For ASU keeping pace off the field just as important as on it

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

You have to wonder what Arizona State fans thought when arch-rival Arizona unveiled their, “Welcome to Arizona This is Wildcat Country” billboards around the Valley in March of 2011. They conveniently put one right outside the airport.

How nice of them.

“We want to make sure that people traveling through the Phoenix area know that all of Arizona is Wildcat Country,” proactive UofA athletic director Greg Byrne proclaimed.

And so the first salvo was fired.

Well, sort of.

You see, Byrne is a new-age AD. Instead of living in the public shadows behind an oversized mahogany desk in a plush corner office he’s tweeting students at Wildcat games, randomly giving away UofA gear from his closet and leading social media seminars at The Biltmore.

In short, his savvy made himself and his school transparent and more visually appealing statewide.

All along ASU was taking notice of Byrne and the ‘Cats groundswell of momentum, specifically here in the 15th-largest media market. The school hired dozens of marketers, a venture never previously explored, to oversee the project and reach out, more accurately, re-connect with boosters whose egos hadn’t been stroked and checkbooks opened in quite some time.

Now ASU staffers are burning the midnight oil to make the school more appealing. The Sun Devils have their own digital and static billboards around the Valley…and in Tucson. They reportedly worked out a Sparky-of-a-deal with a local company at a net cost of less than $100,000 for the 20 signs. Both styles appeal to the 2014 highly decorated in-state class. One featuring ASU sophomore and former Scottsdale Saguaro High star D.J. Foster announcing “Stay True.” The others include former local prep stars and ASU alums like Todd Heap, Adam Archuleta and Zach Miller. The slogan reads “ASU Football Where Arizona Stars Become Legends.”

Todd Graham promised change 20 months ago. The man who left Pitt at the alter to pursue a more attractive bridesmade has made sweeping changes to his football home. Fresh paint. A beam of  optimism lost after Dennis Erickson  sapped the “Sun” right out of Sun Devils. He also reached out to Terrell Suggs who had become disenchanted with the direction of the program under the previous regime. His likeness can also be seen on a billboard.

The Devils latest creation is IAmASunDevil.com. The pitched purpose is to give greater access to ASU athletics through videos and neat graphics. The reality is the site is a way to show off ASU and all it has to offer to prospective student-athletes.

The release read, Over the past year, Sun Devil Athletics has set forth a number of initiatives designed to make digital communication a priority.

It would be unfair to say ASU’s marketing makeover was driven by one of their own running the show (and doing it quite well) in Tucson, but competition always brings out one’s best.

Especially when you’re fighting for the same thing.