STN Digital Turns Up the Heat on Social Media

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You may not know STN Digital by name, but you’ve probably seen their work and liked what you saw.

That’s because the group has partnered with over 25 sports and entertainment groups to create social media content that isn’t your typical fare — and, even better, do it as fast and efficiently as possible.

“My line has always been ‘anything that can go on social media, we can do,’” said Kris Koivisto, STN Digital senior director of accounts. “Our biggest goal is to take as much off our clients’ plates as possible. All they have to do is call us, give us a couple minutes worth of information, and the next time we talk we’re presenting full page of ideas, mock-ups, pricing options, incremental options, etc. We all love sports and entertainment, and we’re all super competitive. It’s fun to have these projects where we’re embedded shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest brands in the industry and we’re fighting to be the best.”

Two of the biggest brands that Koivisto and crew have partnered with recently are the NBA and Twitter. The company was tasked with helping create amazing social vignettes for both the NBA Awards Show in Los Angeles and the NBA Draft in Brooklyn. Regardless of which coast they were on, they helped develop one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes content — the kind of original content that fans crave these days.

“We’ve been fortunate to have worked with Twitter and the NBA on a handful of projects in the past, so there was some existing synergy,” Koivisto said. “I believe this was our seventh project with Twitter since I’ve been here, and the third collaboration with the NBA and Twitter.”

That familiarity meant that the league and the social media giant knew that STN could execute on a tight deadline. How tight? The group had a few months to go from concept to completion for the awards show and just a few weeks to do the same for the draft. Despite the short time frame, the team was able to deliver.

“With these two events, there were two parts of the visual: the set design and the final output of the creative. In our initial conversations, we lay out multiple options of vastly different looks — all with the same overarching vibe,” Koivisto said. “More often than not, the vibe corresponds with the city or the event (New York was gritty/raw introduction to #NBATwitter, while L.A. was outdoor/awards glam with a nod to Venice street ball).

Typically we land on a combination of two or more concepts for the initial look. From there, almost every decision is budget-driven. From the materials of the set build, renting equipment (if needed), sourcing vendors, etc.”

Once the logistics are in place it’s time to move on to the actual production of the content. What will only be just a little over six seconds of video will actually take upwards of two minutes to shoot with the athlete at the station and another 20 minutes to edit with quick cuts synced to music, render and send to the NBA/Twitter to post.

“Anything that you put on social needs to be different from what has been done in the past and what other people are currently doing,” Koivisto said of their approach to social content. “Otherwise you’re just gonna blend in with the crowd. The great Wayne Gretzky was quoted saying he always tries to skate where the puck is going, not where it currently is. Different is better than better, so we love working with partners that are tired of the status quo and looking to make some noise.”

The only way to make something truly different and make enough noise to rise above the rest is to get the buy-in of the players and legends taking part. That’s where Koivisto’s years in the NBA as one of the pioneers of social media with the Portland Trail Blazers comes in handy. In his time with the team, he learned the art of making people comfortable in what is many times an unnatural situation. One where a phone, multiple cameras or a microphone are pointed in an individual’s face while they are asked to pose or interact.

“The way the cadence of the draft was structured, the players and their families didn’t have a chance to see each other before they got to our stop,” Koivisto reminisced. “It was cool to see all of the authentic reactions. If I ever needed to liven up the group I’d throw out, ‘Hey, you made it! You’re all in the NBA family now!’ Trae Young and Mikal Bridges’ families couldn’t help but show some pretty raw emotions.

I was very surprised by how engaged DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III were. I figured the first two picks would probably be the hardest to work with, but it was quite the opposite. Jaren Jackson Jr. was admittedly all over the place, saying ‘this is surreal man, I’m sorry if I’m not paying attention to anything you say.’ It was cool to see his dad’s I’m-so-proud-of-you-son smile on his face.”

While the draft was all about interacting with and herding college kids who just had their dreams come true, the NBA Awards was all about getting cooperation from some of the biggest names in the game.

“In LA, some of the best interactions came from CP3, whom I’d never interacted with before,” Koivisto said. “He was very attentive, didn’t need many cues and was respectful. As a Blazer fan, I hate him a little bit less now. When Donovan Mitchell walked up I kicked off the convo with a hypeman-esque, ‘Is that future rookie of the year Donovan Mitchell?’ … 10 minutes later when Ben Simmons came through, I hit him with the exact same line.

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Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith stood there and heckled everyone as they cycled through for about 20 minutes. When it came time to do the activations themselves, Reggie handed me his phone and asked me to take a ton of pictures.”

Big events for teams and leagues are tough to cover; they are pure chaos as athletes are hustled from one station to the next like contestants on Nickelodeon’s “Super Sloppy Double Dare” trying to finish the obstacle course.

It’s difficult to get any content, let alone the truly compelling kind. As the NBA Draft and Awards Show proved, STN Digital has found a way to do just that.