Clemson Hits Hard With Social Video

The Tigers’ social-media effort covered everything team-related for the CFP Championship Game

When your program has its first shot at a National Championship since Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office, there’s no such thing as too much.

That was the philosophy, anyway, of Jonathan Gantt, director, new and creative media, Clemson University Athletics, who led the Tigers’ social-media team covering Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game from top to bottom, capturing and sharing everything team-related surrounding the event.

“If it’s really good, no one is ever going to complain that there is too much of it,” said Gantt prior to Clemson’s loss in a classic game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. “That’s the standard that I want everybody to work on: make something really good, and you never have to worry that you are posting too much. Especially on a day like this, I am throwing everything we’ve got out there. Everything that we’ve produced through the year that applies, everything that we capture today — throw it all out there because there’s no such thing as over-posting on National Championship Day when you haven’t been there in 35 years. Your fans want to see everything.”

Clemson shot video using mostly DSLR cameras from Sony, Canon, and Nikon. Here, a student operator uses a Steadicam mount to capture smoother shots of the team entering the stadium.

Clemson shot video using mostly DSLR cameras from Sony, Canon, and Nikon. Here, a student operator uses a Steadicam mount to capture smoother shots of the team entering the stadium.

A team of eight social-media staffers on game day (half of whom were Clemson students), included three focusing specifically on video content (one full-timer and two students). A combination of DSLR cameras — from Canon, Sony, and Nikon — and cellphone cameras captured loads of footage used for larger projects or shared directly to the team’s various accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and SnapChat.

On game day, the video group certainly acquired and edited footage for larger video projects on the docket, but, for social media, there was a strong focus on acquiring short, sharable content that could get fans excited.

“The storytelling platform has changed so much,” says Nik Conklin, coordinator, digital content, Clemson Athletics. “If you don’t get someone’s attention within the first couple of seconds, they are gone. You can thank Vine for that. These six-second videos are addicting, and we want to create that kind of content. So storytelling here is no longer about two- to five-minute videos; it’s six, 15, or 30 seconds. My sweet spot is a 15-second video.”

Although certain types of video content play differently on the various social-media platforms, Gantt directed his staff and students to focus on the quality of content surrounding the game and to let the distribution handle itself.

The Clemson social-media team produced loads of video content throughout the festivities surrounding the CFP National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ.

The Clemson social-media team produced loads of video content throughout the festivities surrounding the CFP National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ.

“I’m a big believer of create once, publish everywhere,” says Gantt. “If you have something that’s really, really good, I want to share it on as many outlets as we have possible. So you will see some similar content across all of our channels, but, if it’s good, we want to make sure people see it.”

Conklin agrees, adding that the emphasis was on using DSLRs to create a more cinematic feel to all the content of the team acquired off the field. And, although cellphone cameras were in use and Conklin believes in the quality of the content they acquire, he also reminded his student staff that having a good camera on your phone does not make you a good camera operator.

“I tell the students, Shoot content to show context,” he says. “Anybody can get on the field and pan left to right with a cellphone camera, but how you approach it and compose the shots really matters. Use wide shots to show how big the stadium is and how packed it is with fans. Get really tight telephoto shots of something like Deshaun Watson preparing, because, with that shallow depth of field, that’s going to get intense emotion.”

That cinematic approach helped create one of the best pieces of content that the team has produced, according to Gantt. The fiction short “The Dream” chronicles the journey of a young boy who grows up dreaming of becoming a Clemson football player. The project has evolved over the season, and the team has released new iterations of the film in conjunction with the ACC Championship Game, the Orange Bowl, and the National Championship Game.

All of this is possible thanks to Gantt’s and Conklin’s relationship with the Clemson football coaching staff and head coach Dabo Swinney. Building trust over a couple of years was critical to the type of access they had during the days leading up to the National Championship.

“We’re very fortunate to work with a guy like coach Swinney, who is very clear in his vision and his message,” says Gantt. “So, as marketing people, we don’t have to come up with catchy marketing messages because he does it all for us. He makes it very simple to fall in line with the messages and core themes of his program.”