Justin King (second from right) and the USC athletic creative media team stand outside of Williams-Brice Stadium. It takes the entire crew to cover the whole athletic department. Photo by Nate Shirley
It’s 9 a.m. on Carolina-Clemson game day, and as fans wake up to watch College Gameday on ESPN, Justin King and his creative media staff are ready to post their “game day” video on social media.
This is only the beginning of a long day of “organized chaos” for the Gamecock creative media team.
The game officially kicks off at 7:30 p.m., but at 3 p.m. the media team is already at Williams-Brice Stadium. After they arrive, team members pick up a helmet and place it on the field to post their traditional helmet picture.
Then, at 5:20 p.m., it’s time for Gamecock Walk. King, who for three years has set the Gamecocks apart for its social media presence, and crew capture hundreds of fans lined up to welcome the football team to the stadium.
Next, it’s all hands on deck at the field pregame and during the game. The creative media team dashes around the field trying to catch whatever good content they can.
“It usually involves us running around like the wacky inflatable arms people, basically like that,” King said.
Even though the game Saturday did not end the way that the Gamecocks wanted to, there is always a plan for how the crew handles how they get content out postgame.
“Right away we will do our wins graphic,” King, who heads the creative media team for the athletic department, said. “Then, we will do things that we captured but in order, a field scene, then a locker room scene. So, we shoot it and then I run and sit down and start editing. Everyone knows that if you have something good, export it, get it to me.”
Away games, on the other hand, are tricky for the team. King and his team are also responsible for shooting the coaches show after the game. This means that they will be one of the last ones to get on the bus to leave for the airport.
“There has been one or two times that I have been a little nervous,” King said. “Missouri 2017, right when I first started, we almost got left. The bus was leaving, and we were like ‘No!’ trying to chase it down. So away games are harder.”
King admits he has gotten used to working quickly for home games, but he’s always looking for ways to expedite the process.
His time in the industry has given him experience and knowledge that is utilized by his team daily. His “definition of quality” has changed over the years.
“Quality doesn’t mean it was shot with one of these cameras super steady, or with a shallow depth of field, that’s not quality.” He now defines quality with three questions; “Is it entertaining? Does it capture the moment? Does it take people where they want to go?”
The creative media team consists of 10 full-time employees who are working around the clock to make sure each athletic team at the university can be as successful as possible.
King is widely known for hype videos he made during the glory years of Gamecock football from 2010-2014. Many Gamecock fans remember the videos he made after wins over Georgia and Clemson in 2012.
The hype videos started as a hobby for King while he was a student at the university. He graduated in 2010.
“I liked South Carolina football and I liked making videos,” King said. “I just wanted to make some videos that I liked. Then, I would put them up on YouTube and people reacted to it well.”
Besides working at USC, King has worked for ESPN and Al.com. In 2017, he returned to his alma mater as Associate AD and head of the new and creative media department. That same year he was selected by 247Sports for their “30 Under 30” list of rising stars in the college football industry.
“Wild, challenging, and fun,” King said of his journey through his career. “Lucky would be the right word. I’ve been able to surround myself with people who are just more talented than I am, smarter than I am.”
Austin Koon, who earlier worked for the creative media team, has nothing but good things to say about his time with the team.
“It was unbelievable,” Koon said. “Justin is the man. He’s just a phenomenal guy and extremely talented. Not just with the way he creates videos, but with the way he manages. He does it at 100 percent and gives full effort.”
Collaboration remains a huge part of his job running the department. Of all the content the team posts, King said “there’s zero things that are individual.” One member of the team King relies on frequently is Jayson Jeffers.
Jeffers, a graphic designer for Gamecock football, has worked full-time with King for four years.
“Justin is somebody who is super passionate about his job,” Jeffers said. “He went here; he’s from the state. You are not going to find anybody else that is that passionate about their job anywhere. I feel like Justin lives and breathes this.”
Many people see the videos and graphics that King and his team put up on the athletic teams’ social media pages, but that’s only one of the many things that the team is responsible for — they also play a key role in recruiting.
Their help with recruiting includes making graphics to send out to recruits and doing photoshoots while players are on campus. King and his crew focus on making each recruit feel like they are at home and have the best possible experience during their visit.
