2021 Signing Day Phones
We’ve studied Signing Day content across the country closely for five years now at SkullSparks. We’ve also worked Signing Day for teams, creating official content and delivering the day since 2003. Our perspectives have been shaped working both sides of the event.

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

2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017

The pandemic provided additional challenges for creatives in 2020. Photos and video for Signing Day content were more difficult to source or even nonexistent for some programs. Many creative teams had to meet virtually to plan strategy and develop content.

Despite the challenges, we were again impressed by the creativity and quality of Signing Day content across FBS and FCS college football.

Here are our hits and misses:

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HIT:
Clarity
Core priority for Signing Day content? Officially announce the player has signed. Basic bio information like position, ht/wt and hometown were important. You’d think this would be obvious but not every team prioritized this enough to communicate it well. If a team didn’t share it clearly in visual form, it might have been stated in the text of the social post.

Some teams added further depth and recognized the signee’s high school coach and perhaps integrated a high school logo. These were strategic moves and resonated with the signee’s fans back home. Relationships and pipelines are built.

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HIT:
Person, Not Just Player
Background video, Q&As, family photos and direct signee messages provided an opportunity to humanize the player and share personality with fans. Although the coaches are well-acquainted with the signees, Signing Day is usually the first introduction for fans, especially for players outside the team’s traditional geographic footprint.

Although studio photos weren’t a sure-thing for creatives in 2020, many teams still managed to show the faces of signees in graphics, bringing the person out from under the helmet.

MISS:
Caricatures
As mentioned earlier, the pandemic restricted options for some teams in depicting signees. Some chose caricatures. After viewing multiple examples, it seemed difficult to achieve a style that accurately resembled the signees, looked professional and connected across multiple platforms and audiences. Cartoons at their core are simply hard to take seriously.

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HIT:
Aspirations
The team that convinced a player it could provide the best opportunity to achieve goals and dreams got the signature. We appreciated content with hope and ambition of future achievements baked in. Some teams created realistic radio calls featuring plays from the signee (often called by the real voice of the team). Others connected names on jerseys and donning the uniform as tangible goals virtually fulfilled.

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HIT:
Brand DNA
It’s tempting to veer away from a team’s core brand during events like Signing Day. While experimentation and variety are the spice of life, the audience should still be able to recognize the brand immediately on visually-competitive social feeds. Teams that focused on their unique brand DNA also didn’t allow any opening for another team to come along and do “them” better.

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HIT:
Building Team Brand
From the perspective of the signee, the most important content was their individual piece. From the perspective of a fan or future recruit, a more holistic impression of the program was built from a team’s overall creative effort. Despite a greater reliance on disparate source content in 2020, many teams managed to emphasize team brand through color, hierarchy and familiar motifs.

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HIT:
Building Player Brand
With NIL on the horizon, many teams highlighted signee social handles, developed individual logos and furthered the process of building the player’s brand. Of course, a team’s NIL strategy is itself used as a recruiting tool. We’re excited to see the next steps a team has planned once the player is on campus.

 

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HIT:
Shared Experience
Engaging content drew the audience in and shared the experience. Who wouldn’t enjoy the feeling of being recruited? Especially in 2020 with opportunities restricted, content that brought the viewer along for the ride was appreciated.

 

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HIT:
Leveraging Assets
Signing Day was an opportunity for teams to show off facilities and highlight unique gameday experiences. It was also an opportunity for programs with high-power creative teams to flex their muscle across the board.

https://twitter.com/TexasFootball/status/1339243701562978311

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HIT:
Punchy Video
After viewing just a few Signing Day videos, we quickly grew to appreciate content that didn’t waste pixels or seconds. Teams had a tight window to grab attention on social feeds and deliver their brand. Quick, punchy video had the best shot at retaining viewers.

MISS:
Repetition
Many teams used the same motion opens for multiple signee videos. On first or second viewing, they were interesting. For a fan trying to watch all 15 or 20+ in a signing class, they became tedious. We started wishing we could fast-forward and doubtlessly, so did the dedicated fan audience. Some teams varied their offerings which thankfully provided a more dynamic experience.

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HIT:
Engagement
Content that grabbed attention and engaged the audience on an emotional level had a much greater chance to shape perception and inspire action. Great content resonated beyond its initial audience with likes, comments and shares — generating greater reach. Relationships and emotional ties with the brand were deepened and strengthened.

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HIT:
Relatable
Games, music, popular culture — if you presented relatable content for a signee, chances are, it resonated with the team’s student body and future recruits too. To do this well, teams had to do their homework, sweat the details and accurately gauge their target audience.

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HIT:
Cohesiveness
Multiple moving parts have to come together for successful Signing Day presentations. Strategy is developed and content is created from different areas of the team and Athletics Department. No matter where it came from or who was responsible, the audience only understands the team brand. Great Signing Day content, whether it’s graphic design, motion or video was cohesive when viewed as a whole.

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HIT:
Perspective
The vast majority of a team’s audience are casual fans and not hard-core recruiting geeks. Most can’t know the significance any particular signee brought to the program. Several teams streamed play-by-play through live Signing Day shows complete with analysis. Others incorporated reaction from coaching staff. It was a great opportunity for teams to provide perspective — before external media would inevitably add their own spin.

https://twitter.com/LibertyFootball/status/1339179298339622913

https://twitter.com/GoBearcatsFB/status/1339229799676432384

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HIT:
Exclusivity
Signing Day is the only time Athletics Departments can compete directly with the myriad of college football recruiting sites. Normally, due to NCAA rules, official team accounts can’t mention a recruit. Some teams grabbed the opportunity to go well beyond commodity content.

MISS:
Overlooking FCS
Content from smaller teams with less staff and resources put some larger programs to shame. We hope you didn’t overlook outstanding effort from all levels of college football. We know these teams’ recruits and fans certainly appreciated it, as did we. Well done.

Naturally, opinions abound concerning content and strategy. We appreciated all the perspectives you shared with us. But most of all, we appreciated the countless hours, late nights and creative energy from you — the teams behind the teams.

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Thanks to the athletics staff working hard behind the scenes to connect fans with the teams they love.

Jason R. Matheson