A few days ago, I introduced you guys to the youtube skits of the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Florida State League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. Last weekend, I visited Port Charlotte to talk to Jonathan Gantt, Marketing and Public Relations Director of the Stone Crabs to find out the inside scoop on these videos.
(Disclaimer: I’m a Rays fan.)
Bus Leagues Baseball: Whose idea were the videos?
Jonathan Gantt: We’ve got a pretty solid team of guys here. Myself, broadcaster Grant McAuley, and a few interns for public relations and game entertainment and we just sat down and we were trying to come up with as much content as we possibly could – stuff for the website, stuff for the game programs, just anything we could come up with. One of our interns, Chris Gonzales, it was his idea to come up with the “SportsCenter” spoofs.
We just started collecting ideas and started filming. Luckily, the guys all love it and it’s not a situation where you having to beg somebody to do it. They are all now looking forward to being in the next one so it has been a lot of fun.
BLB: How enthusiastic are the players to be in the videos?
JG: Lots of times when you have to ask them to do stuff that takes up their time they are always gracious, but for this project they were particularly so and really enjoyed it. Guys would come up and pitch ideas to us – which we have done a couple of them already.
BLB: Whose ideas have you used so far?
JG: Matt Springs, one of the catchers, came up with one about the catchers that we haven’t released yet that should be really good. They have all been great. We talk about the ideas in clubhouse. We sit around and talk about ideas. I remember when the first one came out everyone was on their computers in the clubhouse watching it. They’ve all be very enthusiastic about, and that’s always nice whenever you have these ideas. Clearly they are the stars and they have been on board since day one.
BLB: You said you are trying to do this create content for the website. Is that sort of the drive, with the social media thing, to get a buzz going for the team to get people to the ballpark? Or is it to get the Stone Crabs name out there?
JG: Yeah. The thing about minor league baseball is that there is such close access to the players and a lot of our season ticket holders have such close relationships with these guys and they know who they are. Kinda along those lines, we do player profiles where we talk about a guy’s favorite TV show, food, or that sort of thing. These videos are just another to not only bring awareness to the team, but to make folks feel like they know our players even better. That’s the reason we do all the stuff that we do content-wise.
It’s more than just stats – telling fans a guy is hitting .301. In minor league baseball, where the fans know the guys on a personal level, you can show the player around a water cooler.
BLB: Are these videos on the Stone Crabs website or are they only on youtube?
JG: They are on our website, our facebook page, and all our other links, but they are all going back to our youtube page. We have the twitter account, the facebook, and we try to encourage everybody to send it out so we can try and do the whole viral video campaign and get as many people to see it as possible.
That said, we have gotten a great reaction from the videos. Anytime you can see guys kinda relax a little bit, and see them in a different way than just on the field or in a batter’s box, it’s always a lot of fun. So we have gotten a real solid reaction so far.
BLB: One of the people I noticed so far has been in two videos has been Tim Beckham. So far he has been in the copy machine one and another all by himself. Is that based on his notoriety and is that used as a selling point for the videos? Or is he that enthusiastic on being an actor?
JG: It certainly something we thought about because people will of course take notice when a number one draft pick, someone with name power, is part of it. But I don’t think we looked for anybody in particular besides filling the roles for the ideas that we had. So he worked out for those two things.
For example, the joke for the copier skit talked about him as a number one draft pick and that wouldn’t make sense with any other guy. He just fit that. Although he was on board since we mentioned it to him. He was definitely excited about it. But I wouldn’t say it is because he was a number one draft pick that we had him solo. But of course he will have more name power than another guy.
BLB: I noticed as Rays fan, your skits were getting into the Rays blogosphere.
JG: Yeah, we have been really lucky and that’s the idea – to get people to pick them up and re-post it.
BLB: How long does it take from the idea to actually posting the videos?
JG: Believe it or not, it doesn’t take as long as you probably think it does. You probably noticed most of them are simple, one shot skits. Adding titles is about all the editing we do. There are some that are more involved, but the entire process is actually pretty quick. It’s really amazing what you can do with small, cheap equipment these days. We have one of those small cameras that films in 1080hp quality that makes it look great.
If we have an idea, we try to shoot it the first day the team is back from being on the road. We could then have it posted within two to three days, but try to space it out to one every week or week and a half. We don’t want them to all go out at once.
BLB: How difficult is it to coordinate everything?
JG: Of course, we have to work with guys’ schedules, and we have to set it all up before hand. But, like I said, it is a lot easier than you think. The great part is that every player wants to do it.
BLB: Who has been the best actor so far?
JG: (Laughs.) I think actually all of our guys have done a really good job so far. A lot of them take to the camera. The first one was Marquis’s commercial and I think he really did a great job. But all of them have been great. I have been really impressed. You would think they would get nervous in front of the camera, but they have all done really well.
JG: Well, they are obviously in the same vein as the SportsCenter commercials, but we wanted to do it so the idea is that all these Stone Crabs players, they are playing the game at night, but during the day they are doing the same office duties that we all do. So they are answering phones, they are making copies, etc. And that’s kinda the joke about it. I know some of them have been the exact same thing as the SportsCenter commercials, but we try to make a majority of them from our own new ideas. We are in the theme, but doing new stuff. I doubt from this point on we will have any that are exactly like theirs.