UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — James Franklin claims he could see the logo from the plane as he flew back to State College from Alabama last week. Attached to the stadium, beyond the tree line, a massive Nittany Lions sign recently was affixed to the back of the northern videoboard.
“I think it’s going to be even cooler at night when it’s lit up,” Franklin said Tuesday at a coaches caravan stop in Williamsport, Pa. “I think those things are really important. I think branding is really important. You’re re-enforcing those messages over and over again.”
Franklin has been talking a lot about branding in his coaches caravan, which concludes tonight in Erie. Though it’s an aspect of the program separate from typical coaching duties, he takes it seriously.
Officially, director of football operations Mike Hazel is in charge of deciding many of the finer points when it comes to branding, whether that’s releasing videos on the Penn State athletics website or promoting a new motto like “PSUnrivaled,” but Franklin said Hazel generally makes sure the important parts of any branding strategies are brought to his attention before they are released.
“We’ve got great traditions and history, but I also want to make sure that we’re current and up to date,” Franklin said. “When a kid comes into our facility and the family comes into our facility, not only do they respect the history and the traditions but they also feel like the program is, um, relevant now and is embracing technology and embracing social media and those types of things.”
These new videoboards are not the brainchildren of Franklin. Discussions for new videoboards to replace the current ones that have been in place since 2000 — for the southern board — and 2001 — for the northern board — began in the summer of 2011 with a target price of $6.8 million.
The project was delayed because of the Sandusky scandal and financial consequences that forced the athletic department to take out loans from the university to pay back an NCAA fine of $60 million and an additional $30 million. At a cost of $10 million, both videoboards should be constructed by August, with high-definition screens and the Nittany Lions logos, measuring 35-by-25 feet and weighing 6,500 pounds, on the back of each. Bunting Graphics of Verona constructed the logos.
“I had a bunch of people call me and say there was a traffic jam on campus, which there shouldn’t be because most of the students are gone,” Franklin said. “But everybody was driving slow and looking at it. Everybody was pulling to the side of the road and taking pictures. … I think it was genius.”
The football players already have returned to University Park after their short vacations and are set to participate in summer workouts. Franklin said nearly every player is back for the workouts.
“Our strength staff says they’re working really hard,” Franklin said. “You get a sense and a feel. You can see their bodies changing. Especially guys that are new in the program. They’re around so much more. They’re making commitments on their own to watch film and talk football.”
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.