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When Medium Rare co-founders and companions Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman related with me through Zoom earlier this week, all I may deal with have been the palm bushes outdoors the window of their manufacturing workplace in Tampa, Florida. Here in New York, it was snowing a number of inches per hour and fairly depressing, so my envy was palpable. Still, I would not have switched locations with the duo, who have been six days away from the launch of their newest high-stakes, elaborate, live-streaming manufacturing, The Shaq Bowl, which is being simulcast over Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch and LiveXLive (amongst quite a few different platforms) from 3-6 p.m. ET this Super Bowl Sunday.
The occasion — a successor to final summer time’s Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski-starring Shaq v. Gronk — boasts a number of main sponsors (Pepsi, Papa John’s, Bacardi, Mercari, and so on.) and can function celebs starting from Diplo and Tim Tebow to Offset and WWE Champion Drew McIntyre performing and/or competing in intramurals like dogdeball and tug-of-war. Producers Silberzweig and Richman pulled all the threads collectively and will probably be watching with fingers crossed that the logistics go off and not using a hitch.
So it appeared like an excellent time to meet up with the pair about staging yet one more big spectacle amid the limitations of an ongoing pandemic, in addition to the strategy of courting sponsors in any other case reluctant to make big ad buys this yr and hedging their bets that people need an alternative choice to what Silberzweig describes as the typical pre-game purgatory of “watching the CBS countdown show with guys in suits, talking football.”
What was it like determining the right way to one-up Shaq vs. Gronk whereas nonetheless being aware of Covid protocols?
Richman: Yeah, it is humorous you say that, Kenny. Right after Shaq vs. Gronk, which was filmed in Orlando, we went straight to Tampa to return have a look at venues [for a Super Bowl event] and met with the metropolis and the mayor, pondering we have been doing an in-person occasion. Obviously that wasn’t in the playing cards. What we have realized since Shaq vs. Gronk is how nice these live streaming and digital occasions may be. Since then we did Black Entrepreneurs Day and the Sports Illustrated Awards. And now with this one we’re like, we by no means need to do a dwell occasion once more. I say that half jokingly, however we love the house and the energy of it.
Silberzweig: In early December, that is after we actually began sitting down with Shaquille and mentioned, “Listen, We’re not going to be able to do this live and in person. How do we keep the brand alive? It took some time, but we all landed on this realization that there is a true need and actual market opportunity to create a fun Super Bowl countdown show right before kickoff, especially this year when everybody’s at home with no Super Bowl parties and all of that.
What makes a virtual event more operationally manageable?
Richman: With the [in-person] event, there’s so many of these crazy variables: dealing with the permitting process, which is never fun; the weather is not in your control; dealing with the Fire Marshall last year at Shaq’s Fun House. All those curveballs are thrown out the window. Concert promotions have always been one of the riskiest businesses. You book all the talent, you pay for the venue and marketing, and you’re like, “I hope we promote sufficient tickets and sponsors.” When it comes to broadcasting, we don’t need to start actually laying out costs until we know there’s proof of concept, meaning there’s brands that want to participate. If no sponsors want to come on board for the Shaq Bowl, then we know we’re not going to spend a few million dollars to produce it. If we know that Mercari is interested in presenting and Pepsi wants to do the halftime show, now there’s a certain level of investment and it sort of removes that guessing game and the financial risk.
Image Credit: Medium Rare
Speaking of sponsors, Pepsi was among many big companies that opted out of an in-game ad this year. So did they come to you saying, “Hey, we have to allocate advertising and marketing spend in another way, and perhaps Shaq Bowl is it?”
Silberzweig: You know, I think with Shaq Bowl specifically, we provide a really interesting alternative to the traditional Super Bowl ad, which is priced at $5 million-plus for 30 seconds. What we’re building with Shaq and Gronk is the opportunity for [brands] to activate in a big and experiential and meaningful way with that social component. And obviously our partnership pricing starts 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’re adapting to come into the broadcast world with us, which is pretty incredible.
The question, then, is how you do all this brand integration while still allowing audiences to enjoy it without feeling barraged with ads and sponsorships?
Richman: Yeah, and look, that’s the balance. It’s really difficult, but obviously the brands want to achieve that, we want to achieve that and, more importantly, Shaq wants to achieve that. He doesn’t want to put something out there like a NASCAR car with sponsors all over it. That’s why we don’t sell commercials or salvage traditional advertising. It’s saying, “Hey, what could be enjoyable?” With Jack Link’s, Joe and I brainstormed for a few days and we’re like, “Their character proper now could be Sasquatch. What if Sasquatch comes and arm wrestles Shaq? The viewers at house are going to like that. It’s hilarious, it is enjoyable, and it achieves one thing actually cool and viral for the model with out feeling such as you’re watching a business for 10 minutes.
Silberzweig: And if it isn’t one thing that Shaq goes to assume is cool, or provides worth to the present in mine and Adam’s eyes, we can’t do it.
You guys had backgrounds in selling dwell occasions earlier than launching Shaq vs. Gronk. But when did all these big manufacturers and celebrities see Medium Rare as a reputable manufacturing outfit to companion with?
Richman: We’ve constructed out Medium Rare over the previous few years with the dwell occasions, however it is insane that we may pull off for main occasions for broadcast [since last June]. When we referred to as companions for Shaq vs. Gronk, we satisfied them, however it was tough, and it was a sale, and it was making an attempt to essentially get them to leap in the pool with us. And the charges have mainly doubled from what they have been again in June, as a result of companions did not know what it was then. There have been no metrics. Now we’ve all this knowledge to level to from the three [previous] occasions. That made the fourth one a neater promote.
Silberzweig: Black Entrepreneurs Day and the stage of press we obtained on that one was actually the proof in the pudding that Medium Rare is much more than only a live-event firm and is able to all types of issues at the second and may actually alter to determine the right way to reimagine these properties in right now’s world.
Everyone from MTV to WWE to Animal Planet has plotted Super Bowl counterprogramming over the years. Why are you positive Shaq Bowl will stick?
Richman: I would not say we’re taking a look at it as counter-programming, as a result of we’re actually proudly owning that house up till the sport. We know at 6:30, you are not competing with the Super Bowl. It would not matter what you may have. It’s really fairly infamous that three to 6 [on Super Bowl Sunday] is the worst television programming of the yr. We’re not saying the Puppy Bowl’s not steep competitors, however you recognize, with all the movie star expertise and Shaq and the nice advertising and marketing and press, all of that mixed is a recipe to get folks’s consideration.
Should live-event promoters and venue homeowners be worrying about their obsolescence?
Richman: Joe and I have been really speaking about this final evening. The live-event business goes to return roaring again. People can’t wait to get out of their home and be with folks once more. We think about subsequent yr’s Shaq Bowl not solely being an unbelievable broadcast, however having 10,000 folks in the stands.
Silberzweig: We’re actually bullish on the return of dwell [events]. I believe folks want that connection. When it is again, they will be again stronger than ever, however for Adam and I, such as you talked about, this has been a blessing. We’ve been working laborious and have been pressured to get inventive, and we see broadcast as one other vertical of the enterprise, and it ought to keep that method for a very long time.