Live From Men’s Final Four: University of North Carolina Supplement Deep Tournament Run With Onsite Digital Coverage, On-Campus Watch Party

The university is amplifying the team’s message through their own social channels

After an unfortunate first round exit in last year’s tournament, the University of North Carolina (UNC) is on the hunt for another Men’s Basketball Championship banner on the banks of the Mississippi River. Facing Duke University for the first time in March, GoHeels Productions — the Tar Heels’ creative team — and the university’s social media platforms are working in tandem to capture the sights and sounds of New Orleans and entertain the students cheering from Chapel Hill.

“Over the last few years, we’ve received a ton of the support across all of our different departments,” says Ken Cleary, associate AD/Emerging Media, University of North Carolina. “They really understand the value of what we do, and I feel lucky that they’re very supportive of our creative content.”

Balancing the Message: Digital Material Focuses on Current Squad, Program History

As a team with a storied legacy, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on the task at hand. In the case of UNC, Cleary and company have found the ability to merge the past and the present on all social media channels. For the former, the crew is tapping into nostalgic moments that diehard fans will remember, including the 40th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot vs. Georgetown University in the 1982 National Championship game:

Despite the deep-rooted rivalry with the Blue Devils, the content leading up to this highly-anticipated matchup is paying homage to the game’s locale. It’s a trend that the Tar Heels have used throughout this postseason run. Before their Sweet 16 matchup vs. UCLA and Elite Eight vs. St. Peter’s in Philadelphia, the pregame hype video leveraged the iconography of the city. And while many focus on the drama on the court, the trailer for Saturday’s bout edited by junior Ryan Schmitt is invoking the longtime mystique of a program that’s played in 21 Final Fours:

“With Ken on the in-venue side, my creative team worked hand in hand on these trailers this year,” says Gary Paczesny, assistant AD /creative services and athletic communications, University of North Carolina. “They started as features on the videoboard, but they’ve really become a catalyst on social.”

The digital team is also doing their best to highlight behind-the-scenes moments that fans wouldn’t ordinarily see. One post, for example, provides a poignant moment that links first-year Head Coach Hubert Davies to a tradition that he witnessed during his four-year playing career under legendary Head Coach Dean Smith:


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To capture all of this onsite material, Cleary and Paczesny are relying on a team that spends a lot of time with the players. Led by Assistant Director, Creative Services Josh Reavis, this essential crew is also composed of Graphic Designer Brandon Gray and Team Photographer Maggie Hobson, and University Videographer Rob Holiday, who’s capturing aerial drone scenics used for pregame trailers. During this time of year, the trio is recording practice sessions, media day shoots, locker room interactions and in the offseason, they’re generating buzz around the incoming class of recruits.

Away from the creative and cinematic visuals, GoHeels Productions is also churning out other forms of content from New Orleans. In what started as a podcast, play-by-play announcer Jones Angell and columnist Adam Lucas are shooting quick standups from various locations in and around Caesars Superdome. These visual editions of the Carolina Insider are incorporating sponsorship from Cook Out to create “What’s Shakin?” specials from the Big Easy:

“Adam and Jones have done an audio podcast twice per week that is really popular with our fans, but since the pandemic, we started doing a video version,” says Cleary. “This 30-miunute show has turned into a weekly recap with a guest interview.”

Cheering From Home: Offsite Crew, Internal Operations Handle On-Campus Watch Party

There are current students and alumni lucky enough to make it to Louisiana for Saturday’s contest, but for those spending the weekend back at campus, GoHeels Productions is teaming up with the university for a special event back in North Carolina. With Director, Social Media Fletcher Jones from athletics and Video Content Producer Rob Holiday from the university, both aspects of the institution will host a Watch Party at the Dean E. Smith Center.

While the Watch Party may seem like a simple task, putting the elements together and creating synergy with the administrative side of UNC is a heavy lift. To attract a crowd that extends larger than student-athletes or fans of the Tar Heels, the university Twitter account is actively retweeting and interacting with the main athletics account and Men’s Basketball account as well as posting about this upcoming event. The actual execution of the activation will require Cleary and Paczesny to edit polished video packages in New Orleans and upload those files to Dropbox to be accessed by the on-campus crew 856 miles away. These videos will be played on a projector as a handful of other prompts will be played on the centerhung and other LED displays within the venue.

As a rivalry that’s been played for over a century, there comes a handful of traditions that have carried over to 2022. One of those is the rushing of Franklin Street — the main thoroughfare north of UNC’s campus and the heart of Chapel Hill — after every win over Duke. This was recently done on March 5 after the Tar Heels spoiled the party for Coach K’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. If there were to be another victory in less than a month, four videographers with Sony α7 III’s will be ready to shoot the chaos that ensues.

“If we’re up at halftime, we have a plan in place to tell [those staffers] where to go,” says Paczesny.

In addition to this watch party, the university collaborated with athletics to setup a live stream of the team’s send-off to New Orleans on Wednesday, March 30:

The Road Ends Here: Tar Heels Aim to Celebrate a Transformative Year in Chapel Hill

Exactly one year ago on Friday, April 1, former Head Coach Roy Williams officially retired from collegiate basketball. At the time, it was a pivotal moment for a program that needed to begin a new chapter. In the eyes of Paczesny, the iconic coach’s decision marked a turning point for his staff as well.

“On the day that Roy retired, I distinctively just remember the adrenaline rush of, “Oh my gosh, this is happening,’ he admits. “Where we’ve since then is pretty remarkable.”

Davis returned to his alma mater, and although the team’s play on the court started off slow, the Tar Heels began to click and claw their way to the final stop of a three-week tour. With constant improvement during the COVID-19 pandemic, GoHeels Production has also hit their stride.

“Our content has increased twofold of what we did in the previous year,” continues Paczesny. “We’ve changed our philosophy to go all out all of the time.”

Leaning on the leadership of Director, Athletics Bubba Cunningham and Senior Associate Athletic Director, External Affairs and Strategic Communications Robbi Pickerall Evans, this year’s Final Four is only the beginning of the program’s consistent ascension into the next frontier of creative storytelling.

“They’ve given us an opportunity to move forward and figure out new avenues for content,” adds Paczesny  “We lost a chunk of staff during the pandemic, but we’ve gotten 90% of it back, and having institutional support will help us expand to tell even more stories.”

The University of North Carolina will face off against Duke University on Saturday, April 2 at 8:49 p.m. ET on TBS.

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