FAU has created a campaign that heavily relies on social media along with direct promotion to Heisman voters.
“To me it’s pretty exciting to have a Heisman candidate on your team,” FAU athletic director Brian White said. “For our fans, for our student athletes, for our coaches, not only do you want to win at a high level as a team but the Heisman has some special history in college football.”
First presented by New York’s Downtown Athletic Club in 1935, the Heisman Trophy honors that year’s most outstanding college football player.
Singletary solidified his candidacy with a record-breaking performance last season in which he led the nation in rushing touchdowns, 32, overall touchdowns, 33, and scoring, 198 points. Only two players in the history of college football ever rushed for more touchdowns in a season. His 1,920 rushing yards ranked fourth nationally.
“My thought is the guy that led the nation in scoring last year, it’s a no-brainer,” White said. “You would think he’s a strong Heisman candidate. For us to not say that would be not doing right by the kid.”
Earlier this week Conference USA picked Singletary, its reigning MVP, as the preseason Offensive Player of the Week.
Singletary said he felt “honored” that FAU elected to raise his likeness on a billboard. He learned last week of the Owls’ plan to market him as a Heisman candidate.
The billboard, which greets southbound I-95 motorists as they roll from Boynton Beach into Delray Beach, features a tight cutout of Singletary running with the ball adjacent to the phrase “Heisman in Paradise. The registered trademark symbol, the letter “R” inside a circle, appears next to the word “Heisman.”
“We are approved by the Heisman trust,” White said. “It is legit. They voted on it, their board, and they approved of us using that mark.”
Returning from Dallas on Thursday night where he, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and coach Lane Kiffin represented FAU at Conference USA media days, Singletary expressed eagerness to see the billboard.
“I don’t know about tonight,” Singletary said. “I’m definitely going to go by it soon.”
White said FAU is planning for about 20 marketing pieces promoting Singletary as a Heisman candidate over the next few months. Many will be videos that FAU creates for its increasingly popular social media accounts.
FAU also plans to send an introductory package, including a card detailing Singletary’s accomplishments, to each Heisman voter prior to the start of the season – an attempt to ensure he’s on everyone’s radar.
“It’s more tactically than just a big billboard, but I think you’ve got to have the big billboard so people around here understand that it’s legitimate,” White said.
The billboard is one of three touting FAU football. A mile or so south of Singletary’s billboard travelers will see one bearing Kiffin’s photo with the tag “Winning in Paradise.” A similar Kiffin billboard appears in Broward County.
In the past some schools promoted their Heisman candidates with billboards in New York’s Times Square, near the headquarters of the Downtown Athletic Club. FAU does not plan to take its marketing campaign that far.
“I’d be lying if I told you we hadn’t price it out,” said White, bursting into the laughter of a man who couldn’t quite keep a secret. “I’m not sure it’s in our budget, though.”
Cost of such a billboard runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would clearly break the cash-conscious Owls’ bank.
White declined to reveal the cost of Singletary’s I-95 billboard, which debuted Thursday, but did say it’s significantly less than a New York promotion. The funds for the entire campaign are drawn from the Owls football marketing budget.
Whatever the amount, the money will be well spent if FAU can help get its star running back to New York in December as a finalist for college football’s most prestigious award.
“It would be incredible,” White said. “Think about how many people watch that event in New York and how that puts us up on the national stage, what that would do. To me it’s amazing.”