- Presented by Northern Lights Agency

2 Minutes With ... Derek Barbanti, Creative Director at Northern Lights Agency

On work for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and lessons from the ocean and the garden

Derek Barbanti is a multi-Emmy Award winning creative director and sports marketing expert. For 10 years he produced promotional and documentary content for Showtime Networks and in-broadcast features for Showtime Sports. Creating the documentary series Fight Camp 360 and All Access for Showtime Sports allowed Barbanti to hone his producing, cinematography and directing skills.

Derek's career has been punctuated by close collaborations with some of the most iconic athletes in the world including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, and Shane Mosely. He currently writes, produces and directs a broad spectrum of assignments for the Northern Lights Agency, serving streaming and broadcast clients such as Amazon, Paramount+, Fox, NBC, ABC and YES Network, on properties including Sunday Night Football, NASCAR, the Olympics, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Yankees, as well as creating direct-to-brand content.

We spent two minutes with Derek to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Derek, tell us ...

Your favorite movie trailer or poster.

This question is a bit of a rabbit hole. I'm a fan of mid-century poster art in general, both rock and movie posters. So, I love the Basses, Struzans and Alvins of the world as much as the Stanley Mouses and Rick Griffins. Italian film posters from that era are especially beautiful—Brini and Casaro's early work comes to mind, for sure. HOWEVER, I am utterly fascinated by Eastern European movie poster art from the late '70s and '80s. If you've never looked at Polish or Czech posters from some of your favorite 80s movies, you gotta check them out. It's a trip! The way they interpret the themes of the films and the imagery that they play with is wild… and dark! When you have a chance look up the Polish B1 print for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's straight out of an American Horror Story campaign.

When it comes to trailers, 2005 was a banner year. I've always really liked the Casino Royale trailer. The way they reintroduced the character of Bond was brilliant particularly because of the new composition of the theme that takes the third act of that trailer to another level.

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on.

The production and promotion of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao in 2015 was a massive milestone for me as well as my introduction to the Northern Lights Family.  Not to mention that fight turned out to be the most watched boxing event in pay-per-view history! I had been working at Showtime Sports for 10 years, starting as a production assistant, moving on up to write, edit, even direct here and there.  So, by the time Mayweather moved from HBO to Showtime, I was creating many of the promo campaigns for the bigger PPV events, the show opens, some of the features that ran within the broadcast and online, as well as working on the docu-series, All Access.  

This was just such a high-profile event for all the stakeholders. It was more responsibility than I'd ever had before. I took a few more risks. We got a dozen celebs for one of the commercials, plus Diddy and Mark Wahlberg for the show open. I don't know, looking back it was a blur, and it was pretty cool. In retrospect, it was a sort of personal crescendo. It became the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I left Showtime a couple months later to start with Northern Lights. They had production through post capabilities with this really diverse roster of clients, so it felt like that perfect fit.  

A recent project you're proud of.

I've been a fan of the UEFA Champions League for about 15 years. Força Barça! So, when CBS and Paramount+ acquired the rights in 2020, by a stroke of luck we were able to pitch for the promotional campaign and won it. Here we are, now, having promoted my favorite tournament for over three years—each with a different look and feel. The 22-23 campaign had a great voice and an attitude that Paramount+ had established and we were able to experiment with and evolve.

One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.

We're at an inflection point, generationally and technologically. It feels almost like this is what happened when TV replaced radio, but today everything's evolving much faster. To experience it in real time is a bit of a trip. You realize, as marketers, we're not in control. In fact, today, fans and viewers are much more in control than ever before. I like that because I'd much rather connect directly with fans, it's just more fun. But since this is our profession, it can also feel a bit unsettling. It's like being on the ocean. I love being on the ocean, but make no mistake, you are not in control. You can, however, harness its energy though. So, in the immortal words of Bruce Lee we must "be like water, my friends."

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

There have been a few books that have significantly changed the way I function in the world. 

  • Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright looks at how and why some of the core tenets of Buddhism uniquely align with what we now know about our brains and how they drive behavior.Then, speaking of our brains,
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a dense but truly remarkable piece of science writing in the field of evolutionary psychology. He basically breaks down the origins of the involuntary influence our brains have on our behavior. Finally, two classics,
  • Laozi’s Dao de Jing and The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba have strongly influenced the way I interact with people for well over a decade.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

Overall, big picture… The Grateful Dead. They can't sing, but somehow, they stumbled onto the musical equation for joy. They took every other style of popular American music and created a whole new genre. It's a wonderful community of musicians and fans to feel a part of.

Your favorite fictional character. 

Indiana Jones. Hands down. I wrote an essay in third grade about how when I grew up I wanted to an archeologist, traveling the world fighting Nazis and plagiarized the entire opening sequence of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. We had been asked to write our biography from the point of view of our older selves and I felt the opening to that show pretty much summed it up. But, if you ask me, that was a pretty complex ask for a third grader.  

Someone worth following in social media.

Get off social media. I beg of you. Interact with people in real life.

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

I'm able to distill a project, show, event, campaign, whatever we're talking about, down to its core essence. I'm proud of my ability to sum up our messaging or strategy or USP in less than 10 words. Cutting through the clutter as my "step one" creates a clarity that pays dividends down the line. Afterwards we can build from there with a clearer vision, pinpointing goals, identifying target demos, creating a strategy... whatever it is we’re looking to accomplish.

Something people would find surprising about you.

I like to garden. A lot. Growing flowers, fruits or veggies is incredibly satisfying. You could spend the whole season tending a plant, walk away with only one beefsteak tomato, and it will be the best damn beefsteak tomato you've ever tasted. Plus, you're on nature's timeline of months and seasons, so it's very slow and calming. It's also a never-ending puzzle to solve… I started planning next year's veggie garden in October.  

What you'd be doing if you weren't in entertainment.

I would want to take a crack at owning/operating a BBQ restaurant a la Aaron Franklin, the brisket king of Austin. He started with a consumer grade smoker and over the course of about 10 years built the most famous barbecue brand in what is arguably the BBQ capital of the world. Now he does about 110 briskets a day and on most weekends there's a line forming at about 6am. But it's deeper than just the business side. Barbecue is a distinctly American cuisine, influenced by all groups of people who ended up here—Germans, French, Africans, Spanish, Scottish, Irish—and was always the cheaper cuts intended to be enjoyed by larger groups of people coming together to eat and drink. And that's the very basis of community.

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