Capturing the sports action behind the scenes

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ZANESVILLE — Storied Rivals Sports Media is part of the fabric of the regional sports landscape.

What started as an idea for owner Aaron Spragg, a former sportscaster and play-by-play talent, turned into a concept that was new in its day in 2008.

Now in its 15th year, the Zanesville-based company has gone beyond the team’s signature films and recruiting videos that have made it a mainstay.

They are much more now, a real story of evolution. In addition to their core team video and event work, the company has deep roots in the team apparel industry. It will soon add creative marketing to its portfolio as CrowdBounce Creative Media & Marketing.

The latter is the product of one of Ohio’s biggest social media campaigns – they have nearly 26,000 followers on Twitter, over 22,000 on Instagram and 29,000 on Facebook.

It took many long nights on the road to and from high school events interacting with coaches, players and fans, as well as countless hours spent mounting film production bays.

They currently cover 25 football teams and 40 schools in total across all platforms. Its reach is from Dayton to Columbus to Akron, but the biggest draw remains in the Muskingum Valley. They also work for Buckeye Trail and Meadowbrook in Guernsey County and Ridgewood in Coshocton County, in addition to four schools in Licking County and 10 in greater Columbus. Garaway, who plays in the Inter-Valley Conference with Ridgewood, is also a member school.

Storied Rivals Sports Media owner Aaron Spragg works with a videographer during a football scrum Aug. 12 at Ridgewood High School in West Lafayette.  Spragg's company, entering its 15th football season, specializes in high school team landmark movies but has expanded into multiple departments, including team apparel and marketing.

It took years and the trust of coaches and administrators who allow rare behind-the-scenes access to build. He called the popularity of product companies good old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising.

“When you post as many videos as we do, and I like to think it’s because of how they stand out, people want to know ‘who did that? “They say these guys are for hire and we want these guys, and that’s how it goes. You do something for 15 years, your hope is that it grows organically.

A graduate of John Glenn in 1999 and a journalism degree from Muskingum University in 2003, Spragg’s experience as an on-air talent and broadcaster has allowed him to build relationships with coaches and athletic directors from high schools in the region.

It has only grown over time and the company has tried to give back as much as possible.

In 2020, when COVID-19 limited crowds to 20% capacity at high school games, he wrote checks totaling $50,000 to schools that used his pay-per-view services that season. Spragg wanted to help them make up for the thousands of dollars lost in ticket sales revenue. His clothing chain, created as an alternative revenue stream for the company, also serves as a team fundraiser for the schools he covers.

It was a tough year, he said, a year he wouldn’t have survived if not for federal PPP loans and 25 schools asking his company to film their graduation procedures that weren’t open to the public. audience.

“It was our best (financially) six weeks ever,” Spragg said. “If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t know what would have happened.”

John Glenn was his first client and remains one today. The same goes for Zanesville, who followed his alma mater, having been the play-by-play voice of the basketball program for much of his time at WHIZ.

Storied Rivals Sports Media's Aaron Spragg takes a team photo after Philo's 15-2 victory over Steubenville in a 2020 Division II District Finals in Old Washington.  Spragg's company is entering its 15th season in digital media.

“Fortunately, we’ve retained our clients because we’re good at what we do, it’s part of their program,” Spragg said. “But when people reach out, we try to cover them, and that’s how we end up covering teams so far apart.”

John Glenn sporting director Michael Dunlap said many of his teams use Spragg’s company for videos and apparel as a local source, adding that both of his products are of high quality.

Their social media reach only helps to spread the successes of their teams to a wider audience.

“They are prepared to work on very tight time constraints, such as tournament t-shirts, league championships and other things that might only take a few days to turn around,” Dunlap said. “They offer sales through a digital platform which makes it easier from a school perspective.”

Responding to requests from teams wanting coverage and needing on-the-fly clothing is among the many challenges Spragg’s contingent faces on a daily basis.

The logistical challenges of running a media operation, with shooters heading in all directions across the state and working in two offices, are always an unwanted stressor. The same goes for technology and updating equipment, such as cameras and computers.

It’s also part of the concert, one that Spragg has long been familiar with.

“Without the staff we have, it wouldn’t exist,” Spragg said. “I’ve told our staff. The goal is to create a business that can professionally create and enjoy their jobs, while supporting them financially. The goal is not to earn a salary in the media is to make a living. It’s very important to me that we do that.

“Right now all of our staff are sacrificing because there are times when we have to do it to get things done,” he added. “But I think they see what we’re building.”

This includes talent development.

Spragg lamented the current academic climate within broadcast media and multimedia journalism programs, which he said has ill-prepared its students for camera operation and video capture.

This has led him to work closely with new employees who gain on-the-job experience to capture the intimate moments and highlights that schools have come to expect.

Storied Rivals owner Aaron Spragg watches a highlight with filmmaker Sean Fisher, left, at the Storied Rivals headquarters in Muskingum County Business Incubator.  The company enters its 15th football season this year, with Spragg and Fisher its most tenured employees.

The company’s alumni base includes Ryan Wise, who left to become director of creative football video at the University of Michigan. Another is employed by NFL Media and yet another at Campbellsville University.

“It validates what we’re doing,” Spragg said.

After spending much of his early years trying to be a one-man wrecking crew in terms of filming, editing and managing the business aspects of the business on a part-time basis, he got into the business. full time in 2013. .

He now delegates much of the workload to trusted lieutenant Sean Fisher and other members of the production team, including those also approaching a decade in office. Fisher has already been with the company for 10 years.

During this period, the company expanded to an office in Grandview Heights, in addition to its original facility in Newton Township, to better serve its Columbus area schools and western from Ohio.

Spragg still tours regularly, but now focuses on the business side of the operation. This includes finding corporate sponsors and expanding the teamwear operation. He will soon embark on creative marketing.

All of this with the goal of not making the same mistake others have made in the past – relying too heavily on ad revenue to stay profitable.

His ultimate goal is to build a business stable and profitable enough to pay his employees more than a living wage.

It got better over time, but he admitted it was still a work in progress.

Storied Rivals Sports Media, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary, sells team apparel as part of its alternative revenue streams.  Proceeds from sales are part of the team's fundraising.

He has made it a gospel that his employees only shoot revenue-generating events. He doesn’t want them spending time and energy on efforts that don’t help businesses financially.

This was not always the case, especially in the early years.

“I like the business side,” Spragg said. “As stressful as it sounds, I love the idea of ​​getting something done and figuring it out. Even at 15, it’s still in start-up mode and starting up.”

[email protected]; Twitter: @SamBlackburnTR

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