Live From Men’s Final Four: Duke’s Digital Content Strategy Keeps Focus on Team’s Title Aspirations in Coach K’s Grand Finale

Leaning into longform social video, Blue Devils further elevate content quality for the big stage

For college sports creatives, the stakes don’t get much higher than the Final Four.

And then there’s Duke in 2022.

The creative content team from Duke Athletics is surrounding the Blue Devils’ trip to the 2022 Final Four will video and photography. From left: Director of Athletics Photography Reagan Lunn, Creative Director for Duke Men’s Basketball David Bradley, Executive Director of Communications Mike DeGeorge, Blue Devil Network Senior Producer/Editor Nolan Elingburg, and Creative Content Producer for Duke Men’s Basketball Stephen Ochoa. (Photo Courtesy of Nolan Elingburg)

Not only are the Blue Devils here in New Orleans to claim their first National Championship since 2015, they will look to do so in the final season of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career and will need to go through their greatest rival to get there.

The gravity of the storylines are almost overwhelming.

So how does the content creation crew from both the Duke Men’s Basketball program and the Duke Athletic Department’s Blue Devil Network avoid getting crushed by the pressure of the occasion? For Duke Men’s Basketball Creative Director David Bradley, it’s all about blocking out the noise and not losing perspective of the task at hand.

“The stage, the moment, the opportunity: that’s bigger than a rivalry game,” says Bradley. “Whoever you’re playing, that’s bigger than a coach’s last game. We’ve had our chance this year to celebrate and honor Coach. We’ve done different content throughout the year, whether it’s simple dumps of the amazing Coach K photo archive, all the way to elaborate videos with collabs of extraordinary drone pilots and everywhere in between. You get to the tournament and that’s a whole new time. Everything else, rivalry, Coach, all that is put aside.”

As the Duke Men’s Basketball team readies itself for Saturday night’s epic showdown with the University of North Carolina, Duke Athletics has embedded a team of five content specialists to create and distribute content. The crew includes Bradley, Duke Men’s Basketball Creative Content Producer Stephen Ochoa and Blue Devil Network Senior Producer/Editor Nolan Elingburg.

That includes following the team to various activities such as practices, media events, and other activations throughout the city, while also editing special projects like hype videos and shooting what they can come game time.

As is the case at the Final Four each year, the creative teams at each of the participating universities face limiting rights restrictions around content shot of the live game. That has presented a notable challenge for the group, but one they are prepared to tackle as an overarching theme of their content year-round serves a longform approach that takes fans behind the scenes.

For example, content like the “Duke Dub Cam” where a shooter gets onto the court and captures the immediate reactions on the floor and in the locker room following a victory.

“We have to change the way we’ve done things for the whole season, for the biggest three weeks of the year,” says Elingburg. “We thought ‘Duke Dub Cam’ would be a good way to show the guys celebrating after wins and show their personality. That’s a cool thing we’ve added.”

“It’s hard to find the time too, as you keep winning,” adds Bradley. “We won this biggest game in the season. Well, the next game’s now the biggest game and you only have a day or two and you’ve got to keep churning out the content. I think that format lend itself well to kind of throwing the archive from the whole experience out in a creative way.”

Shooters are working largely with the Sony a7s III camera and using a mixture of lenses, including a 24-105mm and a 70-200mm. For shooting the game from the school’s dedicated shooting position under the backboard, the team turns to the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K. With that device, Elingburg says, they are shooting in 4K and in slow motion. To accommodate the very large files that come with that, they are recording straight to SSD drives to handle and manage the media.

Duke Men’s Basketball’s social accounts have also leaned heavily into still photography, not simply because of the video rights restrictions but due to the quality imagery produced by the Director of Athletics Photography Reagan Lunn. The content team has also received a huge boost from Duke Athletics’ Executive Director of Communications Mike DeGeorge.

As the eyes of the sports world descend on Duke basketball and the Final Four this weekend, it’s hard to not reflect on the dramatic season that was for the Duke Men’s Basketball program. Content highlights have included another expertly crafted season of Duke Blue Planet (of which Bradley says there may be one more episode of  following the Tournament depending on how the results on the court pan out) and – a project that both Bradley and Elingburg pointed to as a favorite moment of the year – the chance to produce scenic drone videos with popular drone pilot Jay Christensen, who has made a name for himself with creative drone flyovers with HBO’s Hard Knocks, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the PGA TOUR, and more.

Ultimately, however, the 2021-22 season will be remembered for the memories created surrounding Coach K. The affection that the university family has for the man has been expertly evident in all of the content that was created internally this season. A great reflection of the crew’s ability to dig into the archive and mix it effectively with new, fresh content in piece that was released just a month ago for the final home game of the regular season called, simply, Coach K’s Cameron.

“I can’t put into words what Coach K means to me and all he is done for me and my family and our department, our social media,” says Elingburg. “He’s the best. We have to document this year. We have to do everything, as much as we can. I think we’ve done a really good job of that and, so, I’m proud. I think we’ll look back and say, we gave it our all for Coach in this last year.”

SVG Associate Editor Kristian Hernandez contributed to this report.

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