Explainer Videos

THE MAKING OF A CAMPAIGN: Knicks and Rangers (MSG)

Blake Harris 10.02.2015

The Client: Madison Square Garden Company

The Challenge: Create spots for both the Knicks and Rangers to promote new team apps and promote fan engagement/interaction.

Interview Subjects:

  • Susan Rosenberg-  Sr. Producer, The Madison Square Garden Company
  • Will Gadea-  Creative Director, IdeaRocket
  • SaraJane Askildsen-  Account Manager, IdeaRocket
  • Gideon Kendall-  Designer/Director, IdeaRocket

topperrangers stttt

Susan: I work for what’s called the Creative & Technical Production Services Group. It’s our responsibility to promote Madison Square Garden in a variety of different ways, with one of those roles being to support the Marketing Department on all kinds of different advertisements and promotions. And so, when these new mobile apps for the Knicks and Rangers were created, they came to us about doing some spots to promote the apps and get people to sign up.

Marc Bauman, the SVP, Executive Producer for the Creative & Technical Production Services Group, then assigned this project to Susan Rosenberg. Since these spots would run both on TV and inside the arena (on MSG’s state-of-the-art Gardenvision), Susan wanted to do something that really stood out.

Susan: I was a watcher of the Showtime series Weeds and I really liked the Whiteboard-style opener they used in the final season. I just thought that visually it was very clever and endearing; it’s such an intriguing and compelling technique…to see a hand drawing everything really fast. So I went online to do a little research to see who was doing this kind of work. And lo and behold, IdeaRocket came up. Not only was I surprised to learn that they had done the Weeds piece, but it turns out they were only a block and a half away from me. So that’s when I had contacted SaraJane about that project.

SaraJane: When someone initially reaches out with a project, typically I’ll ask a few questions—to try to understand their basic objectives—and then go back to the creative team so we can put together a proposal. When that’s accepted, we’ll then set up an conversation with Will Gadea, our creative director, so we can learn more about the client’s message, goals and audience in much more detail.

Susan: So we went over and met with SaraJane and Will to kind of talk about our project. We kicked around a couple of ideas and Will showed us a few different options, in terms of what the animation style could be.

Will: As I recall, our initial pitch was for an anthropomorphized phone representing the app. Susan and Marc, however, are very creatively inclined, and they really like a more traditional whiteboard approach. I’m glad they insisted!

After agreeing upon a style and the message for these spots, the process officially began.

SaraJane: To ensure a smooth process, an account manager provides the client with a single point of contact from start to finish. We’re responsible for seeing that the client’s feedback is properly addressed and also collecting input from creative and relaying it back to the client. In addition to addressing questions and concerns, we notify the client as each milestone is reached. At each milestone, we share the work-in-progress and get feedback from the client. For a whiteboard style broadcast spot, the milestones are script, designs, animatic, finished animation, and then the final (which is the finished animation plus sound design). For the Rangers and Knicks spots in particular we also needed to create a few additional animations to be shown on uniquely shaped panels and screens in the arena.

Typically, one of IdeaRocket’s first tasks is to draft a copy for a client’s video. But in this case, MSG had a script they wanted to use.

Susan: The marketing department provided us with a script. It was not etched in stone, but it basically hit the points that we wanted to be making.

Will: As we worked through finalizing the script, I brought in Gideon Kendall to spearhead the direction of these videos.

Gideon: Will brought me in at the concept stage. So we were able to begin plotting out the visuals before the text really got nailed down. This isn’t always the case, but this was a unique situation because the client needed a few different videos.

SaraJane: They needed four videos plus additional materials for panels on the Gardenvision and “Ribbons” which are thin long screens in the arena.

Susan: Two for the Knicks and two for the Rangers; one of each for broadcast, and one of each for in-arena. Because, if you’re actually at Madison Square Garden for the game, there are some different features (like being able to order food or merchandise that will be delivered to your seat).

Will: As much as you bone up, you’re not going to know their brand and target market as well as they do, so you have to really listen to that input and take it to heart.

Gideon: Having met with the client, Will had a sense of the message these videos needed to convey, so when we got together we just started throwing around ideas. And, as we did, we’d scribble these ideas onto index cards. Eventually, we wound up with big pile of these trashy little sketches. And then, after reviewing what we’d come up with, Will and SaraJane went back to the client and put our best foot forward.

Susan: When Will came back to us, one of the things that we really responded to was this character of “The Fan.” Because, ultimately, it’s all about the fan. That’s what the app is really there for: to help fans keep up with the players, news and the games themselves. So it just seemed like a perfect opportunity to have a fan be the main star of the story.

Gideon: We wanted to create a sort of “everyman,” character that all fans could relate to. Someone young and friendly, who looked like he might be a fun guy. Not too macho, not too wimpy. And we got really lucky with that, because pretty much right from the beginning the client seemed to like what I had sketched.

Susan: We looked at the image they SaraJane sent over and it just felt right. It was a way to connect the dots and tell the story from beginning to end.

In addition to The Fan, MSG wanted each video to feature a character who resembled that team’s star player. For the Rangers, they selected Henrik Lundqvist, and for the Knicks they picked Carmelo Anthony.

Susan: We wanted to feature a Lundqvist-like character and a Carmelo-like one as well. So not long after IdeaRocket got started, we received some initial style frames and initially got some artwork that I felt was too defined.

Gideon: The funny thing with Carmelo is that he’s really, really hard to caricature. He’s got a couple of defining motifs—like that orange headband—but he’s got a really mushy face. Lundqvist was easier because he’s got the stubble and those classic good looks, but Carmelo was a challenge. And also, as it turned out, people with dark skin are incredible hard to depict with the whiteboard technique because you’re not using color and, for the most part, not using tone. So trying to get Carmelo to look like Carmelo was really hard.

Carmelo FINAL

Susan: We talked about how detailed (or not) the artwork should be. And how shaded things should be. And so we worked through that process and got to a place where everyone was very happy.

Gideon: After caricaturing Carmelo, the second biggest challenge was creating a video that would be effective on Madison Square Garden’s Gardenvision.

Susan: Because this is in the arena—and would be played during the buzz and hubbub of a game—we knew that our audience wouldn’t always be able to hear the narrator.  So we needed the visuals to communicate exactly what we wanted to say; we needed to be able to tell our story without necessarily relying on the audio track.

Gideon: It was hard trying to think that way, because it’s so different from the way that most whiteboard videos are consumed. So, I would say, the majority of revisions that were requested all had to do with that. Asking ourselves: how can we make this work almost as a silent film and still get the idea across.

Susan: So with this in mind, we loved visuals like what they did with the brain. It immediately identified what we wanted it to say and we liked the minimalist feeling. It really made us chuckle.

Knicks Brain

Gideon: When we finished and everything was approved, I went with Will and SaraJane to meet the folks at Madison Square Garden. It was the afternoon, so there was no game at the time, but they played our spots on the Gardenvision and that was awesome.

Susan: The final product was exactly what we were looking for. It was a great experience and there was tremendous collaboration between us and IdeaRocket.

Will: For collaboration to flourish, there has to be trust. The client needs to trust you, but you also need to trust the client. And MSG was a wonderful partner on this.

SaraJane: Susan was great to work with because she thoroughly understood the needs of the many parties involved. She knew what generally resonated with who, and anticipated feedback ahead of time. An added benefit was that our offices are just a short walk away!

Actually, the offices are so close that a few months later, Susan made a surprise visit to IdeaRocket with a shiny trophy in her hands.

Susan: We ended up winning a TELLY Award! In the sports entertainment category. So that was a lovely surprise to be honored that way.

Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

Similar Stories