This summer, JHE earned a new opportunity with FOX Sports 1. “America’s New 24 Hour Sports Network” enlisted JHE to create a fan-centered display to travel to college football games throughout the season to promote the new network. I was excited (and also a bit nervous) to take on the new challenge of managing the operation.
Moving from the special events department, the basics of producing each event were pretty similar. However, my first project in the experiential department did bring a few new challenges. Previously, it was rare to have back-to-back-to-back events. With FOX Sports 1, I am traveling almost every weekend, which has its perks – aka lots of airline miles and hotel points! Instead of ordering décor items like floral and linens, I’m now thinking about generator and lull rentals each week. It’s definitely been a learning experience!
The biggest learning curve for the team has been the unique nature of this mobile tour. With similar projects in the NASCAR world, the footprint is very consistent week-to-week, and we know the schedule well in advance which makes planning much easier. Traveling to college campuses, the footprint is different every week. We’ve dealt with grass, dirt, AstroTurf, trees, water fountains, and even foul balls outside Oregon’s baseball stadium. The schedule is also rarely solidified until a week or two prior to the event date.
However, it didn’t take long for us to adapt and create an efficient system. Every week, our crew arrives on-site, compares the rendering of the layout to what we are working with, and they get started. The guys really have it down to a science; every crew member has similar responsibilities within the display each week, so they’ve become incredibly efficient.
Once the fans have arrived and the live hits are done, I love watching the interactions within the display. As a huge Big Ten football fan, I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences in fan culture from region to region. I’ve seen logoed rain gear at University of Washington and OU-embroidered cowboy boots at University of Oklahoma. I’ve also seen some really impressive tailgates (that I wish I could take part in!).
Working with the FOX College Saturday Tour has been an incredible experience. The project is right in JHE’s wheelhouse which made our team the perfect fit to adapt to the changing conditions each week. I truly believe there is no company better fit to execute this challenge.
– Ann Krenzelok, @annkrenzelok5
Ann Krenzelok, FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports College Saturday Tour, Big 10, University of Washington, University of Oklahoma, Ohio State
Meet John Basso, the new senior manager of client services for Sprint. His responsibilities include managing The Sprint Unlimited Experience display, maintaining the partner relationship and assisting in the design of next year’s display. Prior to joining the JHE family in August 2013, Basso worked in operations at ESPN and the Charlotte Bobcats. Basso sat down to tell us how ESPN prepared him for his new role at JHE…
Before joining the JHE family, I worked as an operations producer at ESPN. I have a passion for broadcast and being a part of something relative and mainstream in today’s society of entertainment was very fulfilling. One of the coolest aspects of the job was the sense of accomplishment I always felt at the end of every show.
One of my best memories was working with the same crew on SEC football coverage for four seasons. The friendships and the level of professionalism surrounding my time on that team are filled with moments I will never forget. I also had the opportunity to work as the lead operational contact for NCAA Lacrosse and act as the main liaison on an NCAA Championship event, major basketball tournaments and college football games. I even had the opportunity to run events in Hawaii and Mexico.
I also will never forget watching my 18-month-old son playing catch with former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware who was the announcer during the football season.
Though the job sounds like it had a lot of perks (and it did), one of the biggest myths was that I got to watch so many great sporting events. Most of the time, I had to ask what the score was at the end of the game!
One of the most frequent questions I get about working at ESPN is how I got my start there, and I always tell everyone the same thing – networking. It is so important to maintain relationships. Those will in turn lead to opportunities by those who believe in you.
My responsibilities at ESPN included equipment setup, facility oversight, television compound management, client relationships and supervising the on-site remote broadcast crew for live sporting events across all ESPN networks. The scope of everything I did at ESPN is difficult to measure in words, but it was an opportunity that I know I am extremely lucky to have experienced.
I also know the opportunity helped me grow and provided a strong backbone for my career moving forward. The work prepared me for my career at JHE by building management skills in a high profile environment. The JHE family is known for their outstanding service and “whatever it takes” mentality. Coming from an environment of high standards helps me maintain the quality JHE is known for and allows me to help build the future of JHE.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
– John Basso
John Basso, Sprint, The Sprint Unlimited Experience, ESPN, Charlotte Bobcats, Andre Ware, Heisman Trophy,
Since 2004, SPEED has enlisted JHE to execute its experiential activation program at all 38 NASCAR events a year, making the display one of only two that fans can visit every week at-track. Charlie Roberts, SPEED tour manager at JHE, takes us inside a week on-the-road with the display.
Day One and Two: The week starts at the track with JHE’s professional drivers. We get four tractor trailers, one TV truck and one bus from one location to the next in a safe manner, knowing that most of the items on-board are one-of-a-kind, custom-built pieces. The JHE drivers take great pride in what they drive and what they do.
