Meet the man behind Crystal Palace’s transfer video arms race

In the old days it only took a couple of kick-ups from a new acquisition and a hastily flung-together press conference for a Premier League transfer to be announced, but in 2016/17 that all changed.

Media teams across the globe were desperate to announce their new signing in the most elaborate way possible – Yeovil played Transfer Tinder, the Vancouver Whitecaps played Pokémon Go, and Alexis Sanchez played a piano.

Samuel Jordan, 27, was the social reporter at Crystal Palace at the height of this craze and he described how the best, worst and most absurd of these transfer announcement videos were fuelled by a culture of one-upmanship between clubs.

Jordan explained: “It just became a proper arms race in football.

 “Palace are never going to be the best performer of the week in terms of social media engagement or reach when the big six or eight clubs have so many followers.

 “It became a case of what can we do to cut through the noise that neutral fans might find funny? How can we feature in Twitter Moments? How can we get talked about on Sky – whether that be through a funny hashtag or a cool slick announcement video?

“So as long as we had the interview with the player and something to announce them then we would just push the limits of what we could get away with.”

This approach wasn’t just taken up by Palace’s media team – it seemed that every club wanted to ‘push the limits’ in one way or another.

Each player-unveiling became more bizarre and excessive than the last.

Sevilla boldly announced Jesus Navas by staging a kidnapping.

Southampton brilliantly poked fun at the whole trend by sarcastically announcing a one-year contract extension for third-choice keeper Stuart Taylor via an SAS raid.

Fenerbahçe hashed together a painfully awkward thriller to announce Pepe.

All the while Palace kept it low-key and whimsical.

Often their ideas were not strategized in boardrooms but inspired by what the office found funny.

A prime example of this was when the club announced Frank De Boer for his short and ill-fated spell as manager.

Jordan recalled: “There was a joke on a Crystal Palace fan forum that the Tasty Jerk chicken shop would let off white plumes of smoke from its chimney for a new Palace manager – we used to joke about it in the office as we were largely Palace fans trying to make each other laugh.

“One day we were at Selhurst Park filming for the End of Season DVD and Sean Webb of the video team just nipped down to the chicken shop and mocked it up.

“Of course, there came a great time to use it when Frank De Boer signed, and it did really well.”

The video was a hit amongst the Palace faithful but also received wider acclaim by being referenced in a Premier League digital meeting the following season as an example of good press practice.

Another quirk of announcement videos was that it would often require players to try their hand at some acting, something which the signings were always happy to do.

Jordan said: “The players that signed during my time felt the buzz of a transfer – it’s new job stuff.

“Most of them were so open to doing anything – United even got Alexis Sanchez to play the piano!

“When Mamadou Sakho signed, Palace TV presenter Chris Grierson asked him to cross his arms, hoping to create a GIF for the reveal.

“Completely off the cuff Sakho said: ‘the soldier is back.’

“We thought: this is everything – everything with Sakho is going to be about ‘The Soldier’ now and it was all out of the player’s own volition.”

Clearly, players enjoyed starring in these low-budget videos and for the most part fans appreciated them too – Jordan was so highly thought of at Crystal Palace that he was offered a half-time penalty and received an ovation from the crowd at Selhurst when his departure was announced in March 2019.

However, the transfer announcement video was just a fad – almost as quickly as it appeared, it then faded into the social media wilderness.

This summer the unveilings of Ricardo Quaresma’s at Vitória and Matt Doherty at Spurs suggest there is still an appetite amongst media teams to push the boundaries yet, but whether we see a renaissance for the transfer announcement videos remains to be seen.

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