Since 2010, JHE has worked closely with NASCAR to produce the unique and unforgettable event, NASCAR After The Lap. The annual unfiltered, tell-all question-and-answer session will take place Dec. 4, 2014 at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Again this year, JHE will manage the event sweepstakes, creative elements, run of show, staging and design, ticketing in conjunction with the venue and all hospitality elements.
We sat down with the team of experts to go behind the making of NASCAR After the Lap:
ABOUT THE EXPERTS:
Natalie Epperly: Epperly has been a member of the JHE team since 2005. She currently serves as senior director of client services and has managed NASCAR After The Lap for the past three years.
James Raven: Raven has been a part of the JHE family since 2007. He currently serves as senior graphic designer of creative services and has worked on NASCAR After The Lap since JHE began producing it in 2010.
Lauren Livesay: Since 2008, Livesay has been a part of the JHE team. She currently serves as senior manager of event services and has worked on NASCAR After The Lap for the past two years.
Brian Hancock: Hancock has worked at JHE since 2008 and currently serves as director of audio engineering. He has worked on NASCAR After The Lap for the past three years.
WHAT IS THE PLANNING PROCESS FOR NASCAR AFTER THE LAP LIKE AT JHE?
Natalie Epperly: The planning process starts in June and continues until the first week of December when the event takes place. We’ve developed a system that has been so effective we’ve actually implemented it on other special events JHE produces. Each element of the production is broken down and given a team lead. The team leads then report back to me and then we report back to NASCAR weekly.
James Raven: After NASCAR provides a brief outline of what they want, their objectives and what they liked about last year’s event, the creative process begins. Our team starts developing different ideas and layouts. Then, we develop the hero poster which will dictate the look and feel of the rest of the event. We will go through several drafts, zeroing in on what NASCAR likes and dislikes, before we come to the final look. Once that’s approved, we can start on the digital elements (web banners, web layouts and e-blasts) and final signage.
Lauren Livesay: I’m responsible for managing the event run of show which takes several months to plan. Our team must figure out unique ways to integrate sponsor elements alongside relevant current topics that the drivers will want to talk about. Last year, we utilized social media quite heavily to gain insight into what each of the Chase drivers was doing off track so we could understand what a day in their life looked like and use that information to ask questions that fans would love to know.
Brian Hancock: The audio team works with the venue, NASCAR and JHE’s event producers to pull together the pieces of this event. We handle everything IT needs for social media, coordinate with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, cue the talent, plan the communication needs and run point on audio during the show to make sure the show happens as planned.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE DURING THE PLANNING STAGES?
NE: Every year, we want to make the show better than the year before. The biggest challenge is creating something new and fresh that keeps the fans excited year to year.
JR: This event is definitely one of our heavier creative processes so the biggest challenge is juggling it along with normal workflow.
LL: Coming up with questions that haven’t been asked before in previous shows.
BH: Not having access to the facility on a day-to-day basis. We get one shot to scout the venue and when you are paying attention to things like lights and rigging, you sometimes miss air conditioning vents and other little nuances. This year, the event is in the same venue so we can be a bit more prepared for the little idiosyncrasies of the space. However, like any live event you have to be flexible that something will not go 100 percent according to plan.
HOW DO YOU TRANSLATE THE CLIENT’S VISION INTO REALITY?
NE: This event is a give and take process. NASCAR is very involved in the process so we are able to get a lot of great feedback on all creative elements along the way.
JR: We use NASCAR’s feedback to develop a creative process for the event. Our expertise combined with NASCAR’s direction allows us to bring the vision to life on paper.
LL: With this event, NASCAR wants the glitz and glam of an award show mixed with the unscripted moments of a reality show. My job is to find that balance in the run of show.
BH: Our team plans and coordinates for months on this event. We work with the client to understand their vision, outside vendors to make sure everything is covered and come up with a comprehensive plan to eliminate as many unexpected elements as possible.
HOW DOES THIS EVENT SHOWCASE JHE’S EXPERTISE?
NE: I think this is one of the event’s JHE works on where everything we are experts in comes together. All of our departments – creative, event production, run of show, audio/video – are a part of the event so it showcases every aspect of the company.
JR: For our team, the pieces we create are some of the most reproduced, reprinted and reused work that we do all year. Overall, I’d say this project touches on everything JHE has to offer and truly showcases our company’s abilities.
LL: First, I think it shows how custom JHE’s staging and audio elements can be. We have produced the same event in a variety of venues which can be challenging but it also allows us to be creative. It’s also very different from producing a structured pre-race show. For opening ceremonies, we have to hit everything at a very exact moment. With NASCAR After The Lap, the show has a much more flexible flow that requires us to react to what the drivers are saying while still staying in the boundaries of the show.
BH: Overall, there are so many different parts and pieces. We handle hospitality, sweepstakes, seating assignments and everything in between. You don’t realize how much JHE is doing until you look around and see how much of our team has their hands in different “pots.” Each team member focuses on their part of the project and then it is possible for it to all come together for a spectacular show. If you are worrying about someone else’s piece of the puzzle, you aren’t putting enough energy into your aspect.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK MOST FORWARD TO ABOUT NASCAR AFTER THE LAP?
NE: I’m always excited to get on-site because that’s when everything really comes together. It’s a long planning process so when the show goes live, it’s an incredible feeling.
JR: The creative process that our entire team goes through to create the final product. It is an excellent opportunity to work on process, in-house critiques and putting out a product we can all be proud of.
LL: I love seeing the renderings come to life on the stage. It’s also great seeing the drivers interact with each other in a more laid back setting.
BH: Friday after the show. With so many moving parts, everything sits on a knife edge so it’s a sigh of relief when it’s over. The smallest thing can go wrong and make the show much more difficult. Often it’s something out of our control so we have to be flexible and adapt to any situation.