Signage from the 2016 College Football Championship Game

The perfect synthesis of team spirit and event branding

Since New Year’s Day 1902, when the inaugural Rose Bowl game pitted the Stanford Univ. Cardinal against the Univ. of Michigan Wolverines, college-football bowl games have been integral to the sport’s landscape. During the 1930s, three more bowls – the Sugar in New Orleans, the Orange in Miami and the Cotton in Dallas – were created, and this quartet created the nucleus of the college-football postseason.
Until the 1960s, college-football bowl games were mere exhibitions; various polling organizations published their rankings and selected their champions after the regular season. At that point, the NCAA and media organizations wisely decided to incorporate postseason games into the national-championship selection process. This brought a whole new level of excitement to these holiday classics. However, season-ending matchups between the top two teams were still relatively rare because of the bowls’ conference tie-ins, such as the Rose Bowl’s annual pairing of the Big 10 and Pac 10 (now Pac 12) champions.
And, as such, divided national championships, with different polls crowning different teams, were sometimes awarded. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was introduced in 1998, which ensured a consensus national champion, although #1 vs. #2 matchups were still not guaranteed until an additional “plus-one” game was introduced for the 2012 season, which added an extra BCS game.
However, college football’s decisionmakers still sought a “playoff” that would provide more than two top-flight teams an opportunity at the ultimate prize. With this, the College Football Playoff (CFP) was born, with four teams playing in a penultimate, semifinal round, with the winner’s advancing to the title game.
January 2015’s inaugural title contest pitted Ohio St. Univ. against the Univ. of Oregon, and culminated in a rousing success for the CFP system. The second edition, played on January 11 at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, somewhat mirrored the first contest, with an established power (Alabama) taking on a relative upstart (Clemson). And, unlike the first game, this match-up delivered a classic, with Alabama ultimately prevailing 45-40 in a back-and-forth affair.
The signage that promoted the game was more than equal to the task of promoting a game of this magnitude. The CFP’s environmental-graphic package must walk a fine line between honoring college football traditions – the sport, arguably, venerates its past more than any other – and branding an event that embodies college football’s changing face. As the following gallery will attest, Infinite Scale, the firm that spearheaded the CFP’s environmental-graphic design, collaborated with a trio of fabricators: Trademark Visual (Phoenix), which executed the 3-D, playoff-logo signs that were installed at the stadium and host hotels; and AAA Flag & Banner (Los Angeles) and bluemedia (Tempe, AZ), which fabricated different facets of digitally printed graphics.
Executing such a high-profile, colossal project requires exacting attention to detail, teamwork and follow-through, and it’s evident that all parties delivered as seamlessly as a quarterback’s perfect delivery of a long touchdown pass.
Read the photo captions for the signs' production and installation story.