FLOYD COUNTY — Some people associated with Floyd Central athletics are cautioning business owners to beware of a company they say they’re not affiliated with soliciting monetary sponsorships for items with team insignia.
Brian Rodgers, president of the Floyd Central Football Boosters, said he became aware recently of at least two local businesses who were contacted by Texas-based company Sports Media Advertising asking for sponsorships to produce T-shirts, cups, bottles or mini footballs for cheerleaders to toss out to the crowd during the upcoming football season or to be sold as a fundraiser to help the school.
But, Rodgers said, he is concerned that local businesses may believe the money is going toward things like what the boosters do — provide the team with extra support with things like meals, equipment, sectional T-shirts and other needs — and could be taking away from the players themselves.
“I feel like they’re just taking advantage of the generosity of the businesses,” Rodgers said, adding that it can add stress to kids already worried about what the season may look like during the pandemic.
“Every day you watch Twitter, you watch Facebook, states are putting out regulations or shutting down stuff,” he said. “These kids they just want to play, go back to school and play...and somebody is just taking advantage of them. it kind of really upsets me.”
In 2019, the Floyd Central Football Boosters raised $19,558 and spent $18,605. Varsity Football Coach James Bragg said COVID-19 has brought unique new expenses to the 2020-2021 season. The Boosters provide the players and staff each with a durable face mask, which cost $6.50 each. It might not seem like a lot but it adds up when there are more than 100 players, coaches and managers. So too does the amount of cleaning supplies they’e been going through to keep players safe.
“So it’s just a little frustrating when you find out that two of the businesses that thought they were supporting you, they’re not,” he said. “One of them got a T-shirt that said ‘Floyd Central Football’ on it but we don’t see any of that money.”
At least one local business sent $600 to the company after receiving an email May 26 from Sports Media Advertising. They later received one T-shirt with the Floyd Central football logo on the front and local businesses listed on the back.
“We are reaching out to a few leading local businesses,” the email reads, in part. “I’m working with the varsity cheer coach, and we’re getting geared up for the Highlanders Varsity Football season.
“We are super excited about producing full color, custom spirit items for the cheerleaders to throw out into the crowd and sell as a fundraiser. Hundreds of parents, faculty, fans and students will see these items at the home games!”
It also states that the sponsoring business will be announced at halftime during every home game this season.
Floyd Central Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Jeff Cequeira said he asked the cheer coach, who said she did not enter into any agreement with Sports Media Advertising. He also said they have not received these items or any funding. He cautioned businesses to contact schools if they question someone requesting sponsorship funds.
“Any time that you’re contacted by an outside company that wants to work as a middle man through the school corporation, it’s always best to contact that school or an administrator or the athletic department to find out if what you’re being told is accurate,” he said.
Joseph Elkhatib, office manager with Sports Media Advertising told the News and Tribune Thursday that the money received from sponsorships is used to make T-shirts, which are later sent to the schools. He said about 80% have been sent out so far to the roughly 1,200 schools they work with around the country, but the rest should arrive within the next few weeks.
“That’s what we do for a living,” he said. “We work with roughly 1,200 schools, same deal. We print up some stuff — shirts, cups, mini footballs, all the stuff the cheer department would typically toss out during a football or basketball game, send it to the cheerleaders or the cheer coach. A pretty simple process.”
The office manager also provided the News and Tribune with a copy of a one-page contract with Floyd Central High School to provide the school with “free spirit items through community sponsorship,” it states. It was dated June 4, 2019 with Floyd Central cheer coach Celeste Bell listed as the contact. A signature is listed at the bottom of the docu-signed document.
Cequeira maintains that the coach did not sign, and that “just because you have someone’s name doesn’t mean they agreed to it,” he said.
Southern Indiana may not be the only area with issues with the company.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists 41 complaints for Sports Media Marketing between March 2018 and May 2020. According to a synopsis listed for the bulk of complaint’s on the BBB website,
“Based on BBB files, Sports Media Marketing has a pattern of disputes alleging the company falsely claims to be affiliated or working on behalf of local schools in their area to raise money for the school’s athletic team,” it reads. “Additionally, consumers allege an inability to obtain a refund or contact Sports Media Marketing after signing their agreement.”
The BBB gave the company an “F,” based on failure to respond to any of the complaints.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas reported in 2017 that the company has also gone by names Touchdown Sports and Boost Sports. The BBB lists Boost Sports Interactive as having eight complaints.
In early 2019, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill filed a complaint against the company (“Boost Sports Interactive Media LLC dba High School Sports Advertising and Sports Media Advertising”) invoking the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, and calling for injunction, restitution, civil penalties and costs.
Filed Jan. 23, 2019 in Delaware County, the complaint alleges that the company solicited $3,420 from five businesses on behalf of Muncie Central High School or Yorktown High School, and that it “failed to establish sponsorship, approval or affiliation with the schools before soliciting these businesses, failed to deliver the products contracted for and remitted no funds to the schools,” according to the complaint.
A response filed on behalf of the company May 22, 2019 denied the allegations in general, stating that “the defendant has been a victim of fraud committed by a non-party, who represented apparent authority to act on behalf of others,” court records show.
That case is still pending but there has been no action since May 2019, Delaware County court staff confirmed.