When we arrive at the track, I always keep in mind the camera shots when parking. I picture what the stage would look like set-up, taking into consideration the camera locations and the background for each shot. The drivers use their professional skills and equipment knowledge to hit the marks I give them. Sometimes it is a simple maneuver and other times, the drivers must rely on my step-by-step instructions and trust what I’m telling them to get the right angle for the best camera shot.
After all the units are parked and the client has approved, we get to build what the fans enjoy at-track and the viewer’s get to see on TV at home.
Day Three: The primary focus for day three is building the stage, backstage awning and the B-unit green room, a 53-foot Featherlite trailer with an upstairs office for the SPEED marketing team and a ground floor office for the SPEED executives and talent, including John Roberts, Kyle Petty, Rutledge Wood, Kenny Wallace, Kaitlyn Vincie, Krista Voda and Larry McReynolds. An outdooring awning serves as the green room for the show’s guests to prep and relax before show time.
Shep Lindsay, who hauls the stage, is responsible for safely building the stage each week which takes about four hours. It starts with leveling the stage, taking into account any slopes in the ground and making sure to get the trailer a minimum of four-feet off the ground. After this is complete, the floor rails are installed and the side of the trailer is opened and extended to create the 24-foot stage floor. The structure is built next, including putting each piece of roof structure and the awning in place.
After the stage build is complete, the team usually splits into groups: William Navey builds the B-unit green room; Eddie White builds and installs the display’s awnings; Kevin Banks cleans and fuels the Freightliner trailer; and I set up the fence around the perimeter. Everyone works together to get the stage elements, from speakers to signage, installed.
Day Four: We have Wednesday off to rest and enjoy the local city. Occasionally, we have a curveball, like rain or wind, which delays our progress and causes us to use the fourth day to catch up on work and complete the build.
Day Five: We use the fifth day to complete the final elements of the build. Casey Peacock, who drives the TV truck, builds it and gets it ready for the weekend’s shows. The lighting, audio and video crews arrive and build their portion of the stage, finishing before noon so our team can get the stage roof in place.
Final marketing elements are put in place, including testing the media wall to ensure all marketing screens are showing the proper social media sites and webpages. By the end of the day, we are TV ready.
Day Six: Half the crew gets Saturday off while the other half of the crew works the shows and autograph sessions for the day. We always have one person on-stage to assist the stage manager if needed and everybody else manages the crowd and escorts the talent.
The JHE crew also handles the flip which is where we take the entire look that we just built from FoxSports to RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco, including changing the stage backdrop, switching display signage and moving in additional props for Sunday’s show.
I rotate the schedule around so the crew that works on the sixth day always changes. There are no specific assignments; collectively as a team we know what needs to be done and everyone jumps in and tackles the tasks at hand. We can usually transform the entire display in one to two hours.
Day Seven: Race day. The crew that was off on Saturday works Sunday beginning with an early crew call to get ready for the two-hour RaceDay show.
Once the show wraps at noon, the entire crew comes back on-duty to strike and load out. It is important that we follow a specific order, working together and efficiently to get everything loaded.
During the strike process there is also one more show we are prepping for, Victory Lane. In the middle of the race, I head to Victory Lane to set up for the show. The show airs for about 30 minutes to an hour after the race, then I strike that set and return it back to the main stage area to finish loading out. It typically takes us seven to eight hours to strike a week’s worth of work.
The JHE team averages about 186 hours at each track before we start all over again heading out Monday morning to bring the show to the next NASCAR track.
– Charlie Roberts
SPEED, Charlie Roberts, Fox Sports, NASCAR, John Roberts, Kyle Petty, Rutledge Wood, Kenny Wallace, Kaitlyn Vincie, Krista Voda, Larry McReynolds, Featherlite, RaceDay, Sunoco, Victory Lane,
JHE has partnered with SPEED since 2004, helping the FOX Sports racing arm grow its at-track presence for NASCAR programming and marketing initiatives.
SPEED activates at 38 NASCAR races a year giving fans a chance to be part of the live shows that offer up-to-date motor sports news throughout the race weekend. SPEED Road Tour Team members, like Heather DeBeaux, make sure fans have the absolute best experience when interacting with “The Motor Sports Authority.”
In her fourth season with SPEED, DeBeaux encourages fans to stop by the stage for live shows and teaches them what to do when SPEED is live on TV. She plays music to pump up the crowd and helps NASCAR buffs make signs so their family members can see them easier at home. When she isn’t getting fans ready for a live show, she is promoting autograph sessions, handing out SPEED t-shirts and koozies and playing trivia with fans.
DeBeaux has become a well-recognized face at the track, knowing many of the consumers by first name. Fans stop by just to say hi and some even bring gifts, like platters of home-made cookies.
