How to make the perfect ESPN College GameDay sign and get on TV
After a close 31-28 loss to #5 Stanford, the #15 University of Washington Huskies were to host the #2 ranked Oregon Ducks at the newly renovated Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. Excitement for the neighbor state rivalry was at an all-time high with enthusiasm of a potential upset in the air. This level of energy did not go unnoticed by the national audience, bringing ESPN College GameDay to the UW campus for the first time.
When GameDay is announced to visit your school, you have less than a week to prepare and participate in the best part of the show; making a funny and noticeable GameDay sign. Once announced on ESPN’s twitter feed, I got crackin’ and came up with 6 signs for display during the October 12, 2013 broadcast.
In very little time, I designed and constructed 6 signs, two of which made Sports Illustrated’s list of best GameDay signs for week 7. It was a lot of work, but a ton of fun. Here are my tips to make your GameDay signs a smashing success.
Follow the rulesESPN doesn’t post rules beforehand, but there were plenty of them once we arrived to the GameDay broadcast. They are:
- No political signs – You may want everyone to vote for Pedro, but ESPN doesn’t want to broadcast it.
- Nothing vulgar – Rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t show your sign to your Grandma, don’t bring it to ESPN College GameDay.
- No .COM signs – This one kinda screwed me. I had a funny .COM sign, but it didn’t get much use thanks to this rule.
- No effigies – Goes under the nothing vulgar rule. Lynch mobs weren’t funny in the 50’s and they’re not amusing now. Find a better joke.
- Keep it safe – Don’t duct tape yard sticks together to hold your giant heavy flag 30 feet overhead of a packed crowd. See my set up below for a lightweight, tall, and safe setup.
Constructing large, visible signsAfter you have a fun, quirky, and unique sign idea, it’s time to construct a practical set up that is easy to carry and visible to the crowd and ESPN cameras. My set up included:
- Foamcore – remember, this sign is only for the day, so no need to build it out of wood (like some people do!). A large piece of poster-sized foamcore is a great foundation to a good GameDay sign.
- Extending pole – I picked up affordable 20 foot long poles off of Amazon. They were super light and very easy to use. These poles made my signs some of the tallest at ESPN College GameDay. Protip: give the pole’s seams a strong pull and twist, ensuring that they stick and stay put. For added security, apply a piece of duct tape to the seam.
- Gorilla tape – Gorilla is the strongest duct tape you can buy, keeping your sign affixed and steady. I secured my signs to poles with Gorilla tape and they stayed put throughout the 3 hour long ESPN GameDay broadcast.
Other GameDay sign tips
- Watch for wind – Many GameDay participants (and two WSU Cougars) will bring flags. They are your indication for which way the wind is blowing. Observe and be mindful of this for safety’s sake. Turn your sign parallel to the wind during gusts and bring your signs down when losing a battle with the wind.
- Get there early – My group showed up 2.5 hours before the broadcast and was still a ways back from the stage. We still got a good spot, though, leading me to my next tip…
- Look for the skycam – My Group was fairly far from the GameDay stage, but we had a great time hanging out near the path of the skycam cable. My signs got great airplay during sweeping crowd camera shots.
- Bring coffee – Duh.
- Make noise – Cheer, yell, sing the fight song, etc. ESPN loves school spirit!