Discount carrier jumps on NBA player's sudden success - Chicago Tribune

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin reacts in the fourth quarter against… (Adam Hunger/Reuters)

February 21, 2012|By Rob Manker, Chicago Tribune reporter

Jeremy Lin's NBA career has taken off, and discount carrier Spirit Airlines is trying to take advantage with ads promoting its "Linsanely low fares."

The airline, known for pushing the envelope with its daring, zeitgeist-driven promotions, sent an email to registered users Tuesday that appeared to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of the New York Knicks' sudden star. The email, like an ad greeting users on its website, touts the "Just in the knick of time" fares in tandem with a computer-generated silhouette of a basketball player shown dunking a ball.

The ads appeared to be playing in a gray area.

"It's one thing if you and I go to a game and hold up a sign that says, 'This is Linsane' and we're cheering for the Knicks," said Scott Slavick, who specializes in trademark law at Chicago-based intellectual property firm Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione. "You'd be looking at their commercial use of a play on his name and whether that violates his right of publicity."

It was unclear whether Spirit had obtained consent from Lin. Neither Spirit nor the Knicks immediately returned requests for comment on the ad.

Lin has been the improbable talk of the basketball world and beyond since cracking the team's starting lineup Feb. 6 and leading the Knicks to wins in seven of their next nine games, including his first six as a starter.

"Score BIG with fares so Linsanely low, you can afford them even if you're living on your brother's couch!" the ad proclaims, co-opting not only one of the many "Lin" puns of recent weeks but also the story of where he was sleeping before his recent success. "Book now with slam dunk fares that will put your bench-warming days behind you!"

Spirit has rolled out similar, news-driven promotions before — among them, last summer the carrier advertised its "f-ing golden" fares in the wake of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption convictions.

Wall-to-wall media coverage of Lin has introduced seemingly endless "Lin" puns into the lexicon. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's online database, five applications have been filed this month to trademark the term "Linsanity," including one by Lin himself.

Lin is scheduled to make his first visit to Chicago as a Knick on March 12 against the Bulls at the United Center.

Twitter: @RobManker

22 Feb, 2012

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