Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs’ Digital Team Hurdles COVID-19 Obstacles in Team’s Return to the Big Game
Preparation for this game is very different from last year’s in Miami
Prior to Super Bowl LIV last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were the lovable underdog trying to win its first championship in five decades. On Sunday, the franchise will be vying for back-to-back titles and setting the foundation for a potential NFL dynasty. Magic may happen on the field at Raymond James Stadium, but, leading up to the game, creative pixie dust has been spread through the team’s social-media and digital channels.
“We have a couple of things up our sleeves,” says Glenn Connelly, director, content and production, Kansas City Chiefs. “Going to back-to-back Super Bowls has allowed us to home in on what made an impact last year.”
Calling an Audible: Crew Limits Staffers Onsite, Relies on Services at Arrowhead
The crew will produce a typical flurry of videos, posts, and other visuals this weekend, but the workflows are in stark contrast to those deployed last year. Connelly and his team have remained in Kansas City throughout this week, an approach used for road games during the regular season.
A quick look behind the scenes of production day! pic.twitter.com/8mGSgAuKnx
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 2, 2021
“The lack of player access has been a huge hurdle all year long,” Connelly explains. “Only one of our producers was able to be inside the practice facility, and the rest of our staff has been working from the press box at Arrowhead Stadium. In our studio, we set up interviews through Zoom with a teleprompter, and we have remote camera controls so [the staffer] can manage from an adjacent office. We’ve had to get creative and manage our expectations.”
When the team does travel to Tampa later this week, it’ll be with a smaller staff than was deployed last year at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all credentialed staffers were able to be inside the venue with a fair amount of player access. Despite the magnitude of the event, the production crew this year is looking at the contest differently from an operational perspective.
“We are treating this Super Bowl more like a normal away trip,” says Connelly. “The NFL has permitted four of our staff, two photographers and two videographers, onto the field. In the operational zone, we’ll have four additional photographers and three videographers that are local or flown-in freelancers. Last year, we had eight photographers and eight videographers, so we’ll have to rely more on NFL Films for coverage.”
Since seats on the Chiefs’ airplane are limited, the production-crew members who will be working onsite this Sunday are traveling on different flights on separate days. The first photographer/videographer pair will leave Kansas City on Thursday, and the other pair will head to Florida on Saturday. The other video producers and digital team, including Connelly, will provide support from Arrowhead.
Inside the Infrastructure: Ops Include Remote Editing, ARRI Cameras
The production team’s infrastructure will look different from last year’s. In February 2020, it was given the full week to gather content and set up a portable server in the team hotel to cover events and upload footage. Now this system is located in Arrowhead Stadium for remote editing during the course of the game.
“It’s a lot easier working in Kansas City since we have access to all of our footage,” says Connelly. “We’ll be editing in Adobe Premiere and After Effects and will use CatDV as an asset-management system. We’ll also use Frame.io as a large part of our workflow for content approvals and file sharing, so everything gets there for review by me and our other senior management before it’s posted to our social-media channels.”
With this system in place, crew members who will be working on the sidelines and inside other areas of Raymond James Stadium will be equipped with two types of ARRI cameras: ARRIs and ALEXA Minis. Before traveling to Tampa, the crew has used the equipment to shoot digital content at Arrowhead, including the stitching of the official Super Bowl LV jersey:
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#RunItBack: Hashtag Connects Super Bowl LIV Victory to Current Quest
Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy a year ago, the Chiefs have emphasized the idea of repeating as champions. The team’s official slogan, “Run It Back,” appears on all promotional material as well as on the digital platforms and is now the Chiefs’ official social-media hashtag. The digital team has pushed out short clips under this umbrella, connecting last year’s success to this year’s mission. Its efforts have buy-in from players: for example, this video is narrated by team sparkplug and postseason defensive captain Tyrann Mathieu:
In a new twist to the hashtag, the social team is also diving deep into the South Florida mentality. In one of its most recent posts, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, defensive tackle Chris Jones, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and defensive end Frank Clark sail a Chiefs-themed pirate ship next to an illustration of the waterways that run from Kansas City to Tampa:
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 1, 2021
Serialized Content: Long-Form Episodes Offer Regular-Season Highlight
Serialized content is one of the themes that the digital team has emphasized throughout the past two seasons. Throughout the 2020 campaign, the organization has integrated corporate sponsors into some longer-form content. One in particular, Kingdom Short Presented by GEHA, highlights notable topics in videos of various lengths:
It’s hard to know where you’re going without understanding where you’ve been. Since last year’s team broke the 50-year-long championship drought and created a roadmap for the current squad, the digital team kept fans coming back during the offseason in various ways, including the culmination of The Franchise, a 17-episode series that followed the team’s journey to football immortality.
“We were able to create some live-stream watch parties during the offseason that centered on reliving last year’s Super Bowl run,” Connelly reports. “Seeing those come together and working through those problems made some of my favorite pieces of content.”
Another long-form series, Chiefs Rewind, recaps big games and moments of the year, conjuring up old feelings of pride and enthusiasm for the upcoming matchup:
Road to Tampa: New Obstacles, High Level of Creativity
Although the franchise is on the brink of a championship repeat, this will be Connelly’s third trip to the Big Game: for 2019’s Super Bowl LIII, he was a managing producer for the Los Angeles Rams. Having been there twice before, once in defeat and once surrounded by red and yellow confetti, he understands the hard work that it takes to curate, develop, and publish stellar digital content.
“It has been an incredibly difficult season full of sacrifices from individuals that have been tested every morning since mid July,” he says. “Based on what we were allowed to do, it has been tough to stifle some of their creativity, but, luckily, our staff knew what it was going to take to get through 16 games and two home playoff games. I don’t know if another group could have done it the way our staff was able to.”
Check out all of SVG’s Super Bowl LV coverage:
- CBS Sports Production Team Puts Finishing Touches on Innovations
- Strong Onsite Set Presence Supports CBS Sports’ Studio, Pregame Programming
- NFL Media Leans on Culver City HQ for Week-Long Extravaganza in Tampa
- ESPN Brings REMI Philosophy to Big Game
- NFL Films Ready To Deliver Big Game Around the Globe Despite Pandemic Challenges
- Kansas City Chiefs’ Digital Team Hurdles COVID-19 Obstacles in Team’s Return to the Big Game
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Digital Team ‘Raises the Flags’ Ahead of First-Ever Home Championship Game
- Van Wagner Deploys Remote Workflows, Teams Up With Buccaneers In-Venue Staff for Hybrid Show
- M3 Eclipse Truck Is Dedicated to Music for Halftime Show
- Facing the Challenges of Bringing the Behemoth That Is NFL to European Markets