Writing An Effective Itinerary & Script

Writing An Effective Itinerary & Script

The most important part of a successful game production is the itinerary and script.  The itinerary sets forth your planned events for the game, while the script brings it all together.  You can have a great layout of promotions, but if the script is written poorly, people won’t know what you’re talking about. Developing Your

The most important part of a successful game production is the itinerary and script.  The itinerary sets forth your planned events for the game, while the script brings it all together.  You can have a great layout of promotions, but if the script is written poorly, people won’t know what you’re talking about.

Developing Your Itinerary

When setting your script, identify the following elements:

  • On-field promotions – these are where you find contestants and they compete against each other for a prize
  • In-game promotions – these are promotions in which one fan is selected to interact with a video element or interactive event using game operations staff
  • In-game contests – these are contests that open up winning a prize to fans who want to compete.  These kinds of contests are typically lucky numbers in the programs, trivia-style questions in which the announcer reads the questions and fans guess by placing their answers in a box, lucky seat locations, etc.
  • Public Address announcements – informational announcements that also include sponsor reads
  • Sponsored Elements – these are the elements that are sponsored, but not necessarily scripted for specific times such as pitching changes, three pointers, substitutions, foul balls, timeouts, etc.
  • Intermission Elements – typically, longer promotions or videos, can also include sponsor announcements or filled with music
  • Floaters – these are elements that can be done at any downtime during the game or could be moved to an intermission

Once you have identified each element, place them into columns so you have an idea of what you’re going to be working with.  With each element, you will also identify the length of the element (P. A. announcements should typically be 10-, 15-, 30- or 45-second elements), the sponsor of the element and any required timing of the element.

Indicate when in your production each element should be performed.  Pre-game, In-game, Post Game or Floater.  Then organize all announcements into those categories.

This organization will help with laying out your itinerary.  Depending on the sport, you’ll now organize your itinerary by segments.  In baseball & softball, create blocks for each inning break.  Personally, we use middle & end rather than top & bottom, this better indicates where you are in each inning in progressive order rather than before.  For college basketball, most media timeouts occur at the first whistle under 16:00, 12:00, 8:00 and 4:00 with an extended media timeout at the first called timeout of the second half.  Hockey can have varying media rules, some leagues have a media timeout at 10:00, while the NHL does their media timeouts at the first whistle (non-icing, non-goal) under 14:00, 10:00 and 6:00.

For each block, you will want to include the type of timeout, item number, announcement name, time, duration, announcement, video information, audio information, and additional information as needed.  In the picture below, you’ll see the script we used during the NCAA Division-III basketball national championship game.  Each element is laid out from the start of warm-up.  Time is in reference to the time of day, while E +/- is the scoreboard clock (electronic time, indicates time remaining, or time after expiration).  Run is the run time of each element, Audio to indicate where audio originates, Video is the video element for the video board and SFX was used to indicate special effects elements that were used during the tournament.

Script used for the 2015 NCAA Division-III Basketball National Championship Game

Script used for the 2015 NCAA Division-III Basketball National Championship Game

In the above example, you can see how items were scheduled to the second, along with the time on the scoreboard.  This allows for a redundancy in case something happens with the electronic clock.  One area that can provide overlap is item #6 which was a five-minute video.  In the column for audio you see “MUSIC”, however we could have dropped some announcements into this space.  When timing the P. A. announcements, read each announcement on a sound system or in a game simulation at least three times to get an accurate timing.  Most pregames will take several pages to work through, that’s ok.

In-game script for the 2015 NCAA Division-III men's basketball national championship game.

In-game script for the 2015 NCAA Division-III men’s basketball national championship game.

In the above picture, you’ll see the in-game timing.  Notice the time has now switched to scoreboard time, while the electronic clock time we leave blank to write in the exact time.  This helps with proof-of-performance for your marketing folks as you can tell them exactly what time you did certain elements.

The first media timeout was for the Elite 89 award which had yet to be officially announced when the script was written.  On the final copy, this was written in by hand and took 45 seconds.  This was followed by a video, then an open element which was used for “Fan Cam”.  Anything could have been added to this area and it was left open for a reason.

The second media timeout was our salute to the troops, a military salute which was originally scheduled before the game, however has a much better effect during a media timeout.  It was very well received by the fans.  The 60-second video rolled and we added a pre-recorded song to the video in place of the video’s audio.  The announcement was made, and fans applauded creating a great crowd shot opportunity.

The third media timeout was video heavy.  One thing of note in each timeout, is a buffer at the end in case something went wrong.  Working buffers in allows you to add floater elements as necessary or make fan announcements.  Without the buffer, the bands or music don’t have chance to play allowing fans to breathe a little before the game begins again.

Now that you have a chance to see how we lay out a script and itinerary, it’s important to understand the various elements.  You’ve learned about buffers which you want to make sure to build in after on-field promotions.  When you have the unknown element of a live shot with people who aren’t in game operations, you leave yourself open to chance happenings.  Rather than getting caught on the field when the officials want the game to start, you’ve built in time for mistakes.

