Cannes Lions

ESPN's College Football Playoff Billboard

ESPN , New York / ESPN / 2019

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College Football has the most passionate fans out of all sports fans. Only 4 teams out of 130 make it to the College Football Playoff to compete for a chance at the National Championship game. As ESPN, our goal is to garner national attention for the playoff despite College Football being a region-based sport (fans typically only follow their own teams or teams in their own area). The objective was to out 4 real fans on top of a billboard to show how "in" they are for the Playoff by competing in challenges and engaging others to vote for their team on social media. This allowed fans of other teams to find a hook (other than the teams, players, coaches and game on the field) to support one of the 4 semifinal teams.


Who's In? is our College Football Playoff tagline. We created an experience that lived into the definition of the brand ethos by having four fans live on a Billboard for 12 days to show how IN they are for their team.

Engagement with the campaign extended beyond the billboard itself, with people voting in Twitter polls to impact the fans’ experience.

As the billboard spread online and off, other brands jumped in too sending the fans food and swag to upgrade their experience.Creatively this allowed the nation to see who had the best fan base in real time.


Though college football has some of the most die-hard fans in the world, the brand challenge was to raise awareness of the Playoff among casual fans (lighter college football viewers) and generate social conversation with an audience who otherwise might not be interested. To reach an audience that wasn’t watching college football, we needed to create something that would break through into mainstream media and generate conversation about more than football.

To do it, we pulled off a marketing experience that not only showed how far college football fans would go to support their team, it provided a hook for more casual fans to get invested in.


The custom-built billboard stood some 45-feet above the ground in downtown San Jose, California, complete with a small platform where the fans could eat, sleep, and live as long as their team was in the Playoff.

From start to finish, the activation took six months from concept, to build, to execution.

Despite the footprint living in San Jose, the Billboard reached way beyond the Bay Area - reaching all 50 stats on social (as well DC & Puerto Rico) and generated local coverage throughout the country.

In addition to engaging on social and generating media coverage, the Billboard live stream generated over 7 million minutes streamed by almost 300K unique viewers.


REACH: 81MM people reached on social, 50MM impressions generated from earned media, 27 MM broadcast impressions ENGAGEMENT: 6 paid influencers generated +3.4MM total views of video content, +400K twitter poll votes, ~estimated College Football Playoff social impressions up 100% compared YoY during the same time period IMPACT: Sustained earned media coverage (at least one piece per day) for 22 consecutive day. Significant coverage from media outlets outside the sports landscape (ie. CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, GMA). Total media coverage publicity value (broadcast only) equals $4.2MM (4x our ROI).

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