8 min read
When Medium Rare co-founders and partners Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman contacted me through Zoom earlier this week, all I could do was focus on the palm trees outside the window of their Tampa, Florida manufacturing office. Here in New York it was snowing a few inches an hour and was pretty miserable, so my envy was palpable. Even so, I would not have swapped places with the duo that was six days before the start of their latest high-stakes live streaming production, The Shaq Bowl, which is broadcast via Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Simulcast. Twitch and LiveXLive (along with numerous other platforms) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET this Super Bowl Sunday.
The event – a successor to Shaquille O & # 39; Neal and Rob Gronkowski with Shaq v. Gronk last summer – has several main sponsors (Pepsi, Papa Johns, Bacardi, Mercari etc) and will feature celebrities from Diplo and Tim Tebow to celebs Offset and WWE Champion Drew McIntyre perform in intramural events like dog ball and tug of war and / or compete against them. The producers Silberzweig and Richman have pulled all the strings together and will be watching with crossed fingers that the logistics run smoothly.
So it seemed like a good time to talk to the couple about staging another big spectacle amid the confines of an ongoing pandemic, as well as the process of promoting sponsors who are otherwise reluctant to make big ad purchases this year and their bets against the people Secure to Speak I want an alternative to what Silberzweig describes as typical pre-game purgatory, "watching the CBS countdown show with men in suits and talking about football".
Related: Do you want millions of views for your virtual event? Just add Shaq and Gronk.
What was it like figuring out how to use Shaq against Gronk while still observing Covid protocols?
Richman: Yeah, it's funny you say that, Kenny. Right after Shaq vs. Gronk, which was filmed in Orlando, we went straight to Tampa to check out the venues (for a Super Bowl event) and met with the city and the mayor thinking we were going to get a personal one Make an event. Obviously that wasn't on the cards. What we've realized since Shaq vs. Gronk is how great these live streaming and virtual events can be. We have since hosted Black Entrepreneurs Day and Sports Illustrated Awards. And now we never want to do a live event with this one again. I'm half-joking, but we love the space and the power of it.
Silberzweig: At the beginning of December we really sat down with Shaquille and said, "Look, we won't be able to do this live and in person. How do we keep the brand alive? It took some time, but we all came across the realization that there is a real need and a real market opportunity to create a fun Super Bowl countdown show right before kick-off, especially this year when everyone is home with no Super Bowl parties and so on.
What makes a virtual event more operational?
Richman: There are so many of these crazy variables in the (personal) event: dealing with the approval process, which is never fun; the weather is out of your control; Dealing with the fire marshal last year at Shaqs Fun House. All of these curveballs are thrown out the window. Concert promotions have always been one of the riskiest companies. You book all the talent, you pay for the venue and the marketing, and you say, "I hope we sell enough tickets and sponsors." When it comes to broadcasting, we don't have to start costing until we know there's a proof of concept, which means brands want to participate. If sponsors don't want to get on board for the Shaq Bowl, we know we won't be spending a few million dollars to produce it. When we know Mercari is interested in presentations and Pepsi wants to do the halftime show there is now some level of investment and it kind of eliminates the guesswork and financial risk.
Image Credit: Medium Rare
In terms of sponsorship, Pepsi was among the many large companies to opt out of an in-game ad this year. Did they come to you and say, "Hey, we need to redistribute the marketing spend, and maybe it's Shaq Bowl?"
Silberzweig: You know, I think with Shaq Bowl we're offering a really interesting alternative to the traditional Super Bowl ad, which is priced at over $ 5 million for 30 seconds. What we're building with Shaq and Gronk is the opportunity for (brands) to activate this social component in a large, experience-oriented and meaningful way. And of course, our partnership prices start well below $ 5 million.
Richman: These are the contacts and brands that we would deal with for a festival or live event and now they are adapting to get into the broadcasting world with us which is pretty amazing.
So the question is how do you do all of this branding integration while also allowing audiences to enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed with ads and sponsorship.
Richman: Yeah, and look, that's balance. It's really difficult, but obviously the brands want to get that, we want to get that, and more importantly, Shaq wants to get that. He doesn't want to put anything out there like a NASCAR car with sponsors. That is why we do not sell advertising and do not save traditional advertising. It says, "Hey, what would be fun?" Joe and I spent a few days thinking with Jack Links and we say, "Your character is Sasquatch right now. What if Sasquatch comes and Shaq wrestles his arm? The audience at home will love that. It's funny, it's fun, and it does something really cool and viral for the brand without feeling like you're watching a commercial for 10 minutes.
Silberzweig: And unless it's something Shaq thinks is cool, or something that adds value to the show in my eyes and Adam's, we won't.
You had backgrounds in advertising for live events before you started Shaq vs. Gronk. But when did all these big brands and celebrities see Medium Rare as a believable production outfit to work with?
Richman: We've built Medium Rare over the last few years with the live events, but it's crazy that we (since last June) can go out to air for big events. When we called partners for Shaq vs. Gronk we won them over, but it was difficult and it was a sale and they tried to really get them to jump in the pool with us. And the fees have doubled compared to June because the partners didn't know what it was then. There were no metrics. Now we have all this data that we can refer to from the three (previous) events. That made the fourth easier to sell.
Silberzweig: Black Entrepreneurs Day and the level of press we had about it really was proof in the pudding that Medium Rare is much more than just a live event company and is capable of all sorts of things at the moment, and it really is Adjust yourself to find out how to redefine these traits in today's world.
Everyone from MTV to WWE to Animal Planet has planned a Super Bowl counter-programming over the years. Why are you sure Shaq Bowl will stick?
Richman: I wouldn't say we think of it as counter-programming because we really own that space until the game. We know you're not competing in the Super Bowl at 6:30 a.m. It doesn't matter what you have. It's actually pretty notorious that three to six (on Super Bowl Sunday) is the worst television program of the year. We're not saying the Puppy Bowl isn't tough competition, but with all the celebrity talent and Shaq and great marketing and press, all of this put together is a recipe for getting people's attention.
Should live event organizers and promoters be concerned about their obsolescence?
Richman: Joe and I talked about it last night. The live events industry is set to return. People can't wait to get out of their home and be with the people again. We envision that next year Shaq Bowl will not only be an incredible show, it will have 10,000 people in the stands.
Silberzweig: We are very optimistic about the return of Live (Events). I think people need that connection. When it's back, they'll be back stronger than ever, but to Adam and me, as you mentioned, this has been a blessing. We worked hard and were forced to get creative and we see charisma as just another branch of the business and it should stay that way for a long time.