It's Friday at 6:51pm on Day 5 of our swimsuit calendar shoot. I have finally stolen some alone time for the first time this week. It is also our first night off.
As I sit here with the waves gently crashing in the background, I am filled with great emotion and pride. What we have accomplished in the last 5 months is a first for the Baltimore Ravens and, right now, we're almost to the finish line – and in first place – I might add.
The idea of a swimsuit calendar has always been in the back of my head ever since my first day at the Ravens. However, the key to our success has been patience. In order to get this done, the timing had to be right…That and the simple fact that I had worn down our poor president, Dick Cass for a while on this one. I think Dick was tired of me making him look at other NFL swimsuit calendars every week. He finally approved my business plan and we were off!
The next hurdle in making this happen was finding help in financing the trip. For that, I walked across the hall to the office of our VP of Corporate Sales, Mark Burdett. Mark, who was with the Redskins before joining our organization, was already familiar with a cheerleading calendar. The great thing about Mark though is his capacity to recognize passion. He understood my enthusiasm and called in his troops to help us find the right corporate partners to get this under way.
Now, we needed to staff this trip with the right team. The obvious start was our Cheerleading director, coaches and cheerleaders – but I will get to them later, since they were already on-board from day one.
As you probably already know, the key to all successful shoots is a dynamo photographer and this search was a no-brainer. We found Shawn Hubbard a year ago and when you see his photos, I think you will agree with me when I tell you that his photographs are works of art. Yes, I am biased, but it's true. You see, aside from Shawn being very talented, he has an eye for the human interest side of the image. He captures the moment and brings you there with him. He was my next call and I think it took him 30 seconds to say yes. I left it in his hands to find an assistant. I ended up not meeting Shawn's assistant, Rob Bartlett, until 2 weeks before we left, but Rob's personality and skill were on par with Shawn's and I knew it was the right marriage. Another check off my list!
Next on my list was telling the story through video…I didn't have far to travel since Larry Rosen, our VP of Broadcasting, has an office next to mine. So I yelled over to Larry and told him our plans and Larry called in his right-hand man, Don DiRaddo, Director of Broadcasting, to make it happen. Don has been directing and managing all of our radio and TV shows for over 8 years, so he is very familiar with what we needed from him. Don instantly realized that he could use the footage from the trip to create his Cheerleading vignettes slated for our Ravens Report show this fall. Our Report show will also be airing a special "Making of the Calendar" feature during our Bye Week, so be sure to visit BaltimoreRavens.com during the season for the show date and time.
Don couldn't do this work alone, so he called in freelance shooter, Jeff Atkinson, for his expertise and talent. Jeff has been freelancing for the Ravens for over 8 years and took time out of his busy schedule in the ninth hour to help us. Also, on our trip is Matt Brevet, Broadcasting Coordinator. Matt is the behind-the-scenes guy who is editing and uploading all the video recaps and interviews about the shoot that you can find on BaltimoreRavens.com. He shoots video all day and then heads to his room for an all-nighter of editing and posting of the latest and greatest from that day, and still manages to be in a great mood.
We've got photography, check. We've got video, check. What about new media? Who is going to document this trip on a day-to-day basis? Enter the guy who "Loves His Job" the most, Dave Lang, our Web Site Coordinator. If you haven't read Dave's written blogs and watched his video blogs, then you are missing some serious insight and comedy. Dave's also the one who's been posting the photos to the site so you're able to get a little taste of what is going on behind-the-scenes and a sneak peak at what's to come in the calendar.
The wheels on this project continued to turn as several corporate partners started getting involved. Thanks to Paige Boyle, one of our Senior Account Executives in Corporate Sales, we embarked on a new and exciting relationship with Robert Andrews Salon and Spa. We needed to make sure we had the right team for our hair and make-up and Robert Andrews Salon owner Bob Zupko has assisted the Redskins with their swimsuit calendar for 7 years. Bob assembled a great team – Katie Kell, Amina Garrett-Scott, and Leanne Decker . We also invited several veteran stylists to help as well – women who have been working with our cheer team for over 10 years – Diana Sydnor, Tina Clark and Sam Bart.
