While Super Bowl advertisers are always trying to top the previous year’s spots, each network broadcasting that year’s game unveils a new technical innovation to dazzle audiences, like last year’s player’s-eye view from Fox Sports and Intel.
Now, it’s NBC’s turn. The Super Bowl team has completed body scans of six players from the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles—including quarterbacks Tom Brady and Nick Foles—as part of its virtual 3-D graphics package that it will deploy a few times during Sunday’s game. (Also scanned: James Harrison and Danny Amendola from the Patriots, and the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.)
Super Bowl LII executive producer Fred Gaudelli, who also oversees Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football for NBC, spoke with Adweek about this year’s innovation, the most important element of the telecast to get right and what he’s learned from his five previous Super Bowls about how to keep audiences happy. (The interview was conducted before yesterday’s news that Fox had outbid NBC and CBS to land Thursday Night Football for the next five years.)
Adweek: How is the 3-D scanning going to work, and how often will you deploy that during the game?
Fred Gaudelli: We do virtual graphics on every single Sunday game and Thursday game, but now, instead of having 2-D photos of the players, you’re going to have the players [in 3-D]. I would say maybe five or six times during the game, you’ll see these graphics pop up. It’s been done in Europe a little bit, but I have not seen it done here. The stuff I’ve seen done in Europe is pretty interesting, so I’m hoping that’s going to add a little flavor to our show.
How do you approach the Super Bowl differently than Sunday Night Football or Thursday Night Football?
It’s the ultimate game, so you go in there knowing what’s at stake: legacies are built, legacies are broken. You know that every shot, every replay, is going to be scrutinized; every word [from] the announcers is going to be scrutinized. You try not to be thinking about that too much while the game is going on, doing what you do every single week, but you’re aware of the enormity of the event. You would be crazy if you [weren’t].
What have you learned during the past five Super Bowls you’ve overseen, as far as what that audiences do and don’t respond to?
There are times where you have to do football, because that’s what’s happening on the field. There are times where you want to tell a story about someone that would relate to any American. There are times where you have to do some journalism—we had the Deflategate game [in 2015], so it’s a blend. I think if you try to hang your hat on just one thing, you’re going to alienate a large part of the audience. But if you’re in and out at the appropriate moments, it becomes an entertaining watch for everybody.
This is your first Super Bowl working with Dan Lovinger as head of NBC Sports ad sales. What has that relationship been like?
It’s really been seamless from when Seth [Winter] ran the department, and a lot of his key lieutenants are still in place. We’ve always had a great working relationship, production and sales at NBC. Whatever we can do to support their efforts to garner as much revenue as they possibly can, we’re going to try to do. They’re always respectful of the lines we can’t cross. It’s been a great working relationship, and I don’t see this one being any different.
As you’re producing the Super Bowl, what is the most important element for you to get right?
To make sure that the game has been covered as well as it can be covered. When I go home the next day and read the paper, and some guy says, “This guy had 180 yards receiving and that was the second most in the Super Bowl”—if we didn’t address that, which would be almost impossible, that would mean that we didn’t do our job. We want to make sure that there is nothing about the game that you read about it the next day that you didn’t hear about first during the telecast.
During your other five Super Bowls, what was the most frustrating things that happened production-wise, where you feel that as long as that doesn’t happen again, you’ll be in good shape?
The first Super Bowl I did [in 2003], in we were doing a live interview on the field right after the coin toss with [Tampa Bay Buccaneer] John Lynch. Lynn Swan was our announcer at that point, and his mic was going in and out. It really made for a not-pleasant minute and a half on TV. So if that doesn’t happen, I think we’re in good shape. But that happened at ABC; NBC is a whole different place. We have a great technical team, and as long as you don’t have those technical malfunctions, I think we’ll put a good show on.