Florida Panthers' LeBron promotion either genius or tacky

The Florida Panthers have, over the years, established themselves as the NHL team willing to face ridicule for the sake of audacious marketing.

This was the team that offered a free ticket to anyone with a valid Florida driver's license. This was the team that worked with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus on a publicity stunt in which he was "hired by the fans of the NHL's Florida Panthers to negotiate lower season ticket prices."

On Thursday, the Panthers aggressively rode the wave of LeBron "King" James hype in South Florida with their "Seats Fit For A King" promotion, in which fans could purchase season tickets for $23 per game (his old number with the Cleveland Cavaliers) in the lower bowl and $6 per game (his new number for the 2010-11 season) in the upper bowl.

Florida started the promotion hours before LeBron's infomerical on ESPN announcing he was joining the Miami Heat; from its press release on the promotion, which runs through Monday.

"Based on the hype surrounding rumors of a new King headed to South Florida, we wanted to remind our fans that we want them to feel like royalty," said Panthers president & COO Michael Yormark. "Certainly, it's an exciting time to be part of the South Florida sports industry and we'd like our fans and our staff to embrace it."

Also exciting? Having an excuse to drop your ticket prices to reasonable levels. The Panthers' average ticket price in last season's Fan Cost Index from Team Marketing Report was $48.76; below the league average, but higher than 16 other teams including the Tampa Bay Lightning ($35.76).

What do you think of the ad? Because not everyone's sold on it.

The NHL hasn't been shy about cross-sport promotion, with the Winter Classic adopting baseball iconography for games at Wrigley and Fenway; and with the Chicago Blackhawks having sought an ill-fated partnership with the Bears. The Panthers obviously can't directly market LeBron to sell hockey tickets, but this a clever way to borrow some of the heat from the Heat.

Or it's an embarrassment. NBC's Pro Hockey Talk believes the ad stretches "the boundaries of credibility."

Russell Scibetti of The Business of Sports offers another counterargument:

Some people would call it creative and outside-the-box, while others like @JRGoldberg call it "tacky" and says "This makes them look minor league, desperate and silly."

Sure, they haven't been to the playoffs since 2000, and are rebuilding (again). No, they haven't yet cracked the code for attracting both Floridian fans and Northeast ex-pats to home games. But silly's a little harsh ...

Ticket promotions aside: Does LeBron and the Miami Dream Team hurt the Panthers' chances to succeed in South Florida? Litter Box Cats offered its take:

Will his presence - along with the acquisition of Chris Bosh and re-signing of Dwyane Wade - spur a Cats relocation to Hamilton (gonna throw a saucy language warning on this, BTW)? That's perhaps a bit of a stretch; no reason exists to believe a successful hockey club can't share a market with a winning basketball team. Even this funky market, as shaky and bandwagon as it has understandably proven to be in difficult times, undoubtedly has the room and dollars to spare.

The bottom line from the blog: "As long as Dale Tallon's doing his job (and oh yeah, coach Peter DeBoer), the crowds will grow despite the TMZ-style madness in Dade. And they can have it."