When sports punctuate a message, billboards are the exclamation point.
This phenomenon merges two taproots of American culture: sports and signs.
Punctuating baseball history, Red Sox’ billboards honor the farewell at-bats of 10-time All-Star David Ortiz (#34 “Big Papi”).
Red Sox honor David Ortiz
In an annual rite, Kansas City Royals fans await the new baseball season and new award-winning billboards (created by Walz Tetrick Advertising). The last installation, featuring a 3D #SalvySplash, had fans waiting in line for photos.
Mississippi State’s exclamation point: we produce pro football players!
Billboards in pro-football markets tout former Mississippi State stars playing in the National Football League (#FromStatetoSundays), generating buzz and igniting social media.
“We have received great feedback on the billboards from players and fans,” said Bill Martin, Mississippi State Athletics. “It’s a creative way to showcase our program and increase social media engagement.”
Here, a billboard features Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys:
Pro athletes use billboards to thank fans. When Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was traded to the Dodgers, his agent arranged an emotional message seen by thousands of motorists.
“So happy fans like the billboards! Carlos chose the pic, he and I penned the message, and Interstate Outdoor Advertising was awesome with design and locations,” tweeted agent Marc Kligman in September.
Carlos Ruiz thanks Phillies fans.
John Breech of CBSSports.com posted that “NFL players used to buy newspaper ads to thank fans, now they’re renting billboards.”
He was referring to former Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline’s hard-to-miss thank you gesture to Miami fans as he headed to Cleveland last year.
After 13 seasons and three championships in Miami, basketball star Dwayne Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls. His all-caps goodbye message – THANK YOU MIAMI – was on a prime billboard location in South Florida.
Running back DeMarco Murray put up a similar message when he left the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
In Philadelphia last year, lineman Todd Herremans thanked fans on billboards as he headed to Indianapolis after 10 years with the Eagles.
Fans, too, like to say it loud on billboards.
Yahoo Sports called it ingenious. In Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, a Realtor posted a billboard soon after football rival Louisiana State University fired Coach Les Miles, asking if Miles was “LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME?”
Detroit Lions fans signaled their irritation on billboards when Ndamukong Suh signed last year with the Miami Dolphins. Their blunt message: “$CRUHED!”
Billboard companies also donate space for sports-themed messages.
From Florida to the Carolinas, pro bono billboards honored Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez after he died in a boating accident September 25. In 2012, Fernandez made 14 starts with the minor league Greensboro Grasshoppers. Fairway Outdoor Advertising and Clear Channel Outdoor put up memorial billboards.
“Class Act,” said billboard copy in Austin when Texas Longhorns Coach Mack Brown resigned after 16 seasons.
“He embodies all the qualities that we should strive for,” said Bill Reagan of Reagan Outdoor Advertising in late 2013.