(FloSports is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
In early 2020, no elite cheer squad could have imagined going live, virtually, with what normally would be considered one of the most prestigious cheerleading competitions of the year. But, like many live events that were slated to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic, where there is a will, there is a way.
Celebrating 10 years this year, The MAJORS is an annual invite-only, elite competition for the top teams in All Star cheerleading. It is an event showcasing the ‘best of the best’ in the world of competitive cheer. In January 2021, powered by a fifteen-person remote production team, the live broadcast of The MAJORS saw over 1 million minutes watched in its virtual debut. Here is how they pulled it off.
As COVID-19 maintained a strangle-hold on live events deep into 2020, it became apparent that the traditional live, in person format for The MAJORS was not going to be possible. The process of pivoting to a virtual cheerleading event began with identifying the teams that would be invited to participate based on a number of factors, including their placements in competitions from previous seasons. Many teams were not permitted to travel due to various state mandates, so the task was finding a way to bring the event to them.
“Our top priority was to create a safe experience that also brought the excitement and legitimacy of a live competition,” said Monica Bloodgood, Senior Director, Rights Acquisition, FloSports. “We wanted to stay true to the traditional format of The MAJORS, and include as many of the teams you’d expect to see in a normal year as possible. We knew it would be a massive logistical undertaking, but it was also an opportunity to bring a piece of normalcy and joy to the athletes, coaches, families and fans during a challenging time.”
To get things started, the FloSports production team conducted virtual video meetings to scout each practice facility and understand what was available in terms of internet speeds, camera locations, potential camera angles, and other various logistics. They collected photos of all the athletes and created a custom hype video that included highlights from previous events.
Remote locations were established and each was staffed by one producer, while the technical aspects were handled via remote computer access software at the FloSports Network Operations Center. Some locations were run by FloSports producers, but most were managed by local production contractors as needed based on state travel regulations.
The production team worked alongside remote staffers to pull together the live competition with live hosts, an awards show and live reaction shots from the winning teams. Each competing team had custom highlight reels and intro video packages that ran before they took their local stage for the competition. Each location had a producer on-site that operated equipment and liaised with each competing team. A content team shot and edited real-time footage that was injected into the live show.
After all was said and done, FloSports & Varsity All Star produced a 4-hour show where 26 teams competed and were judged live from nine locations across the United States. The virtual event was produced from the FloSports studio in Austin, TX with equipment and crews in 9 cities including Plano, TX, Coppell, TX, Brandon, FL, Miami, FL, Atlanta, GA, Indianapolis, IN, Midlothian, VA, Houston, TX, The Woodlands, TX.
For fans, being able to watch the performances from several different locations added an unexpected element of exclusivity and a behind-the-scenes appeal. Not only did they get to watch their favorite cheer squads compete, they also got a peek inside several of the elite teams’ home facilities.
“The response to the event was overwhelming and unlike anything we have seen before,” said Bloodgood. “There were so many messages, emails and posts on social media. Athletes, coaches, their families were thrilled and grateful to have an opportunity to perform live, and still participate in The MAJORS in a different way, but that really captured the spirit of the event. Fans loved the format and the experience we were able to create.”
As the teams prepare for the next MAJORS — one that will hopefully be live, in person — there will certainly be lessons that carry over from the event’s virtual debut. For fans at home, in particular, FloSports has cracked the code on live streaming a marquee competition from multiple locations with a remote production staff and more than a few moving parts.