2019 Early Signing Day
We’ve covered Signing Day content across the country closely for three years now at SkullSparks. We’ve also created Signing Day content and covered the day for college football teams for 13 years, dating back to 2003. Our perspective has been shaped working both sides of the event.

Signing Day content is more important than ever in shaping perception of college football teams. Yes, content is specific to the latest class. But it’s also aimed at shaping the hearts and minds of next year’s recruits and beyond (not to mention fans who buy tickets and support the program).

Here are our hits and misses for Early Signing Day 2019:

. . . . . . .

HIT:
The Big Picture
This deceptively simple, looping motion from South Carolina illustrates the importance of Signing Day as a step in the overall journey. It’s great context for fans. Players needed no further explanation. We appreciate this concept and execution.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Motion with Stationary Text
Grabbing the eye on social with motion made sense to college football teams this Signing Day cycle. A full 86% of FBS teams utilized motion in their content mix. We appreciated motion that kept vital bio text stationary and legible while other elements did the moving.

https://twitter.com/USFFootball/status/1075466469536948224

MISS:
Legibility
Motion content draws the eye away from the actual text in a tweet. Info like signee name, position and hometown were in motion in some visuals and sometimes difficult to read, especially if GIFs were too long to loop. Which brings us to…

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Looping GIFs
Most teams shared video highlights of recruits. GIFs were popular for the actual signee announcement. Our favorites were designed to last no longer than 6.5 seconds, Twitter’s cut-off on looping. Viewers could see the content automatically as many times as they wished.

MISS:
Non-Looping GIFs

Signee announcement visuals contained loads of information. With elements moving, viewers needed time and several passes to digest all the info. GIFs longer than 6.5 seconds didn’t give any opportunity to focus on different areas of the design. Viewers only had one chance to comprehend unless they clicked to play again or refreshed their feed. Most just moved on.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Maximizing Social Real Estate
We noticed teams with content that maximized presence on our social feeds, especially when viewed on mobile. North Carolina utilized a 1:1 ratio with player motion in the background and stationary text in the foreground. No branding intro was needed with the consistent logo bug.

MISS:
Leaving Pixels on the Table
A few teams shared unusually long and narrow visuals that didn’t take advantage of Twitter’s 2:1 or 1:1 display ratios. They were difficult to view in the feed and required a tap to expand. Why force the extra step for the casual viewer?

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Quick Branding/Theme Intros
Viewers will give you just a second or two to grab their attention on social media. Consider also that most fans will view multiple examples of your signee content. We appreciated designs that showed a quick branding intro and then moved right on to the meat of the content.

MISS:
Loooooooooooong Intros

For motion content, nothing was worse than waiting for a team’s branding or Signing Day theme to drag on for more than a few seconds. Especially when we watched multiple instances of the same long intro for each signee announcement. We know you loved your design but please get to the point.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Behind-the-Scenes Content
Signing Day was an opportunity for teams to leverage their unique position. Signee info was commodity content with multiple outlets on social posting. Teams could deliver unique content available nowhere else. We liked teams that used social to bring fans and future recruits inside the program.

https://twitter.com/McNeeseFootball/status/1075446574245994496

MISS:
Signee Announcements Only

We looked at some teams accounts on Signing Day and saw only a long list of signee announcement tweets. No other content from team headquarters. This was a golden opportunity to show the human side of your coaches and the football program. Opportunity missed.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Football Accounts Utilized
It seems obvious that a team’s official football social accounts would be the places to post primary Signing Day content. Some teams shared content via their head coach’s account with commentary but re-tweeted on their football account.

https://twitter.com/LibertyFootball/status/1075387980708306944

MISS:
Tumbleweeds on Football Account

We were surprised when we visited a team’s official football account and there were no signs of Signing Day. We had to work to find content on the head coach’s account or the main athletics account.

We understand that each program has a different strategy. Just don’t expect us to understand a team not posting content (or at the very least, re-tweeting it) on the football account. Why even have a football-specific account if Signing Day content isn’t there?

