When Memphis unveiled "The Race is On" promotion in mid-May, running back DeAngelo Williams's Heisman Trophy campaign officially began. The school produced 3,500 1:24 scale die-cast stock cars, at a cost of $30,000, with each bearing Williams's jersey No. 20. About 1,000 were sent to Heisman voters; the rest were sold to eager fans who could not acquire them fast enough.
In the past 35 years, schools have done just about anything to market their players for college football's most glamorous award, including mass-producing bobblehead dolls, crafting a catchy jingle or even changing the pronunciation of a player's surname.
This year, most schools took the opposite approach. Several sports information directors said that the increase in the number of televised games has diminished the need for clever campaigns. While some schools in the past have sent voters mouse pads featuring their candidate, the popularity of the Internet has allowed voters to access information about players with only a few clicks of a mouse. Southern California, for example, introduced www.mattreggietv.com, a video log that chronicles the daily activities of quarterback Matt Leinart, last year's winner, and running back Reggie Bush, this year's favorite.
Creative marketing can only take a player so far.
"Here is your formula" for producing a Heisman winner, said Pittsburgh SID E.J. Borghetti. "Produce and win. Sending out mouse pads isn't going to do that much."
In fact, Clark Haptonstall, a former Marshall SID, completed his dissertation on the effect of Heisman hype on a player's candidacy, concluding that gimmicks had no impact.
On the other hand, consider Bush, whose three-touchdown effort against Notre Dame was witnessed by 30 million television viewers.
"After the game we just played," Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis said, "would anyone not vote for Reggie?"
-- Eric Prisbell