MINNEAPOLIS — Last summer, coaches and players lobbied Brett Favre to join the Minnesota Vikings through text messages, phone calls and in-person visits.
This year, the public has started the persuasion process for them.
Driven to show their appreciation for Favre's storied first season with Minnesota, a group of Vikings fans has taken out advertising space on a digital billboard near the 40-year-old quarterback's home in Hattiesburg, Miss.
"Hey No. 4, do Minnesota fans love you and want you back next year? You Brettcha!" the message reads (click here to see the billboard).
The ad came from a Facebook group that has grown to more than 122,000 people as of Wednesday. It's well short of the 4 million fans the group's title declares as a goal, but it is full of contributed photos, videos and posted messages from the fans to be mailed to Favre. Jay Tappe of Minneapolis decided to create the group the day after the Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game.
"We never really got to give Brett a good send-off or a standing ovation or anything, because they finished the season on the road," Tappe said. "My thought was to put up a billboard that he sees every morning."
They've got a separate Web site for fundraising, vikesfans4favre.com, which reached the $2,600 needed to keep the billboard up for the month. Leftover money will be donated to the foundation of Favre's wife, Deanna, which helps disadvantaged women in their fight against breast cancer.
Tappe is trying to get her to start a chapter in Minnesota, too, and see if Vikings defensive end Jared Allen will record a video encouraging fans to join the cause. Allen, who nicknamed Favre "The Silver Fox," was one of his biggest fans in a locker room that welcomed him warmly after he called off retirement for the second straight year and signed with the Vikings.
So, can a billboard really help Favre make up his mind?
"It's ultimately his decision," Tappe said. "We don't want to be the ones that are pressuring to come back. We just want to say, 'Thank you.' He made a lot of new fans pay attention to Vikings football, and with the old fans everyone couldn't believe how great a season it was."
On the same Hattiesburg highway, U.S. 98, is another billboard with a similar message.
That one was purchased by Twin Cities sports radio station KFAN, which broadcasts the team's games and has a regular slate of Vikings-related programming.
"Dear Brett, Deanna and family: Thanks for coming to Minnesota. We'd love to have you back. Vikings fans 4-ever," the message reads, similarly using Favre's jersey number as a stand-in.
There's a commercial purpose for KFAN behind the ad, but the station wanted to send some good will too.
"Our main goal is just to do this on behalf of Vikings fans," promotions director Tim Hyde said. "It's a family decision for him, so we kind of directed the message at his family as well."
The KFAN plan is to keep the ad up for February at a cost of $1,800. It's not digital, hence the lower price from the other one.
For now, Vikings fans can only wait and hope. After the season Favre had at age 40, though, it's clear that he's wanted a year after skepticism about his health and his motivation.
"I honestly had pretty low expectations for the season," said Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak. "I sheepishly admit that I thought getting Brett Favre was a bad idea. I was wrong. I didn't think he had it in him. He showed really the whole idea of what it is to be a winner."