The College Football Playoff on Social Media: Lessons Learned, Standout Content and Must-Read Stories

The College Football Playoff on Social Media: Tips, Standout Content and Must-Read Stories

College football fans are buzzing about the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship – but they’re not the only ones. Brands, the competing teams and the College Football Playoff itself are getting in on the action.

Let’s dive into the buzz to see what we can learn from the 2017 College Football Playoff on social media.

1. The Teams

Alabama may be the reigning champion on the field at this year’s repeat matchup with Clemson, but the Tigers set the standard for scoring on social media.

Pete Thamel’s piece for Sports Illustrated on the social media battle between Clemson and Ohio State during the Fiesta Bowl is a must-read. He walks through the Tigers’ social media strategy, which is driven by exclusive, behind-the-scenes visual content.

“The central tenet of what’s it like to be a Clemson Tiger, that drives our creative team,” Joe Galbraith, Clemson’s associate athletic director of communications told Thamel. “What’s it like going to Media Day? Or going to class? Or hanging out in the locker room? All those things we have access to and can tell the fans and recruits directly.”

For Clemson, it’s in the details. Check out these posts that give fans and recruits a unique perspective:

The team’s graphics and photos are consistent and eye catching, and their video content is fast-paced and snackable. But what makes Clemson’s social channels standout is a compelling point of view – you get to see the team as an insider.

Meanwhile, the Alabama team is painting a picture of dominance on the Crimson Tide social channels. Check out this imposing grid on the Crimson Tide Instagram:

An imposing grid on Alabama Football's Instagram.

An imposing grid on Alabama Football’s Instagram.

The 2016 champs have a consistent visual identity that mirrors the team’s powerhouse reputation. Check out these posts to get fans riled up for the big game:

As we get closer to the Championship, you can bet these two teams will be putting up a fight with brilliant social media content. After all, they’ve been training all season with clever GIFs, creative videos and stunning images. This is their moment to win.

The Takeaway: College athletics departments have a lot to learn from these two teams. As you’re planning your communications strategy for next season, study Clemson’s outside-the-box storytelling and Alabama’s consistent visual identity. And don’t forget to watch the teams on social media on game day for inspiration!

Must-read: How The College Football Playoff Teams Fared Across Social And Technology In 2016, SportTechie’s Mark J. Burns breaks down the social media efforts of all four teams in the playoffs.

Download the report: Visual Asset Management in University Athletic Departments in 2016

The College Football Playoff

As College Football Playoff went into its third season, the organization announced a stack of innovative digital initiatives, like an emoji keyboard and an augmented reality experience that lets fans take pictures with the National Championship trophy and check out past playoff highlights.

They also worked with Twitter to create custom emojis that automatically appear on hashtags like #NationalChampionship and #CFBPlayoff.

Right now, photographers are on the ground in Tampa capturing every moment leading up to the big game.

Everybody look at me cause I'm sailin' on a boat 🎶⛵️

A photo posted by College Football Playoff (@cfbplayoff) on

We talked to College Football Playoff’s Communications Coordinator Lauren Lanier at NACDA 2016 about the team’s workflow behind-the-scenes.


The Takeaway: Right now, all eyes are on the College Football Playoff, and the organization is seizing the opportunity. The team is prepared with an innovative tech stack so they’re ready to get the most impact possible from their big moment.

The Brands

The National Championship may not compare to the Super Bowl in advertising dollars yet but it just might be on its way. Increasingly, brands are getting in on the action – both on TV and on social media.

Dr. Pepper is going all in – the brand has dedicated its Instagram feed to all things tailgating. Its new Instagram tagline reads, “It’s a college football tradition 🏈🏆.”

The feed mixes funny photos spoofing college football language and imagery with a tailgating recipe video created in partnership with Tastemade.

Meanwhile, it turns out the “Most Interesting Man” is a college football fan. As the official beer of the College Football Playoff, Dos Equis is working college football into its popular branding, as in this video:

In a must-read interview about the sponsorship, Heineken USA Brand Director for Dos Equis told Sports Business Daily’s Joe Perez the brand will have a national Snapchat filter on the day of the National Championship.

And, in Atlanta, Chick-Fil-A is sharing throwback photos from the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:

During the bowl game, the brand also made waves on social media by partnering with Make-A-Wish Georgia. In a heartfelt twist on the tradition of a halftime show, the two brands made young singer’s wish come true. Andi Jones, who has a life-threatening genetic disorder, wowed the massive crowd at the Peach Bowl and thousands of fans on social media when she performed during the first quarter break.

Chick-Fil-A released this heartwarming video before the bowl game:

Then, the team used Facebook live to broadcast the performance on social media. The video engaged thousands of fans and even drove viewers to donate to a fund for Andi’s ultimate wish.

The Takeaway: All of these brands have drawn natural connections between their own messaging and the spirit and traditions of college football. As your brand joins broader conversations around events, figure out how your messaging can fit organically into the big picture.

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