The Athletic is the leading digital sports media company, delivering powerful stories and smart analysis that brings sports fans closer to the heart of the game. For the kick-off of the 2022 football season, we were tasked with developing a subscriber growth and brand awareness campaign that heralded the company’s powerful newsroom and investments in local, on-the-ground reporting in major NFL markets.
We developed a concept that juxtaposes cinematic and dramatic moments from broadcast coverage of professional football (in this case, QB Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals 2022 Super Bowl run) with overlaid graphics to represent The Athletic’s journalism, be it written, audible in the form of podcasts or data-driven analytics.
This ‘layered’ creative allowed us to take a segmented approach to developing the three main elements in parallel. First, in creative development, after having explored different potential narratives from the preceding NFL season, we landed on the aforementioned story of Cincinnati’s breakout rookie QB’s sophomore season and launched into copywriting. We relied on actual headlines, stories, podcast recordings, reader comments and tweets to build a script that told the story of the season in :30, :15, and :06 seconds, collaborating with the client’s editorial team to ensure their distinctive voice translated to their advertising assets. As we honed the script, we began designing style frames for these graphics that aimed to echo the brand’s visual design language. This design phase allowed us to storyboard frames that naturally accommodated these graphics and go into our physical shoot with a clear plan in place for our footage.
We worked with director and cinematographer Kevin Phillips on our live action shoot where we utilized a Phantom camera system at 1000 fps to stretch a single throw to :30 seconds.
Sound was the third major production pillar and was particularly unique for this project. We recorded the voices of actual star reporters on The Athletic’s staff to lend recognizable credibility to our scripted podcaster lines and cleared the voices of actual Athletic subscribers who had called into a new Live Rooms feature the brand launched on their app. Distinct from projects that lock picture before beginning sound design, our very first picture assemblies were accompanied by working versions of our sound design.
In the end, this segmented but integrated approach allowed for elements to inform one another and develop in harmony for a spot that’s deceptively simple and efficient with its limited elements.
The resulting spot gestured at the exciting and emotional highlights of professional sports (carefully avoiding non-licensable league, franchise, and player names) while prominently featuring the kind of long-form journalism the brand does best and suggested how reading The Athletic better informs fans to make the most of every moment while they watch.
The spot and campaign was such a success that client asked us to expand upon it and make a baseball version for the NBA season this year!
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