Top U.S. college football programs like Alabama can spend as much as $1.7 million annually on efforts to attract top high school players to their programs. Among the tools schools are using to get athlete commitments are personalized digital signage screens in team practice facilities.

When a top high school senior visits a campus and the football team’s locker room, there’s an increasing chance he’ll see his photo, name and position on one of the big digital signage screens integrated with high-tech lockers. The screens and content leave an impression on the young athletes, who are being courted, in some cases, by dozens of competing football programs across the U.S.

“When you’re dealing with recruitment, you have coaches that got out to visit kids, and then they try to get them to come to the campus, and show them around,” says Greg Lewis of PingHD, a Denver-based digital signage software and solutions company. “And I would imagine, any kid gets excited by seeing the stadium and the football field and so on. But, to go that extra mile and walk into the practice facility, and there’s the kid’s name on the locker, and their stats and highlight reel and everything else, that must just blow some of these kids away.”

Building Excitement for Students

PingHD worked with suppliers to get screens in place at the renovated training facility of the University of Texas Longhorns in Austin. They now have high-tech lockers topped with flat-panel displays that show the photo, stats, video and other details about the player assigned to that locker.

“As you can imagine,” explains Lewis, “recruiting is the name of the game for the University of Texas. So they were upfront about that being one of the major goals, on top of also being able to use it for a way to communicate with their players directly, whether it’s messaging across all the screens as one big message or having individual players pictures and highlights.”

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Through the football season, the content is mapped to current players and the screens not only designate locker assignments but are a communications hub for team activities. Because PingHD’s solution is digital and cloud-based, University of Texas recruiting teams can easily change the content and adjust it, for the day, to showcase visiting high school athletes.

The Longhorns facility has 120 individually addressable Samsung Smart Signage Platform displays around the locker room, running off PingHD’s content management platform and operating on built-in media players that use Samsung’s Tizen operating system. The smart displays use HTML5 templates and available player and team data to show content screen by screen, though the platform is designed to allow screens across the full locker room to all show a specific message at the same time.

A New Industry Standard?

The Longhorns were not the first Texas football powerhouse to use digital signage screens for college sports recruitment and player communications. This summer, Texas Tech renovated its football facilities to include 120 upgraded lockers, custom lighting and 60-inch flat panel displays located throughout the facility.

“We are fortunate that our administration and donors actively invest in our student-athletes, who spend countless hours in the [football training facility] during the year,” said Cliff Kingsbury, head coach at Texas Tech, when the new facilities opened. “These renovations will not only greatly impact their lives but also the future of our program as we continue to recruit future student-athletes to this great university.”

The college athlete recruiting process is highly regulated and closely scrutinized, and athletic directors are always looking for some new way to get an edge over rival schools in signing up future stars, while adding improvements for current players. Digital screen technology may at first glance seem extravagant, but with growing expenses for recruiting programs attracting new players, it’s a relatively small investment that can get very high marks for programs looking to grow.

In order to fully reap the benefits of digital signage, developing a Total Cost of Ownership model is essential.

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Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

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