NFL

Super Bowl Sunday: Innovative Ads That Have Changed the Game & What You Can Learn From Them

Apple’s “1984”

There’s two types of people that watch the Super Bowl—those who want to watch football, and those who want to watch the commercials. Either way, that’s a lot of people—the NFL’s championship game is typically highest-rated event of the year, and 19 of the top 20 most watched TV broadcasts of all time are all Super Bowls (the M*A*S*H finale being the only exception at #9.)

It’s hard to stand out from the crowd of countless ads that have aired in the previous 51 games, though dozens have managed to become iconic—including the dancing Pepsi bears, the Budweiser frogs, and the screaming squirrel.

But only a few commercials have actually changed the game when it comes to advertising or filmmaking, introducing new concepts and employing out-of-the-box techniques. By doing something unique and influencing future spots for years to come, these game-changing ads are lessons in themselves.

Here’s five such Super Bowl ads, and what you can learn from them:

1. Apple’s “1984”

“1984” is possibly the most famous commercial of all time, Super Bowl or not. Released the same year as both the Summer Olympics and the 1984 cinematic adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” it was a relevant short film that audiences easily identified with, and introduced Apple’s Macintosh desktop PC, which would shortly go on to revolutionize the home computer lifestyle.

The commercial, while signifying major change, was also a short film — a dark, moody, science fiction epic directed by the perfect person for the job, Ridley Scott. Scott was fresh off his own dark, moody, science fiction epics “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

To this day, the “1984” commercial is a testament to spectacle — influencing countless advertisements that went very, very big to make themselves heard.

Apple's "1984"

Apple’s “1984”

2. GoDaddy’s Teaser Ads

GoDaddy, the company that web hosts and sells and registers domains, doesn’t typically offer highbrow advertisements; indeed, they’ve gotten a lot of flack for tasteless, sexist commercials on more than one occasion. Several of these have been rejected for the Super Bowl, so GoDaddy’s marketers came up with an innovative solution — using their 30 seconds of Super Bowl time to advertise their full-length, real commercials online.

By playing teasers of their actual ads, GoDaddy made a name for itself purely on buzz, while also incorporating social media into advertising well before most of the industry had caught on to the Internet’s potential in such regards. While their actual content was nothing worthy of emulating, this unique innovation has led to an entire industry of “commercials for the commercials.”

3. Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene”

One of the earliest iconic Super Bowl ads came in 1979, though it had already premiered a few months earlier before making a splash during the big game. This Coca-Cola ad featured NFL star “Mean” Joe Greene chugging a bottle of Coke in the halls of a football stadium before tossing his towel to a 9-year old fan.

The heartwarming moment was a perfect storm of Americana, celebrity, and — of course — football. By using a celebrity most of the television audience already idolized and combining it with a cute kid and some good ol’ fashioned sentimentality, the advertisement formed the basis for countless imitators, including other Coke ads.

If a commercial can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, the “Mean Joe Greene” ad argues, then maybe so can the product it’s advertising?

"Mean" Joe Greene

“Mean” Joe Greene

4. Nike’s “Hare Jordan”

Michael Jordan was as famous for his TV commercials as he was for his basketball skills, but the “Hare Jordan” spots that advertised his Nike-brand Air Jordan sneakers took marketing to a whole other level. By appearing on screen with an animated Bugs Bunny in modern-day “Looney Tunes”-style shorts, Jordan changed yet another game.

Cutting edge special effects and combining live action with animation was typically only seen in the movies (and in the latter case, only very rarely.) By putting money and unique visuals into their advertisements, Nike proved the investment could be worth it. The ad first hit the Super Bowl in 1992, when computer-generated effects were just hitting the mainstream but were still a rarer, more expensive option than traditional hand-drawn animation.

The ad ended up being a harbinger of the special effects-heavy commercials that would follow in the next two decades as CGI became cheaper and easier to implement. A Super Bowl doesn’t go by these days without several CGI-assisted commercials, but Nike’s hand-drawn/live action combo “Hare Jordan” can be considered the grandfather of them all (and the predecessor to Jordan and Bugs Bunny’s feature-length collaboration, “Space Jam.”)

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

5. Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl”

For 10 years, the Doritos approach to their Super Bowl ads was to hold a “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, where anyone could film and submit their own Doritos commercials. The winner of the contest would have their amateur project aired for TV’s biggest audience.

The ads were highly successful. By opening up their commercial pitches to millions of amateur filmmakers, Doritos also had way more choices to choose from than any advertising firm could offer. And audiences could connect to the DIY-style low-budget ads — it was a democratic solution that showed that anyone could potentially be seen or heard.

Aspiring filmmakers, advertisers, and just funny people who liked Doritos instantly had a shot at the big time. In the age of YouTube and Instagram stories, Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign couldn’t be a more relevant, decentralized way of telling stories — even if those stories were selling Nacho-flavored tortilla chips.

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl"

Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl”

 

Interested in learning the skills to make your own Super Bowl commercial one day? Check out NYFA’s filmmaking program here.

