Film directors and producers cheer when a perfectly executed scene becomes a showstopper, and they experienced such a moment when the Sonic Boom’s J-5 drum majors and several J-Settes pranced and gyrated in a segment of a C Spire Wireless commercial that will begin airing statewide in August.
The swanky moves were a sight to behold for visiting crewmembers from Los Angeles and other parts of the country as a few members of Jackson State University’s internationally renowned band shimmed down a row of rousing “fans” during a simulated tailgate party recently.
The commercial is designed to help the wireless provider kick off football season in Mississippi and spotlight C Spire’s “We Work For You” campaign.
JSU was among several state universities enlisted to help market C Spire’s message about the company’s products, services and investment in university football.
Another aspect of the commercial is to convey that C Spire is capable of enhancing wireless services via mobile satellite cell towers in places such as the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, for example, where thousands of gridiron fans gather to watch the JSU Tigers in head-to-head matchups against rivals on the turf.
Roderick Little, marching band director of the Sonic Boom, described JSU’s involvement as “excellent from a public relations standpoint.”
Furthermore, Little said, “With the Sonic Boom of the South being one of the most powerful public relations units of the university, I think it’s only right that we participate so that we can continue to represent our university in the very best light.”
As for JSU student participants, Little said this opportunity could be as close to show business as they may experience – especially with all the tailgating props, cameras and food.
“It puts students in a different type of professional mindset. We are always entertaining, so I hope this will remind them to always be at your best.”
Band members learned patience is a virtue when working with major production companies. Yet, they remained undaunted despite the lag between scenes.
“Waiting is like a great Sunday dinner,” Little said. “If you really want a good meal, you gotta wait for it to be prepared correctly. In order for the production team to get the shots they need, it must take its time and, eventually, all will come out the way they want.”
Erick Evans, an account supervisor for local marketing and branding company the Ramey Agency, represents the C Spire account. He works with a team of experts (graphic designers, art directors, copywriters and production personnel) to facilitate the strategic direction for the wireless company. Also, Evans was instrumental in keeping the tailgate commercial running smoothly and on schedule and assisting with getting appropriate shots.
“Mississippi has a strong relationship with football, and we wanted to think of a way to help C Spire be a part of that because it is a very big sponsor of football. The sport is great, but where many people come together is tailgating and the ‘fandom’ aspect of that,” Evans said.
“The point of this spot is really for us to bear hug the whole state of Mississippi and present tailgating and the energetic spirit of fans. Also, we want to show that C Spire goes above and beyond to make sure that people have a network and can use their devices in the midst of gameday.”
C Spire’s current campaign is “We Work For You,” and Evans said, “Our client is really hoping that Mississippi consumers understand that no matter what they need there is always an employee or customer service person who works for them. And, we want to make sure we’re giving universities credit and that they know we work for them, too. We love JSU. I’ve had an opportunity to work with the band on several other productions because the Sonic Boom is such an iconic group in our state. This commercial would not be the same without the Sonic Boom.”
Lead JSU drum major Abraham Duffie, a senior math education major from Detroit, described his experience in the commercial as eye opening.
“I’ve never been in a commercial before. I’ve gotten to see how behind the scenes work, especially with us doing shoots over and over again. Throughout the day, there was really good food, and I’m actually enjoying this experience that most people wouldn’t get. I’m just happy to be part of the Sonic Boom and Jackson State.”
J-Sette Niani Bailey, a junior biology major from Chicago, said her involvement was incredible, too, just by being in front of and behind the scenes because she got to see everyone running around.
“Being in this production involved smiling a lot especially with the camera being so close up on you. I also got a chance to meet different people and learn their various roles,” she said.
Bailey acknowledged that waiting and the scorching heat were the hardest parts for her. Despite the weather conditions, she said, “The show keeps going.” As well, for her, it seemed “people behind the scenes have it easier because they get to lounge and eat when they want to. Still, I’m very grateful for the experience.”
Another drum major, Johnathan Johnson, was equally thrilled by the entire experience.
Johnson, a junior computer engineering major from Chicago, said, “It’s really enlightening to see how much work and effort go into preparing these commercials. I love the passion that everyone has for creating this type of production. Although the band is used to getting a lot of attention, this is a heightened level of excitement for all of us. In no way has this experience been grueling. It’s actually been quite fun. I wish it could have been a little cooler, but it’s still very entertaining.”
So, what does the Mississippi-based C Spire firm think of JSU’s involvement and the tailgating angle?
Jim Richmond, vice president of marketing for the wireless company, said, “C Spire traditionally likes to invest its promotion dollars in places where people are passionate. Obviously, there’s a lot of passion in the state of Mississippi for football. We do things for our fans, and we want their devices to work where and when they want them to.”
A Mississippi native, Richmond said he knows Jackson State very well. “As I watched the monitors of the recordings today, you could feel the excitement driven by the Jackson State folks. It’s exciting for us to have JSU capture this spirit.”
Richmond said, “Early on, I was telling our production team – which is not from around here – what we wanted to do. We started talking to them about what Jackson State represents. Now, I’ve been watching our director today as she’s been working with the JSU folks, and she’s very excited as well. It’s going to be wonderful to see the end product. I encourage folks to follow us on Facebook and other social media sites because we’ll take photographs and videos from these shoots, and we’ll be promoting C Spire and the production prior to the commercial. If you’re a JSU fan, it’ll be something extra for you.”
Right now, it’s unclear how much the 30-second commercial that will air through the end of football season is costing C Spire, but one thing that’s clear is that appearances by the Sonic Boom, J-Settes and JSU extras are priceless.