Nation away from their new home.
“We’re trying to keep our newly-established relationships in a good place without fans, so there has been a lot of social media integration since we have a limited opportunity to show off what we want to do,” says Justin Casserly, Director of Game & Event Presentation, Las Vegas Raiders. “We didn’t want to completely put everything on the back burner until 2021, so we’re very fortunate to have a lot of national broadcasts with beauty shots that capture our videoboards and things like that.”
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Two Legacies, One Future: Digital Content Connects Old and New Fans
The Raiders have created a long and storied lineage in both Oakland and Los Angeles, and while the famous Black Hole will remain in the Bay Area, the franchise is working to construct a strong fanbase in an entirely new area of the country. The team is connecting both old and new followers on its digital and social media channels by embracing its notable history as well as its bright future in the Sin City.
“Our marketing campaign is ‘Two Legacies. One Future’, so we’re highlighting the team’s overall legacy, but also the history of Las Vegas,” says Casserly. “We’re trying to find all those opportunities to not only keep the people who have been with the organization and diehard fans, but also welcome the Las Vegas community into Raider Nation.”
Looking in the past, the team is harkening back to its years as one of California’s many NFL franchises. For example, the team honored the passing of baseball Hall of Famer, Oakland native, and longtime friend of the organization, Joe Morgan. In an attempt to turn a new leaf, the franchise is also spreading localized content to catch the attention of their new audience. As the framework of this new initiative, the department focused on another local professional team, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, to develop a plan that would make them a part of the community.
“Owner Mark Davis, President Marc Badain, and the entire organization have really strived to insert ourselves into the Las Vegas community,” he continues. “The Vegas Golden Knights have done a phenomenal job and have become a nationwide team because of what they were able to do here.”
The organization’s digital outlets are featuring celebrities that have spent some time in the city As a nod to the city’s culture and cuisine, local radio host JT the Brick hosted Food Network personality and UNLV graduate Guy Fieri to breakdown the Week 5 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. In addition, the team’s first game on Monday Night Football included other highlights like a Thunderbirds flyover originating from Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada and a halftime performance by The Killers.
On a more somber note, the Raiders took part in the acknowledging the three-year anniversary of the Mandalay Bay shooting that took the lives of 60 people. Leveraging the peristyle on the exterior of Allegiant Stadium, the production team illuminated lights in the direction of the The Strip over the course of the night of Thursday, Oct. 1.
“We had a really nice tribute that garnered a lot of local attention based on the Mandalay Bay shooting,” says Casserly. “We feel that we’re a part of the community, so it was important for us to recognize it.”
As the bridge between the two groups, the Raiders are highlighting the new 93-foot Al Davis Memorial Torch on televised broadcasts and digital platforms. A constant reminder of the former owner and executive, the torch has been lit before every home game since his death in 2011 and the tradition is continuing in Las Vegas.
Live and Learn: In-Venue Crew Adapts to New Control Room
Similar to the Rams and Chargers in SoFi Stadium, a crowd-less Allegiant Stadium is offering ample runthroughs for the team to become comfortable with the control room and all of its new technology. While Casserly and his in-venue colleagues are striving to produce a mistake-free show at all times, the lack of fans allows room for production adjustments and potential errors.
“I’m always taking notes during the game,” he says. “There were some things that we couldn’t do [during Week 1], but the fortunate thing is that we can test and try different elements without 65,000 pairs of eyes on us.”
One positive that the 2020 season has granted is the chance to regroup and assess constructive feedback from a previous game. Since staffers aren’t spending valuable time having to create ancillary content that is purely driven by fan engagement, the team reflects on what could be improved and how they can work more efficiently during the next game.
“We’ve adjusted a lot because each and every week, we really want to make sure that we’re getting better and better,” he adds. “The dedication and feedback of the crew has been great. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned and prided myself on is that I’m not going to say I’m the smartest one in the room, so if someone specializes in a particular seat of the control room and they have a better way of doing something or have a suggestion, I want them to keep that ongoing dialogue and feel like they’re a part of the show.”
The Ones Who Get It Done: Notable Names of Silver and Black Productions
In Las Vegas, people from around the country are attracted to the bright lights and flashy entertainment that the city has to offer. For those that were eager to join the Raiders on the precipice of this new chapter, Allegiant Stadium caused the same effect on new members of Silver and Black Productions. Some of these individuals who answered the call are Casserly (former Director of Event Presentation for the Miami Dolphins) Manager of Audio, Video, Broadcast, and Cisco Vision Operations Justin Lange (former Broadcast Operations Coordinator at U.S. Bank Stadium), and Control Room Engineer Aric Carpenter (former Manager of Broadcast Technology with the Minnesota Timberwolves). Whether a rookie or a veteran, the entire production unit works together for the sake of each other, the fans watching from home, and many years being played in the desert.
“I’m one of a minimum of 30 people that work on any game,” concludes Casserly. “Everyone in the Raiders organization has played a large role in making this year possible, including [VP of Media and Entertainment] Brad Phinney, [Senior Director of Stadium Development and Operations] Christopher Sotiropulos, [Director of Stadium Development and Operations] Chloe Janfaza, and [SVP of Stadium Development and Operations] Tom Blanda. It’s been a real honor to be a part of this team thus far.”
The Raiders will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Allegiant Stadium during a Sunday Night Football contest on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 8:20 p.m. ET.