“Once consumers stop by the SPEED stage, they become instant fans and a part of the family,” says Heather. “Fans become friends with our tour members, the hosts and the JHE staff.”
The experience fans encounter during the weekend begins on Wednesday with the experienced JHE crew setting up the stage; while the SPEED team arrives on Thursday to set up cameras and lighting for the live shows. DeBeaux and her team arrive on Friday to set up their marketing materials and get ready for the crowds to arrive.
“If it’s your first time at a NASCAR track, the atmosphere will probably be something you have never experienced before,” DeBeux states. “It is very high energy and very loud. It’s on a whole different level than a football game.”
As a veteran of the SPEED Road Tour Team, Heather has had the chance to get to know the JHE staff and describes the set designs as “eye-catching, sharp and professional.”
“The JHE staff is the hardest working group of guys,” she says. “They are always willing to step in and help even if it is something they aren’t responsible for. Jay Howard is the nicest guy at the track and always knows everyone by their first name.”
With so much to see and do before the actual race, it’s hard to see everything. But DeBeux recommends anyone who hasn’t visited the SPEED stage stops by. “It’s unlike any other experience. You will become an instant fan.”
SPEED, NASCAR, FOX SPorts, Heather DeBeaux, SPEED Road Tour Team
Seven years ago, Freightliner executives wanted to honor those responsible for transporting each NASCAR Sprint Cup team’s precious cargo from race to race so they turned to us to create the Freightliner Challenge which involves NASCAR Nationwide as well as Sprint Cup transport drivers and spans most of the season. It showcases the drivers’ skills in a series of five events with the field being reduced after each one.
The challenge starts in Las Vegas and anyone who is a full-time transport driver is allowed to come and attempt the course. After the qualifying rounds, the top 32 in points advance to the Talladega completion. That weekend reduces the field to 16. Another eight drivers are cut in May at CMS. The final four are determined at Chicagoland Speedway in September. Then, in October, the champion is awarded numerous prizes, including a $30,000 check and trophy. Second receives $20,000, third $10,000 and fourth $5,000.
At the finals, all four drivers show up at the same time and they get to see the JHE guys run the course one time. They get to ask any question they want and then we blindfold them. They are blindfolded because if you’re really good at this you can pick up trouble spots from watching other people and you can figure out how to run parts of the course. The first time is always the hardest and we want it to be the first time for everybody.
They all have their own little tricks. It’s really great if we can run the event in cloudy conditions, because when the sun’s out it helps them because they can find shadow marks on the ground; shadows formed by the tractor or trailer and know where it will or won’t fit.
We have the best transport drivers in the industry and because our guys are so good they can build stuff these guys have never seen or imagined having to do in a truck. We have to draw them back from time to time because I don’t want to tear up JHE trucks or trailers, we don’t want to tear up the race track, and we want to finish the event.
It took the competitors two or three years to realize that if a mistake was made while running the course it needed to be corrected immediately or one’s time only became worse. Two years ago the champion won by one second and it was four seconds from first to fourth.
Freightliner, Nascar, Sprint Cup
Maintaining JHE’s transportation compliance program with 20 tractors, one motorcoach, 41 trailers, 14 small fleet vehicles, 26 ride toys and more than 75 drivers; and having them road ready and safely rolling down the highway sure keeps a girl busy.
Funny how life is … I never thought I would be working with big trucks or any trucks for that matter and now it’s my every day. I do have previous airline experience, and transportation is transportation, so I guess that’s not too much of a stretch. Only now instead of practicing air safety I’m grounded.
Managing a fleet the size of JHE’s has its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with the ever changing Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration & Department of Transportation (FMCSA) rules and regulations. One major example of this is when FMCSA announced it would change from Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) to the new initiative of Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) in June of 2010. This presented a whole new reporting system for the industry; which now includes rating the drivers along with the motor carriers. These scores affect whether or not our trucks get pulled over for random safety inspections or we get selected for a full blown on-site safety audit. We have worked really hard over the last two years to position JHE in the eyes of DOT as a safe, satisfactory operating motor carrier. We have lowered our score from 76 to 18. That’s a good thing, like golf, the lower the score the better. This lower score is a good indicator to perspective clients, insurance carriers, and the traveling public that JHE is an A+ transportation company in addition to being tops in production.
The fun doesn’t stop with DOT compliance. We also keep up with all the tax reporting, tag, registration, inspections, and licensing requirements of all of our equipment. So I also get to spend many hours at the local DMV office and sometimes a special trip to the IRS. Oh the places I go…
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job is working with our logistics coordinators. Good drivers are most productive. Putting together training programs and “best practice” policies to help raise the level of driver performance is most rewarding. The Fleet Department can make JHE look good on paper, but it’s the drivers that make it a reality.