By Steve Cotton
THE Sky Bet EFL play-offs provide some of the most dramatic moments of any football season – and our team of photographers were there to cover the matches in a different way.
Working for title sponsors Sky Bet, JMP UK director of photography Rogan Thomson and photographer Dougie Allward spent the weekend in London shooting all three matches.
But rather than focusing just on the games themselves, they had a very different brief: to capture every aspect of Sky Bet’s branding – from the build-up right through to the champagne being sprayed in the winning teams’ changing rooms.
The work had actually started before the play-off final weekend itself, with Rogan overseeing the shoots for the match-day programme covers – which either meant assigning photographers or driving to places such as Coventry, Shrewsbury and Rotherham himself.
Before the first final, Fulham’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off, our photographers arrived at Wembley more than six hours before kick-off to shoot everything from the Sky Bet branding on the approaches to the stadium to the bottles of Sky Bet-branded champagne in the hospitality areas.
During the games, they were photographing the branding within the stadium, before going on the pitch to get the key shot of the victorious teams celebrating with their Sky Bet ‘We’re going up!’ flags and banners.
From there, it was off to the victors’ changing room to catch the winning team celebrating promotion.
Rogan explained: “It was not so much about covering the action on the pitch itself – certainly not in the same way we would normally shoot a game. You can’t cover every moment of action, because the brief is very different.
“A lot of Sky Bet’s campaign in the build-up, for example, was about the emotion of the play-offs, so there were times when I was rying to shoot some good images of the fans – with Sky Bet branding around them – and that means you risk missing a key moment of action on the field.
“But part of working for the sponsor means you get an extra level of access, so you can go in places like the tunnel. Come full-time, someone from Sky Bet runs onto the pitch with the branded ‘We are going up!’ banners and it’s quite key we capture those. Those images are really important to them, so you have access to the pitch, and then to the winning team’s changing room.”
That access was, for Rogan, the highlight of the weekend.
“The best bit of that job was getting access to the winning team’s dressing room after the game,” he said. “Only one other photographer – the club photographer – gets that level of access.
“They have just been promoted – in Fulham’s case, to the Premier League in what is one of the richest games in football – so as a photographer, to be able to capture the emotion that is there in that moment is a privilege.”
While Dougie was able to shoot the game in a more conventional way, his focus was still on trying to ensuring some Sky Bet branding was visible, allowing Rogan to approach the occasion in a more commercial way.
As JMP UK managing director Joe Meredith explained: “With Rogan’s experience, he takes a slightly different approach to it rather than just an editorial approach.
“Sky Bet are a very important client of ours and I trust Rogan implicitly when it comes to looking after a client of that size and prestige. We know he is always going to go above and beyond – and the feedback, as ever, has been really positive.”
Sky Bet sponsorship executive Mike Holinski said: “The Sky Bet play-offs are one of the most exciting weekends in football and we work very closely with JMP UK to ensure not a moment goes uncaptured pre, during and post-match. The flexibility of the team at the play-off finals offers us a unique and specific approach to what they capture.
“The team are very good at working on their own initiative and always go above and beyond, which is crucial across an extremely busy weekend. The service and output was of high standard for all three finals, and we look forward to continue working with JMP UK in the future.”