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Selling out

Latest ad from UCLA's marketing department seems to be an invitation to another defeat

September 25, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

UCLA's marketing department prefers to see red rather than be in the red. That seems to be the message from another aggressive campaign put in motion this week to lure fans to the Rose Bowl on Saturday -- Fresno State fans.

UCLA ran a quarter-page ad in the Fresno Bee on Tuesday that read, "Fresno State vs. UCLA," and underneath it, "So you can say 'I was there.' "

The Bulldogs' "red wave" fan base usually travels well, but the engraved invitation probably will drive the numbers up, as Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said he expected, "20-25,000" to attend the game.

Is green a more desirable color than powder blue in Westwood?

"Really?" UCLA defensive end Korey Bosworth said when told about the ad. "I don't know what to say about that. I'm kind of baffled, actually, that they would run that."

This was the latest move in UCLA's effort to market a team that is rebuilding and fill seats in the cavernous Rose Bowl.

"It's a bit different to see a school from a power conference giving that type of invitation to a 'lesser conference' school," said Thomas Boyd, professor of marketing for the Steven Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Cal State Fullerton.

"Given the circumstances, I think UCLA is hoping for a good game. But that appeal clearly is for Fresno State fans to come watch Fresno State beat up on UCLA. I find that unusual."

Fresno State is receiving a $450,000 payment for the game.

Scott Mitchell, director of marketing at UCLA, said Tuesday that, "The way we have it structured, it's clearly branded towards Fresno State fans."

UCLA officials said Wednesday that the ad was directed at UCLA fans in the Central Valley.

This was the latest in a marketing campaign that appears to rely on attention-grabbing ads while the Bruins struggle on the field. Many, it seems, are trying to offer fans incentives to attend UCLA games. The university's bookstore is offering 25% discount on merchandise if you bring a ticket stub from a game where the Bruins score five touchdowns. UCLA has four touchdowns total through three games.

"Like every year, we're doing anything we can do to drive up revenue," Mitchell said.

That included run an ad proclaiming, "The football monopoly in Los Angeles is officially over," before the season began. The Bruins have a 1-2 record and have been outscored, 90-10, in their last two games. USC is 2-0 and ranked No. 1 nationally.

"That was directed at our fan base to share our vision," Mitchell said.

When asked whether saying "it's over" equated "sharing a vision," Mitchell said, "I think every UCLA fan believes in their heart that we'll get there."

Boyd said that ad "seemed a little premature."

UCLA also ran ad telling fans, there was room on "the bandwagon" following a season-opening victory over Tennessee.

The Bruins were then buried by Brigham Young, 59-0, and lost to Arizona, 31-10, a game where thousands of Bruins fans appeared to jump off the bandwagon, rushing for the exits with six minutes left.

"I don't think their marketing is bad," Boyd said. "I think it may lack a little finesse."

A request was made to interview UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero on Wednesday, but he was not made available. Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel tried to play the ad campaign off with a laugh, saying, "I trust them. They're the marketing department. They don't ask me what I'm going to call on third and one either."

Neuheisel's reaction was a little different two weeks ago, when after a news conference, he was told about the "bandwagon" ad. Neuheisel stood silent for seconds, then turned slowly to look at a UCLA official, who threw up his hands and said, "I didn't do it."

Neuheisel said he had not been consulted about marketing plans.

Boyd said, "It is the marketing department's job to fill the stadium." But, he said, "you have to judge the effect on your own fans. The fact is pretty clear that you're telling Fresno State fans to come see a big win for Fresno State."

Bruins players, meanwhile, were shocked by the ad, but tried to give the politically correct answer.

"It doesn't matter to us," Bruins guard Scott Glicksberg said. "Just don't quote me that I was the one who ran the ad. That wasn't my idea."

Foot-brawl

The Bruins seemed frustrated and edgy Wednesday, with two fights during practice, one where offensive lineman Jess Ward smacked defensive tackle Justin Mann upside the head, then kicked him.

On Tuesday, Kahlil Bell screamed at fellow tailback Derrick Coleman, then shoved him.

Neuheisel said he didn't want to see any "cheap shots," but that the fights are "are a byproduct of getting after it physically."

Odds and split ends

Fullback Trevor Theriot left practice because of a knee injury, later determined to be a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee. He will undergo an MRI exam today. Neuheisel said that Chane Moline would be the fullback if Theriot was unable to play. . . . Freshman tackle Jeff Baca worked entirely with the first team, and tackle Micah Kia practiced with the second team.

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

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