College football has a lot of unique and quirky aspects to it but the infatuation with billboards has always been a notable byproduct of the sport over the years. While fans putting up messages regarding a specific coach or move an athletic department has made get plenty of attention, most of the time they’re just plain old advertisements designed to gain a foothold in a specific area for recruiting or messaging purposes.
The latest to go big in an attempt to get the attention of drivers on the highway? Look no further than surprisingly resurgent Illinois. While Chicago has often been a notable focus of the school’s advertising attempts in recent years, the Illini are expanding their reach and have put up some four billboards promoting the program around St. Louis this fall as part of an expanded, $100,000 initiative to boost athletics’ presence in the area.
Athletics has rented four billboards in St. Louis and seven in Chicago this fall, from August through December. The cost for the five-month ad buy was about $100,000, Arner said.
DIA also buys billboards year-round in Champaign-Urbana worth about $53,000, she said.
The cost of each differs based on production costs and location, but it ranges from $1,600 to $2,600 a month, she said. The UI designs them and pays the companies to print and install them, on top of the monthly rental fees.
While a recruit is probably much more interested in the program reaching a bowl game for the first time under Lovie Smith than a few billboards, every little bit in recruiting tends to help and the ads no doubt help with things like ticket sales as well. The football program battles it out with numerous programs in both Chicago and St. Louis for prospects and have three players committed from the latter city as part of their upcoming 2020 class alone.
Nobody is likely going to go to school just as a result of a billboard but the constant image of driving by a big ‘Fighting Illini’ ad everyday on the highway is bound to at least help with recognition… exactly what the school was no doubt aiming for by dropping six-figures on the stunt this fall.