“We have a long history of developing innovative technology, and this was a great example of something that we did in real time that directly impacts the athletes, and a unique perspective on how our technology enhances sports and the experience of sports.”
–Sabina Ahmed, AVP-Sponsorships and Experiential, AT&T
As presenting sponsor of the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship for the last decade, AT&T is consistently hunting for new ways to elevate the fan experience through its technology. During this year’s championship weekend, Jan. 5-8, the brand pushed the envelope with a four-pronged sponsorship strategy anchored by the AT&T 5G Helmet, the first-ever deaf- and hard-of-hearing-accessible, 5G-connected football helmet used in an NCAA game.
Across activations at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, where fans got a taste of how the 5G helmet operates, a free concert series, a roadshow and its presentation of the championship game broadcast, AT&T aimed to connect the dots between its inclusive brand ethos, digital prowess and ability to enhance the way consumers experience college football.
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“College sports in general bring some of the most passionate fan bases. So once you have these passionate fans that are coming to the table, the rest of our jobs are much easier,” says Sabina Ahmed, avp-sponsorships and experiential at AT&T. “Then it’s all about bringing an experience to them that’s meaningful, where they’re having fun and enjoying themselves, but also kind of giving them an understanding of how our technology can enhance their fan experience and how we are using technology to do good.”
The AT&T 5G Helmet was a project two years in the making, developed in partnership with Gallaudet University, a school for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The connected device includes a digital in-helmet display that gives deaf and hard of hearing athletes and coaches a new, visual way of communicating, powered by 5G tech. Last fall, the helmet made its official debut during Gallaudet’s matchup against Hilbert College.
To tie its partnership with Gallaudet to its CFP sponsorship, AT&T invited fans to meet the university’s history-making athletes at the AT&T Fan Bowl, a fan activation hosted within the CFP’s Playoff Fan Central experience at the convention center. Gallaudet quarterbacks Brandon Washington and Trevin Adams, and athletic director Warren Keller, were all on-site to showcase the helmet and share how it changed the game for them. Attendees could additionally meet football “legends,” like Amani Toomer, Braylon Edwards and Desmond Trufant.
Fans at the Bowl could also participate in a Pass It Forward quarterback challenge, using visual play-calling to navigate their way down the field, a simulation of what it’s like to wear the AT&T 5G Helmet. For every connection made, the brand donated up to $50K to the Extra Yards for Teachers initiative. While fans waited in line to participate, they could explore an actual 5G helmet through a multimedia display, and check out a real Gallaudet Bison game jersey and visual screens showcasing the story of AT&T’s partnership with the university.
Back for another year, the three-day AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! free concert series provided fans in Houston with live performances in the evenings leading up to the championship game. Among artists: Jack Harlow, Latto, 2 Chainz, Jon Pardi and Megan Moroney. Fans at home could also catch Playoff Playlist Live! via a livestream on the ESPN app.
On Jan. 8, the day of the big matchup at NRG Stadium, the AT&T 5G Roadshow with TimTheTatman hit the Allstate Championship Tailgate in the stadium parking lot, where the YouTuber streamed live ahead of the kickoff. During the lively broadcast, which was, of course, powered by 5G, he brought on surprise guests from the gaming and college football scene.
Lastly, the CFP National Championship broadcast on ESPN, presented by AT&T, provided 25 million college football fans with footage of on-field and behind-the-scenes activity. Between AT&T’s Ref Cam, Pylon Cam, Goal Post Cam, First Down Cam and pre-game Countdown Cams, the brand offered a perspective of the championship from just about every angle.
“It’s a challenge, obviously, to keep innovating. But we love the challenge and we’re always up for it,” says Ahmed. “For us, it’s making sure it’s not technology for the sake of technology; it’s technology that’s enhancing the fan experiences. So we have continued to innovate not only by bringing things like the AT&T 5G Helmet, but also doing things on the ground that are very immersive and digital-first in nature.” Agency: Wasserman.
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Photos: Courtesy of AT&T