Sports Photography: Lessons We Learned From the Rio Olympics (That Can Apply Anywhere)

NFL_International_Series_2010

Sports photography is a skill and an art form that is never out of season. As we move into the awesome spectacle that is the NFL’s 97th annual season, it’s time to seize the good opportunity to assess and apply some fantastic sports photography lessons that were highlighted this year by the 2016 Rio Olympic games. These are universal sports photography tidbits that can be applied towards our wider photographic efforts — whether you plan on snapping some of your favorite NFL players, or simply want to learn to approach your craft with the heart of a champion.

Today’s tips and tricks apply mainly to sports photography, but many can be used across the board. Ready?

On your marks, get set…

… Go!

Prepare Like an Athlete

Rio de Janeiro - Simone Biles, ginasta dos Estados Unidos, durante final em que levou medalha de ouro na disputa por equipes feminina nos Jogos Olímpicos Rio 2016. (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Because you’re going to be doing your own fair share of running around!

Whether you’re shooting at a race track, high school athletics meet or the Olympics themselves, you’re going to want to shoot at a number of different locations, all with different lighting, angles and crowds to deal with. That’s sports photography 101.

Ergo, extensive pre-planning — as with any photoshoot — is key.

Make sure you can physically get between locations in the time allotted, as well as exactly where to be for the best shots. Many of these will require dramatically different gear, too, so factor this into your planning.

It’s also essential to make sure your equipment is within event regulations. For instance, the 2012 London Olympics prohibited lenses longer than 30cm or tripods — you don’t want to turn up and find half of your equipment is banned! 

Crowd In, or Out?

ParqueOlimpico

The Olympics rarely suffers from a dull and unengaged crowd, but for smaller sports events (or music festivals), you probably don’t want a bunch of empty seats or people not watching the thing you’re shooting in the background.

As a sports photographer, you’ll want to find the angle that best captures the drama and suspense of your sport. If you want to exclude the crowd from the shot and focus solely on the action, you’ve got a few options open to you: get as high as possible and shoot downwards, get as close and tight to the athlete as possible with a telephoto lens, or lower the f-stop to to bring the focus forward and exclude the background.

If all else fails, move yourself to a different position and shoot from an angle that removes the problem altogether. After all, we do call it sports photography for a reason: don’t be afraid to focus on the sport!

Know Your Sport

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Obviously you’ll want to know who’s who in whatever event you’re shooting in your sports photography adventures, but getting to know the athletes themselves and their behavior can pay dividends.

The more research you do ahead of the game, the greater the chances of nabbing that perfect sports photography shot.

The sports photography guru David Black recalls the preparation he took to get a “wow” photo of Michael Phelps during the 2004 Athens games: “I had memorized Michael’s freestyle stroke pattern and knew that he would take a breath two strokes after the 50-meter mark. Knowing this, I picked an appropriate upper-level camera position so that I could shoot slightly above the splashing water and capture a single image of Michael’s face. It was his last breath before sprinting to win a gold medal.”

Convert to Black and White

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Black and white is common in a wide variety of photographic disciplines, but it’s criminally underused in sports.

Part of the reason for this is that most sports are a highly colorful affair, from the vivid greens of a pitch to the blues of a pool and the detailed uniforms of the athletes. Sometimes however this can be overwhelming, especially if there are a lot of other visual elements such as crowds and seating in the background.

If you’re about to discard a shot that suffers from this, try converting it to black and white first – you might just find that it transforms from something that’s way too busy to a sports photography photo worthy of framing.

Panning

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Working with high-speed movement? Panning with the subject is a superb technique that can really deliver the goods with a beautifully crisp subject against a blurred background (capturing that sense of motion), but it also requires a lot of practice and determination.

Your choice of shutter speed is crucial to a good pan shot, and largely depends on how fast your subject is moving, but a good starting point is around 1/20 second and adjusting from there. Move with your subject and keep them in the frame, and only then press the shutter once you’ve got a fluid and consistent motion (remembering to follow through after the shutter closes, as if you’re swinging a baseball bat).

A tripod will help massively with this, but only if the subject’s movement is going to be predictable — otherwise, handheld with a light lens is the way forward (and is good to practice regardless).

Distance from your subject is another consideration to watch out for in sports photography; it’ll be more difficult to center the shot when close up (since the subject will appear to move faster), so try to get back from the track or up in the grandstand to make life a little easier.

Lastly, unlike most other static shots, you don’t want a clean background for a pan. The entire purpose it to have a lot of things blurring in the background, and for that you’ll need a lot of things in the background!

Don’t be disheartened if everything turns out blurry nine times out of ten — it’s a technique even the pros don’t nail with any consistency. Which leads us onto our final sports photography tip (and one that works for any field of photography).

Need 10 Good Photos? Take 10,000.

Brent_Grimes-Hamburg_Sea_Devils-2

Okay, maybe the ratio isn’t quite that extreme, but more is definitely better than less.

After all, digital film is very cheap these days…

… get snapping!