Imagine going to a Boise State basketball game... and just watching basketball. It sounds weird, right? That's because basketball games at Taco Bell Arena aren't just about the action on the court—they're a multimedia smorgasboard, from the kiss cam to a gloriously produced, hype-inducing pregame video.
The whole production is the work of the Boise State marketing team, which is dedicated to entertaining fans from the moment they walk in to the final buzzer.
"We're at a completely new level than we've ever been in years past," said Matt Thomas, the assistant athletic director of revenue and branding strategies for Boise State. "Hopefully our fans are able to see that we've been putting a lot of work and effort into making it as entertainment-driven as possible for them."
Thomas and his team spend between 10 and 20 hours planning the multimedia experience for each game, and they employ an incredible array of gadgets to keep fans entertained, from 18 giant LED video displays to robotic cameras and fog machines. But their most important work happens before the game even begins.
"If you start out on the right foot, you're gonna have the crowd into it," said Thomas. "We've always made a big to-do about team entrances and introductions."
A proper team introduction—where the stadium goes dark, spotlights swirl around the arena and dramatic music plays behind video of the team's greatest highlights—can make fans jump out of their seats and the other team shrivel in fear. And quality pregame hype gives the Broncos a mental advantage.
"It provides them with confidence to go out there and play at the highest level," said Thomas.
That's why the marketing department starts planning the pregame video three months before basketball season. They work closely with team coaching staff to plan a video that matches the team's mantra for the upcoming season.
Then it's up to the athletes to get in front of the camera and make the magic happen. Team video shoots are fun for some athletes and grueling for others. This year, basketball players had to stand in a breezeway in Albertsons Stadium and scream directly into the camera, a spectacle Video Coordinator Taylor Little described as "super awkward."
"It is kind of hard to ask our student-athletes to get emotional and scream into the camera when there are eight lights and one camera and two people there," said Little. "It takes five or six takes, because the first two or three the guys and girls just start laughing."
- Henry Coffey
The video team has started playing loud music during shoots to help players loosen up in front of the camera. Underclassmen often feel like lab rats under the bright lights, but upperclassmen who have watched introduction videos for years are enthusiastic about the process.
A few athletes always prove to be standouts on camera. Little said current Chicago Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison was respected for his consistent performances, and guard Brooke Pahukoa brought many of her own video ideas to the table each year.
This year's hype video was edited by Ryan Pavel, a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent weeks sifting through game tape looking for the most impressive highlights.
"There were a lot of hours put into it and a lot of long nights, but it's worth it when you get to see the final product on the big board," said Pavel.
The secret to exciting the crowd, Pavel said, is to keep the video under one minute in legnth and make sure it's "building up to something, and getting this rise and fire into it." The hype video is critically important, but it's also just one part of the fan experience that the marketing department works hard to cultivate. And much of that entertainment comes from the fans themselves.
"I think one of the most important aspects of being in a live sports venue is the opportunity to get on the video board, whether you're 65 or 6," said Thomas.
Fans at the game enjoy the dance cam, the flex cam, the emoji cam and the kiss cam. The Simba cam—in which people are asked to hold up their children like the iconic scene in The Lion King—is under consideration for future games or seasons.
Pavel operates a camera during games and has become an expert at finding amusing dancers to feature on the big screen. If he can't find any dancers, he simply relies on the shocking power of a jumbotron.
"Even if there aren't people dancing, you essentially make them dance by putting their face on the big screen," he said.