Special Olympics Allegedly Stiffed By Sponsor
Special Olympics, the Washington-based nonprofit that runs more than 108,000 sporting events around the world for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, has sued a Texas company for allegedly failing to pay $270,000 in promised sponsorship fees.
Special Olympics sued Dallas-based PR Nutrition last week for not holding up its end of a financial deal to sponsor three events, including the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America, according to the lawsuit filed in Harris County state District Court in Houston. PR Nutrition, which sells nutritional products for athletes, promised to pay $250,000 to sponsor the 46-day relay that finished at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, but did not, Special Olympics alleged in the complaint.
PR Nutrition also reneged on two $10,000 sponsorship payments, according to the lawsuit.
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“PR Nutrition used Special Olympics to further benefit PR Nutrition’s bottom line, but refused to pay the sponsorship fees,” Special Olympics said in the complaint.
PR Nutrition could not be reached for comment. In court papers, Special Olympics said PR Nutrition claimed that the executive who entered into the sponsorship agreement was not authorized to do so; Special Olympics, however, disputed that.
The case opens a window to the usually hidden relationships between corporate sponsorships and good-works charity groups. Nonprofit groups depend on sponsors to fund their programs by organizing golf tournaments, fun runs or galas. Companies sign up for the sponsorships to affiliate with groups or causes that are important to employees, customers or executives.
In exchange for a promised contribution to Special Olympics, PR Nutrition was recognized as a Special Olympics sponsor, which allowed the company to use the Special Olympics logo in its marketing materials, the nonprofit group said in court papers. An executive of PR Nutrition even walked in the parade of athletes, a special honor bestowed on top sponsors, political leaders and other supporters.
But Special Olympics never received the money, according to the lawsuit. Nor did Special Olympics receive two $10,000 sponsorship promises for two other events, according to the lawsuit.
“This is a big donation for us,” said Angela Ciccolo, chief legal officer for Special Olympics. The group, which had a 2014 budget of $110 million, depends heavily on volunteers and an army of sponsors, including Coca-Cola Co., Bank of America and ESPN.
Ciccolo said she can’t ever recall another sponsor not paying what it promised.
For a charity auction, PR Nutrition promised to supply two tickets to the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship in January in Arizona between the University of Alabama and Clemson University, but never came through with the tickets, according to the lawsuit. A police officer who won the tickets by placing a $1,000 bid had to cancel his travel plans four days before the big game, and Special Olympics refunded the $1,000 donation, court papers said.
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