SVG Sit-Down: Venue Edge’s David Saphirstein on the Company’s Busy Summer of In-Venue Soccer Shows
Producer Rachel King provided expertise in international soccer productions
Coming off Sunday night’s Week 1 Camping World Kickoff between No. 5 LSU and No. 8 Florida State at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, Venue Edge and partner Florida Citrus Sports capped off a busy summer of in-venue productions. Over the past three months, the team at Venue Edge was at the center of videoboard shows for numerous soccer friendlies in the 2023 FC Series, including Chelsea vs. Wrexham AFC on July 19 at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill and Real Madrid vs. Juventus on Aug. 2 at Camping World Stadium. In addition, the company handled two Premier League engagements: Aston Villa vs. Fulham on July 26 at Exploria Stadium and a five-a-side exhibition game featuring legends from those clubs at Universal Resorts Orlando.
In addition, having worked together on the game-day experience for St. Louis CITY SC, Venue Edge and veteran producer Rachel King teamed up on four matches around the country. King executive-produced the Manchester United vs. Wrexham match on July 25 and San Diego Loyal SC vs. Borussia Dortmund on July 27 at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium, Manchester United vs. Borussia Dortmund on July 30 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, and Chelsea vs. Borussia Dortmund on Aug. 2 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
SVG sat down with Venue Edge founder David Saphirstein and King to break down the preparation for the slate of friendlies, how they overcome the challenges of working in multiple venues, what it was like working together, and more.
How did you go about planning for these games?
King: I take a look at each individual market and look at what is unique and cultural to the specific market and fans from a music, entertainment, and activation standpoint. From there, I craft the show around any contractual partner obligations, fan engagement, and entertainment as we take the fans on a bit of a journey, from the teams arriving to warmups, procession, and, finally, to kickoff. I also took into consideration fans that traveled from afar and those outside the country, who don’t have the same stadium experiences outside the U.S. Our stadiums in the U.S. boast a lot of digital assets, so we wanted to showcase [these matches] in a fun and engaging way.
What were some of the challenges that came with this packed schedule of matches?
Saphirstein: I think the biggest challenges for us were that these matches were played in multiple venues with various partners that had different sets of needs. There were different agreements with each venue, so we needed to provide services on a sliding scale depending on what was necessary for each operation. This ranged from scripting and entertainment to graphics and animation. For example, the show at Kenan Memorial Stadium had more of a traditional setup: Florida Citrus Sports was responsible for almost everything match-related. We planned out and produced the entire show, and we worked with GoHeels Productions directly for our technical crew.
King: The condensed schedule proved most challenging for content and special-effect scheduling due to permits. We had a lot of content already moving forward by the time I jumped in, so I identified most of the challenges onsite, worked with each individual venue, and was able to get all additional creative updated. The consistency between venues didn’t exist — each had their own specs and unique digital assets — so it is something to talk about well in advance for any future games.
How did you and your crew work hand-in-hand with the organizer/venue?
King: I luckily had preexisting relationships with each of the stadiums, so it made it a lot smoother to jump in so close to each event. I would work with all vendors and the client, compile all information, and pass it off to the stadium in one consolidated informational email before getting onsite. Onsite, it worked even smoother, as I was able to sit with the team for one to two days prior to each game day and work through what was missing, graphic updates, and challenges and build and finalize each show.
Saphirstein: For example, we have worked with the team at Allegiant Stadium [Director, Production Technology, Aric Carpenter; Broadcast Technician Kalan Campbell; Graphics Operator Christina Tong; and others] on different sports and events, and that was more about coordination.
How was your working relationship during this time?
Saphirstein: Rachel has a great reputation in the world of soccer. Throughout the summer, she has been a major partner for us. We wanted to take our years of experience and bring them together to serve clients.
King: My working relationship with David and his team was great. When approached about the summer international soccer matches, I had multiple conversations and partnered with David. We’ve been looking for projects to work on together, outside of St. Louis CITY SC and some others, and this was another nice project to bring to life together.
What were some of the production highlights from the summer?
Saphirstein: Just the overall excitement we were able to create through content and activations to match the energy of the fans of the clubs. We introduced Cue Audio’s FanSee at Kenan Memorial Stadium, and the engagement numbers were huge.
King: Fan engagement was one of the highlights from this summer of soccer. We brought in DJs and hosts to each venue as well as used a live Selfie Camera that elevated the experience and engagement for everyone. The reaction to fans when on camera, their own or the stadium’s, was one of the strongest I have seen. The goal was to make these matches feel like they were fan-driven and a lot of the content was coming from them. The Selfie Cam was really important as it was from their point of view in the stadium.
When you combine your company’s work in collegiate athletics with these international friendlies, how far has Venue Edge grown, and how excited are you for the future?
Saphirstein: What I’m most proud of is that a majority of these opportunities have come through relationships. It’s about the way we partner with our clients and customize our solutions based on needs. As for the future, we’re excited about what we continue to do in the collegiate space, at professional venues, and at special events that are happening worldwide. We’re looking at opportunities to be part of the South American soccer tours happening in the winter and to become involved in in-venue shows in the European sports market.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.