Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has been the talk of the sports world this week. He lit up the NFL on Sunday, rushing for a Colts record 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He completed the regular season with 1169 rushing yards, 3rd best in the NFL in 2020. He also used his remarkable speed, agility and hand-washing skills to avoid covid all season long.
Taylor’s standout NFL season comes on the heels of a record-setting college career.
Jonathan Taylor highlights at the University of Wisconsin:
- 1st running back in college football history to rush for 6,000 yards in 3 seasons.
- 6th most rushing yards in college football history, despite only playing 3 seasons.
- Winner of the Doak Walker Award as America’s best college running back in both 2018 and 2019.
- 2 time unanimous 1st-team All-American in 2018 and 2019
In 2020, as Jonathan Taylor began his NFL career, he also began a partnership with UW Credit Union. Taylor first became a member of UW Credit Union his freshman year in Madison. It was the first bank account the Salem, New Jersey native ever had. In fact, it was Taylor who first approached UW Credit Union about a possible partnership, noting the strong connection he felt towards the brand.
Starting and Stopping
The first scheduled collaboration between Taylor and UW Credit Union was supposed to happen back in March of 2020, just before the NFL draft. JT was hosting a series of football camps for youth in Milwaukee and Madison that was sponsored by UW Credit Union. But the camps were scheduled for March 14 and 15th. Which was the weekend the coronavirus pulled the plug on all fun and games in America.
Not only were the camps canceled, the entire country went into lockdown-mode for the next 2 months. The only sports happening in America were toilet paper hunting, cleaning supply gathering, and an epic game of covid dodgeball.
One Last Chance
By the middle of summer, we had all settled into the new normal. Anne Norman, the Chief Marketing Officer of UW Credit Union approached our team at The Weaponry about the JT partnership again. She asked us if we thought we should still try to create some new content with Jonathan if logistics would allow. We said absolutely. So we contacted Team Taylor and Everett Sports Marketing, JT’s marketing agents, to see what if anything was still possible.
As it turns out, Anne’s call was well timed. JT needed to report to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts the next week. As luck would happen, he was going to be in Madison a day before that to pack up his apartment, move, and enjoy some Toppers Pizza. So we had one day to capture what we needed. However, we had less than a week to prepare.
This meant we had less than a week to figure out what we were going to do with JT, where we were going to do it, and who we were going to work with to film and photograph him. Under normal circumstances, this would be a very tight squeeze. But during the covid-era the opening was so small we didn’t know if even JT could run through it.
The location was difficult to find. The University of Wisconsin was in full lockdown mode, and wouldn’t allow anyone on campus, including the athletic facilities. Dane County put tight restrictions on gatherings of non-household-sharing humans. So we were in a tough spot.
Finally, we found a high school that would allow us to film on their football field. It is probably more accurate to say that they said, ‘We don’t want to know anything about this, but the gate might not be locked, and you might be able to get on the field if you are all masked and socially distant.’
We found a Milwaukee-based film crew that had safety protocols in place and could run a safe covid-era shoot. We tapped our good friend and great photographer Lucian MacAfee for photography duties. Now we just needed scripts to film and ideas to photograph.
This was the first time in my career that my team had locked in a shoot location and both film and photo crews before we had any ideas about what we were going to create. But then again, this was also my first pandemic.
Our creative team of Kevin Kayse and Kristyn Lilley fired off a barrage of potential video scripts for JT to deliver for social media and the UW Credit Union website. But our timing was limited. And we didn’t know how JT would be on camera, or whether he could deliver humorous ideas. Plus, we couldn’t shoot other actors with JT. To their great credit, the UW Credit Union marketing team trusted that we would come up with something. And we did.
Despite all of the twists and turns we had experienced since March, on the day of the shoot everything went according to plan. Everyone showed up at the right location at the right time. Everyone wore masks. We used long lenses that allowed JT to be a significant distance from the camera. And we rolled film.
JT was great. He was as good at working with the teleprompter as anyone I have ever worked with. He was extremely coachable and took direction well. We were pleasantly surprised that he was able to deftly deliver the light humor several of the videos required.
In fact, while we were planning on creating a series of online and social videos, we were so pleased with how they turned out that we decided to turn the videos into TV commercials as well. And the response to the spots has been great.
Here is the first commercial to air.
Here is the second commercial to air, which focuses on UW Credit Union’s mobile app.
Thanks to UW Credit Union for the opportunity to create this work. Thanks to Anne Norman, Becky Hubing and Jill Rickert of UWCU for your help at the shoot. Thanks to Rachel Everett and ESM for all your help. Thanks to producer Mandi Nodorft for pulling things together. Thanks to Lucian McAfee for all the great photography. And thanks to Jonathan Taylor for being great to work with, and funny too.