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Big Blue Nation recoils after UPS airs 'The Shot' in NCAA ads

by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 14, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 14 at 8:56 PM

(WHAS11) -- A television ad UPS is airing during NCAA Tournament games is raising the ire of some University of Kentucky basketball fans.  The commercial uses footage of one of the most painful plays in Wildcat history, Duke's Christian Laettner's winning shot that knocked UK out of the 1992 tournament.

"The play is still haunting us," said Todd Baechle, a Wildcat fan in Louisville on Wednesday to watch a free practice session.  "That's a big slap.  It could be because they're here with Louisville."

"UPS is in Louisville," echoed Wildcat fan Mike Gorbett, "They got to see what's in their backyard, so I don't hold nothing against them."

The ad explains how it wasn't just "The Shot," that made a difference in the 1992 play, but the pass to Laettner.

"You need a special kind of player to get the ball exactly where it needs to be exactly when it needs to be there," an announcer says.

Click here to see the UPS ad "Logistics Makes the Winning Play."

"We hope that they understand that it is a great moment in college basketball, a great illustration of logistics," said UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot.  "And how things have to happen in a perfect order, how you have to have a team to win.  And that's what UPS does."

"We did this working with UK," Mangeot added.  "We approached them.  They provided input on the content and approval."

Mark Dickens, a Kentucky native and UPS public relations executive, told WHAS11 that he "raised concerns" about how this ad would be received by Kentucky fans.

Yet, Dickens said the play transcends any one team and utilizes a well-known play considered one of the greatest in NCAA history.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Dickens disclosed that a North Carolina graduate, and not one from Duke, is in charge of UPS’s advertising.

"I know our new ads will anger some UK fans," Dickens wrote, "but if you truly look at that game with an objective eye, it’s hard to think of a better example of what determined people working together toward a common goal can accomplish – and that’s what UPS is all about."

The ad was all the talk at the state capitol, where UPS is pushing two bills that have already cleared the House.  Long time Frankfort observers wondered if the ad might provoke senators to stall the legislation.

Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), the Majority Floor Leader, said he and five other senators saw the ad while watching the Western Kentucky game on Tuesday night.

"The response was, why are you showing that ad in Kentucky?" Stivers said.  "It kind of tore some scabs off some old wounds in a comical way."

Asked if the commercial will affect UPS legislation, Stivers laughed it "depends on if UK gets on a good roll right now and wins the national title."

Veteran Frankfort lobbyist Gene McLean called the ad "highly offensive," and doubted whether UPS had done research to predict a backlash in the state that is home to Worldport, the UPS air hub.

"It would be like a company that is based in Massachusetts using the baseball play where the ball went through (Boston Red Sox First Baseman Bill) Buckner's legs," McLean said.

UPS estimates it  has created more than 30,000 jobs in Kentucky and spawned 141 other companies to locate here.

"I think it's a case of poor timing," said Senator Ernie Harris (R-Crestwood), a UPS pilot who sits on the Senate committee that will consider the bills.  "And it's like rubbing salt in the wounds."

"I think they would be wise to pull the ad not just here but nationwide because there is Kentucky fans all over the 50 states," Harris added.

"We are aware that there has been some feedback," Mangeot said.  "We know that there has been some questions in the legislature this morning.  But we also know that our legislators are going to do what's right for the state of Kentucky."

Senate President David Williams (R) Burkesville, agreed.

"With all the serious things that are going on in the world today and here in Frankfort, we shouldn't get upset by an ad that a company has.  Obviously it's an attention getter," Williams said.

"I think it's fine," said Gov. Steve Beshear (D) Kentucky, "Although I really think a better example than Duke beating UK in 1992 would be UK beating Duke in 1996."

Beshear was apparently referring to the 1998 national championship run by Kentucky.

"It's terrible because it's 20 years ago," said fan Kim Metcalf.

"I think it's terrible," added Andrea Muehler, "We're big Kentucky fans.  This is supposed to be our year, supposed to be our moment and then they ruin it with all this stuff."

"We're committed here and we love Kentucky and we hope Kentuckians love us," Mangeot said.  "And that people take the commercial in the spirit in which it was intended."

Kentuckians may get over the commercial. 

But, seeing "The Shot" aired repeatedly every March is difficult for Big Blue Nation to take.

"I don't like it at all," Beshear said.

Click here to see the UPS ad "Logistics Makes the Winning Play."