U. of Tennessee Sets Up Signs in Rivals' Backyards

Billboards in Georgia and Florida Target High-School Football Talent

By Published on .

Even in this day and age of tweeting and Facebooking and texting, college sports coaches -- especially football coaches -- are still restricted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association on the amount of time they can spend recruiting high school athletes.

There are well-defined rules in the phone-book sized NCAA manual limiting the number of contacts between coach and prospective player, restrictions on alumni contacting prospective players, even on the amount and type of materials that can be mailed to recruits.

So, what's a school to do? Go back to marketing basics.

The University of Tennessee has taken out billboards in Florida and Georgia, as well as in its own state, to advertise its football program to potential recruits. The billboards -- featuring new head coach Lane Kiffin and All-America defensive back Eric Berry -- were specifically (some might say perfectly) targeted. Four are in Memphis, the largest metro area in Tennessee. Two are in Atlanta and one is on I-95 near Fort Lauderdale -- not only two of the most heavily congested vehicle traffic areas in the country, but also two of the most talent-rich high-school football areas in the nation.

"We really just wanted to stretch our brand a little bit into some markets where we want to have some presence," Tennessee associate athletic director for sales and marketing Chris Fuller told Ad Age. "Our budget limited our ability, but we wanted to extend our brand strategically. Eighty-five percent our student-athletes come from out-of-state."

Tennessee isn't the first college to go old-school when it comes to marketing their athletic programs. Several years ago, the Syracuse University football team did an ad campaign in New York City in an attempt to become "New York's College Team," despite the fact that Syracuse is located almost 250 miles from Manhattan.

New Jersey-based Rutgers took out billboards in south Florida three years ago. And, last month, the University of Kentucky launched an innovative outdoor campaign in 12 different areas of its home state with its "singing billboards." The billboards advertising UK football were fitted with radio transmitters -- fans driving or walking by the billboard can tune to a specific station and hear the school fight song for up to a mile away.

Most Popular