Jacob LaPlante ’17 reflects on behind-the-scenes Super Bowl experience

As one of the lead designers on NBC’s on-air graphic design team, LaPlante created and updated graphics for Super Bowl LVI and its millions of viewers.

As an undergraduate studying cinema and television arts, Jacob LaPlante ‘17 aspired to one day work at NBC. Nearly five years later, his recent assignment with NBC Sports Group had him creating graphics for one of the most-viewed sporting events of the year – Super Bowl LVI.

LaPlante credits his on-campus experience with student media and Elon Athletics for his successful transition to his roles with NBC Sports Group.

LaPlante made a name for himself at Elon long before he landed a full-time position with NBC in fall 2018. As an Elon undergraduate, he worked closely with a team of students to create the branding for Elon News Network and designed graphics packages for Phoenix All-Access and Phoenix Vision. If a graphic ran in the McEwen studios or an Elon athletic event, LaPlante likely had a hand in its creation.

LaPlante credits his hands-on, on-campus experience for preparing him for his current position. The School of Communications pushes students to challenge themselves. For LaPlante, the motivation worked. He said his on-campus experience instilled both skill and confidence.

Professors like Max Negin and Rich Landesberg, along with other Elon faculty members, helped LaPlante develop the skillset and knowledge needed to be successful in the job market following graduation.

“I never thought I’d be in these shoes so early in my career – it was a dream when I was at Elon,” LaPlante said. “Elon and others along the way helped shape my career from graduation to what it is now.”

Leading a team of eight, LaPlante collaborated with his art director to create a polished final product for the Rams-Bengals championship game. LaPlante worked primarily on redesigning the existing graphics package and implementing new and innovative graphic elements into NBC’s telecast. He oversaw the creation of a new score bug, as well as the insert package and other visible elements. While his design process for the Super Bowl was complex and multifaceted, he credits his team’s cooperative attitude for generating strong, original ideas.

LaPlante said he is grateful for the lessons he’s learned and the experience and training he has received. In the end, his team’s work was seen by 112 million viewers, a number LaPlante said was hard to comprehend.

“I’m so fortunate to work with the legitimate ‘best in the business’… and to be thrown into a role like this was unimaginable for me – even just a couple years ago,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante saw his role transition leading up to the Super Bowl. Initially, his work focused on the score bug – the on-screen graphic displayed at the top or bottom of the television screen during a broadcast of a sporting event. But he later jumped into a leadership position for his eight-person team.

The process of redesigning the score bug started almost immediately after Super Bowl LV last spring. LaPlante and his art director zagged against the typical long, skinny bar at the bottom of the screen, opting for a layout that would include quickly digestible information.

The team asked itself questions like, “How can we push the score bug’s ability to tell the story of the game?” Then they collectively redesigned the score bug from the ground up. The sleek final design has functionalities for not only the Super Bowl, but also the upcoming season of “Sunday Night Football.”

“It doesn’t really hit you when you’re going through the design process … that our work will be seen by that amount of people, and I don’t think it has truly set in yet. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante said the biggest challenge was getting buy-in from the program’s producers and executives, since the graphic elements play such a significant role in the broadcast.

The entire design process at NBC got shifted around many times due to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and 2022 Beijing Olympics requiring work during the same time frame. The hectic year for NBC Sports Group, LaPlante and his team has finally come to an end, at least for a couple months.

LaPlante and his team now have the sizable task of transitioning the art and motion theory to fit the “Sunday Night Football” narrative. The new Super Bowl graphics packages have a long life ahead of them, and are expected to run on the next three seasons of “Sunday Night Football.”

Emmanuel Morgan ’19, who has worked with The New York Times since spring 2021, also attended Super Bowl LVI. Photo courtesy of Morgan

In nearly five years with NBC, the Elon alumnus has designed for two Olympics, a World Cup and now a Super Bowl, among other sports. With a moment to reflect, LaPlante said he views his time at Elon as influential in his success with NBC and his work preparing for this year’s Super Bowl.

“I’m incredibly thankful and appreciative of everything Elon offered over my four years there – and I can’t wait to see what current and future students will create and discover going forward,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante wasn’t the only Elon connection to Super Bowl LVI. Among the alumni working the event were Emmanuel Morgan ’19, a sports reporter for The New York Times, and Colton Cadarette, a VIP operations and event manager with Dapper Labs and a former operations coordinator with the NFL. Morgan published several bylines at the game, including “The Bengals fall short of a fairy tale ending, but still impress.

Additionally, Reagan Palombo ’24, a sport management major, attended the game as part of her internship with the Los Angeles Rams. Palombo worked with the NFL organization throughout the fall and the 2021 season.