What could possibly make an NFL playoff game better? Obviously, “Nickified” motion graphics courtesy of Atlanta-based creative studio Elevation.
On Jan. 10, more than two million viewers tuned into the first-ever broadcast of an NFL game on kids’ network Nickelodeon, with the network adding augmented reality graphics to the broadcast as well as color commentary from Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson and Gabrielle Neveah Green. Nick’s simulcast aired live alongside CBS’ official presentation of the Wild Card playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints.
Among the fun graphics that Nick and Elevation concocted were googly eyes bulging out of helmets, animated slime cannons going off in the endzones whenever a team scored and Nick superstar SpongeBob SquarePants poking his head out between the goal posts.
“There has never been a live sports experience quite like this on television, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from audiences of all ages,” said Kurt Hartman, VP of animation and motion graphics for Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Nick@Nite, in a statement. “Not only was it Nick’s premiere splash into major sports, but also it marks the first time an NFL game was simulcasted on two completely different networks.”
Elevation’s branding and tool kit for the game included a logo, type treatments, iconography, graphics and a bright and kid-friendly color palette, all unified to live across all of Nick’s platforms.
Nick’s classic orange and slime-green colors served as the jumping-off point for the package, with Elevation adding bubbly iconography and football-themed visuals to the network’s catalog of iconic characters.
“Bridging the gap between the NFL and Nickelodeon audiences, the visual language for this package emphasizes the fun of the game while still maintaining the marquee feel of a big sporting event,” said Elevation Art Director Dianne Frisbee, also in a statement. “Striking that balance played into every creative choice and, of course, we ‘Nickified’ everything we possibly could, which meant lots of slime!”
The “NFL on NickPlay” logo zeroes in on a slab serif font with thick, block-like letters, while game-inspired textures—turf, footballs and jerseys—ramped up the playfulness. Incorporating a mix of 2D and 3D animation in the package reinforced that balance.
“Nickelodeon and the NFL have tapped into something that just may come to redefine live sports on TV as we know it,” said Elevation Executive Producer Steph Carson, also in a statement. “We are thrilled with how it turned out and how they welcomed us as a true extension of their team.”
Besides the cross-promotion between Nick and CBS Sports, the partners also had fun dropping in some special guest stars, such as Young Sheldon (Iain Armitage) popping up to explain a rule here and there.
Once the creative assets were delivered, Nickelodeon worked closely with CBS Sports and SMT, which specializes in real-time and wireless data and display systems for major sporting events. This included developing a pipeline between Nickelodeon animators in New York City and the CBS Sports on-site media team in New Orleans to send and receive clips in real time and apply Nick-themed graphics that would air moments later. In total, 125 clips—amounting to 22 minutes of animation—were aired over the course of the game.
“We found a way to make the sport funny and irreverent, taking the business part out of the game for kids, but never losing sight that real football fans were also watching and enjoying,” said Giancarlo Barrera, senior art director for Nickelodeon Brand Creative, also in a statement. “It was a completely new and incredibly ambitious approach to live television for everyone involved — creatively and technically — but we had an all-star team to put it all together in Elevation, Nickelodeon, CBS Sports, and SMT. We’re all excited to see what’s possible and what’s next.”
Chief Marketing Officer, Nickelodeon + Nick Jr: Jenny Wall
SVP Brand Design, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr: Michael Waldron
VP of Animation & Motion Graphics: Kurt Hartman
Senior Art Director: Giancarlo Barrera
Animation Director: Tim Lines
Graphics Manager: Kerry Villamil
Animators: Christian Huthmacher, Hannah Segraves, Chris Stearns, Robert Wallace, Kyllea Kerg, Phil Walton
Designers: Livia Lenhoff, Sara Lee
Branding & Design Company: Elevation
Executive Creative Direction: Stephen Cocks
Executive Producer: Steph Carson
Art Direction: Dianne Frisbee
Designers: David Hendrix, Sean Kiley, Kito Kondowe