Many Atlantans laughed when they heard that new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin planned to erect billboards touting the Vols’ greatness in Florida. But will they still be laughing when they find out he has a couple going up right here in our backyard?
Two 14-feet-by-48-feet digital billboards will be seen along downtown Atlanta interstates early next week, Tennessee officials confirmed. The advertisements feature an image of Kiffin on the left and star defensive back (and Atlanta native) Eric Berry on the right with the words “It’s Time” in big block letters in the middle. It also says “Tennessee Football 2009″ and gives the web address to buy tickets, UTTIX.com. The billboards will be posted on I-85 North at Piedmont Road and on Cobb Drive at I-285 West.
“We’re going through a huge transition with a new coach and a new philosophy and we tried to look at some ways to extend our new brand,” said Chris Fuller, UT’s associate athletics for sales and marketing. “In our market we’ve had a long-standing relationship with Lamar [outdoor advertising]. We’ve had a [billboard] presence in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Jackson for years. Now we’re just expanding that philosophy.”
In addition to locations in Florida and Atlanta, Fuller said four new billboards will go up in Memphis and a few others around the state Tennessee. He said the entire campaign will cost $24,000 and come out of the Vols’ regular marketing budget.
The billboards in Tennessee will tout Berry – a junior safety out of Creekside High in Fairburn – for the Heisman Trophy, Fuller said. “Predominantly because we feel like he deserves it,” Fuller said. “It’s not because we believe it will necessarily help him win it.”
This marketing ploy is not unique to Tennessee. Auburn has had at least two billboards posted in Atlanta for the past several months, Auburn marketing associate Mike Hale confirmed. And, of course, UGA has utilized that forum from time-to-time, especially to draw attention to some sort of team accomplishment.
Atlanta’s 5.5 million population and strong athletic talent base is obviously appealing. The Vols recruit 85 percent of their athletic talent from outside state borders, Fuller said.
“We just feel like it’s a good way to our message out,” he said.
Highlighting Thursday’s recruiting news was the commitment of Atlanta Westlake defensive back Darius Robinson to Clemson. The 6-foot, 170-pound, four-star cornerback chose the Tigers over a host of out-of-state schools, including Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Stanford and UCLA. He said he was not vigorously pursued by either Georgia or Georgia Tech.
At Clemson Robinson will join four other Georgians: Roswell CB Martin Jenkins, Carver-Columbus DE Corey Crawford, Carver-Columbus OL David Beasley and Etowah OL Reid Webster.
“It’s only two hours away. Just that fact alone attracts a lot of players from here,” said Robinson, who said he has spoken with Jenkins several times. “Really, I just felt like I had a chance to go play early at a big-time program. I had a good time with the coaches and people outside of the football team. It’s a great town.” . . .
Also, Pepperell athlete Marcus Jackson received a scholarship offer from The Naval Academy, according to Rivals.com.