sports into an
rEvolution Integrated Sports Marketing scores on ideas from all over the place. Combining national brands with famous players and professional teams, the agency keeps its clients in the game with a head-explodingly grand assortment of concepts involving recreational vehicles, fishing holes, and haunted mansions, just to name a few.
“rEvolution is an integrated sports marketing agency,” explains VP Marketing Communications Dan Lobring. “Content production is one of our pillars, but we also have different internal groups that sell things like media or sponsorship consulting or experiential marketing or hospitality or research.”
The combination works. Since launching in 2001, the rEvolution network has expanded from the original Chicago location to include offices in London and Indianapolis. Today, it employs a global staff of about a hundred people. Along the way, the shop has made a mark in traditional sports as well as the emerging digital world of esports, and it recently began dominating the industry award circuit.
Leveraging the passion of the fans
rEvolution’s work comes to life in a variety of forms — from onsite promotions to customized gifs —but they are fueled by the same energy: passion.
“What I think we leverage is people who are passionate,” says Chief Creative Officer Brian Quarles. “They care about it at a crazy, like, fanatic level, and we’re facilitating a handshake from the brands that want to meet this fan.”
Lobring, Quarles, and the rest of the staff hold an equally strong jones for sports. Their enthusiasm is evident throughout the company’s office in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, where Emerson Fittipaldi’s former Indy car sits in the lobby.
A wide, low hulk of breathtaking aerodynamics, the vehicle is part of a collection that includes bleachers, lockers, trophies, photographs, and a vintage basketball scoreboard. Pointing towards an open, sunny layout that flows past meeting areas and circles back to a fully stocked bar, it makes the place feel more like an upscale boutique hotel than a corporate office.
According to Lobring, the design provides “a lot of room for collaboration.”
But before any brainstorming gets underway, rEvolution figures out how famous sports personalities can persuade consumers into supporting the brands they represent. The agency often accomplishes this by showing that the superstar athletes are also regular everyday people.
“It brings everybody together to the same level,” explains Sr. Supervisor and Content Director Peter Wiese. “It’s more humanizing.”
“Room for collaboration”
Meet the Maddons
The technique was especially effective when the agency built a Winnebago campaign around Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon and his wife, Jaye Sousoures, who roll through the off-season in a Winnebago Grand Tour every year.
Wiese and his team transformed their wanderlust into a four-episode mini-sitcom titled, Meet the Maddons.
The 30-to-45-second videos play like classic 1980s sitcoms. Each episode begins with a whimsical theme song introducing simple stories carried largely by the Maddons’ facial expressions and body language. Punctuated with over-the-top audience reactions, the action is so perfectly quirky that dialogue is pretty much unnecessary. The entire script for Captain’s Chair is just a single word: “Schweet.”
REVOLUTION SPORTS MARKETING
MEET THE MADDONS | ‘GOAT’ | WINNEBAGO
Since premiering last July, Home Sweet Home, Goat, Captain’s Chair, and Fireplace have scored nearly a million YouTube views.
“Instead of shooting a big celebration after a goal or something like that, this is a way to make these people seem real and show their real personality,” adds Wiese. “It’s a way for everybody to connect and be like, ‘oh, I do that too.’”
Wiese directed Home Sweet Home at Essanay Studios. He says that shooting on the soundstage in Chicago was something of a rare occasion because a lot of rEvolution jobs take place far outside of the office. He and the crew have worked in sports arenas throughout the country, including the United Center in Chicago, Barclays Center in New York, and Dignity Health Sports Park in L.A.
Big Man On Campus
For a Continental Tire spot titled, Big Man On Campus, they filmed sportscaster Dan Patrick “waxing poetic about college basketball” in New Jersey’s Prudential Center.
Patrick also wore a horse costume during the second half of his presentation.
“There’s a symbol of a horse in the Continental logo,” says Wiese. “In one spot, Dan Patrick gives a speech about the importance of a mascot and then he puts on the mascot’s horse head and the sequence cuts to this mascot doing a giant dunk off of a trampoline, so it makes you feel like Dan was doing the dunk.”
REVOLUTION SPORTS MARKETING
DAN PATRICK’S BIG MAN ON CAMPUS | CONTINENTAL TIRE
The horse mascot was such a hit that rEvolution put it into several animated gifs that appeared during the World Cup. To get it done, they enlisted Michael Begel, Manager of Client Services, to wear the costume while doing a “bunch of celebrations” in front of a grey sweep in rEvolution’s office.
