From Concept to Icon: The Allstate Field Goal Net Program’s Journey in College Football
September 27, 2023
College football is more than just a sport. It’s a tradition and a source of pride that millions tune in to watch each week. While there are many iconic symbols and traditions that weave themselves into the very fabric of the sport, there’s one in particular – the Allstate Field Goal Net – that has become a recognizable thread in the tapestry of college football.
Allstate’s “Good Hands” Field Goal Nets program is widely recognized as one of the most iconic and effective advertising programs in sports. Yet, many fans don’t know the origins of the program, the significance for athletes and marketers, or that Van Wagner was instrumental in its inception. The history and impact of Allstate’s Field Goal Net program in the realm of college football is a story that deserves to be celebrated.
In the realm of college football, the visibility and exposure of advertising have long been a challenge, especially in comparison to the courtside signage seen in college basketball. With its vast stadiums and wide-open spaces, college football posed a unique challenge for advertisers looking to make an impact on TV screens nationwide. The question that loomed was: How could college football advertisers achieve TV exposure on par with their basketball counterparts?
One of those advertisers was Allstate, a purpose-driven Fortune 100 insurance company and prominent sponsor in college sports for decades. While the company was eager to grow their brand visibility, they also desired to find new ways to give back to the college football community and make a positive impact on student-athletes. As the global leader in TV-visible signage, there was no one better positioned than Van Wagner’s TV-Visible Signage team to introduce a unique initiative that would tackle the challenge head-on.
In 2005, Van Wagner collaborated with Allstate, ESPN, and ABC to develop one of the most iconic and effective TV-visible signage programs in the world of sports – the Allstate Field Goal Nets Program.
The idea was simple yet revolutionary: to paint Allstate’s familiar “good hands” icon on goalpost nets that would be hung in college football stadiums across the country. What started as a straightforward concept evolved into a new and powerful brand-building platform for advertisers seeking to make their mark in the highly visible space of college football.
That first season, in record-breaking time, branded field goal nets were delivered to more than 30 NCAA Division I football stadiums across the US. The “Good Hands” net made its on Thursday, September 1, 2005, during a Temple University season-opening game at Arizona State. The valuable product placement not only generated brand awareness and visibility to the thousands of fans in-stadium but was also seen by millions of viewers watching on TV.
Van Wagner Innovation At Its Best
In 2004, fewer than 30 percent of college football stadiums were using field goal nets like they did in NFL stadiums. For most college teams that scored a field goal, the ball was collected and returned by fans in the stands.
The Van Wagner team had to engineer and test rigging systems that would quickly lift a net into place during kicks, and then lower it immediately after. The solution also had to be adaptable. Stadiums were all set up differently, some with goal posts secured in the ground and others where nets would have to be attached to the stadium structure itself.
There were countless site visits and performance tests, in recreated game conditions, and in day and night lighting scenarios to test visibility. Today, each branded net is still hand-painted and weighs around 100 pounds.
As reported by Sports Business Journal in this 2014 article, “If the operational issues weren’t challenging enough, the political obstacles were downright intimidating. Schools, conferences and rights holders had to be sold in. Van Wagner’s many college relationships helped forge a path. Van Wagner had a large inventory of college signage that it sold, so its contacts proved beneficial.”
Today, the Allstate Field Goal Nets Program is one of the most iconic and effective TV-visible signage programs in sports. Celebrating its 19th year, the Allstate “Good Hands” nets will be seen in more than 650 games including regular season, Conference Championships and Bowl Games.
Fast forward to the present day, and the Allstate Field Goal Nets Program has become an integral part of the college football experience. These nets have woven themselves into the very fabric of the game, making appearances in hundreds of matchups, official bowl games, and conference championships. In doing so, they have provided advertisers with unprecedented brand awareness, added impressions, and product placement in some of the most-watched college football games in America.
But the significance of this program goes beyond advertising. Allstate added a charitable dimension to their involvement, pledging to make a donation to each school’s general scholarship fund for every field goal and extra point that found its way through an Allstate-branded net during home games. They also supported Red Cross disaster relief efforts in 2021. This philanthropic aspect further solidified the program’s importance by not only enhancing the college football experience but also contributing to the educational aspirations of student-athletes.
The Allstate Field Goal Nets Program stands as a testament to innovation and determination. It began as a solution to a significant challenge in college football advertising and has since grown into a symbol of the sport’s enduring spirit and the power of collaboration between sports, advertisers, and education. As we continue to witness these iconic nets grace the screens of college football broadcasts, we are reminded of the impact a simple idea can have when executed with passion and purpose.