SEC football fan-inspired videos attract thousands
Whether it’s a Tennessee fan nearly getting KO’d by a 38-30 loss to Georgia State or Alabama learning that they’ve been kicked out of the Playoff Club, the creative minds behind “SEC Shorts” continually find ways to poke fun at every team in the Southeastern Conference.
In one week, each SEC team gets a wish from a fairy godmother, and in another week, Florida mourns the loss of their hopes at winning the SEC East while Arkansas mourns the loss of their entire football program.
Scrolling through the “SEC Shorts” YouTube page, viewers get a healthy mix of satire, homage and original concepts. Over the past five years, they have made videos that either mimic, satirize or pay tribute to everything from medical dramas to “Blue’s Clues.”
Robert Clay and Josh Snead are the two Birmingham-based film makers who created “SEC Shorts”.
Clay grew up in Birmingham and attended Auburn University, and Snead spent his childhood moving around a lot before enrolling at The University of Montevallo.
After leaving Auburn, Clay earned a master’s degree in film from the University of New Orleans, and Snead “got (his) master’s in life.” Years later, the two met while working for a video production company.
“We edited medical lectures together,” Snead says. “Just disgusting, the grossest thing you could think of medical lectures. So, for like eight hours a day, we’re looking at the grossest thing. Naturally, we were trying to find some sort of creative outlet to do something.”
That outlet first came in the form of short films and videos the two made for fun.
Then, in 2014, they heard about an opportunity on The Paul Finebaum Show for fan-submitted videos. According to Clay, most of the entries were self-filmed rants about football, but the two decided to try to make something with a little more polish and some more humor.
Five years later, “SEC Shorts” has become an independent production which routinely puts out videos that garner hundreds of thousands of views.
Now that they make videos about bowl games instead of bowel pains, the two work to connect with viewers across the Southeast.
Connecting with fans
The ultimate goal of the videos, they say, is to connect with football fans across the region by getting people to identify with their content.
“We try to make our content very identity-based,” Clay says. “If someone watches it, we want them to say, ‘’Oh, that was me watching that game,’ or ‘That’s funny, I relate to that.’”
For Clay and Snead, who are Auburn and Alabama fans respectively, the goal is to find the overarching narratives that a team or the conference goes through every year.
“[We ask] how did their season go last year?” Clay says. “How is their season going up until this point where they beat a number two ranked Georgia? Then, you’re able to turn that around and try to get in their heads a little bit.”
That’s easier for some teams than others.
“It’s a lot easier if a team is doing either really, really well or really, really bad,” Clay says. “I think it’s about trying to dive into the bigger scenario, and instead of just looking at it in terms of what happened this last game, you look at it from the perspective of what’s the pattern and how long has it been going on for.”
Keeping positive despite the pandemic
But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to worsen across the South, there is a possibility that Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare remain largely empty this year. Home to more pigeons than pigskins.
However, Clay and Snead say that while a canceled football season might be bad for their business model, it has helped them connect with more people.
“I feel like the positive we discovered is that all of a sudden, you have everyone going through the same thing, and you have a lot of ability to connect with a bigger audience,” Clay says.
In May, the two put out a video where a satirized British adventurer Bear Grylls teaches football fans how to survive in the wilderness that is a fall without college football — a situation, fake Grylls says, which is even more difficult than being a Tennessee fan for 24 hours.
In June, they dug into some historical content with an episode where the SEC teams of 1998 got their performance reviews. And in July, a “Blue’s Clues”-like kids’ show introduced viewers to Nebraska, Michigan and Texas — the blue-blooded college football dynasties that “haven’t been able to sustain a modicum of success in over a decade.”
However, the two admit that archival dives and wilderness survival shows won’t be able to sustain through the cold winter that is a fall without college football.
“I think for a little while you could get away with ‘It sucks to have football season’ type of videos, but you can only do that for so long,” Snead says.
Of course, if the pandemic refuses to let up, and football is canceled indefinitely, Clay and Snead have a dry-humored backup plan.
“I wonder if they’ll let us edit medical lectures again,” Snead asked.
A season without football would certainly be a huge difference for Snead and Clay. With games usually taking place all-day Saturday, the two basically have to spend all of Sunday writing, shooting and editing a video to be ready for Monday.
“Sundays are a blur in the football season, and it just goes by so fast because you’re just constantly moving on to the next one,” Clay says. “You’ll make a video, and you’ll both be like, ‘Oh we really liked that one! Oh, it doesn’t matter, we’ve got to go to the next one.’”
The rush, the two say, is because they are trying to participate in a regional — and occasionally national — conversation.
“I think that’s the best way to capture the moment,” Snead says. “All of our videos are based on what happened the day before. So, we want it to be up there on Monday morning when people are talking about it at work or school or whatever.”
It’s those water-cooler and homeroom discussions that Snead and Clay are trying to be a part of. The problem is that they don’t always have much of a shelf life.
“When we were doing them, we noticed that there’s this huge — it’s small — but this huge window of opportunity to capitalize on people discussing the games,” Clay says. “So, if you can, get it up by Monday morning. By Wednesday, people are looking ahead to the next game.”
And when fans begin to look ahead to the next game, Snead and Clay have to start looking ahead to the next video.
But the two say that this rigorous schedule has definitely paid off.
“Well, my car has arm rests on it now, that’s probably the biggest improvement,” Snead says.