You may have seen him on the telly in a bunch of TV shows and ads, but he’s also the Creative Director of Johannesburg-based media agency CSQUARED Productions, which, for a number of years, has been one of the company’s behind SuperSport’s award-winning promos.
Q: How would you describe your role as Creative Director?
A: Maintaining the balance between lending creative guidance to all projects and not over shadowing other creatives’ ideas and contributions. Being passionate about creative it is sometimes hard not to grab a project and say ‘do it myyyyyyy waaaaaaay’, but that’s ultimately not what team work is about, and it would eventually make all our work look and sound the same. Having the CD title does make me feel personally responsible for all of our creative output, but I’m working on that, and I know that my business partner and founder of CSQUARED, Chris Dobson, feels the same way.
Q: What percentage of your business would you say is made up of sports promo work and what other types of work do you take on?
A: Most of what we do is sports-related, and we’re proud of and happy about that, because, well, we love sport. But it’s not all promo work. Through our partnerships with two of the leading sports sponsorship agencies in SA we have also produced great content for New Balance, Energade, KFC Kids, adidas, Sasol, Audi, and Nedbank’s sports properties, which has allowed us the opportunity to shoot with a full spectrum of sportsmen and women – from kids at grassroots level all the way up to our national teams. A real privilege. We have also produced non-sport corporate communication for clients like Vodacom, Absa, OFM and SARS, usually using comedy in these instances – something we feel we’re good at.
Q: What’s your all-time favourite piece of CSQUARED work?
A: I really do love all our creative children equally, but two standouts for me have been the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign we did for SuperSport, which delved into ‘ancient warrior’ cultural history, and the comedic SuperSport ‘Look Forward’ we did for 2018, which imagined the world of SuperSport and its talent as a grand 1920’s movie-house, which we filmed at the beautiful Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg. The highlight of this highlight was casting Naas Botha as a trainee ticket vendor…and Joel Stransky as his patient supervisor.
Q: How would you summarise the impact COVID-19 has had on CSQUARED and the sports industry as a whole?
A: Big. When a large part of your business is promoting live sport…and there isn’t any, it will impact. But in every challenge lies opportunity, and as there was a role for sport itself to play in uplifting and motivating the country, we found that we still had a job to do, to help it find the right voice to do so. This resulted in a few big jobs that got us through a difficult time for the whole industry.
Q: What did you make of ‘Chasing the Sun’?
A: Loved it. Knowing what it takes to put something like that together I can only applaud SuperSport and T+W for their achievement. They must have had a mountain of material to wade through and they cherry-picked beautifully to tell a great story. They also created a ‘safe space’ for the athletes to share their emotion, which is half the battle won, but not easily done.
Q: Do you believe the success of ‘Chasing the Sun’ and ‘The Last Dance’ has changed sports fans’ view on long-form content, and what do you think the future of this space holds?
A: I hope so. I think what’s exciting about this space is that the heroes featured in the stories are real. This provides the opportunity for creating work that is hugely aspirational. I think, ultimately, all art should aim to lift the human spirit, so for me long-form content like this ticks this box in a big way. Sport, after all, is the perfect vehicle for revealing the human condition. In it there are mountains to climb, opponents to beat, records to be broken, odds to defy – we will see the full gamut of emotion along the way – and that makes for compelling viewing.
Q: What’s the key to a great piece of sports content, regardless of whether it’s a short promo or longer-form documentary/docu-series?
A: Tell a good story, and tell it well. Make sure that every element in the piece is assisting in telling the story, not getting in the way of it. Make people feel their own spirit by feeling it in others.
Q: What’s your view on content’s role in the commercial operations of a sports organisation?
A: I think it’s vitally important. It’s probably the most powerful tool you have to communicate the message of your campaign, because you have script, imagery and audio, combining to form a potent conceptual mix. I think in today’s age of the short attention span, we have to work a lot harder to arrest a viewer, and then make them stay for the duration of the content, so we’re always starting out as the underdog. Fortunately, I like a challenge and it’s very satisfying when we get it right.
Q: Once sport in general is back up and running fully, post-COVID-19, do you anticipate change, in terms of how it is run, consumed, broadcast and commercialised etc?
A: Hard to say, but I always hope that great challenges are used to get back to the essence of what makes something worthwhile. In my opinion, the spirit of sport is under constant attack from over-commercialisation and political agenda, the latter especially in South Africa. The point of sport is sport itself, not what you’re trying to attach to it. Sport has many beautiful life lessons to teach us, as long as we keep the heart of it pure. Sadly, this year has seen sport being heavily politicised in the name of an arguable opinion of what constitutes good health.
Q: Which sports organisations – either local or international – do you believe are getting it right, in terms of using video content to effectively market and commercialise their product, and why?
A: I don’t look too far outside of SA, as I believe that I need to stay in the emotional arena of the stories I’m helping to tell, but I think that SARU did a great job with their World Cup campaign. I think the Indian Premier League have upped their game with their overall presentation. Seems to me that they’ve really worked out what they are and are sticking closely to their own brief. If we’re talking sports brands, Nike has always done strong, emotive work. I’ve seen some great New Balance pieces too.
Q: Where would you like to see CSQUARED in 10 years’ time?
A: Pass. Like any sportsman will tell you, you need to keep your eyes on the ball in front of you. Today, that’s writing a new script for SuperSport. That said, writing a SuperSport script on a yacht in the Med might also be nice.