“I was so sweaty, it was ridiculous,” he recalls. “But I had a great time.”
Making the commercial that started it all was not as convenient. Accommodating the immense footprints of enormous indoor facilities is one of the greatest challenges of shooting within them, according to Wiese.
“The lighting is a huge ordeal,” he says. “We need somebody in the upper deck by all the 10k’s, and then you’ve also got to work in tandem with the house folks so they can control the rest of the lights.”
Out of Offish
But it’s not always the stadiums that take the team out of the office. A recent job for General Tire took the crew to a pond in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“That spot was called, Out of Offish,’” Wiese recalls. “It’s a play on the ‘out of office’ auto-responses that people format their emails to send.”
Out of Offish features professional angler Skeet Reese as a General Tire employee who has figured out how to go enjoy his favorite pastime without leaving his work station. Goofy and effective, the spot came with its own set of production challenges.
“There’s not a big production community in Tulsa and we were out there when someone was shooting a movie, so all the crew was gone,” Wiese recalls. “We brought trucks in from Chicago and pulled people from Dallas, which is like five or six hours south.”
Among those making the trip from the Windy City were Jamieson Mullholland, who served as DP, and Producer Mo Wagdy, who located all the out-of-state crew that were needed.
REVOLUTION SPORTS MARKETING
SKEET AND EDWIN’S REEL JOB | OUT OF OFFISH
Besides working in the traditional indoor and outdoor sporting worlds, rEvolution also serves clients in the rapidly expanding arena of professional video gaming, which is also known as esports.
With millions of fans and events that regularly fill stadiums like Chicago’s United Center, esports is a “highly profitable, record-breaking, and ever-growing market,” according to esports.com, the unofficial authority on multiplayer video game competition.
Dr. DisRespect is among the most famous personalities spawned by esports culture, and he is also the spokesperson who rEvolution filmed to pitch Turtle Beach Elite Pro headsets, a line of accessories by OpTic Gaming that sell for hundreds of dollars.
“Dr. DisRespect is a larger-than-life internet personality who talks trash and bills himself with fake titles like 1993 and 1994 Blockbuster video game champion,” explains Wiese. “We shot him at OpTic’s team mansion out in Barrington, and it ended up being a possessed house kind of deal where he pops up out of a big plume of smoke and interacts with two other giant gamers.”
REVOLUTION SPORTS MARKETING
#WHOISTHEGOAT | TURTLE BEACH
According to Quarles, the production value of rEvolution’s work made a startling impact when it arrived in the esports world.
“There was a lot of that hand-held vibe and DIY aesthetic in that space,” he explains. “When people saw the first couple pieces that Peter shot, they were like, ‘this is amazing.’”
Although rEvolution frequently shoots with Michigan Avenue-sized budgets, they often get there by following a DIY kind of work ethic.
Ken Olsen is the Senior Director of Partnerships and Activation for REV/XP, a subsidiary of rEvolution that focuses on esports. His successes include building the company’s relationship with Turtle Wax.
“A few years ago, Turtle Wax was looking at different ways to reach young people, young car enthusiasts, and esports popped up on their radar,” he says. “We worked with them on a team sponsorship, initially.”
Since then, the work has expanded to arena-sized proportions. There are lifestyle-type videos distributed through YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram channels. There are league sponsorships and at least one on-location promotion featuring a custom-wrapped Porsche GT3 owned by a gaming superstar.
“Beyond that, we’re having the influencers and the esports pros themselves shoot some of their own content and then giving that to Turtle Wax and then driving their audience to the Turtle Wax channel,” adds Olsen. “There’s a massive crossover between auto enthusiasts and gamers.”
No doubt, modern technology allows rEvolution to transform amateur, college, and professional sports into an exponentially evolving world of possibilities. But old-fashioned know-how that helps them do it right.
While speaking to Reel Chicago, Olsen mentioned an upcoming esports event at United Center. The rest of the staff was excited about a pop-up shop opening down the block on the next day.
The experiential retail sensation would feature, among other things, Michael Jordan’s Rolex. It was created by rEvolution for Stock X, a company that authenticates sports-related antiques.
“We’re usually considered just a sports marketing agency,” says Lobring. “But the integrated content work we do is better than anybody.”
Send your agency updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org.