Illinois is putting itself out there.
Remember how hilarious it was when this billboard popped up in Chicago?
Well, that didn't work out too well for Dan Persa or Northwestern, and while Northwestern is still all too happy to tell you that it's CHICAGO'S BIG TEN TEAM it isn't. If you asked the people of Chicago where Northwestern was an overwhelming majority of them would give you directions to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on the near north side.
Though just because it didn't work all that well for Northwestern that doesn't mean Illinois isn't going to try it, as the school announced that it's going to be putting up billboards all over the state, including one in Chicago.
As part of the new Illini marketing campaign, the University of Illinois has begun placing University of Illinois billboards in popular areas around the state. The goal is to further the new branding initiative, with the slogan "ILLINOIS. OUR STATE. OUR TEAM." in order to foster a sense of state pride among Illinois students, fans and alumni.
"As the flagship public institution in the state, this theme reflects the statewide following and support of Fighting Illini athletics from our millions of fans and alumni in the state of Illinois," Director of Athletics Mike Thomas said. "This theme becomes a way for all of our fans to rally behind one central concept - that the University of Illinois is our state's school. As the Fighting Illini, our student-athletes, coaches and staff are proud to represent the people of Illinois and we are proud to wear the state's name on the front of our jerseys."
Throughout the next several months, billboards will be placed all around the state. There will be a billboard in multiple Springfield locations, one on Monticello Road in Monticello, one on the south side of I-80 in Joliet, a board on Veterans Parkway in Bloomington, a sign at Ohio and Kingsbury in Chicago, as well as several around St. Louis. Many billboards will focus on local alumni hailing from the area that the board is in, in order to promote a local identity within the larger state initiative.
Is it somewhat idiotic that there will be the same number of billboards in Chicago as Monticello, of course. It's also ironic that there will be more Illinois billboards about OUR STATE in St. Louis, Missouri than there will be in Chicago, Illinois.
But it's also the right decision.
Listen, it's great that the school is putting itself out there and advertising throughout the state, but the pursuit of Chicago is futile. I can't decide if it's more Moby Dick or Waiting for Godot. Godot being Chicago caring about Illinois.
Yes, there are people in Chicago who care about Illinois. They're called Illinois alumni.
Billboards, commercials, painting the Chicago skyline orange and blue are nice ideas, but they're not going to change anything. The only thing that will ever actually make Chicago stand up and take notice of Illinois sports is winning. It's that simple.
Chicago is a city that loves sports but is desperate for a winner. It's a major sports market where titles are quite the rarity. Once you win the city will latch on to you as if its life depended on it.
Just ask the 85 Bears.
I mean, a few years ago I could count the number of friends I had who gave a shit about the Blackhawks on one hand. I had nobody to talk hockey with. But then the Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup and suddenly everybody has been a huge Blackhawks fan since they were a little kid, and man we really need to work harder on the forecheck.
Wins will buy you a lot more attention than a billboard ever could.