Angry commenters hijack UPS blog

A TV commercial depicting an NCAA championship game between Duke and the University of Kentucky angered Kentucky fans, who overran the UPS blog with comments decrying the shipping company.


I’m sort of a blog geek. I love to look at company blogs to see their progress—or lack of it—over time.

The UPS blog has made some progress, but the company is still learning how to move its content. Its posts don’t get many tweets or shares—maybe four or five per day.

Then I noticed one blog post about a basketball game that received 482 shares and 181 comments. What?!

Advertising miscue?

The sensation started a few weeks ago when UPS ran a TV advertisement concurrent with the NCAA basketball tournament. The ad tried to connect a pass that won “the greatest game” to the UPS theme of logistical excellence.

In the 1992 game, an underdog University of Kentucky team known as “The Unforgettables” pulled ahead of Duke—the defending national champion—by one point in the closing seconds of overtime.

With 2.1 seconds left, Duke player Grant Hill threw the ball nearly the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who turned and made the winning shot with no time remaining.

“Everybody remembers the shot. But what about the pass? No pass, no shot,” the ad’s narrator says. “You need a special player to get the ball exactly where it needs to be, exactly when it needs to be there.”

An unexpected reaction

Kentucky fans exploded over the fact that the most heart-breaking loss in their sports program’s history was played over and over on behalf of a shipping company. To add insult to injury, UPS has major facilities in Kentucky.

It is common for companies to address controversies and problems on their blogs. In fact, it is an important role for company blogs. UPS tried to soothe savage Kentucky fans by creating a post written by a Kentucky graduate who explained the thinking behind the ad:

“I know our new ads will anger some UK fans, 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.

“No one should think that UPS has some kind of anti-UK bias. On the contrary, UPS loves Kentucky. We love it so much we established our primary air hub in the commonwealth, which has driven the creation of 33,000 jobs with $300 million in annual payroll.”

The strategy backfired.

With this post, UPS just provided a forum for its detractors and inflamed irate fans who stormed the comment section with messages like this:

“Here’s an idea for your next UPS ad. How about you detail the “logistics” of a major company receiving huge tax breaks from a state as an incentive to move there. Then you could show the “teamwork” required to make an ad highlighting the most heartbreaking moment in that state’s sports history. Sounds like another winner.

It’s bad you wrote this post trying to justify the ad, but to do so in such a condescending manner explaining to everyone how great the play was makes it even worse.”

Many Kentucky customers vowed to never use UPS again. A state senator even asked UPS to pull the ad.

It’s a tough situation. Before UPS created the commercial, it had the blessing of the University of Kentucky. Even as a die-hard college sports fan, I’m not sure I could have predicted this reaction.

A celebration of a great sporting event turned into a PR nightmare for UPS. If you worked for UPS, what would you do differently?

Mark Schaefer is the author of “Return On Influence” and blogs at grow, where this article originally appeared.

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