ATK PLN and the Cleveland Cavaliers Partnership

This is the fourth consecutive year that ATK PLN will partner with the NBA team to craft promos and court projections, with the scope of the deliverables for the partnership increasing each year for the first three years.

What is the longevity of the relationship between your strategic creative group and the brand and how did this relationship begin?

We have been working with the Cleveland Cavaliers since 2015. The team wanted to make a major splash with Lebron James’ triumphant return to the Cavs, building on the fan excitement that was already running rampant in the city. They were familiar with our work and reached out to see how we could work together to elevate the production and entertainment values going into this major season. They wanted to go beyond what they normally do for home game visuals, bringing in a showcase piece and elevated court projections.


Tell us about the first campaign your strategic creative group worked on for the brand.

Our first campaign with the Cavs was created around the concept to rally the city together, fueling the excitement of Lebron’s return to his hometown team. The team really wanted to amp up the horsepower behind this pivotal season with this campaign. This was done by celebrating the history and future of Cleveland’s NBA legacy, and luring fans in with nostalgia and the fervor of star power for one of basketball’s most legendary players.


The intro video that we created for the 2014 - 2015 season was an effects-driven piece that featured swarms of Cavs memorabilia and merchandise swirling together and building momentum as they moved toward the arena and players, culminating in the “All In” end tag. There was so much energy and excitement going into this season and we wanted to bring it to visceral life in graphic form. We established a visual language that we would use across all the visuals for that season, creating a cohesive feel that would further build fan frenzy for the Cavs.


That same year, we were also working on bringing an exciting new life to the court projections for the Cavs home games. We made sure that the intro video and the court projections maintained that integrated feel in a way that the team had never done before. All eyes were on Cleveland and they wanted to make sure that everything was done in a big way. We were really given the freedom to take what they had done historically and elevate it to a whole new level, which was really exciting.


What has been the most innovative/successful campaign created by your strategic creative group for the brand?

For the 2017-2018 season, championship was in the air in Cleveland and the Cavs wanted every aspect of their season to befit the victorious vibes. Ahead of the launch of the season, we spent a day with the players, shooting the live action portion of the intro video that would position this team as the legends they were about to become. The resulting video, which took fans all the way through playoffs and finals, combines stylized closeups of each player intensified by graphic bursts with gameplay footage, resulting in a dynamic opener that exudes the confidence of a winning season. Our goal was to highlight each player of the team, showcasing the full horsepower of the talent that was projected to take the NBA title that season.


The opening video for this season was so widely and well-received that it was given the greatest honor of all: a spoof on SNL. The skit used our same visual style--even mimicking some of the graphics--and took Lebron’s star power in stride, showing the “Other Cavs” as more of his assistants than teammates.

What do you identify as being the biggest change to the industry as a whole? What way do you work with the brand to keep up with the industry changes?

On top of the software upgrades and tech advancements that are a constant in our industry, establishing a workflow for creating the level of graphics needed for a stadium environment has allowed us to be able to turn out work for the Cavs on much more accelerated timelines. Also, with each season, we have the opportunity to leverage the latest in graphic technology to continue to elevate the work we did for the last season and take it to a new level each time.


What factors have enabled you both to stay in a partnership for so long?  And how do you plan on keeping this relationship going forward?

The key to any successful creative partnership is communication and trust. After our first season working with the Cavs, we were able to establish a level of trust that allowed us to take creative risks and make exciting choices that would help drive fan excitement. We have also better adapted to the rapid fire pace of the NBA season. Since we are working under finite timelines, we come to the table with multiple ideas and concepts, so that we aren’t losing any precious time going back to square one if one of our concepts doesn’t gel with the direction the team is hoping to go in.


We have also been able to benefit from the loop of feedback that our work gets in the stadium. Every piece that we create is tested in the stadium and we are given regular feedback on how the fans are reacting to each one, which gives us the ability to tweak what isn’t working as the season progresses.