“It’s important that they have fun and that they feel what it’s like to be here,” King said. “I’ve learned over the years that we literally have to just be ourselves.”
Jeffers said during camp season in June, he and the rest of the team were in the building nearly every day in June doing photo shoots.
“Recruiting is a year-round thing,” Jeffers said. “Coach (Justin) Stepp came up to us earlier and one of his former guys just signed a big contract in the NFL. So, he was like ‘Can we do something about that?’ So, we will just make a quick hitter type of thing. It’s just making these kids feel cool on graphics and photos.”
King’s creative growth comes from both first-hand experiences and through studying other content. King said he has dissected movie trailers, figuring out what works and why it does, in order to produce better content himself.
Not everything they create is seen or even used, as many of their creations are either used internally or don’t get to be used at all. “For everything people see there’s probably five things they don’t,” King said.
King describes the work as more of a lifestyle than a job — working in sports often requires unorthodox hours and many late nights. While he’s working on striking a balance, he said that “working in sports it’s just going to be that way regardless.”
Another challenge the team faced this season was adjusting to a new football coaching staff.
While a near complete overhaul of the football teams coaching staff could have posed problems for his team, King said his relationship with first-year head coach Shane Beamer has gotten off to a great start.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d want to work for more than Shane Beamer, and I’ve had a lot of cool, really good bosses,” said King. “He’s awesome with us. He understands the point of what we do, and he understands how we operate.”
King also has been impressed with how “genuine” and “down to earth” the coach is. “We don’t create a message around him, we just document it,” King said. “He is who he is, and who he is is pretty damn amazing. We’re lucky to have him.”
Football does take an army to produce the content that King and his team produce. As far as the other sports go, King just hired a creative media producer for women’s basketball and a producer for the men’s basketball team.
Throughout his career, King has created lots of content ranging across a wide variety of sports. He said it is too difficult for him to select a favorite piece of work, likening it to “picking a favorite kid.”
While it may seem hectic at times while they work, “there is nothing that happens in this room that’s not intentional,” King said.
With football season soon to end, King and his team will not have much of an off-season. They will be getting ready for the early signing day and off-season workouts.
Once the spring comes, there will be the February signing day and spring football. The only real downtime that the creative team gets is around July when camp season is done in June.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” King said. “As soon as we are done with this, we will turn our attention to signing day. We just focus on recruiting during that period of time.”
The USC creative media suite is located in the Long Family Football Center, just down the hall from the football coaches offices. The creative media team covers all South Carolina athletics, although their central location is in the football facility. Photo by Nate Shirley
Justin King works in his office in the creative media suite. King is the leader of the creative media team and works closely with them to create their content. Photo by Alex Jones
Staff members who have moved on with their careers are honored on a wall in the work room. “Every single one of those people built this,” King said. Photo by Alex Jones
Football graphic designer Jayson Jeffers participates in a Thanksgiving week meeting over Zoom, connecting the team virtually while members travel back to Columbia for the rivalry week game. Photo by Nate Shirley
So much room for activities! pic.twitter.com/503NkyMvxg
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) November 9, 2021
The creative media suite was officially named the Salvage Family Creative Media Work Room by the board of trustees in 2020 in honor of the family’s donation to the university. Photo by Alex Jones
This graphic was made by the team ahead of the Auburn game. This is an example of one of the many graphics the team circulates throughout the season. Graphic courtesy of the South Carolina creative media team
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Nate Shirley is a multimedia journalist student from Charleston, South Carolina graduating in May. He spent the 2021 summer as the social media intern for the Hall Management Group, writing blog and Instagram posts for Halls Chophouse Columbia. Shirley has also worked for The Daily Gamecock as a sports reporter covering a wide variety of events including football, baseball and tennis. He hopes to report for a professional or collegiate sports team as a beat writer
Alex Jones is a senior multimedia journalism student from Hampton, South Carolina. After he graduates from the University of South Carolina in December, Jones aspires to become a sports writer covering any college sport. Jones has always enjoyed watching sports, and he also played three sports while he was in high school. During the past two summers, Jones has interned with the Hampton County Guardian covering sports and also freelancing on other stories about the county. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends and traveling to see different places.