Looks like we are done, huh?…No way!!! You can't have a swimsuit calendar without swimsuits…Enter Marty Teller, our Corporate Sales Coordinator, who introduced us to Brown Eyed Girl Surf Shop out of Annapolis. Gina Patia and Nancy Sweeney, from Brown Eyed Girl brought over 50 suits to our test shoot for the ladies to try on. We were now in business.
Next came jewelry…We called Smyth Jewelers, our official jewelers and long time partner of the Ravens, to see if they could help us accessorize the ladies. I am still in shock that they are letting us travel with over $50,000 in jewelry. They didn't bat an eye when I asked if they felt comfortable with us taking so much of their precious cargo with us to Punta Cana. Let me quote Brian McCullough from Smyth Jewelers when I jokingly asked him about what would happen if I got robbed? He said, "Give the robber the jewelry. We only care about your safety." Hmmm, maybe I should stage a made-up robbery as I have been eyeing some of their fabulous pieces.
The next hurdle was where to travel to shoot the calendar. Paige came to the rescue again and worked with Apple Vacations and Towson Travel to get us to our spectacular destination in the DR. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as it looked like my list was getting smaller, but I was dead wrong. Just because the trip is booked doesn't mean all your ducks fall into a row. You now have to work with DR customs, DR ground transportation and a travel company, the hotel, plus secure room locations, meeting rooms, transportation to locations, permission to use hotel equipment, permission to film on the plane, room assignments, etc, etc, and manage the hotel's expectations while on site. Not to mention the language barrier here. My list just got longer and more sleepless nights were in store.
Then, out of the blue, came my rescuer…Pam Lund, Assistant to owner Steve Bisciotti. Pam has been a huge advocate of the calendar from the day its creation got approved. Little did I know, Pam has over 25 years of expertise in destination travel for Steve's company, Allegis Group. My prayers were answered! Pam has made this trip seamless.
Pam also suggested we take some "muscle" with us for security reasons. At first, I thought she sounded like my mom, but after the hotel's General Manager decided to go toe-to-toe with Pam on us for shooting in a walkway area, I was glad Darren Sanders and Craig Singleterry from our Security Department were on-site to look after everyone.
Now for the most important part of the shoot – our Cheerleading Team – headed by Tina Galdieri. Tina brought her two assistant coaches – Tracy Ricker and Will Stokes. Combined, Tina, Tracy and Will have over 40 years of cheerleading experience so choosing the right girls and getting them to the level at which they needed to be for the shoot was easy. The difficult part for them was when I told them, due to financial reasons, we could only take the ladies needed for the 16 pages. The biggest goal for a cheerleading team is to become a "team." Not being selected can cause some people to have hurt feelings. But this is where the 40 years of expertise comes in handy because our coaches have made this squad one of the most professional cheerleading teams in the NFL. Our 40 female cheerleaders (and 18 male cheerleaders) realize that this is a business and an extension of the Ravens brand. They have put aside their feelings and, whether they were chosen or not, have supported this project from its inception. My list was getting smaller…
Sometimes the most important person of the team is the one that is behind the scenes, making it all happen. This person never expects the spotlight, but always deserves it, never complains, but has every reason to, always has a smile and does the impossible. For us, this person is Megan Collins. The woman doesn't sleep, is the nicest person alive and has the energy that my two year old has. Megan also manages the cheerleaders on a regular basis so, naturally, she was our go-to girl on this trip.
Well, my list is almost complete…From here, our next steps are getting everyone home safely and working with the team on selecting the final images that you will see in the calendar. After that, we will be getting with our Graphic Design Manager, Ken Lisse, for the creation of the calendar followed by printing. Next comes the marketing, promotion and distribution of the calendar to our team stores and local bookstores. And last on my list, of course, is to sell, sell, sell, so we have the opportunity to do this again next year.
So Raven fans, I must shamelessly plead for your help in completing my list. Visit BaltimoreRavensStore.com and pre-order your signed copy of the calendar today. Without your support, I might have to sit in Dick's office for the next seven months.