The Winning Score: How The Georgia Bulldogs Use Music To Bring Their Video Content To Life
The 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship is the marquee event on the college sports calendar and football fans are traveling in troves to Los Angeles's SoFi Stadium to watch this epic game between the defending champions, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the TCU Horned Frogs. The game also has all the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, with Kelsey Ballerini and Tiera Kennedy performing at the Allstate Championship Tailgate outside the stadium a few hours before the game. Grammy-winning vocal group Pentatonix will harmonize over the national anthem before kickoff.
The Dawgs are no strangers to this. They won the title last year and are heavily favored to repeat. Since their win last year, the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Media team has been working overtime to create compelling video content to satisfy the thirst for Dawgs content. From the Kirby Smart All-Access Shows on local television to the Georgia All Access Shows to videos on georgiadogs.com and their social media accounts, these make the Dawgs one of the most visible amateur teams in the country.
We spoke to Mike Bilbow, Assistant Athletic Director, Digital & Production for the University of Georgia Athletic Association, Chris Gilmore, Associate Director of Sports Content, and Caitlyn Hummel, Associate Director of Social Content– both for the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Media (GBSM) team. We discussed how they produce all season long and the challenges they face in covering the biggest college football game of the year.
In terms of the actual (title game) content you're going to be putting out, how do you plan that out?
Mike Bilbow: "We have some prescheduled sales pieces that we'll need to do on the GBSM platform. So those are scheduled way ahead of time. So what we'll do is take what was sold and overlay it with what the schedule is, and before we go out there, kinda look at the targets of opportunity. And once we get to game day, we get into a rhythm of what we've always done. So we always do something on the "dawg walk," when the team is coming from the buses to the stadium. We always do a dawg walk post. We shoot a bunch of stuff pre-game that sees the light of day in the television show that you won't ever see on social. We shoot locker room stuff. We would never do that for social. Football wouldn't do that if they wanted it to. But we're using it because we're multiplatform."
How do you prepare for a big game like this?
Caitlyn: "Lots of preparation and 'think tanking' goes on as we prepare for a CFP run. It's our job to make sure we think out every scenario and have a solid plan in place for which and what kind of stories we want to tell, regardless of the outcome."
Chris: "My biggest thing for a game like this is to be over-prepared and have a plan for each situation that could arise. Communication is key. Talk to each person and what they are responsible for to make sure everything will go according to that plan come gameday. The more prepared you are for everything, the better the outcome will be at the end of the day."
So you're using the game and the opportunity as a chance to sort of build up a library of footage that you will use throughout the next year probably.
Mike: "Yes. We're still using CFP stuff from last year. The stuff we shot at the Peach Bowl and the stuff we hope to shoot in LA show up on our video board in the stadium next year. And our folks are producing a lot of stuff from this year that we send out to the Van Wagner folks who are doing the video board shows at SoFi. Yeah, so it's very much like: 'try to capture as much as we can, and parcel it out as we need it.'"
What's the most challenging part of being embedded with the team?
Caitlyn: "Here at Georgia, we welcome challenges of all kinds, and our team, coaches, and creatives alike are held to the highest of standards. We take immense pride in the work that we do and aim to portray the University of Georgia Athletic Association and Coach Smart and his program in the best light possible. I think our challenges are similar to that of any program in how do we take advantage of social trends/strategies/big games/etc. But, I'd be remiss not to mention how incredibly blessed we are with the resources (people and equipment alike) we are provided with here at UGA."
Chris: "This is season nine for me, so I think the most challenging part for me is making the videos and the content different. It's a tough thing to do when you shoot the same things year in and year out. We have an amazing team here, both internally with football and externally in our office, that works endless hours to make sure the product we put out is both new, engaging, and different each time."
How does music factor into the plan?
Mike: "We've been with you guys for a while, and our folks have a real familiarity with your catalog. They have, like a lot of things, have some go-tos, you know? 'We're getting off the bus; what would be good here? Oh, I've heard this –this would be great. We haven't used it too much; let's use it!' The nice thing about how we do it is we do sometimes have the time to be real deliberate with how we choose our music. The music can really make the piece. And like I said, the folks who work for us, Chris and Caitlyn, they've got extensive experience with APM. They've used it for everything across all sports."
Caitlyn: "Typically, we have a style of music in mind before we produce a piece. In an ideal setting, we like to have music laid out and ready to go before we start editing a piece. However, there are always instances where we're on the go or the unexpected happens, and we have to pivot. Flexibility is key. Thankfully APM usually has us covered for whatever it is we're looking for! Music drives our pieces, so it's extremely important to us that on the front end, we search and find that piece we're looking for. Whether it's for a trailer, game highlight, or emotional feature, the music is what drives that emotion we want our viewers to feel!
Chris: "It's a mixed bag for me. For certain, maybe shorter videos, I tend to pick music out once we get back and I begin my editing process. That way, I have an understanding of how the event was and the type of music I may be looking for. For long-form videos, I tend to have music already selected for a certain type of game. Now, if the game goes in a completely different way than I imagined, I will switch music and find something new when I go to edit to fit the vibe of the game. For me, music selection needs to encompass the entire feel of the game from beginning to end. The music needs to tell as much of the story as the game itself."
What do you think of the search engine?
Caitlyn: I use the search engine almost daily. I love editing with songs that have stems so I can tailor the song to exactly how I'd like it to be for what I'm trying to accomplish with my video. Lets me put on my amateur music producer hat. We also edit often to exact times, so I like being able to search for songs that are a specific length. That feature is super helpful!"
Chris: "Overall, I'm very impressed with the options that APM gives creators. There's a song for anything and everything you may be looking for. There hasn't been a time when I haven't found the song or type of song that I am looking for. Now it may take me longer to find that song from time to time, but that's usually me just being too picky."
Any favorite APM albums/libraries?
Caitlyn: "I'm a big fan of the Beats & Strings album. We've used a ton of stuff from there lately. KPM library has been a go-to for years! Some great upbeat cinematic stuff in there!"
Chris: "Not anything in particular that I can think of. Maybe the most helpful thing I tend to use, more often than not, is the Sports Entertainment playlist for a specific month. There is usually a variety of Hip Hop/Rock/Country/Trailer type music in there to choose from, which is extremely helpful when we create so much content."
Chris Gilmore and Caitlyn Hummel at work
The 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship is happening live from the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles tonight on ESPN. Check your local listings.