BPAs New Orleans in particular and the Gulf Coast in general reach the apex of frenzied college bowl and NFL seasons and look ahead to the madness of Mardi Gras, BP is cashing in on the positive vibe with a public-relations blitz designed to paint a rosy picture of the health of the Gulf and the economic recovery of the region.

A series of commercials tied to the BCS title game features images of clean water, sparkling beaches, bustling shops and nets bursting with seafood over upbeat music — a portrait many locals say runs counter to the reality they’re still experiencing. The campaign was launched around the time of the New Orleans bowl and ramped up for the Sugar Bowl and tonight’s championship game between LSU and Alabama.

Chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh are promoting Gulf seafood on behalf of the campaign, and the company hired a pair of seafood trucks to distribute fish tacos and seafood jambalaya to hundreds of thousands of football tourists who have been streaming into the Crescent City.

The promotional campaign ignores how bad the last shrimp harvest was, the continuing closure of some fishing areas due to oil contamination and the slow recovery of tourism. The head of the Louisiana Shrimp Association calls the campaign “BP propaganda.”

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