Picture this: It’s Jan. 21, 2018, and you’re in Philadelphia headed to the much anticipated NFC Championship game where the Eagles will take on the Minnesota Vikings.
You’re heading to the stadium off 95 South and Broadstreet, and you look up and see an advertisement taunting you (if you’re an Eagles fan, that is). It’s a massive purple and gold billboard supporting the visiting Vikings. Oh the nerve, right?
That was the viral brainchild of Minnesota real estate agent Kris Lindahl, of the Minneapolis-based Kris Lindahl Team. After the game, he left straight for Inman Connect New York, where I got to hear firsthand about his latest completely insane — and yet pure genius — idea.
How did you come up with this idea?
The Vikings, being one game away from the Super Bowl, [was] huge for us in Minnesota. Especially, since it was going to be in our home stadium. No team had ever played a Super Bowl at home.
How did you expect a billboard in Philadelphia to help your business in Minnesota?
We figured there would be about 10,000 Vikings fans making the trip for the game. And they would all drive by the billboard and think it was funny, and we’d get some great branding from it.
And hopefully, it would increase name and brand recognition when they got back home. But it was bigger than we could have imagined. It took on a life of its own.
It wasn’t just those who went to the game who saw it. The whole state ended up seeing it. The whole state was talking about it.
We do a lot of marketing and have some haters out there, but after this one, people were quoted saying things like “I used to hate that guy Kris, but now I love him.”
Minnesota fans all got behind us. That billboard represented all of us. All the fans. The whole state. People are still talking about it more than a month later in coffee shops, their offices and whatnot.
Tell me more about it taking on a life of its own.
It went viral after I posted the picture of it on Twitter, and the talk radio sports world caught wind of it. It was being retweeted like crazy.
It generated tens of thousands of views and comments. It got written about, talked about [and] appeared in practically every newspaper, radio station and television station in Minnesota. I’ve even been asked to speak at the University of Minnesota.
Did you have some issues pulling it off?
We did. We came up with the idea, I think, on the Wednesday before the game. I signed the contract, but when they saw the message they backed out. They said no way. Philly fans will destroy it.
But we were able to find another billboard company who went along with the idea, and they put up the art late Friday afternoon.
If you look closely at the picture of me with the sign you’ll see the stadium pretty much directly behind it. The location couldn’t be any better.
So the billboard went up, and you decided to go see it in person and go to the game?
Yeah, even though everyone said don’t go to the game. They said those fans are ones you don’t mess around with. People were genuinely concerned for my safety.
For our readers who might not know the history of Philadelphia fans, they are the ones who are famous for throwing batteries at players and even pelting Santa Claus with snowballs.
It was crazy. When I pulled over to take the photo in front of the billboard, people were screaming and honking at me. And I got recognized a lot at the game.
They were like “Hey, you’re that fu**er from the billboard.” That was pretty regular. Those Philly fans are passionate.
But so are Viking’s fans. And they recognized me too. And that was great.
I ended up staying around until the third quarter ended, and then got out of there before the crowds and caught my ride to New York for Inman.
And then you went straight from the game to ICNY?
Yes, and once I got to the Marriott that night, I had tons of people coming up to me to talk about the billboard they’d seen on ESPN or on social media or wherever. They were like, “That’s the most brilliant marketing I’ve ever seen.”
Let’s talk about cost and ROI.
The total cost all-in was about $20,000. It was more of a branding play than direct ROI investment. But we’ve already had come-list-me calls and walk-ins for “the guy who did the billboard.”
We made our website a huge part of the ad. That’s our brand. We do all of our marketing and branding around the KrisLindahl.com.
Because of the rampant fanbase in this state, that billboard was better than a $5 million 30-second Super Bowl ad for us.
This story is an excellent reminder of something we often forget: If you want to be successful, look at what everyone else is doing, and do something different. That’s how Kris Lindahl (and his brand) became perhaps the most famous billboard icon in the history of Minnesota, even though he did it in Pennsylvania.
Dan Smith is an author, speaker, strategist and team leader in Mission Viejo, California. Follow him on Facebook.