AP Top 25 The most trusted authority in college sports, reinvented for a new generation of sports and fans

The Associated Press owns some of the most valuable brands in college sports: the college football All-America team, the AP Top 25 polls for college football and men’s and women’s college basketball, and player of the year and coach of the year awards in the biggest college sports.

The teams and honors are the most respected in college sports because of their objectivity, longevity and transparency.

The AP has been helping fans make sense of the national college sports scene for a century, yet because of the company’s model as a licenser to other news agencies, it does not generate revenue directly from those efforts.

Other media companies, meanwhile, have sold sponsorships to lesser-known polls or All-America teams.

The AP is trying to figure out the best opportunities to market and build revenue from its peerless reputation and expertise in college sports. We want to work with partners to make those opportunities realities and keep the AP at the forefront of sports information for the next century.

Building Engagement: The Fan Poll

Clemson fans celebrate after the team scored the game-winning touchdown during the NCAA college football playoff championship against Alabama, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

The poll is successful because it's about debate. Which team is better? Which team is overrated? Which team is underrated? Are voters biased? For the 2017-2018 college football season, we want to work to develop a sponsor-supported fan poll that would let fans compare their insights to those compiled each week from college football's most insightful journalists.

Fans could share their own ballot, which would link back to AP's Digital News Experience. By using a consistent hashtag -- #APTop25 -- we begin to bring all of the conversation about the poll under a common umbrella.

The fan poll would be released as a warmup to the AP Top 25, building anticipation and creating additional avenues for conversation when the weekly poll is released.

What About My Team? Creating Customized Content

AP Sports has traditionally given fans a thorough overarching look at teams moving up, moving down and on the bubble from week to week. What if we could create a team by team look at how many voters ranked a team number 1? Or left them out completely? Is there a way we could graph poll choices by voter?

The final 2017-2018 college football Top 25 poll. Clemson won the national title for just the second time in school history.

With a data generator that could provide team-by-team analyses of how voters judged a given team, the AP could create a data visualization for each team in the Top 25. This could be paired with historical data about all-time poll appearances. Journalists with a top 25 team could also produce weekly poll stories that are team focused to better connect with individual fan bases.

Connecting Voters With Fans

The AP's media panel of voters for college football, college basketball and women's basketball pulls local and national experts for the most comprehensive analysis of teams anywhere in the industry. Celebrity voters such as Dick Vitale pair with local writers each hold distinct appeal to fans for their opinions.

In 2017-2018, we want to work with our voters to increase customized content aimed at individual fan bases. Some voters have already created weekly columns that explain reasoning to fans. Through AP's Top 25 podcast, which brings voters and journalists together to talk about college football and the poll, along with these customer-specific columns, we can extend the conversation. Bringing all of that content together on the DNE poll pages and on @AP_Top25 allows fans to click into additional content about the poll and their teams.

Extending the Life Cycle of AP All-America

The Associated Press has been honoring the best players in college football since 1925 with its annual All-America team. The AP All-America team is one of five used by the NCAA to determine its consensus All-America team. The release of the team is widely anticipated each December, and even other news organizations that create their own teams report on AP's list. It is the longest running annual honor roll of the nation's top football players, and was first selected a decade before the Heisman Trophy.

For many football fans, the AP All-America team is the official All-America team of the season. Especially those who grew watching Bob Hope introduce the All-Americans to millions of television viewers during his yearly Christmas special.

Comedian Bob Hope is pictured at a taping session Monday, December 10, 1979, in NBC's Burbank Studios with members of the Associated Press All-America football team. With Hope are: Billy Sims of Oklahoma, left, and Charles White of USC, Heisman Trophy winner. Sims won the Heisman Trophy in 1978. (AP Photo)

In 2017, the AP is expanding the life cycle of the All-America team to include a preseason All-America Team, a mid-season All-America team and a weekly watch column by AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. Weekly mini-podcasts with panel voters will delve into the backgrounds of players with rising stock. The column will feature a player that may have started the season under the radar but who is rising, feature upcoming matchups between potential All America selections and "heat check" the performance of preseason selections. Video reports from campuses, secured through partnerships with individual schools, can highlight the rising players and introduce them to the wider audience.

Ahead of the NFL combine, the AP will offer a series of stories looking at best picks viewers have never heard of, pulling from the selections on AP's FCS and Little All-America teams. A player's selection to the team is already an important biographical fact, featured prominently in labeling on the NFL network and in background material.

By extending the life cycle of the All-America team from the start of the season through the NFL combine, we can create more anticipation for the team's end-of-season release and opportunities for engagement from schools and fan bases.

Schools are already connecting with AP's brand by promoting their selection to the team. AP offers All-America teams for FBS and FCS and compiles a "Little All-America" list honoring players from Divisions II, III and NAIA. By providing schools with AP's branding assets and suggested social media materials ahead of the release, we can bring consistency to the release and connect AP's brand with fans.

Expanding Our Expertise: New Polls

Pearl Gonzalez lands a punch against Cynthia Calvillo during a strawweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 210, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

The AP Top 25 brand itself has value beyond college sports. People trust the brand as a fair national ranking system. What if we brought the AP Top 25 brand to other competitions? UFC has reached out to us to discuss independent ranking of mixed martial arts athletes. Boxing rankings are notoriously rigged by promoters, but an AP ranking of fighters could bring better understanding to fans. Or, how about a global soccer club ranking so fans in Germany can compare their teams to those in Asia or South America? And new contests are emerging, particularly in esports, an industry crying out for legitimacy and a fair ranking system to help fans make sense of the crowded field.

The Future: Why It Matters

Making the Top 25 portfolio accessible for a new generation of fans ensures our brand remains credible to the audience that is discussing and debating the decisions of our voters. Without our audience's willingness to share and talk about our product, we risk losing some of the credibility we've build over the course of several decades of polls. We are also long overdue to monetize products AP is creating using its own network and expertise. Expanding the portfolio helps extend its reach, find new fans to follow it, and reach new audiences that other news organizations have not yet tapped.

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