Picture-Perfect Partnership

Picture-Perfect Partnership

Note: The following appears in the June issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.

By Liz Rollison // Clemson University Creative Services

Noticed a difference in the Clemson athletic department’s graphics, videos and other social media, web and print content? In 2014, the athletic communications department produced more than 5,000 graphics, videos and print pieces, thanks in large part to a new partnership between Clemson University and Adobe.

In April 2014, Clemson announced a gift from Adobe to deploy the multinational software company’s Creative Cloud tools to university faculty, staff and students.

One of the first areas to maximize the full capabilities of the Adobe Creative Cloud was Clemson Athletics. In the past 18 months, athletics has transformed its digital presence through web and social media. And Adobe’s software has enabled the department to engage Tiger fans across the world with high-quality content in the form of graphics, videos and Web sites.

“We have a new focus of creating engaging content for our recruits, student-athletes and fans, and our partnership with Adobe allows us to have the biggest impact,” said Clemson’s Director of New and Creative Media, Jonathan Gantt.

“Every time we turn around, we see another great piece out of Clemson Athletics that is game-changing for how the department is communicating with its fanbase and prospective athletes. They’re using digital to be front and center,” explained Senior Vice President of Adobe North America, Jonathan Hammond. “Even when I’m traveling internationally, I can see great content that keeps me in touch with Clemson.”

Clemson and the Cloud

The Adobe Creative Cloud includes industry-leading software packed with innovation across design, Web, video, collaboration and digital-imaging tools.

Athletics staff is quick to thank Jim Bottum, Clemson’s chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, who is responsible for establishing the partnership and giving Clemson students, faculty and staff the opportunity to use world-class tools to create.

“Adobe’s multi-million dollar gift has resulted in many transformations across campus,” Bottum said. “Athletics has certainly shown a desire and skill to maximize these resources.”

Athletics and the Digital Space

When the partnership was established in 2014, athletics wasted little time implementing the new tools. Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Joe Galbraith identified early opportunities where the Creative Cloud could improve the work and processes for the department.

He believes that the department has successfully used Adobe’s products to accomplish their goals from a creative standpoint.

For example, of the roughly 5,000 graphics, videos and print pieces athletic communications produced in 2014, Associate Director of Creative Media Jeff Kallin is responsible for several thousand himself. He also trained staff and students on Adobe products, helping to create what is now a small army of contributors.

“Our objective is to be great storytellers and create content that resonates with our fans,” Kallin said. “Having a campus-wide agreement with Adobe that gives all students and staff access to the Creative Cloud allows us to involve more people in the creative process, which in turn means we can produce more and better serve our teams and fans.”

Kallin’s work appears just about anywhere you see the Tiger Paw — Web sites, in-venue video boards, advertisements, publications, facilities and, of course, social media.

In the last 12 months, the official Clemson Athletics social media accounts have added 318,000 new followers and generated 832 million impressions from 21,000 total posts.

Those impressive numbers are thanks mainly to the work of the athletic communications staff — Galbraith, Gantt, Kallin, Brian Hennessy, Philip Sikes, Libby Kehn, Nik Conklin and other full-time staffers and students — who use Adobe programs such as Photoshop (graphics), InDesign (publications) and Premiere Pro (videos) to produce content on a daily basis for all 19 athletic programs.

This content is posted publicly on different platforms, and also shared with coaching staffs to send to recruits.

“We’ve asked student-athletes like Deshaun Watson and Artavis Scott how social media affected their recruiting process, and they pointed out specific graphics and videos we created that stuck out to them and helped them learn more about Clemson,” Gantt said. “Hearing that kind of feedback and seeing the staggering numbers of growth shows we’re making a difference here. I get calls from other Power 5 schools asking how we’re doing what we’re doing — they want to model themselves after Clemson.”

Fan Engagement

Alumni truly care about Clemson University, and with Adobe software the department has the ability to produce content that resonates with these fans.

