A new commercial campaign for Vanderbilt University’s athletic department reimagines a practice field and workout facility as a proving grounds for victory. One spot, “Limits,” was artfully directed by STORY’s David Orr for Birmingham agency Luckie & Company. It presents de-saturated images of football players lifting weights and engaging in drills with words such as “perseverance” and “dedication” woven into the backgrounds. A second spot, “Pull,” centers on two athletes playing tug of war with a tire as teammates cheer.
Themed “Game Changer,” the campaign is aimed at altering Vanderbilt’s image as an underdog in the Southeastern Conference. “The story is told through simple, poignant images,” Luckie & Company associate creative director Andy Odum explained. “What they represent is unique within the category, and it’s something Vanderbilt can own. Everybody at Luckie & Company, Vanderbilt and Story is excited about what we have created.”
Due to class and practice schedules, Orr’s time with the student athletes was limited. For the tug of war scene, the director had players for only 90 minutes. To make the most of their time, Orr meticulously planned every shot and choreographed the production to limit the number of times he would need to move gear.
“We made sure that, every moment we had with the athletes, we were shooting,” Orr said. “We worked out a strategy where we were continually moving the camera closer. We’d start on a dolly, then move to a ladder for an overhead shot, then go to a hand-held close-up. We had a strict list of shots that we had to get, but we also left time for those moments you can’t see coming but are often the best.”
Orr used a psychological ploy to get the performance he wanted from the tug of war sequence. He asked the strongest athlete on the team to lose. “He was not happy about being cast as the loser because, usually, he wins,” Orr said. “His expression speaks volumes. It was perfect.”
Odum noted that Luckie & Company had previously worked with Orr on a campaign for Regions Bank, and was impressed with his efficiency and design skills. “We knew he would be the perfect director for Vanderbilt,” Odum said. “And, he didn’t disappoint. In true David Orr fashion, he went above and beyond in his preparation, which allowed us to cover a lot of ground and get more coverage than we had originally planned. On top of that, his collaborative nature, conceptual thinking and visual sense resulted in a powerful, memorable spot.”