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Gilbert Chavarria, Team Infographics, and their plan to keep social media fresh.

Gilbert Chavarria, Creative Director for Team Infographics (Photo via Gilbert Chavarria)

As the use of social media within sports has evolved over the last decade, two elements of it continue to be especially prominent — immediacy, in terms of sharing content, and the use of animation. Fortunately for Gilbert Chavarria, his background in animation and video production has helped turn Team Infographics (TI) into an innovator in the social media space.

Chavarria launched TI in 2012 alongside his wife, Patty Chavarria, and Joe Centeno in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. In addition to assisting college athletic departments and professional sports teams create high quality digital content, TI has developed a tool that allows clients to generate pre-produced graphics with some simple number input and a click of a publish button.

After earning a degree in graphic design from the University of Texas-El Paso, Chavarria began his career in 3D animation at a local television production house in Texas. From 1995 to 2005, he built up an impressive resume creating visual effects and motion graphics for commercials and live television broadcasts. It was in these roles that he was able to develop, alongside his technical skills, workflow habits and conventions that enable him to lead a team of artists.

“Folder structure, naming conventions, being able to transfer a project from one artist to another artist and have them understand what they’re looking at. That was so important when we were first building this platform”, Chavarria explains. His objective for the TI platform, like building an animated scene, consisted of creating a set of tools where multiple objects could be inserted, removed, or replaced that still work together to create a cohesive finished product.

“So we would draw a box and say, ‘what do we call this?’, and then if we divide this box into eight boxes, then what do we call those and how do those fit together? And then when you name that something, how does that name translate into the system when we need to use it somewhere down the line? So all that was work flow design that I was very familiar with in the animation world. Because in animation, obviously you have several artists working on one piece or one shot, so they all need to speak the same language. So it just fit. I understood it that way. For what we were building, it made perfect sense.”

It was in 2005 that Chavarria founded his own design company in Fuzzy Red Panda, which eventually became a partnership with his wife, who is also a trained visual effects artist. During that time, the Chavarrias put their skills to use in the sports world creating intro videos for college football and basketball teams, as well as animated sponsor graphics that would appear on video boards at arenas.

While working with a client and Chavarria’s alma mater, the Chavarrias met Centeno, who at the time was serving as the Coordinator of Video Production and Graphic Design for UTEP. By 2010, Centeno had joined Fuzzy Red Panda full-time. It was that relationship and the blend of Chavarria and Centeno’s professional knowledge that made the group realize the need for a tool and service like TI in the sports world was evident.

Towards the end of the 2012 calendar year, the team decided to take the leap and begin development on the TI platform.

“We were thinking about the coming year and what we were going to do, how we were going to get a start on the new year. Then we started looking at infographics which were really popular at the time and kind of put two and two together. With our experience in live broadcast and Joe’s sports experience, we realized just how similar traditional broadcasting is to the direction social media was headed. In about 20 minutes everything came together and pretty much laid out the path for us, which we’re still on right now. Then, we looked at each other and said, “Are we really going to do this?”

The team subsequently dropped everything else they were working on and built the platform up from scratch. By February 2013, they had produced a working beta version that was sent out to potential clients. The rest, as they say, is history.

After being in sports for several years at this point, Chavarria explains why, as an artist, designing for the sports world holds such an appeal for him.

“When I was in school for design, we would design a menu for a restaurant or stationary for a bank. And that’s great; I love design, but the emotion that the sports world has… that’s a great place to be creatively.”

“When we were doing intro videos, that’s what drew us into that. It’s the walk in, the sun going down, the crowd getting hyped up, the band. It’s all that, that leads to the game, which was perfect for us. It’s short form storytelling and emotion. And just creatively, it made us want to do it all the time. That’s what brought us into sports and really kept us here.”

A unique aspect of Chavarria’s professional life is being a business partner with his wife. He shares that working with your significant other can be a challenge at times, but also has brought them much closer together.

“When we’re at work, it’s work and when we’re at home, it’s home. We just have a benefit of being able to talk about one or the other in each different place. So when we’re at home, we’re able to talk about work things. When we’re at work, we’re able to talk about home things, and we take advantage of it. We’re able to speak to each other as professionals. That helps her understand what I go through when I go home and same thing when she comes home.”

“We understand what the other one went through throughout the day, so we get it. No one has to guess why somebody is in a bad mood, and that helps us judge when maybe we need a break and things like that. So, it’s a little difficult at first, but it has advantages.”

Even in his busy, current role overseeing staff as creative director at TI, Chavarria still takes time to personally work with high profile accounts like Penn State University, Louisiana State, the Phoenix Suns, the New York Rangers, the Carolina Panthers, and the New Orleans Saints. Over his time at TI, Chavarria has come to appreciate what goes into running massive Division One athletic departments, like Penn State. He describes his experiences in working with the Nittany Lions’ marketing team:

“So I just finished their wrestling team, and their wrestling team is amazing. In doing research for them, and the work that I have done, I get to appreciate a little bit in the world of wrestling and just how big they are there. So that influences me when I put their designs together. We work hand in hand with their designers and their SIDs so that we are able to come up with something that’s unique to them. It all comes back to creativity. The fact that I can be creative on a daily basis working with a creative team, that’s all anybody can ask for.”

With clients of all sizes across the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, MLS, NHL, LPGA and PGA, Chavarria and TI have seen organizations grow from single person marketing departments to full in-house creative teams. Now, it’s about continuing to grow along with the industry.

“Teams and schools have put together some amazing social media teams and the stuff that they’re putting out now is incredible. Now for us, it’s not enough to do it quickly, but we have to do it at the highest level that they’re doing it. That way, even if they do have a full staff, we feel like they can still use us because of that speed and convenience. We want to continue to give our clients the best tools possible to handle the 24/7, 365 nature of the sports world.”

To follow along with Team Infographics’ growth, visit their website, and follow them on Twitter.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Team Infographics is a proud partner of FOS.

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