Beyond serious talent, the commitment and persistence to practice, patience, and a strategic mind, what—and who else helps turn professional athletes into #Champions?
Most sports fans attribute a team’s winning season to incredible athletic performance, but that’s a transparency issue. The people behind the scenes who create content, document, and frame superstar performances, manage athletes, strategize game plays, create iconic uniforms and team merchandise create the legend that fans buy into and they deserve the spotlight, too.
Recently, some leagues and organizations have created programs and content campaigns to highlight the talent on front-office teams that work to attract, build, and sustain the loyal fan bases that support their superstar athletes and brand franchises.
At The PhotoShelter Summit, we put Brevin Townsell, The Los Angeles Rams Team Photographer in the spotlight to learn more about his career journey and what it’s been like documenting the Ram’s and their extended community before, during, and after winning the 2022 Super Bowl LVI Championship.
Read through the session takeaways first, then watch the full 30-minute session on-demand, below!
How to Build a Brand of Champions in One Year: A Timeline
The LA Rams’ #winningseason may have culminated with winning the championship in February of 2022, but Brevin broke down all of the 2021 brand-building activities that led up to the team claiming their moment.
Brevin said, “When you think about the Super Bowl you think about the game, you think about halftime, but you don’t think about all the moments that lead up to that: setting up the locker room, those first moments in the stadium. For us, it was about how to showcase the stadium with it being at home. We were focused on: How do we prep for these little moments and tell the story leading up to the big game and becoming champions?”
March 2021: Welcoming All-American Quarterback, Matthew Stafford to LA!
Throughout the session, Brevin showcased his powerful storytelling skills as a narrator and visual creative, but he began the story by sharing the team and organization’s first big moment of 2021: “Our journey really started in March when we had an organizational change and brought in a very talented quarterback in Matthew Stafford.”
He said, “Trading for Matthew—we all kind of felt that moment and what that meant for our franchise. This [image pictured below] is maybe 20-30 minutes after he stepped off of the plane because SoFi Stadium and LAX are that close to each other. These are his literal first moments as a Los Angeles Ram.”
While this moment was huge for The Rams, football, LA, and Matthew Stafford, the reason that Brevin wanted to document this moment so intimately was that eventually, someday it will be a historical record for the player, the organization, and the league.
Brevin said, “These are the moments as a sports photographer, and as a team photographer, especially that you want to be there for, so at the end of the year, and in hindsight, you’re able to recap that special journey not only for the team but for notable players like this that you make big trades for.”
April to August 2021: Officially opening SoFi Stadium, The Draft House, and creating content fit for champions!
Rams House Premiere Day
From 2016 to 2019, the LA Rams played at the site of their former arena home—the LA Coliseum, so after feeling like guests in their own city for so long, Brevin said SoFi Stadium’s public grand opening felt like a promising new beginning for the organization, team, fans, and city.
“The [season ticket holder] premiere that we had was the first time that fans got to enjoy such a beautiful stadium that they had waited so long for…So getting to be a part of that moment and getting to document those first moments for fans was really special because you could see the excitement, you felt the energy that was going to fill that place once the September kickoff rolled around…You could feel that these were moments that didn’t just mean something organizationally, but as we looked toward the goal at the end of February, we wanted our fans to be the first ones in and also the last ones out as we left that journey.”
The Rams Draft House and The Draft House Film
To build on the momentum that Matthew Stafford’s arrival to the team and a new stadium opening brought the team, The Rams followed the LA content creator trend of renting or buying larger-than-life homes as luxury content production studios and rented their own mansion in Malibu for the month of the NFL Draft. They decked out the digs with tasteful branding elements and used the space to showcase different partner events, host their team’s 2021 NFL draft, and of course, create incredible content.
“In 2021, we kicked off what was the first-of-its-kind initiative that’s been unique and different—and it’s our Draft House. For us, we enlisted the help of some of our players, but we really went into Hollywood and tapped one of our Rams fans, Rebel Wilson for a fun and exciting film,” Brevin shared.
Here’s Rebel Wilson giving an ‘MTV-Cribs’-style tour of The Rams’ 2021 Draft House:
Luckily for The Rams, no other team in the league has tried tapping into the innovative brand marketing tactics they’ve been experimenting with as of late, but the choice to create a centralized community hub that doubles as a luxury, and intimate experience for local fans, as well as dabbling in high-quality content production both make sense for a team with close proximity to Hollywood.
“In the NFL, that’s really become more of a thing. In the off-season, you can see how you can really capture that momentum and grab more of a hold on that moment, and for us, we wanted to make sure we capitalized on a lot of these small-but-big moments to drive and elevate our story during the off-season,” Brevin shared.
New Stadium, New Uniforms
Next up on the list of to-do’s for becoming champions was debuting a new jersey and uniform before the team’s first game of the season, and what a moment that turned out to be, too. Brevin shared, “This was a new jersey, but the design was paying tribute to our past. It’s our take on a modern throwback.”
Highlighting the importance of the new uniform’s release as an integral moment leading up to the championship, Brevin continued to explain the details, “The #29 jersey is our 1999 original version of the jersey that the new jersey’s design is based on—the sleeve caps and the numbers all look the same, but it’s got a modern touch. This [release] actually played an important role in our story because the old versions of these uniforms are the exact ones that we won our one and only Super Bowl at the time in 1999 wearing. We did one shoot with our players wearing them and we did a shoot with local LA talented influencers and collaborated at our Drafthouse, tapping into local LA talent and models—it all felt really full circle.”
