See Rock City Divests Iconic Highway Signs to Trailhead Media TN, GA, AL, and NC

Article Williamson SEE ROCK CITY TO TH SM

Watchfire Signs

See Rock City is pleased to announce the sale of its 77 out of home advertising faces in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina to Trailhead Media. Williamson & Associates acted as exclusive broker and advisor to the seller.  

This transaction is a special “passing of the torch” as the history of Rock City and its involvement in the Out of Home Industry is a unique one. 

Rock City officially opened as a public attraction on May 21, 1932. It got off to a slow start because advertising in those days was difficult, especially since the mountain-top attraction was not located in a place that people would just happen to be passing by and take notice. It was at this point that another brilliant idea was born. They enlisted the help of a young sign painter named Clark Byers who was hired to travel the nation’s highways and offer to paint farmers’ barns in exchange for letting him paint three simple words: See Rock City. The distinctive black and white signs appeared as far north as Michigan and as far west as Texas. The advertising soon began to produce the desired effect and, by the close of the 1930’s, more travelers than ever had seen Rock City Gardens. The first billboards were added starting in 1950 and soon became equally important in reaching the traveling public. 

See Rock City’s President and CEO, Doug Chapin, comments that “Outdoor advertising has been an integral part of our business from day one, and these billboards are a big part of that legacy. It all began with the famous “See Rock City” barns in 1935, that invited guests to come visit Rock City. That campaign worked, and throughout the following decades we built numerous billboards that continued to invite millions to come visit. Even with the huge role out of home advertising has played in our story, we are not an outdoor advertising business at our core and wanted to find a buyer that would steward these assets and that legacy forward. Williamson & Associates was able to convey the value to prospective buyers and tell that story, leading to a great outcome for everyone involved. We are thrilled about Trailhead’s acquisition of these boards to have a company come in with expertise to manage and maintain these going forward.”

This acquisition is another strong one for Trailhead Media this year and fits perfectly into their growth plans in the Southeast. John Murrow, COO at Trailhead Media adds “Trailhead Media is continually looking to solidify our footprint in the Southeast region. When we were first approached by Williamson and Associates about the opportunity to acquire the See Rock City billboards, our first response was WOW this is interesting. We had all passed the See Rock City billboards many times and had visited Rock City because of the billboards and knew the historical value of the assets. However, we had never purchased a set of assets that had no revenue and was not being operated as an outdoor company, all of which caused concern and much hesitation. After many meetings with Marty and conversations with Doug Chapin, we were confident we could steward the assets by continuing the legacy of marketing See Rock City. This acquisition will allow other companies the opportunity to follow the Rock City example and build strong brands through the addition of the assets to Trailhead Media’s inventory. It has been a pleasure working with Marty and Amber as well as Doug and his team throughout the acquisition process.”

Marty Williamson, President & CEO at Williamson & Associates, said that assisting Doug Chapin, 4th generation owner, with the sale of these assets has been a really great experience. “I have traveled between Atlanta and Nashville frequently starting back in the 60’s and remember seeing the See Rock City signs (and barns) – I also remember pestering my parents until they finally stopped! This was a unique transaction to say the least as these assets were put in place solely for the purpose of advertising Rock City and not at all like the typical billboard company. We knew the right buyer would need to have a vison for what they could do with these assets which is exactly what Trailhead was able to grasp, enabling us to craft a deal that met the needs of buyer and seller. Another nice addition to Trailhead’s coverage in the Southeast!”

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