Live From CFP National Championship Game: Another Title-Winning Season Sees Crimson Tide Productions Shift Its Video, Social Voice

Focusing not on tradition but on the future gives Alabama’s media effort improved success across digital platforms

For many years, the words Alabama Football evoked memories of black-and-white gridiron classics and ‘Bear’ Bryant’s hound’s-tooth hat. For Crimson Tide Productions, the creative-media arm of the Alabama Athletics Department, that has changed.

With five championships in the past nine years (including last night’s dramatic win over Georgia in the 2018 CFP National Championship Game), the visual history of Alabama Football is no longer sepia-toned; it’s bright, colorful, and in high definition.

The 2017-18 football campaign marked a dramatic change in the image that Crimson Tide Productions presents across social-media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. A concerted effort was made to shift the story away from the program’s tradition and toward the future to appeal to potential recruits. The shift has led to a much more youthful, all-access approach to bringing fans inside the life of an Alabama student-athlete.

The University of Alabama video and social team on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium following the Crimson Tide’s dramatic victory over Georgia. From left: Chris Liskiewicz, Michaiah Smith, Jonathan King, Adam White, Justin Brant, and Alex Seiver (not pictured is Christopher England)

“In the past, our content was very tradition-driven,” notes Jonathan King, creative director, Crimson Tide Productions. “It spoke to a different generation. Recruiting has changed so much, and the things that we need to do to help the school target these kids are different. That being said, the audience on social media tends to like the same type of content. So, while we’ve shifted our social-media approach to a recruiting focus, our fans, at the same time, have loved it because what we are showing is the exciting side of being a player.”

According to Justin Brant, director, Crimson Tide Productions, the crew shot content in Atlanta and at Mercedes-Benz Stadium using a new high-powered RED camera and a Sony FS7 to capture slow-motion footage and a collection of smaller units: some Sony a7S II units, a Sony FS700, and a 360-degree camera (which the team was ultimately limited in its ability to use, given the various rights and security issues surrounding the presence of President Donald Trump last night).

Besides Brant and King, the video team working onsite in Atlanta comprised Chris Liskiewicz on graphics and social-media posting, Adam White designing motion graphics, Michaiah Smith and Alex Seiver shooting video, and Christopher England lending a hand on video while focusing on working Snapchat.

Crimson Tide Productions has had the opportunity to cover six college-football championship games (in both the BCS and the CFP eras) so they have learned a lot from planning and executing content for big-ticket events. If there’s one thing the team has learned throughout that experience, it’s to never lose focus on why they were there.

“This is about the players,” Brant explains. “You can get caught up in all of this for yourself. Try not to do that. Focus on the story of the players and what they are working through. It’s a great experience for everybody. You never get tired of it. But focus on telling the stories of the player.”

King concurs, though acknowledging that covering an event like this for an athletic department can be overwhelming. He advised his colleagues to remain focused and do what they do best.

“People have a tendency to want to cover everything,” notes King, who worked at Alabama from 2005 to ’12 before becoming creative director at the University of Tennessee. He returned to the Crimson Tide last spring. “Make great, quality content that focuses on a few great moments, and people are going to eat it up and love it. If you try to do everything and try to get every single moment, some of it is going to fall short. You’re going to feel rushed and panicked. Make a plan for the specific moments you want to capture and blow those up; make them humongous.”

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