Finally! A Story Fit for Hollywood
Right before the 2022-23 season began, The Rams tapped their Hollywood connections for their second foray into filmmaking. They reached out to award-winning director Wally Pfister to help produce something that could have the power to make fans feel like they’re a part of something bigger—and together with casted talent and local communities (like the Watts Rams!), they released ‘The Rams House’ kickoff film.
Where did they showcase this epic ode-slash-movie trailer for their brand and city?
Brevin said, “Every time the fans entered the stadium and right before kickoff we were able to play this film and it helped bring people into the LA mindset and made them feel like a part of the Rams house no matter if it was their first or fifth time coming to a game.”
Watch The Rams’ Open film below and if you’re curious about what went into making it, watch this.
September 2021: The First Fan-Attended Games at SoFi Stadium
All of these aforementioned moments no doubt paved the way toward greatness and in the first game of their 2021-2022 season, Brevin said the excitement and hope of becoming champions were palpable.
“Not only did we have an incredible season as an organization, but individually there were so many moments where it felt like we kept building on that story that it made it like a Hollywood script. When I think about it honestly, I feel like it was a movie that was just writing itself,” Brevin said.
“Every game it felt like we were breaking records or trying to do something special. So, I just wanted to reiterate that as a team photographer and a sports photographer, it’s not always about covering the games and the action, it’s the little moments for these players that help lead to a bigger story, and in hindsight, you want to make sure to ask yourself: How can I be there for all the moments for these players on and off the field?”
Read that solid advice over and over again until it makes sense, then pass it on to another rising star!
November 2021: Mid-Season Updates—Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller join The Rams
Just as the team got in the groove of crushing the season’s competition, The Rams acquired two big players: Von Miller in a trade, and Odell Beckham Jr. through free agency.
When Brevin found this out, he wanted to be as close to their first days as teammates as possible—just like he was to document Matthew Stafford’s arrival.
He thought, “How can I be there for these moments to amplify or maximize these moments and connect our fans to these players whether they’re new players, young players, or players with large fan bases coming from other teams,” so he pitched the idea and got the approval to document Odell’s first 24-hours of being an LA Ram and by doing so, he was able to document the short impact he had on the team before he got injured.
“Each part of their [a player’s] story is a bigger part of our organizational 2021 story.”Brevin Townsell
2022: The Super Bowl and The Celebrations 🏆
While PhotoShelter has been an integral tool that allows nearly everyone at The Rams to keep increasing their speed to market with content, the PhotoShelter DAM also acts as an always-accessible asset archive and library for any of their branding needs.
Brevin shared exactly how essential PhotoShelter was (and is!) in helping the team develop, produce, and distribute content around the big game. “What people don’t realize is that during the Super Bowl run there is so much going on, so PhotoShelter was a huge help to us for documenting activations and the media days we held throughout the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. We had different activations like Lighting Up LA, a Super Bowl watch party with ticket giveaways to the Super Bowl, a Gatorade-supplied youth football clinic the day before the Super Bowl, and PhotoShelter was the driver for all of our assets and media success.”
PhotoShelter played a huge role in our workflow because we still had a team practicing and preparing for the Super Bowl, and with all of these moving pieces I couldn’t have done a lot of it without our freelance team of photographers and the tools we relied on. They were able to upload their images through FTP into PhotoShelter where all of our assets live as an organization and we’re fortunate enough to have 90% of our organization signed up as active users on PhotoShelter, so it’s fantastic to have the freelance team be able to share assets whether they’re in Australia, in LA, or covering something for the Super Bowl. PhotoShelter again was so big in all of this because every moment that you saw and everything that we shot either lives in PhotoShelter, was FTP’ed to PhotoShelter, or has been downloaded from PhotoShelter by our users. It’s been even easier this year since we’ve gotten more users signed up and now they’ve become invested in it.”Brevin Townsell
What’s Next for The Rams?
Winning back-to-back championships, hopefully!
Having a massive archive of content from arguably one of their best years yet has given The Rams’ marketing team a great head start toward building their editorial calendar for the next road-to-the-Super-Bowl campaign.
Here’s exactly how much content they have to work with:
What were they working on during the 2022 off-season?
“In 2022, we produced another Draft Film. For us, the power of the moment was 2021, but that momentum helped us build into 2022 where we hope to one day become back-to-back Superbowl champions. PhotoShelter was a massive piece for all of these moments, but especially with larger campaigns and initiatives like the Draft Film. Workspaces have been really pivotal for our organization throughout this past season as we have done larger projects, gone bigger, and worked with Hollywood. Workspaces have been a huge asset for us because it makes it easier to collaborate and get approvals on assets, to get people to join in on the conversation, and helps us with build our storytelling throughout the season,” Brevin said.
Curious how The Rams share content with their superstar players in real time?
Brevin told us all about The Rams’ social media play: “For us, we use a platform called Socialie and it’s actually great for us because it’s integrated with PhotoShelter. It helps send everything directly from our library to the players and you can basically create rules for what actually gets sent to the players. For our account, when a player is tagged in the metadata of an image, that is sent directly to the player. Basically, as content is edited and transferred and keyworded into our account in real-time, it also gets populated into Socialie and can be automatically sent to a player either through an app or a text message, so when they get back to the locker room they have their most important moments instantly.”