According to Galbraith, the department’s responsibility is to show these alumni that the values they cherish are still in place.

“If we can tell the stories of Clemson Athletics and show the amazing things happening here, our fans are going to feel even better about contributing to IPTAY and helping keep Clemson at the top,” Galbraith said.

Real-World Experience

Adobe’s Creative Cloud software has enabled the athletic department to produce content at both a higher quality and a faster pace, ultimately allowing Clemson to stand out in the competitive industry of college sports.

But beyond recruiting and fan connections, Adobe has meant better real-world experience for student workers in the department.

Before the partnership, answering phone calls and making copies were tasks commonly assigned to student interns. Now, they work side-by-side with staff to produce digital content such as large graphics and featured videos.

“We’re able to provide valuable, real-world experience to students in a competitive industry,” Gantt said. “When they graduate and enter the marketplace, they’ll have advantages over job seekers from other schools.

“What Adobe understands is that innovation in our industry is going to come from this next generation. Here, students have access to tools to create content, and it’s fascinating to see what they develop. Adobe gets that more than any other company. By entering into this partnership, they’re empowering the next generation of industry leaders, and we’re happy to help Clemson Athletics, Clemson University and Adobe accomplish their goals together.”

Philosophy major Austin Koon is one of many student assistants who values working alongside the department’s staff. In 2014, Koon edited the infamous Clemson Quarterback Mannequin Prank video, in which Cole Stoudt disguised himself as a uniformed mannequin and startled his fellow teammates walking in to the football facility. The preseason prank video showed the fun atmosphere of the Clemson football program — and generated more than one million views on YouTube, along with features on ESPN’s SportsCenter, CBS’ 60 Minutes and NBC’s “Caught on Camera.” How many college students can put that on a résumé?

“By having access to Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, I’m using the same tools that industry leaders and Hollywood filmmakers use,” Koon said. “No matter where life takes me after Clemson, the skills and experience I’ve gained will serve me well.”

Another well-known feature produced by the athletic communications staff was football’s “Why We Work” video. The high-intensity feature was originally produced for social media, but became a Death Valley tradition played before the fourth quarter of every home game. Conklin, who directed the piece, noted that an IPTAY donor informed him that he played it on his cell phone during the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando to pump up the crowd.

“It’s rewarding to see people respond so positively to something you create,” Conklin said. 

The well-received “Home” video feature, produced for Homecoming and narrated by Clemson legend George Bennett, totaled more than 250,000 views on YouTube and Facebook. Yet, it was written and produced in just three days. While it was produced quickly using Adobe software, the effect of the video has been long lasting.

It’s A Win-Win

Both Clemson and Adobe have learned a great deal from the partnership.

“Clemson is out in the forefront for Adobe and how our technology can be used in athletics and academics,” Hammond said.

In turn, the university is teaching the software company how to become more strategic and communicate effectively with other institutions.

“Adobe has a lot of special people — Jonathan Hammond, Matt Thompson, Monte Wilson, Jim Holscher, Jim Guerrard, Keith Spencer, Patrick Koster — and many others,” Gantt said. “What Clemson and Jim Bottum have done with Adobe is something we couldn’t do with many other companies, and it’s because of their leadership. If Jim and Adobe’s leaders didn’t have the desire to help students and put forth a great vision for higher education, we couldn’t be having the impact that we’re having here at Clemson.”

Adobe believes that Bottum’s vision and influence throughout the collaboration played a huge role in its success.

“He has gained support in this partnership from President (Jim) Clements, the department heads, IT staff and across the student body,” Hammond said. “That’s what has made this special. Clemson has done this different than any other University.”

So, the next time you log on to social media or attend a Clemson Athletics event, keep an eye out for content created with Adobe products that’s designed to provide you with that one-of-a-kind “Clemson Experience.” Staff and student assistants work tirelessly to create what you see.

And they’re happy they can count Adobe as a proud member of the “Clemson Family,” so they can do even more in 2015-16 and beyond.