Marketing & Sponsorships

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Faked Out: Bogus Sponsorship Deals Plaguing Event Industry

30 Oct, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

As if it weren’t challenging enough to gain sponsorship for tournaments, event owners are now being faced with a new problem: keeping their reputation safe from scammers who collect money for bogus sponsorship deals, telling local businesses they’re working on behalf of the tournament (or team or organization).

The culprit: Sports Media Marketing, what appears to be a Texas-based organization, whose name is an honorary four-letter word with event owners in multiple states – and whose practices have been reported to the states’ Better Business Bureaus.

According to KUTV News in Utah, reports allege the company is taking money from businesses under the guise of selling sponsorship deals on behalf of teams, schools and events. A business owner called police after being contacted by Sports Media Marketing and sold hundreds of T-shirts as well as a logo banner, to be displayed at an upcoming football game. However, when the game took place, no shirts and no banner were there – and the event owner, a local high school, had no idea what the business owner was talking about.

The Better Business Bureau serving Northern Nevada and Utah was contacted; it was revealed that BBB has received 41 complaints against Sports Media Marketing, all amounting to the same thing: the fact that the company never had any permission to solicit sponsorship deals – and never delivered on those it did sell.

Sports Media Marketing has victimized businesses in Grandeville, Michigan; in Bethlehem (Albany County), New York, and in a dozen other states, according to BBB records.

The Better Business Bureau website notes that in addition to the name, Sports Media Marketing, the company uses the names Boost Sports, Sports Media Series, Core Solutions Series, Core Solutions Advertising and JMI Solutions LLC.  Additional activity has been solicited under the name of Touchdown Sports, High School Sports Advertising, Signature Sports and the School Booster Company, as well as All American Advertising Solutions.

And while the bill for the ‘sponsorship’ appears to come from the event owner, it actually comes from Sports Media (or one of its other monikers) with addresses in other states, postmarked from yet other states and – occasionally – a note saying it is not affiliated with entitles such as school districts or tournaments.

So what can event owners do? Be cautious and encourage others to conduct themselves the same way. For example, if you have a notice on your website indicating that you are interested in sponsorship agreements, make sure all your materials indicate clearly who the sponsorship contact will be and what number they will be calling from. (Event owners who are working directly with sports commissions and CVBs to make connections with local businesses have an additional layer of clout.)

Sports commissions and CVBs in areas where sports events are prevalent are encouraged to pass along to all local businesses the Better Business Bureau’s guidelines for staying safe when considering sponsorship or advertising agreements:

  • Verify the legitimacy of the fundraiser. Contact the beneficiary of the fundraiser, sponsorship or advertisement to ensure the company is authorized to solicit on their behalf.
  • If the caller says he or she is working on behalf of a tournament, google the tournament headquarters to get a direct number and ask if they are selling advertising, sponsorship, etc. – and if so, who the correct contact is. (If they are not selling such options, they will now be alerted to the presence of potential scammers in the marketplace).
  • Ask additional questions. When will the advertising be placed? When will it be available for the public to see? Will a copy of the advertisement be sent? Can you see copies of some of the work they have done, such as a program for a tournament, images of banners or pictures of people wearing T-shirts?
  • Ask for references. Who have they worked for? What is their number and e-mail? When did they work for them and what services did they do?
  • Get everything in writing. Request all advertising propositions, charitable appeals, requests for business information and sales pitches of any type be made in writing.
  • Avoid committing on the spot. Write down the name, phone number, and address of the business or organization offering the ad space. Research the company through the Better Business Bureau. Avoid falling for high-pressure sales tactics or offers that are only good for a limited time in an attempt to get you to commit on the spot.

BBB can provide further information here. And for those thinking only youth sports events get faked out by sponsorship frauds, ESPN Events was recently embarrassed to discover the new, and much-heralded, arrangement it had just made for the Dream House New Mexico Bowl was not going to happen; the Albuquerque Journal revealed Dream House was, in fact, housed in a residence, and was not the international-scope motion picture company it had purported to be. ESPN Events is now scrambling to find a new sponsor for the December 21 game. 

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