Welcome To Ospreylia Is The Roadside Message

Ospreys fans have literally marked their own territory by emblazoning a giant Ospreylia sign into the Pencoed landscape.

The 150 x 50 ft painted sign "€" thought to be a welcome to fans commuting to Wednesday"€™s npower renewables Challenge against Australia "€" has appeared as Ospreylia fever grips the region.

Ordnance Survey officially recognized the region in a special map last week and it seems the move has sparked a flurry of activity from the team"€™s fans.

Motorists making their way down the M4 on Monday were stunned by the newest addition to the landscape in the area "€" however, the identity of the super-sized sign writer is still unknown.

Ospreys Managing Director Roger Blyth welcomed their handiwork as further evidence of the continued success the Ospreys are enjoying off the field:

"€œI was amazed to receive a phone call this morning telling me about the sign, but I"€™m in no way surprised. Since the arrival of regional rugby we have worked extremely hard to ensure that rugby fans throughout the region are fully behind the concept of regional rugby no matter what club side they support. It"€™s not been an easy process but we certainly feel that the evidence suggests that we have successfully integrated supporters from right across Ospreylia, with us enjoying unprecedented crowd levels at the moment.

"€œThe "€˜welcome to Ospreylia"€™ sign is significant in that it clearly marks out our territory. Anyone driving westbound along the M4 is made aware in no uncertain way that they are entering Ospreys territory, and it certainly helps to strengthen the sense of community we are looking to foster throughout the region. I"€™ve seen the picture of it and I"€™m taken by it. Who knows, perhaps the Ospreylia sign will come to rival the likes of the Hollywood Hills sign as a landmark of international fame?"€

Online rugby forums are buzzing with talk of the sign which is located less than a half a mile ahead of Junction 35 of the M4 westbound, adjacent to the Pencoed Sony factory, marking out where Cardiff Blues territory gives way to Ospreylia. To some Ospreys supporters who witnessed the newest arrival on the south Wales landscape, the artwork rivals some of the UK"€™s most distinctive hillside artwork.

The sight stunned Richard Thomas, an Ospreys supporter who passes Pencoed en route to work in Cardiff each morning:

"€œTwice a day, five days a week, I travel up and down the M4 so I know the landscape like the back of my hand. I was gob smacked today when I passed the Pencoed junction, to be greeted by Ospreylia, painted 50 foot high onto the grassy bank.

"€œIt made a stunning sight and one that certainly lets everybody know that they are entering Ospreylia. As a roadside attraction, it is up there with the all the famous ones, such as the Abbas giant and the Long Man of Wilmington. Who knows, maybe people will travel from far and wide to visit Ospreylia and to see the new sign?"€

Ospreylia fever has even caught on amongst Welsh politicians, with Peter Black, AM for South Wales West, declaring himself as AM for Ospreylia on his official web-log. Mr Black commented:

"€œI am proud to be an Assembly Member whose region is virtually coterminous with that covered by the Ospreys. Based at the Liberty Stadium this is one regional rugby side that seems to be going places this season.

"€œI was quite amused therefore to see that the region has been renamed for Wednesday"€™s match against Australia. I am now the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Ospreylia. Beats South Wales West as a name anyday."€

Marketing gurus

Off the pitch, The Ospreys have proved themselves time and again to be the slickest operation in Welsh regional rugby, waving the type of marketing magic normally associated with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Today"€™s news and the latest marketing coup of getting a Government Agency such as Ordnance Survey to officially recognise the region of Ospreylia is the latest in a long line of clever thinking from the marketing team at the club. It is an approach that has not only made headlines but also unique support and feeling of ownership amongst old and new fans alike.

It all started in September 2003 with the original mask campaign which saw the now iconic logo emblazoned across the region. In the first guerrilla campaign of its type in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, painted masks appeared on pavements, billboards, hoardings and landmarks; stickers were placed on shop fronts and cars, and giant banners were placed on bridges and roundabouts.

In October 2003, as mask mania took hold, mask-shaped pies and pasties went on sale and "€˜mask mullets"€™, a unique haircut which involved the mask logo being shaved into supporters heads, were on offer at hair salons throughout the region. Even non-rugby fans were seen wearing the cut with pride.

In October 2003, an Ospreys streaker, to the delight of the crowds, started appearing at key competitors games (Scarlets, Blues, Dragons) wearing nothing but underpants and a mask.

In October 2003, The Ospreys further displayed their zeal for guerrilla marketing by recruiting a team of students in Swansea University to display the fixture for the next game on their foreheads. Hundreds of students queued to have their foreheads stamped with ink "€" all in the name of The Ospreys.

In November 2003, The Ospreys commissioned a fashion designer to become the first regional rugby team to launch a women"€™s only mask fashion range called "€˜Birds of Prey"€™. The limited edition range sold out within days.

In December 2003, The Ospreys commissioned a local jeweller to create a limited edition range of mask jewellery for men. This was on everyone"€™s Christmas list and sold out within two weeks.

In September 2004, Swansea comedian Paul Allen was asked by the Ospreys to pen a controversial team song "€" the lyrics of which sent ripples throughout Welsh regional rugby and was the most talked about anthem Welsh rugby has ever seen.

Branding expert, Alex Sheehan, said: "€œThe Ospreys have spent time and money in investing in their brand and in doing so have won the hearts and minds of the public. By creating a dedicated programme of innovative marketing firsts, which aren't wholly reliant on or linked to the side's sporting success, they've managed to appeal to a far wider audience than the traditional rugby supporter and in doing so have created the all important'feel good factor' that today's brands need to flourish."€