On 10th January, more than two million viewers huddled around the television for 'NFL on NickPlay', a wacky, slime-filled simulcast of the Wild Card playoff contest between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints. The kid-friendly TV event marked the first-ever broadcast of an NFL game on Nickelodeon, while reimagining sports broadcasting with 'Nickified' augmented reality and colour commentary by Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson, and Nick star Gabrielle Neveah Green. Nickelodeon’s simulcast aired live alongside the official CBS presentation of the game.
Aside from all the in-game drama, viewers were kept on their toes waiting for the next silly antic - from googly eyes bulging out of the helmets to slime cannons erupting on touchdowns to SpongeBob poking his head between the goal posts, and much more.
“There has never been a live sports experience quite like this on television, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from audiences of all ages,” said Kurt Hartman, VP of animation and motion graphics for Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Nick@Nite. “Not only was it Nick’s premier splash into major sports, but also it marks the first time an NFL game was simulcasted on two completely different networks.”
Creative company Elevation
worked closely with Nickelodeon to develop the branding for the 'NFL on NickPlay', which aims to attract a younger generation to discover the excitement of the NFL in a fun and educational way. Their comprehensive branding and design toolkit included a logo, type treatments, iconography, graphics, and a colour palette — all unified to live across Nickelodeon’s digital, social and broadcast channels.
In setting the tone for 'NFL on NickPlay', Nickelodeon’s classic orange and slime-green colours served as a jumping-off point. From there, Elevation took to bubbly iconography and kid-friendly, football-themed visuals, as well as the network’s catalogue of iconic characters.
“Bridging the gap between the NFL and Nickelodeon audiences, the visual language for this package emphasises the fun of the game while still maintaining the marquee feel of a big sporting event,” said Elevation art director, Dianne Frisbee. “Striking that balance played into every creative choice and, of course, we ‘Nickified’ everything we possibly could, which meant lots of slime!”
The 'NFL on NickPlay' logo zeroes in on a slab serif font with thick, block-like letters, while game-inspired textures - turf, footballs, and jerseys - ramped up the playfulness. Incorporating a mix of 2D and 3D animation in the package reinforced that balance. With the branding and broadcast toolkit in great shape, Elevation handed off the assets to Nick’s in-house creative team. Here, Elevation also provided animation tests defining the motion behaviour for the in-game graphics for the live broadcast and promo materials.
“Nickelodeon and the NFL have tapped into something that just may come to redefine live sports on TV as we know it,” said Elevation executive producer, Steph Carson. “We are thrilled with how it turned out and how they welcomed us as a true extension of their team.”
Nickelodeon next focused its efforts on the game-day logistics, working closely with CBS Sports and SMT, which specialises in real-time and wireless data and display systems for major sporting events. This included developing a pipeline between Nickelodeon animators in their NYC offices and the CBS Sports on-site media team in New Orleans to send and receive clips in real time and apply Nick-themed graphics that would air moments later. In total, 125 clips - amounting to 22 minutes of animation - were aired over the course of the game.
“We found a way to make the sport funny and irreverent, taking the business part out of the game for kids, but never losing sight that real football fans were also watching and enjoying,” concludes Giancarlo Barrera, senior art director for Nickelodeon Brand Creative. “It was a completely new and incredibly ambitious approach to live television for everyone involved - creatively and technically - but we had an all-star team to put it all together in Elevation, Nickelodeon, CBS Sports, and SMT. We’re all excited to see what’s possible and what’s next.”