NZ gurus tackle rugby promos


At the recent PromaxBDA Africa conference in Johannesburg Steve Thomson and Kurt Bradley from leading boutique creative agency Brandspank in New Zealand, shared the insights they’ve gained from working on major projects such as the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Kurt Bradley, producer at Brandspank started their PromaxBDA Africa session with a warning: “Our core message is – there is no silver bullet to success. And the bad news is – we’re going to be talking a lot about sport, especially rugby.’

Creative director Steve Thomson continued: “We feel like a lot of what we do is a fight. We have to fight against small budgets, short deadlines and difficult clients. You’ve got to fight your way through to a good idea, fight for the chance to make your idea, and fight to keep the integrity of your idea.’

Bradley and Thomson discussed what they’ve learnt working on major projects for Sky Sports New Zealand, Super Rugby and the IRB Rugby World Cup.

Big job, small budget

According to Bradley, in a recent job to create a titles package for Investec Super Rugby they had a great idea, but not a big enough budget to pull it off.

“We decided to do it anyway, and that passion and that fight can sometimes make a job. We just decided to work really hard and do a lot of the work ourselves.’

Their idea was to have a gloomy landscape with rugby players running out of the mist from the point of view of the opposing team. Each team had their muse looming large behind them – an image of a highlander, a hurricane, a crusader or a chief.

“Spend your dollars where it counts, and do things yourself,’ advised Bradley. “No one will negotiate your budget better than you will. Take a risk and shoot outside, and source the location yourself. You can also do your own casting. A good director of photography (DOP) brings a lot to the table, but on this job we just couldn’t afford it. You can shoot it by yourself and ditch the DOP.’

Rugby World Cup

Brandspank was also responsible for the host broadcaster graphics package during the recent IRB Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, including the opening titles, break stings and match graphics.

“That fight was trying to come up with something good and befitting,’ explained Thomson.

“We came up with the idea of something that looks like the aurora australis (southern lights) attracting the 19 teams to New Zealand, with the shapes of rugby players in the lights. However, you then realise it’s not the southern lights, but all the light and excitement and energy coming out of Eden Park (New Zealand’s largest stadium).’

After they designed the package it had to be handed over to other companies that worked with it.

“The fight is often to keep the integrity of our designs once we hand them over,’ said Thomson.

Bradley added: “We fought all the way through to the end, even while it was already airing, to make sure it looked as good as we planned.’

Not that good

The last example of a Brandspank project discussed was two All Blacks Skills viral videos created for Sky Sports and The Rugby Channel, one of which was the seventh most watched clip on YouTube at one point.

“The client called us on a Saturday, saying that they had access to some All Black players and didn’t know what to do with them. They asked us to give them ideas by Monday,’ Bradley told the audience.

They came up with a humorous video using tricks and special effects to make the All Blacks appear to have extraordinary rugby skills. “They’re good, but not that good,’ joked Bradley, “but keep it to yourself.’

Their tactic was to “embrace the bad’. “They’re athletes, not actors, and we were brutally aware of this, so we used the “made by the All Blacks’, home video approach. Be nice to athletes, don’t make them act,’ he emphasised.

They tested the shoot thoroughly before their time with the rugby team. “We performed every trick ourselves, practising them and even surgically inserting magnets into a sausage for a barbecue trick, which I don’t think has ever been done before. These guys (the All Blacks) are demi-gods back home and we only had about four hours with them, so we knew that on the day we had to get it right.’

According to Bradley there was also some “painstaking’ post-production involved.
He added that when the project is finished, there is often also a fight to get it seen.

“The trick here is to find online advocates who will spread the word. Bloggers feel kind of special when they’re approached with material like this, and they will chuck it in front of a big audience for you. Within hours of being released the first skills video had been on numerous websites, was covered by all major New Zealand news networks, trended on Twitter and was a topic of discussion on Facebook.’

To conclude he urged those attending the conference to create creative work. “We want you to be inspired and go out there and do it yourself,’ emphasised Bradley. “A lot of it is just drive and perseverance.’

SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – November 2011 (view here)

By Linda Krige


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