Creating Order in Your Blocks

There is a certain formula that we like to use for combined timeouts.  These are timeouts that aren’t taken up by one promotion or sponsor.  In timed sports, you have a few options

  1. Announcement, Video, Live Cam
  2. Announcement, Video, Announcement
  3. Video, Fan Cam
  4. Video, Announcement, Live Cam

The first two bring you into the timeout easy elements, with the video in the middle.  Easy elements create a solid buffer to get you back into the game.  The third gives you that buffer at the end of a longer video.  The fourth can be clunky unless it’s done right.  Sometimes, you use a video to preface an announcement that then leads to a live shot.  When all are together, that’s fine.  However, if you run a video for a car dealership, then an announcement about another sponsor, then go to a live camera, it comes off awkward.

In baseball or softball, combined timeouts can fall the same way as above, with one difference,

  1. Announcement, Video, Live Cam
  2. Announcement, Video, Announcement
  3. Video, Fan Cam
  4. Video, Announcement, Live Cam
  5. Announcement Heavy
  6. Video Heavy

Announcement Heavy timeouts are just that, all announcements.  We’ve used these before for longer announcements, or to get three sponsors in during one timeout so they can be recognized.  Announcement Heavy timeouts typically don’t have any music planned for the end.

Video Heavy timeouts are all filled with videos and come out to the announcement of the leadoff batter.


Now that you have your elements laid out, it’s time to write the words your announcer or emcee will use.  Remember, if you’ve budgeted 30 seconds of time, you can say a lot but not too much.  The important parts of the announcement are WHO is the sponsor, and WHAT are they sponsoring.  You’ll also want to tell fans WHERE they can contact the sponsor, WHY they should contact and HOW they can contact.  With the advent of the internet, WHEN isn’t necessary unless there is a call-to-action (“save for the next week”, “stop in all month”, “join us for happy hour”, etc.)

“Metro DC DJs is the official DJ company of the Cavaliers.  Metro DC DJs has DJs to bring your next wedding reception, corporate party, birthday or any other event, to the next level.  Call (703) 398-5343 or get a quote online at MetroDCDJs.com.”

Shorter “drops” which are typically 10-15 seconds should be reserved for either a repeat sponsor, as support for a previous announcement that set-up the subsequent drops.  Drops can also be used for familiar sponsors, but not recommended for someone trying to get exposure.

“This foul ball brought to you by ABC Auto Glass” or “This strikeout is brought to you by Happy’s Restaurant”.

Make sure not to get too technical with your wording.  If it’s hard for the announcer to read, it will be hard to understand.  Wordiness and redundancies also cause problems for announcers and take up valuable time.

“Bill’s Buffet is the official buffet of Cavaliers baseball and proud to host East High School fans on Fridays, or any time the Cavaliers play” vs. “Bill’s Buffet, the official buffet of the Cavaliers.  Stop by Fridays or any time the Cavaliers play”

Both say the same thing, one makes it short and sweet.  Remember, when writing ads, make sure you tell people what they should know.  If you have a company whose name doesn’t obviously reflect what they do, then make sure to add it right after the company name.

“Jeff, Harrison, Keene and Associates, the official computer consulting firm of the …”

You’re creating name recognition which is what the sponsor wants.

Further Advice

  1. Communicate.  Make sure all the people that need to know what’s going on, know.  Ask questions and get feedback.  Communication is very important to a successful script.
  2. Don’t be afraid to make changes on the fly.  Things happen, it’s going to happen that something won’t come off when needed.  Build in time later in the game to recover.
  3. Recurring announcements need to be prefaced early in the game.  First timeout, first inning break, etc.  Make sure if you say, “this foul ball is sponsored by” your announcer has already given the details.  If you miss the first chance, do it as soon as possible.
  4. Build in time for mistakes.  Yes, it’s said in number one, but it needs to said again.  Whether you have intermissions to recover, or have an entire open timeout that you can add something to later, make sure you give yourself that buffer zone.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Want to see if something works, give it a shot.  The worst that can happen is you go, “Yeah, we won’t do that again.”
  6. Don’t put similar sponsors in the same timeout.  Don’t announce an ad for a car company, then combine it with another car company.  Do the car company and carwash.  Do a restaurant and department store.  You get the idea.
  7. Factor in time for set-up of on-field promotions.  Yeah, the sumo wrestling is 30 seconds, but it takes time to get the contestants on the field and off.  While they’re coming on the field, the announcer should be announcing what is coming up and the rules so you can get started quickly.
  8. Have your stage manager go over the rules with the contestants and repeat if necessary before coming on to the field or court.  This goes along with communication, it’s very important.
  9. Don’t get upset at mistakes, they happen.  Just move on and try to get in what you need to get in.
  10. Watch and see what others do, learn from their mistakes, learn from their successes.  You can always take something that someone else does and create your own promotion.  Like Mike Veeck said, “Take something someone does, and make it 10% better.”
Jarrod Wronski

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