An example of the CCU’s “Hometown” essay, this one on Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.
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Between now and Jan. 11’s College Football Playoff National Championship (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), SportsCenter and any number of ESPN shows (not to mention ESPN.com) will feature unique, brief and compelling content sure to satisfy even the most demanding of Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma fans.
One of the standout elements sure to garner attention is a series of “What’s In a Name” pieces that originate from ESPN Production’s Creative Content Unit (CCU).
“With the amount of platforms and programs we are providing this CFP creative content for, the key to success is short, rich, entertaining and ultimately, memorable pieces,” said Julie McGlone, coordinating producer, CCU. “The ‘What’s In a Name’ concept came from our Selection Day planning meeting. Post producer John Bartmon and I were planning our ‘Team Behind the Team’ shoots and the discussion started as to why Alabama’s mascot is an elephant if their nickname is Crimson Tide?”
After some brainstorming the decision was made to create a vehicle for sharing the history of the teams’ names.
“ESPN The Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee loved the idea and wrote all four scripts right away,” said McGlone, a 15-year ESPN veteran. “CCU producer Staci Green took on the franchise and together we came up with a picture, popup storybook approach for her creative vision. Staci and Bryan Rourke produced the four pieces.”
This being ESPN’s second year of carrying the CFP, there were some lessons to lean on from last year but, McGlone said, “with the New Year’s Eve theme there was an added storyline and that made for some fun party content as well.
“Senior Coordinating Producer Lee Fitting is fantastic at providing a healthy balance of creative freedom and autonomy with enough guidance and support for success,” she said. “This year, Senior Vice President, Production and Remote Events Mark Gross and Lee emphasized cross platform integration, sense of place, and storytelling around teams, players and campuses in smaller, bite-sized elements for all platforms and shows surrounding this event.”
The CCU along with senior managing producer Linda Schulz’s SportsCenter Enhancement Unit (SCEU) produced a bevy of elements, dividing and conquering to create dozens of pieces. The CCU was responsible for Hometown and campus life essays; “What’s in a Name?”; Team Behind the Team; New Year’s Eve party bumps/branding elements, teases and in-game elements.
The SCEU worked on additional SC-specific content such as: Teases written and voiced by Scoop Jackson, School “101’s”, “How They Got Here”; “#WhyWeWillWin”; player “stamps” and SC Conversation features.
“With not knowing the teams until December 6 – and getting in a holiday for everyone on the team – I would say the biggest challenge was delivering for all entities by this week,” McGlone said.