LSU’s campaign to attract new season ticket holders for the 2015-16 men’s basketball team attracted some national criticism as well just one day after being launched.
The LSU Athletic Department kicked off its summer season ticket sales campaign Wednesday featuring the nation’s top incoming freshman — power forward Benny Simmons, the cornerstone of coach Johnny Jones’ third-ranked recruiting class.
The pitch is being made throughout Baton Rouge via print, billboard, online and social media advertising, starting with a three-column color ad in The Advocate on Wednesday that featured the message “He’s Coming.”
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) May 20, 2015
The ad asks potential ticket buyers to “lock in season tickets.”
“This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number ‘25,’ ” according to a story that appeared on the LSU Athletic Department’s website. “Through this ‘25’ campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was among those who weighed in on the campaign Thursday.
“LSU designs entire campaign around high school player: NCAA says HS players have no value without NCAA. Yeah, right,” Bilas tweeted.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo!Sports wrote a blog that included the headline “LSU’s new ad campaign shamelessly promotes top recruit Ben Simmons.”
In the story, Eisenberg wonders if the ad campaign “was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited.”
He referenced the case of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who won a lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging its commercial use of names, images and likenesses of athletes.
LSU officials declined comment, but ESPN basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, a former college coach, didn’t have a problem with it.
“Marketing Ben Simmons helps both LSU and ben Simmons! This will only help his future marketing by building his brand!” Greenberg tweeted.
Simmons is the headliner of a recruiting class that includes three of the top 39 players in the nation: Simmons, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and Madison Prep guard Brandon Sampson, who was named Louisiana Mr. Basketball.
LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time in six seasons, will add its heralded class to a group of returnees that includes Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Josh Gray and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.