Playing the Promo Game

May 11, 2008  •  Post A Comment

MRB Productions, which creates spots, teasers and commercials for TV sports programming, will be generating promotions for this summer’s ESPY Awards.
In recent years, some sports promos have created more enduring memories for viewers than the games themselves: Moments like Nicollette Sheridan dropping her towel for Terrell Owens during a football game break or discovering that Lance Armstrong is a jerk during a promo for the ESPYs makes a lasting impression.
MRB’s clients include ESPN, ABC Sports, NBC Sports and DirecTV.
“I have been able to develop a niche in this business because the budgets are significantly smaller than for a series or even a commercial, but everybody sees them, so I’m trying to corner the industry as best I can,” said company founder Matthew Brady. “There really isn’t any forum out there that specializes in the promo business like we have, but that side of the industry is only becoming more important, especially as people are quickly putting these on the Web in the end.”
The promos and shorts for these companies can typically cost anywhere from $7,000 to $300,000 to produce, depending on the profile of the tease. That allows a smart company to pull in a multimillion-dollar income from the business.
MRB this year dominated the Sports Emmys, sweeping the nominations in the category of production design/art direction.
Its four nominees were “The 2006 NFL Draft” on ESPN directed by Rico Labbe; “Monday Night Football” teases for the Washington Redskins vs. Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles games, both on ESPN; the “Monday Night Football” transformation open featuring Ben Stiller on ESPN; and the “NBA Finals” tease open on ABC, directed by Mark Teitelman.
MRB also received two nominations in the category of open/tease, for the Super Bowl XL piece “Oh the Places You Will Go” featuring Harrison Ford on ABC; and an “NBA Basketball Hall of Fame” piece on ABC directed by Mr. Teitelman.
Often the key to success has been the company’s ability to cast with nationally recognizable faces including Barack Obama, Pink, Lance Armstrong, Samuel L. Jackson and Will Farrell.
“Ninety-eight percent of the time, these guys are not getting paid to do these shorts,” said Mr. Brady. “That definitely helps us keep our costs low, so in return we try to tie their work into something they are out promoting and they are thrilled to get that extra exposure.”
After thriving in the promo business, MRB subsequently branched out into television series and film, launching “Free Radio” on VH1 earlier this year as well as documentary film “I Trust You to Kill Me” with Kiefer Sutherland. Mr. Brady is preparing for season two of the improv show, awaiting the greenlight from VH1.

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