Enterprise released the debut of its first documentary film, “The Road Through Warroad: Hockeytown USA™,” written and developed by Cannonball, and produced by Bruton Stroube. The film presents a groundbreaking advertising model – a 30-minute broadcast piece that isn’t an infomercial, but rather a brand-funded, agency-created, non-commercial short documentary film worthy of airing on a national sports network.
Here’s the full episode:
The film tells the story of Warroad, Minnesota – a small town of less than 2,000 people that has produced seven Olympic hockey players, five NHL players and more than 80 Division I college players.
Bruton Stroube worked with Cannonball, Enterprise’s creative agency of record, to bring Warroad’s story to life.
“Enterprise is the rental car company that picks you up physically, and our approach to the brand’s digital storytelling is to pick you up emotionally, too,” says Matt Collins of Cannonball, who serves as Co-Creative Director with Travis Ulmer on Enterprise’s content initiatives. “Enterprise is an official sponsor of the NHL, and we feel this grassroots hockey story is exactly the kind of video that will connect with fans of the game,” continues Collins.
Initially, the plan was to develop a 2- or 3-minute web film like most branded content pieces. “After a couple days of shooting it became clear there was so much more to this story we should tell,” remarks Travis Ulmer. “After our first weeklong shoot, we drafted a long-form outline, shared it with Enterprise, and they eagerly sent us back to Warroad to complete the story.”
The mystique of Warroad’s legacy, coupled with Enterprise’s content strategy goals, presented us as a production studio with an exciting challenge. “Creating commercial content is usually very targeted – you always have a clear objective in mind,” says Director Tim Wilson. “What was so freeing about this project was that we were able to let the story guide us. We just kept chasing what we felt like the strongest narratives were.”
Much of that chasing began with Producer Matt Siemer. “It’s one phone call at a time, one interview, one friend-of-a-friend network connection. You’re chasing down the heart of the story, but along the way you get to really know the people that live in the community.”
The film features interviews with current NHL winger T.J. Oshie, two-time Olympic silver medalist Gigi Marvin, U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Henry Boucha, parents, neighbors, and multiple hockey professionals that returned to their hometown to encourage the next generation of hockey players. “That has been the real payoff for me on this piece,” continues Siemer, “to see firsthand the passion and dedication that makes Warroad such a special place.”
Bruton Stroube Editor Lucas Harger comments on developing the story through post production. “The nature of this specific story really allowed itself to have texture. We had this beautifully shot footage from the production days, mixed with great archival images, mixed with 8mm footage we transferred (some of which hasn’t been seen since it was developed), mixed with hours of VHS material, mixed with radio – an ongoing list of elements. Once culled down, it was an exercise in transitioning through all these mediums, which informed the breadth and pace of the narrative.”
The new documentary premiered on NBCSN as part of the network’s Hockey Day in America coverage on Sunday, February 19, at Midnight ET/9 p.m. PT. You can watch the full episode now on NBCSports.com.
Producer: Matt Siemer
Director: Tim Wilson
Director of Photography: James McKenzie
Editor: Lucas Harger
Sound Design: Steve Horne