and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., each learned a valuable lesson this week: Don’t make college basketball fans mad.
earned scorn for a promotional email about how to “score big” in business that had the subject line, “Don’t be like Wichita State.” Here’s what the email looked like:
Wichita State University’s basketball team, the Shockers, lost a squeaker to the University of Kentucky Wildcats Sunday.
According to a blog post
on the Wichita Eagle
’s website, University spokesman Barth Hague sent PR News
an email that said, “We think this approach is mean-spirited and beneath contempt.” He requested a formal apology.
What Hague got back was an email addressed to “Beth” and that offered PR News
products for free to make up for the slight. Hague replied, “At this stage, having just been insulted by your organization, free products are not something we’re interested in.”
has collected a litany of angry comments from Kansan PR pros outraged by the email, calling it tone-deaf and classless, among other things.
Meanwhile, the land of the team that defeated the Shockers by one point, McConnell’s most recent ad seems innocuous enough. It’s basically just a celebration of all the great things about Kentucky, including basketball.
The state boasts the last two NCAA basketball champions: Lousiville and the University of Kentucky. Both of those teams are highlighted in the commercial around the 1:08 mark:
To the naked eye, it seems harmless. To the trained basketball eye, of which there are many in Kentucky, it’s an egregious, unforgivable error.
The team shown wearing blue and white is not Kentucky, but rather Duke, which won the championship in 2010. Adding insult to injury, Kentucky was famously beaten by Duke in 1992 in a last-second bucket simply known in basketball circles as “The Shot.”
In short, you couldn’t have picked a worse team to mistake for Kentucky.
McConnell’s opponent jumped all over it:
McConnell’s campaign jumped into action, replacing the Duke footage with what Deadspin
calls a “hastily” spliced shot of Julius Randle, who is currently on the UK team.
Oops again. The NCAA has strict rules against using images of a current athlete to promote, well, pretty much anything. The University of Kentucky sent a cease and desist to McConnell’s campaign:
The University of Kentucky consulted with the NCAA earlier today regarding footage of Julius Randle in a Mitch McConnell advertisement. Although the use of the student-athlete's image in the advertisement is not permissible, because it was done without the knowledge or permission of the university or the student-athlete, it is not an NCAA violation.
The campaign simply pulled the ad and apologized “for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
PR Daily co-editor Matt Wilson also contributed to this story.