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VOL. 129 | NO. 161 | Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Slogan Sets Bar High for Tigers

By Don Wade

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Senior running back Brandon Hayes knows the Tigers were “close” in a lot of games last season, even though the final result was a 3-9 record.

The University of Memphis football program is still in rebuilding mode, but it’s marketing slogan pledges urgency for fans to come out and enjoy the ride.

(University of Memphis and Archer-Malmo)

“We’d be in it the whole game and end up doing something to give it away,” he said.

While factual, that hardly works as a marketing slogan for the 2014 football season. “Close, but Lost Again” just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

The Tigers haven’t been to a bowl game since 2008 and haven’t finished with a winning record (7-6) since 2007. So recent history didn’t have much to offer in the way of catchphrases and it wouldn’t do much for ticket sales in the here and now.

Ultimately, the Tigers’ athletics department, in collaboration with archer-malmo, settled on “Wait ’Til This Year” as its marketing slogan. You can see it on billboards around town and in television advertisements featuring Hayes, cornerback Bobby McCain and linebacker Charles Harris.

“Obviously, that’s a bold and aggressive tagline to stand behind,” said U of M associate athletic director Ryan Bradley. “But we no longer could accept the status quo. It would have been easy to give it one more year before we put ourselves out there.”

The slogan had its own competition, so to speak, beating other catchphrases, including “Saturdays are for Football.” Ultimately, athletics director Tom Bowen and third-year coach Justin Fuente signed off on “Wait ’Til This Year.”

“We wanted to communicate our administration is putting a significant emphasis on football and is a strong element of our success as a department going forward,” Bradley said. “We feel like we have the right guy in Justin Fuente.”

In the McCain TV spot, fans are told “there’s no time for the future” and then comes the tagline. Harris, who graduated from Whitehaven High School, says in his commercial that he chose Memphis because he wanted to help change the perception of the football program. Hayes references those close games from last year and says it’s all about “finishing.”

Bradley says at one point they also had some pretty aggressive secondary lines in the campaign, but opted to drop them.

“We thought it might make bulletin-board material for our opponents,” he said.

Fuente has said more than once that he’s fine with the “Wait ’Til This Year” slogan, but he has been careful to reframe it. The Tigers’ schedule is frontloaded, with games at Associated Press preseason No. 7 UCLA, No. 18 Ole Miss, and American Conference favorite Cincinnati, all in the season’s first half. The Tigers open on Aug. 30 against Austin Peay at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

“Wait for the whole year, not the first few weeks,” Fuente said.

Best-case scenario, this season gives the slogan-makers fodder for next year.

“We’re not saying this is the year we reach the Promised Land,” Bradley said, “but we do think the program is ready to take a measurable step forward.”

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