Timbers Ads Feature Locals
PORTLAND, Ore. – The most talked-about billboards in Portland feature individuals clutching logging implements and wearing game-face expressions of determination and focus. Words are scarce, but the images say everything: The Timbers are coming.
The billboard campaign is the latest marketing strategy by Portland’s new Major League Soccer franchise to remind and inspire the city’s soccer fans what’s around the corner in 2011.
“It’s the biggest campaign we’ve done yet,” Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said. “It’s about who we are.”
Head coach John Spencer has seen the billboards and offered a ringing endorsement: “I think they’re fantastic,” he said.
The ads feature Eugénie Frerichs, a blond woman in a blue T-shirt holding a large ax; Katie Dober, a brunette with steel-blue eyes holding a saw behind her back; and Abe Goldman-Armstrong, a member of Timbers Army grasping axes that criss-cross behind his back.
Another of the new billboards – one not yet up – features Timber Jim (bottom right), the iconic former team mascot. He holds his chainsaw, flanked by a boy and girl hefting axes.
All pictured in the ads are locals of the City of Roses and are die-hard soccer fans. In the case of Dober, she has a real attachment to the logging industry: Her family owns a construction company that carves logging roads out of the Douglas fir forests west near Forest Grove, Ore.
Paulson said authenticity – including that of the axes and saws, which, in some cases were borrowed from display cases that tell the story of Oregon’s logging heritage – is central to the campaign.
The attention-grabbing billboards are catching on and, while only three are currently up, the Timbers are ready with about 12 more. By late January, all of the billboards will be visible on almost every prominent arterial in and out of the city.
The images come from Jelly Helm, a former ad director at the renowned Wieden + Kennedy agency. They are designed to generate buzz, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“We’ve gotten more feedback out of the first three billboards than anything else we’ve ever done,” Paulson said.
And that’s saying something. In September, the Timbers took the provocative step of placing a billboard announcing the Timbers’ MLS arrival to “Portland, Oregon: Soccer City, USA 2011” – and placed it near Qwest Field, the home of rivals Seattle Sounders.
“We got 10 times the return in terms of media value,” Paulson said of the Seattle billboard, which came down recently. “The rivalry is a great thing for Seattle, and for us. It was pouring a little gas on the fire, but our fans loved it.”
The new billboards feature real fans, and the Timbers website has started profiling the individuals in the pictures.
“[The billboards are] about paying homage to our core, to our fans,” Paulson said.