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UNM draws fire over ad for Trump hotels

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico’s embattled athletics department has been sent a message that hitching its wagon to the Trump brand was probably a bad idea.

A screenshot image shows the original "New Mexico Lobos with Trump Hotels" promotional advertisement that was posted on – and later removed from – the UNM athletics department's official Facebook page Friday. (Source: Facebook)

A screenshot image shows the original “New Mexico Lobos with Trump Hotels” promotional advertisement that was posted on – and later removed from – the UNM athletics department’s official Facebook page Friday. (Source: Facebook)

The ad, marked as a paid partnership and featuring the Lobos logo, was posted on the UNM athletics department’s official Facebook page. The ad’s headline said, “New Mexico Lobos with Trump Hotels.”

“Calling all Lobos fans!” the post said. “We want to send you on a luxury getaway. One lucky winner will choose from the eleven amazing Trump Hotels properties that span the globe. Enter here for your chance to win a trip with unparalleled service and extraordinary experiences!”

The post included a link to www. The website was not active late Saturday night.

The ad, which appeared Friday, drew instant backlash on social media, with some questioning how a university that espouses a commitment to diversity could join forces with the Trump brand.

One alum tweeted that he was ashamed of his alma mater and asked if it was for real.

“Maybe it was a February fools joke?” tweeted @MamaJenninabq. “… The knucklehead that posted it must have felt the heat because it appears to be gone.”

UNM spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair verified late Friday that the ad had been taken down due, in part, to fan response. She also noted that the ad was put up by a third party.

“UNM Athletics’ media partner, Learfield Sports Properties, has partnerships with numerous national advertisers, including hotel properties, who provide branded content such as the ad that appeared on the GoLobos Facebook page. This particular ad was approved for social media distribution last year. Due to concerns about the broken link as well as fan responses, we decided to remove the ad.”

It is unclear who approved the ad on the university’s side.

Learfield has had multimedia rights and trademark licensing of the Lobos brand for several years, but the partnership is set to end June 30. A Learfield spokesperson did not respond to calls and emails for comment.

The UNM athletics department has been embroiled in several controversies with the cutting of four sports and the state attorney general’s investigation into whether a Scotland golf trip – with tee times and lodging at President Donald Trump’s Turnberry property and another resort – involved money laundering, fraud and embezzlement on the part of former athletic director Paul Krebs.

UNM is the biggest university in an ethnically diverse state where Trump lost the popular vote during the election and a 2018 Journal poll found he had a 54 percent disapproval rating among New Mexicans.

Brendon Gray, spokesman for the Associated Students of UNM, said the group was “definitely concerned” when they saw the promotional giveaway.

“Incidents like this cast UNM in an unfavorable light,” he said. “This is an opportunity to move forward and for administrators to see how UNM can be a better and more supportive place.”

Gray said ASUNM is waiting to hear “the full story” on the promotional giveaway before rushing to judgment or making any decisions.

“We’re definitely going to be watching this closely,” he said.

Reactions from others around the campus were varied.

UNM junior Nathan Hines said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about because the “historically liberal” university didn’t make the choice.

“If UNM had picked it, I would’ve thought it a bigger deal and more of a statement,” he said. “I could see why they pulled it down though and why certain people would get flustered.”

UNM freshman Ry Dozier-Lerum said UNM’s casual handling of the post, and its removal, is “alarming.”

“Especially because this is such a diverse university, I feel like there should be more thought put into that,” she said. “It really seems kind of careless.”

The ad stated the winner would be able to choose from 11 Trump Hotels properties, in cities like New York, Chicago, Miami and Waikiki, and at the Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery in Virginia. Outside the U.S., the Trump Organization owns two hotels in Scotland, one in Ireland and the Trump International Hotel and Tower Vancouver in Canada.

The Trump brand has taken a hit since the president’s successful run for the presidency. Forbes published a story in October of last year on the issue that quoted Cyndy Salgado, a real estate broker who once worked for the Trump Organization, selling condos in the Chicago tower.

“People bought into the building based on the brand being synonymous with luxury,” Salgado said. “Now many people feel that the brand represents divisiveness, embarrassment and questionable morals.”

Journal staff writer Steve Knight contributed to this report.