Turner Sports and Sam Grubbs Made the Craziest Rube Goldberg Machine for March Madness
Through the years, many marketers, most notably Honda, have created elaborate Rube Goldberg machines and imagery for their commercials. But few have done so with the spunk and flair of Turner Sports, which devised an outlandishly elaborate NCAA men's basketball tournament set-up symbolizing the wild twists and turns associated with March Madness.
The mind-bending two-and-a-half-minute film below, shot in a single take after three weeks of planning and construction, teases game broadcasts across Turner, CBS Sports and truTV. Turner's in-house team and TikTok creator Sam Grubbs developed the spot, dubbed "Made for Madness," and it's a marvel to behold.
You'll see wild stuff involving beer kegs, team chachkas, hoops paraphernalia, oil drums, tom-toms and assorted other musical instruments, basketballs, bowling balls, golf balls, player photos, scores of multicolored dominos, umbrellas ... and that's just the first 60 seconds!
The concept originated with Drew Watkins, svp and creative director at Turner Sports, who recently assumed oversight of Bleacher Report Studios, with its House of Highlights social platform focusing on viral video clips.
The team wanted to harness such influencer-driven energy and "thought it would be a good idea to tap into this unique side of content for the broadcast intro," Turner Sports director and producer Craig Murray tells Muse. "We knew it could be an engaging way to capture the feeling of March Madness."
They tapped Grubbs, a video visionary with 7.2 million TikTok followers, as lead designer. Early discussions revolved around shorter stunts, but the notion of constructing a massive Rube Goldberg device proved too tempting to ignore.
Working 14-hour days in a 16,000-square-foot Charlotte, N.C., warehouse, the crew puts on an exhibition that's visually stunning, yet retains a certain homemade charm. The film mirrors the struggle of a gifted underdog striving to score against heavy odds and taking big chances to pull out the win.
"Every element to build this machine was practical," Murray recalls. "We wanted it to have that raw DIY feel to it." A custom arrangement of the Kinks "All Day and All of the Night" drives the visuals with "college pep band" energy.
Some highlights of the complex production, in order of appearance, include:
• The opening brackets themselves, suspended above the warehouse floor, representing the entire 64-team tournament. Grubbs dropped 64 golf balls 15 feet from those brackets to set the entire Goldberg device in motion.
• A pond with a floating basketball court. Note the fans in the stands, providing a true arena feel.
• Stop-motion photos spinning on popsicle sticks. Grubbs employed mousetraps, a Hot Wheels track, golf balls and dominoes to achieve this impressive effect.
• Big-ass rolling barrels bearing the smiley faces of March Madness broadcasters Clark Kellogg, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.
• A home-movie projection sequence, triggered using a mousetrap, falling brick and power drill.
• The big finale, with mousetraps and weighted blocks operating scissors that cut down the net. (How else should the tournament end?)
Drew Watkins – Executive Creative Director, Turner Sports
Craig Murray – Director and Producer, Turner Sports
Mark Jackson – Editor, Turner Sports
David Henshaw – Sound Designer, Turner Sports
Sarah Meneely – Production Manager, Turner Sports
Samuel Grubbs – Lead Designer
Jesse Connor – Designer
Daniel Hart – Designer
Zac Gibson – Designer
Andy Townsend – Designer
Andrew Raynor – Designer
Allison Grubbs – Designer
Jordan McMonagle – Director of Photography
Kairo – Music Composer