Drivers in Durham, N.C., may be doing double-takes
Fox Sports

By David Cohen

35 mins ago

Just over 11 miles separate Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C., homes to fierce basketball rivals the University of North Carolina and Duke University, respectively. While the flames of that rivalry hardly require any further stoking, a new billboard in Durham may do just that.

Fox Sports encouraged college basketball fans to vote via Twitter last spring on which team had the best fan base in the sport, with the winner receiving a billboard in their rival’s territory.

Tar Heel Nation came through in a big way, as North Carolina topped the vote, leading to the billboard in Durham, which was unveiled this week and will remain through the Tarheels’ visit to Duke Feb. 6.

The idea came from Mark Titus, a former walk-on to the basketball team at Ohio State University, who currently co-hosts podcasts The People’s Sports Podcast and Titus & Tate.

“The idea came when March Madness was canceled,” Titus told Adweek. “All of us looked at each other and said, ‘Now what?’ We had been building toward March and never had the climatic excitement of competition.”

Titus said college hoops fans were initially lukewarm to the idea, but interest began to grow, adding, “The same people who said, ‘This is stupid,’ were saying, ‘We have to win this.’”

When North Carolina emerged victorious, Titus & Tate co-host Tate Frazier’s mother suggested a location for the billboard near the residence of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it ended up in a different spot.

The billboard was “symbolic of staking a flag in your opponent’s territory,” Titus told Adweek. “The gesture is as old as time. The biggest ‘FU’ to your rival was conquering their territory and sticking your flag in their territory. The modern version was a billboard. We wanted it to slowly chip away at the loser.”

This marks the second billboard execution for Fox Sports, following last December’s salute to the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, Mass., home of the bitter division rival New England Patriots.

ESPN also turned to social networks to engage with college sports fans, focusing on the gridiron instead of the hardwood.

ESPN crowdsourced social media to identify 140 of this past season’s biggest college football fans, including top engagers on its social properties and virtual fans of College GameDay.

Fans who were selected received premium gift boxes with swag including baseball caps, cameras and headphones, and a select group received special social shoutouts from the network’s college football talent, including Rece Davis, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, David Pollack, Laura Rutledge and Maria Taylor.

ESPN shared this tweet featuring some of the winning fans’ reactions and unboxing moments.

Special shout-out from @ESPNCFB to those that make the game so special – the FANS! – and a gift of appreciation to some of the most passionate ones that kept traditions alive, no matter what

— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) January 11, 2021

The network also aired the spot below prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday night to thank the college football community for coming together despite all of the challenges this season due to Covid-19.

ESPN vice president of sports marketing Emeka Ofodile said in a statement, “We always knew that the passion of college football fans was strong, but this season really showed how deep it runs. No matter the circumstance, the fans showed up to support their team and to support college football. It is something worth celebrating and showing appreciation for how much fans bring to this game.”