Students' downtown billboard promotes Gator Athletics

"Proud to be a Gator" -- that is the message behind a new downtown San Francisco billboard concept created by undergraduate marketing students to promote SF State Athletics.

An image of a billboard created by SF State students.

"We really just wanted to raise school spirit and school participation," said student Eliza Boivin, who helped create the design. "SF State has a really great athletics department, but we'd love to see more people coming to support the athletes at the games."

The students' ad includes images of both students and athletes with the tagline, "Different shoes, same team. Proud to be an SF State Gator," highlighting that unity exists among the diversity of students on campus.

"We chose to focus on the diversity of our student body and how that can be a rallying point," said student Chris Jansen. "We feel diversity is something that people at SF State and the larger Bay Area take great pride in."

The students' creation will be featured for one month, starting today, on a billboard near the corner of Bryant and Seventh streets, in the South of Market neighborhood. A team of five students in Marketing Lecturer Neil Cohen's "Advertising Theory and Practice" class worked with University Communications Graphic Designer Barbara Stein to produce the advertisement. The students’ concept was selected after a competition among ten groups of students in the class. The winning group included John Strom, Khristine Leonor, Chris Jansen, Eliza Boivin and Kushal Gurung.

A photo of Marketing Lecturer Neil Cohen.

Marketing Lecturer Neil Cohen.

"After the class selected the winner, we had students work with the client (the University) and the billboard owners directly," said Cohen. "It was all very much 'real world' experience -- this is how it works in an ad agency."

Cohen presented his students with the rare opportunity due to a connection he has with Matt Rogers, owner of billboard management company Rogers Media. The billboard is owned by SF State alum Kevin Hicks, owner of Advertising Display Systems, and is being donated to the University for one month. Rogers and Hicks are also covering the production costs for the billboard.

For students interested in a career in marketing, the experience exposed them to the skills needed to succeed in their field.

"There are many different roles in an advertising agency, whether on the creative or the business side, and this project helped to hone skills for both sides -- including client management and working creatively in a team," said Jansen, who is planning to pursue a career in advertising. "Firms take a risk when hiring recent grads, and real-world experience like this is a powerful asset."

-- Philip Riley