Giving Student-Athletes an Incredible Experience

How Knight Eady helped the SEC create “the fun room” at SEC Media Days

The Characters

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic conference whose member institutions are located primarily in the South Central and Southeastern United States. The SEC hosts two annual media days for basketball and football. At each event, 14 SEC schools, 28 head coaches, and 56 NCAA athletes participate in an all-day experience where they run the media gauntlet and hype up rabid SEC fans.

Setting the Stage

The SEC holds its student-athletes in the highest regard. One of their top goals is to meet the needs of their student-athletes and to be known by them as an entity that supported them well during their years in college. SEC, as a brand with a passionate following, also has a huge platform with a voice that extends across a variety of channels. As such, the need for quality creative for their social channels, broadcast, and the in-venue experience during championship events is a high priority. Media days are the primary opportunity for the SEC to interact with student-athletes and capture the media they need for the year.

However, time is scarce at media days. Broadcasters and other organizations split the limited time available with each student-athlete and coach, leaving only minutes for the SEC. Student-athletes are stretched thin during these days, moving quickly from room to room, interview to interview, photoshoot to photoshoot, and leave hardly remembering a thing.

The SEC knew they wanted to give the student-athletes an incredible experience during these challenging days. However, they wanted to do so and still capture the content the SEC needed without extending the length of the event. Knight Eady partnered with the SEC to provide a creative solution that would enhance the student-athlete experience and capture high-quality, unique content.

A Winning Game Plan for Reaching Fans

Knight Eady worked with the SEC to develop stations the student-athletes would find fun. No boring photoshoots or long-winded interviews here. We built out sets, developed stunning looks, and used innovative technology to make the SEC room the most memorable of the day.

At the 2019 basketball media days, this vision came to life in three stations.

First, we wanted something that was really designed for the student-athletes, so naturally, we started with the shoes. We built out a sneaker station to give the players an opportunity to show off their kicks. The results were incredible. The student-athletes were thrilled to show their personalities through the images of their shoes. They were more inclined to share the photos and, thus, the content drove more engagement.

Second, we shot portraits. This gave the SEC high-quality portraits for their media needs but also gave the student-athletes an opportunity to let their personalities shine. We created a timeless look. The content needed to serve the SEC’s needs for the whole season, but also provide a setting with enough flexibility to allow us to capture the authentic personalities of the subjects. The key to creating this look was to make the players and coaches feel comfortable. We needed them to trust us. When you bring all of those elements together, you get something special. The players and coaches started having fun, and we saw something natural and authentic. That special moment is what we were after.

Finally, we wanted something that would provide dynamic content for the SEC and a memorable experience for the student-athletes. We wanted to give them room to have fun, show off, and interact with their teammates. So we built out a bullet-time multi-camera array that wrapped around the action, and a workflow that instantly processed the images into a video with SEC branding for viewing and sharing.

“The Fun Room”

SEC Director of Video and Creative Services BC Romano said, “One of our primary goals was to create life-long memories for the student-athletes. SEC Basketball Media Days is one avenue in which we can provide a memorable experience, and with the collaboration with Knight Eady, we were able to make that happen. You could tell when the student-athletes and coaches interacted in our room, we left a lasting impression. In other words, ‘We were the fun room.’”

To us at Knight Eady, that was the most satisfying result we could hope for. We knew we could capture great images for the SEC but what mattered the most to us was the student-athletes feeling like VIPs, getting a breath of fresh air from the SEC room, and being a positive part of their experience as an NCAA athlete.

Student-athletes attending an SEC Media Days event know what a privilege it is to represent their team and school, but it asks a lot of them. The days are incredibly fast and demanding, and it would have been so easy for the SEC room to be just another stop in a long day of interviews. Instead, with a little creative planning, they gained memories of the SEC giving them a great experience, took a break and enjoyed being in “the fun room.” In return, they brought a passion and energy to the shoot, which gave the SEC incredible content.

The minutes with each student-athlete and coach go by fast, but with a solid plan and engaging stations, we were able to make the most of our limited time with each student-athlete. The only time we ever pushed our window was when the student-athletes didn’t want to leave the room.

Knight Eady knows that great creative is about so much more than technical expertise and big ideas. Lighting, lenses, and editing are part of the process, but can only be as good as what’s being captured. We know that it’s not about asking student-athletes what we can get from them – it’s about what we can do for them. After all, student-athletes are the heartbeat of all college athletics. Theirs are the stories that captivate us, the wins that we celebrate and the losses we grieve. The SEC knows this. They care deeply about supporting their student-athletes well, and this is why the SEC came to us to give student-athletes and coaches an unforgettable experience.