Sports Venue Production Summit: Colleges Take Diverse Approaches to Venue Operations

College and university athletic departments handle venue operations in ways as varied as the student body at a liberal-arts college. But the goal is very much the same: to ensure that fans and alumni connect as closely as possible with the athletes and teams via hype videos, live streaming, scoreboard video, and more.

Speaking at SVG’s recent Sports Venue Production Summit at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, representatives of area schools discussed their respective approaches.

“The team-introduction video is important,” explained Jim Nachtman, assistant athletic director, media and video production, Penn State. “You want to create something with a wow factor for the recruit on the sideline and also the oldest ticket holder in the building. And we don’t just draw on the football team and players but [on the campus locations] that can give fans something else to relate to. It’s all about tradition and the past vs. the wow factor.”

One of the major differences between programs is how each handles staffing. Villanova outsources its video production to Up Stage, which then uses student workers for camera operations. For the students, it is a great way to get closer to a national-champion men’s basketball team and the other programs. Setting up student schedules as early as possible is an important part of ensuring that they will show up on game day.

New Jersey-based Wipeout Productions produces Villanova’s hype videos.

“It’s a struggle trying to get the student section involved, so the hype videos get everyone pumped up,” explains Ryan Christiansen, video coordinator, Villanova Athletics. “We get a lot of soundbites with players saying, ‘This is our team.’ That resonates with the fans, and they get to know the team a bit.”

At LaSalle University, the athletic department tried to get the communications department to work with it but without success, reported Associate Athletics Director Kevin Bonner.

“So now we have students who are accounting or nursing majors,” he explained. “It’s rewarding to train a student that does not have a background or interest in [production] as a career but, by the end, [is] successful. But, when the seniors check out, it is a challenge.”

For Temple University, said Kevin Copp, assistant athletic director, video services, the challenge is a rebranding intended to bring alumni back to the campus and also show them what Temple is all about going into the 2016 football season. “Whether it is a football or field-hockey game,” he said, “we want them to get a unified sense of being at a Temple athletics event.”

Temple’s hype videos are created in-house and mainly feature highlights from game action as well as piggybacking onto team photo shoots. “One thing is, we collaborate with marketing and limit working with the coaches and teams,” said Copp. “So we have more creative and editorial control.”

Home Sweet Home
Copp and the Temple scoreboard team get to work in Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, for home football games.

“We have the entire weight of the Eagles organization behind us,” he pointed out. “And they work with our marketing staff to produce material.”

Back at the Temple campus, there are videoboard productions for men’s hoops and volleyball, and, this summer, two videoboards are being installed in Temple’s Olympic-sports facility.

“We’re going from three boards to five,” Copp noted. “We are building a new tradition, and that gives us more freedom to dictate things.”

LaSalle has two videoboards for men’s basketball and volleyball and a 10-person production team. “Our brand is academics and service, and, as a Christian Brothers school, we are trying to convey that message,” said Bonner. “We build our videos in-house and take pride in the hype videos we create.”

Penn State, for its part, has eight facilities with videoboards and a department that produces about 350 videoboard events per year.

“You have to know your fan, and it’s a never-ending process of evaluating where you are and the students are,” said Nachtman. “If you have a tradition, you start with that. If you are building one, you have more control over where you are going.”

At the University of Pennsylvania, hype videos celebrate the student body and the opportunity to be a student athlete at a school with its academic and athletic excellence, said Ryan Koletty, video content creator, Penn Athletics. “We want to use them beyond just the games.”

All the college teams in the area are influenced by the Philadelphia Eagles. Temple plays its games at Lincoln Financial Field, but, even though the Penn State Nittany Lions play a couple of hours away, plenty of fans attend a Penn State game and an Eagles game on the same weekend.

“Expectations [of the video presentation] come with them,” said Nachtman, noting that “expectations are different for a 107,000-seat stadium vs. a 6,000-seat facility.” For example, wrestlers and fans don’t want the distraction of live video during a match. “They want a replay of a good move, but, other than that, they just want to know what the score is. Less is more for wrestling.”

Penn State football, meanwhile, has two very large screens, and the in-venue video production is always reevaluated to figure out how to deliver more stats and replays.

“With 107,000 fans, you can’t make everyone happy, but we know what the athletic director, fans, coaches, and sponsors expect,” Nachtman explained. “And, regardless of the event, we want the fans to know that it is a Penn State event. That is where our mission starts.”

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