By Marlon Pitter
A connection with roots in the Art & Design Department led a trio of graphic design alumni to showcase its work on one of the biggest stages in sports and entertainment.
Derek Kunze ’16, Otto Setiajita ’18 and Julien Saliba ’19 – three of the four motion graphic designers for Boston-based online sports betting platform DraftKings – all played a role in marketing their company during the 2023 Super Bowl.
Creating the graphics for a star-studded commercial featuring Kevin Hart, David Ortiz, Tony Hawk, Ludacris and others was a special experience in his career with DraftKings, Kunze says.
“In the context of the Super Bowl, it’s a small placement, but it’s still a great feeling nonetheless,” he says.
The commercial aired in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, which drew in 113 million viewers.
The team created a motion graphic featuring Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles helmets facing the Super Bowl logo, a pop-up text bubble and legal disclaimers for the 30-second advertisement.
With sports betting now legalized in Massachusetts, Kunze says the commercial will be a catalyst for the company’s marketing strategies.
“It was really exciting for me to be a part of the team that was working with this talent, but that moment also gets to explode outwards into the rest of our marketing campaigns,” he says.
Kunze began working at DraftKings in February 2018 as a graphic designer. As the company grew into a leader in its industry, so did opportunities for fellow River Hawks to join the design team. Setiajita landed a job with the company in August 2018, and Saliba was hired the following summer.
Saliba says his opportunity to work at DraftKings came through meeting Kunze and Setiajita during a networking event for art students and alumni before he graduated.
“That was pretty much how I got my foot in the door here – knowing Derek and Otto and being connected officially through (Assoc. Teaching Prof.) Regina Milan’s recommendation,” he says. “From there, it was whether or not (DraftKings) was a good fit, which it was.”
Saliba transferred from UMass Amherst, where he studied mechanical engineering, but said he found strong support from the Art & Design Department once he changed his major at UMass Lowell. He added a concentration in animation and interactive media along the way.
“My experience at UML is pretty much the reason I'm here today,” he says. “The (professors) made such a huge difference. I'm very thankful that the choice I made back then paid off and I ended up in a place where I'm happy.”
While all three are casual sports fans, they also had experience in sports marketing before working for DraftKings. Each completed graphic design internships at the Campus Recreation Center as undergraduates.
For Setiajita, the visual elements are his top priority for his work, regardless of the sport.
“I like esports and video games a lot more, but the parallel (between) the art and graphics and how it all comes together is there, and that’s what my inspiration for the work is,” he says.
The trio has navigated the challenges of a global shutdown of sports during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, an increased workload due to growing demand.
During stressful times, such as the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, they have been able to rely on each other both personally and professionally.
“It helps a lot to have a team like that,” Saliba says. “You don’t have to have gone to school with them, but we have that foundation, and having that bond is a huge help.”