Marketing pros — sports fans or not — surely admire the fundamentals that fuel the niche ad genre of the sports-fan billboard: intense passion, targeting, and content that ignites social media.
The latest example — #FreeDevinWhite — is strategically posted in Birmingham, near headquarters of college football’s Southeastern Conference (SEC) and elsewhere in Alabama.
OAAA’s summer intern, Louisiana State University (LSU) alum Hunter Odom, explains this billboard posting from the LSU perspective:
“LSU player Devin White was penalized for ‘targeting’ at LSU’s last home game. Consequently, he must sit out the first half of LSU’s next game, which is against Alabama. Everyone including Louisiana’s Governor Edwards agrees the call was bogus and evidence of collusion between Alabama and the SEC. This billboard is a GoFundMe response from LSU fans.”
The #FreeDevinWhite GoFundMe effort surpassed its $4,150 goal in less than a day, with 250 contributions.
Those who donated left messages of support, many explaining why they chose to donate:
The SEC office released a statement on the football play in question, saying it was reviewed and upheld. The targeting rule prohibits forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
Marketers trying to figure out young-male sports fan trends (Gen Z interest in competitive gaming, obstacle courses, and trick shots) could take some comfort that plenty of millennials like Hunter follow college football with fervor.
As ranked LSU prepares to take on unbeaten #1 Alabama (November 3 on CBS, in Baton Rouge), I’ve assembled my favorite fan billboards, which channel and amplify the pathos of sports that makes our hearts beat faster.
Disgruntled Kansas football fans put up a billboard along I-70 outside Topeka quoting ESPN’s Dan Le Batard on the lowly status of Jayhawk football.
@nate_bukaty @bobfescoe With underdogs like @UMBC_MBB and @RamblersMBB turning it up during @marchmadness, what do you think about @KU_Football becoming a Cinderella story again? @LeBatardShow has his opinions…. #FireZenger https://t.co/Ilzn6V1Ny9 pic.twitter.com/DB96MHo8ON
— Ghost of Mangino (@ghostofmangino) March 20, 2018
With four straight losses, Kansas (2-5) fired its offensive coordinator.
LeBron James as a free agent from Cleveland spawned a fan-billboard bonanza (please sign with our team). Fans in Houston, Philly, New Orleans, and, of course, Los Angeles used billboards to encourage the star NBA player to look their way for a new home.
Nike later used out of home ad displays to celebrate LeBron’s first game in Los Angeles.
Nike with the massive LeBron James x Lakers billboards blanketing LA Live across from Staples Center pic.twitter.com/4m81JNAxFD
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 20, 2018
LeBron fans aren’t the first or last to employ this tactic to express affection for a premier player. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
In the 2017 off-season, Utah Jazz fans put up billboards throughout the Salt Lake Valley urging star Gordon Hayward to stay in Utah (#Stayward).
— Dennis WINdsey (@UtahJazz6Man) May 16, 2017
Hayward nearly doubled his salary in Boston, as the highest-paid player on the Celtics.
— Dennis WINdsey (@UtahJazz6Man) July 9, 2017
College Bowl Selection = Frustration
I’m a sucker for insider taunts, which is why I like Michigan State fans’ bust on the bowl-selection process.
In the 2010 season, Michigan State beat Big Ten rival Wisconsin 34-24. But Wisconsin got the Big Ten slot in the Rose Bowl; Michigan State played in the Capital One Bowl.
Michigan State fans used a simple, high-contrast billboard design featuring the 34-24 score in the Wisconsin game, with a red rose in center view.
High Expectations @ Norte Dame
“Welcome to my world,” said Norte Dame football coach Charlie Weis when fans dinged him on a billboard in South Bend in 2009.
Weis, who coached the Fighting Irish 2005 to 2009, was fired with a 35-27 record. Don’t shed too many tears for Charlie; his buyout exceeded $18 million.
In Week 9 this season, Norte Dame is undefeated, ranked #3.
Zap the Refs
Griping about referees is as old as sports.
When the Detroit Lions fell to 0-4 after a Monday night loss to the Seahawks in 2015, fans ripped the refs for failing to call an illegal batting the ball (out of bounds). The NLF head of officials acknowledged that a penalty flag should have been thrown. But un-mollified Lions fans paid for billboards that questioned the refs’ eyesight.
Like quarterback Brett Favre, some fans had a hard time with his exit from the game. Minnesota Vikings fans pleaded with #4 to come back. Chipping in small donations, fans put up a larger-than-life love letter in hometown Hattiesburg, MS.
Favre came back but did not complete an injury-riddled year; he retired after the 2010 season.
As for the Vikings (4-2-1), they’ve won three in a row with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who moved to Minnesota from my Washington Redskins. (Go Skins!)