Hey, College Football Sponsors: Read the Signs

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College Football has developed its own language.  Although you won’t find Rosetta Stone College Football hitting stores any time soon, it is indeed real.  This language manifests itself in the form of pictures and symbols many top programs use for increasingly efficient sideline communication.

Most of you have probably seen these images laminated on oversized poster boards during college football broadcasts.  Why does the the sideline look like a high school science fair, you ask?

Teams use the process of visual association with everything from presidents and pop stars to iPhone emojis as a means to facilitate player-coach communication.  More specifically, players see a coach hold up a series of meaningful images above their head and quickly translate the sequence into the next play to be run.  This system allows offenses to operate at a much higher rate than traditional methods.

The premise is simple, yet relatively new.  Then-Oregon head coach Chip Kelley was an early adopter in 2010 and used the system to run plays in quicker succession than any other program in history.  Given their widespread use in today’s college football landscape, the competitive advantages of play cards are clear.  Not so obvious, however, is the residual sponsorship potential for both brands and rights holders alike.

Pictures and symbols are equally effective at communicating information and evoking emotion.  Football programs use images that resonate with their 19-year-old players to operate more efficiently.  Brands leverage corporate logos to symbolize stories and experiences they cultivate with consumers.

Wouldn’t it make sense for brands to leverage this coaching innovation as a way to align with the passionate, interactive fans that support college football?  Brands and personalities already exist on these play-call signs without consent.  Why not regain control of your likeness and use it to create strategic partnerships with schools?

While these oversized play-call signs take up valuable real estate on stadium sidelines and television broadcasts, simple logo placement is not enough to engage today’s hyper-connected, hyper-opinionated fan.  Sponsorship makes brands champions when it enhances personal experiences for the audience.  Creative partnerships such as this one hold the requisite potential for powerful storytelling.

Imagine your Ohio State University Buckeyes throw a game-winning touchdown pass to win the Big 10 Championship Game.  In the postgame press conference, head coach Urban Meyer is asked to describe that play.  His response, “I turned to my guys and signaled in Buckeye 52 Allstate.  Luckily we were in good hands with our quarterback and receiver on that one.”  #AllstateGoodHands is a lock to trend worldwide in this scenario.

Consider the possibilities as you enjoy college football bowl season this Holiday – and keep an eye out for those wacky play cards.  You never know who, or what, you may find.

Photo: Al Tielemans, Sports Illustrated

 

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