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Nods to Gaming Culture
College football teams are recruiting male teenagers. Many of the guys play video games — a lot. It’s an influential design language. Teams like Oklahoma State, Ohio State and San Jose State went all-in with Signing Day themes modeled around popular games.

We thought Oklahoma State’s embrace of Red Dead Redemption 2 was especially appropriate for the Cowboys. Did you catch Pistol Pete, Boone Pickens Stadium and the Posse in the visuals?

https://twitter.com/OhioStateFB/status/1075370381286895616

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Avatars & Illustrations
In a related theme to gaming culture, several teams developed digital likenesses of their signees. We thought Boston College’s efforts were especially strong:

Player avatars in action? Even better. Check the content from Incarnate Word:

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Visual Brand Consistency
Signing Day is one of the biggest events during the year to justify its own look but we appreciated visual branding consistency from teams. During Signing Day some teams were instantly recognizable in a crowded social feed because — gasp — they looked like themselves.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Player Faces
Signing Day was an opportunity to introduce future players to the team’s fans. It was the time to humanize and show them as people — not just heights, weights and numbers. They represented optimism in the future of the program and optimism in the coaching staff. Signees will become the faces of the program. Some teams actually SHOWED their faces.

MISS:
Star Ratings
Recruits had already endured months of being branded as a three-star linebacker or two-star offensive lineman. Now that they’ve signed up for your program, their future is what they make it, right? Going a step further, aren’t you selling a successful program that develops talent?

Why would you keep tagging your new players with star ratings assigned by outside recruiting businesses? We understand acknowledging the data in text bios written up by SIDs but in your shiny visual content?

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Team, Program, Tradition
An even more evolved theme for Signing Day included the individuals contributing to the overall program. Oklahoma’s “New Wave 19” expanded on each signee’s personality meshing into one team, much like different voices come together in music. Similar to the gaming culture, music is another instantly relatable design language to the target audience.

The main message here was the “waves” of talent coming into Norman each year.

In a similar vein, Notre Dame delved into the program’s unique history and tradition with their “fighting” theme. Signees figuratively stepped into the boxing ring for the Irish.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Unique Program DNA
This is always a goal on social for brands but we applauded teams which incorporated unique program DNA into Signing Day content. Any team can hire great digital and design staff to develop slick content. But what content can’t be duplicated by other teams? What content can only your team share?

West Virginia had signees take off their helmet (points for showing the person underneath) and wave the state flag. Especially meaningful for a program that virtually represent an entire state.

Another team that represents the overall state? Huskers. Lots of deep meaning behind these Nebraska visuals including the player’s home area code on the front of the helmet. The classic scarlet helmet stripe “painted” the signee. They’re now in charge of representing the tradition in Lincoln.

Lots of competition in the state of Florida but the Gators continued to visually claim it with their teeth motif.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Anticipation
Another seemingly obvious ingredient for Signing Day content was anticipation. It’s a chance to look ahead to new possibilities for the program and new opportunities for the players. Motion from UCF featured an excited signee ready to hit the field with fans roaring in the background.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Static Content
Timing is crucial during Signing Day. We were fans of static visuals that went up as soon as the recruit’s incoming Letter of Intent was approved by the compliance staff. We also liked content that families, friends and the signees themselves could easily share across their personal social media accounts.

. . . . . . .

HIT:
Range of Content
We appreciated motion content but static content still had its place. Generally, we liked teams which had a suite of content for each signee rather than just one big piece. Some teams provided a full range for each signee with static visual, motion and video.

Check Michigan State. In video highlights, the Spartans even integrated signees onto campus landmarks.

We’re adding more observations to this list. Opinions abound concerning content and strategy. We’re always interested to hear your perspective. Let us know what trends you thought were hits and misses during 2019 Early Signing Day.

2019 Early Signing Day Archive
2018 Early Signing Day Archive
2017 Signing Day Archive

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thank you to the athletics staff working behind the scenes to connect fans with the teams they love.

Jason R. Matheson