Kentucky fans' tweets become billboards

Kentucky is revving up fan interest by putting fans' tweets on billboards, signs and posters. Cornett IMS

Kentucky football didn’t come up with its own publicity campaign this year. Instead, it took advantage of Kentucky fans’ conversations already on Twitter -- and now the Wildcats say it’s one of their most successful campaigns in years.

Kentucky fans have been interacting via the Twitter hashtag #WeAreUK for the past several years. So Cornett IMS, the company in charge of Kentucky’s marketing, decided to take the Twitter trend mainstream, putting some of the most memorable Twitter messages on billboards, team posters and an interactive page at Kentucky’s website.

“A lot of agencies build messages through marketing and branding, but this topic was so strong and people loved it so much,” said Christy Hiler, Cornett’s chief strategic officer. “We’ve really seen the trend grow and we felt this year the hashtag of Twitter was mainstream enough that we could use it outdoor advertising.”

Kentucky fans have embraced it with constant messages and photos. One fan in Northern Kentucky tweeted to #WeAreUK that most of the advertising was in the southern part of the state, so UK put up a billboard in Northern Kentucky with that exact tweet, in an ironic sort of way.

Also, every fan connected to the #WeAreUK page via Facebook could make the team’s official poster, which will form a UK photo from the collection of photos.

“It’s driven by the fans, as no amount of marketing can get something trending on Twitter. So instead of fighting it, we decided to embrace it,” said David Coomer, Cornett's chief creative officer. “We knew people would want to be a part of it and see their tweets on a building or a poster. But I don’t think we understood how much.”