The Clippers may not yet be able to compete with the Lakers on the basketball court, but they have declared war on the Lakers at the box office with an aggressive advertising campaign that some Clipper executives say, privately, is in poor taste.
One of the Clippers' new ads pictures two fans sitting on the roof of what appears to be the Forum. The caption reads: "Next season, they'll put you on the roof."
Another shows a man, wearing a barrel and tennis shoes, who has just walked away from a ticket office. The caption reads: "Next season, they'll want your firstborn."
The Lakers aren't directly mentioned anywhere in the ads, but the implication is that the Lakers overcharge for inferior tickets.
Alan Rothenberg, Clipper president, defended the campaign. "I think it's fine," he said. "I don't think it's a cheap shot. We're trying to attract paying customers based on a clear difference in prices."
Clipper tickets are priced at $20, $15, $12 and $8.
Laker tickets, considerably less available, are priced at $19.50, $14.50, $11.50, $9.50 and $7, but the team also has a limited number of courtside seats at $150 a game, and Senate seats, good for all sporting events at the Forum, for $6,250 a year.
The Lakers have won four NBA titles, three since 1979-80. The Clippers haven't made the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.
The Clippers' media blitz started on Oct. 6 with ads in The Times. The club has bought 200 inches of advertising at a cost of $23,000-$25,000.
The Clippers are also running 900 radio spots on the top-rated Southern California stations, and a TV campaign is also in the works.
The Clippers did their own advertising last season, but they hired an outside firm this season, Multi Media Marketing.
Andy Roeser, the Clipper executive who hired the firm, would not say how much the team is paying for the campaign.
Said Bruce Walter, president of Multi Media Marketing: "I don't think it's taking a cheap shot at the Lakers. The Clippers do have better seating availability than the Lakers.
"The idea was generated from within. The theme is: 'It's more than a new season, it's a new direction. Get a corner on the action.' "
The Clippers have reportedly sold 2,900 season tickets for the season opening Oct. 31. They sold 5,200 season tickets in 1984-85, their first season in Los Angeles, and 3,500 last season.
"We've had a fabulous response to the ad campaign," Roeser said. "It's generated a lot of positive interest and we've sold a lot of tickets."
Roeser, however, could not provide a figure on the season tickets that the club has sold since the new ads started.
Although the Clipper campaign obviously has ruffled some feathers at the Forum, the Lakers say they don't plan any counter-attack.
"No comment," said Laker General Manager Jerry West after viewing copies of the Clipper ads. "I'd sure like to comment, but I'm not going to lower myself."
Said Laker owner Jerry Buss in a prepared statement: "The people of Los Angeles aren't going to be fooled by these advertising claims. We have many good, reasonably priced tickets available."
Part of the Clipper campaign stresses that the same NBA stars who play at the Forum also play at the Sports Arena against the Clippers. Bob Steiner, Forum public relations director, said that Laker fans pay to see the Lakers, rather than their opponents.