Livestrong Foundation and Sporting KC terminate stadium sponsorship deal

BY DARRELL LOVELL

The 2013 MLS All-Star game will not be played at Livestrong Sporting Park after all.

No, the game is not being moved out of Kansas City, but the name of the $200 million soccer mecca is slated to change according to ESPN.com as the outlet is reporting that Sporting Kansas City and the stadium’s sponsor, the Livestrong Foundation, are severing ties.

According to the report, the foundation ascertains that SKC is delinquent on three-quarters of the $1 million dollar sponsorship owed in 2012 and attempts to make up the difference were not progressing.

According to the MLS outlet, the issue goes deeper than simple non-payment.

“We are disappointed to learn Livestrong is deploying tactics designed to force us into an unacceptable arrangement, after months of good faith discussions in which we believed progress had been made,” said Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman in a statement provided to ESPN.com. “We were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner; especially given the tumultuous environment they have thrust us into over the past year — while we staunchly defended the mission of the foundation. Our faith and trust in this partnership has been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong immediately.”

The ESPN.com report states that the Livestrong Foundation has not been notified about SKC’s intent to change the name to what the Kansas City Star is reporting will be Sporting Park.

The divorce comes in the midst of the anti-cancer foundations rebranding after the fall out from founder Lance Armstrong admitting to using performance enhancing drugs; however, that is not what has severed the relationship.

The end of the deal after just two years marks the conclusion of a progressive, ground-breaking agreement to turn stadium naming rights into support for a top national cause.

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38 Responses to Livestrong Foundation and Sporting KC terminate stadium sponsorship deal

  1. Andrew says:

    Last I knew, wasn’t it supposed to be the sponser with the name on the stadium that pays the team for advertising rights on and within the stadium? Seems back-asswards to me.

    • Rory says:

      In much the same way the Kansas City Wizards became Sporting KC because that’s a more European name, SKC tried to copy Barcelona’s support of Unicef by donating money to Unicef then branding their logo on their shirts instead of selling that space. So basically, it’s Eurosnobbery at worst and “trying to separate themselves” at best.

  2. shane says:

    So this is where the costa Rica wCQ will be held? OK we could have it in Columbus and everything would be good as usual. But let’s go to all the areas where the SH!($ is going down rather than where ethics prevail, like the midwest as always. (Ives get to know the midwest) Yes KC is certainly the midwest but not when they get in bed with world mega stars like Lance

  3. Vic- bring Nasl to El Paso TX says:

    Livestrong sporting park name had a bad taste since the start and now kc has to rename their stadium, while trying to land a jersey sponsor. Hopefully MLS teams will learn from this and get real stadium naming rights and jersey sponsors and league sponsors. For instance, I know Mls is not as big NFL YET but if I was mcdonalds or wal mart or some big company, I would support Mls teams and even be proud to put wal mart on a jersey or even pay for stadium naming rights. Therefore I can not believe wal mart, coca cola, pepsi, fedex, ups, facebook, apple, cotsco, bank of america and the list goes on, DO NOT WANT NOTHING WITH SOCCER in the U.S. For example, if I was budweiser, I would contact KC asap for stadium naming rights since that is a gorgeous stadium, top of the line stadium and the owners are perfect. As a matter of fact, every region of the US has companies that fit an Mls team, as for jersey sponsor or stadium naming rights.

  4. Neruda says:

    It sounds as though the livestrong foundation has lost enough donors (Nike severed its ties for example) that the foundation is coming to collect on what SKC owes them. Livestrong maybe getting desperate for money.

    This is all fallout from Lance and the livestrong brand very well may be in the crapper after this. This is crazy given livestrong was everywhere co branded on a ton if athletic gear and more. SKC is smart to ditch this brand as it could diminish their own.

    • Josh D says:

      It was a weird relationship to begin with. Let’s give them all this free branding and awareness and give them money. I’m all for charity and I understand Sporting gained as much, theoretically, from their partnership, but that’s absurd for an MLS team to do. Money is scarce.

      Sporting deserve a sponsor who will pump money into them. Not leak it out.

      Livestrong are desperate for money to keep balance their budget. It’s expensive having a charity with so many on payroll.

      Sporting – No good deed goes unpunished.

      • Railroad436 says:

        How do you know what Sporting’s financials are? How do you know if they can afford or not afford the stadium naming rights? How do you know money is scarce. Dont you think the owners who between them have helped build two very large companies from scratch would know what they were doing? If they needed the money, they would have sold the rights.

  5. Liut says:

    How about a jersey sponsorship?

  6. Kyle says:

    SKC was supposed to pay Livestrong? Don’t stadium sponsors usually pay the team for the rights? Seems bassackwards to me. Good thing they’re wising up and getting out, lol.

    • Railroad436 says:

      LIVESTRONG is a charity, SKC donated the naming rights to them and agreed to donations based on stadium revenues. It’s not backwards considering they were doing a good thing.

  7. Iggy says:

    Does skc really have problems paying the bills or wonder if they just stopped prematurely because they knew they’d have to dump the foundation sooner or later.

    • rob says:

      As someone who’s familiar with the leagues finances, there’s only one team not turning a profit. And it’s NOT SKC.

  8. rob says:

    The unfortunate thing about this story is that it was ultimately avoidable. The rumors about Lance Armstrong were well documented at the time they announced the sponsorship agreement. It was only a matter of time before this would happen.

    • Rory says:

      Yep. I remember laughing about it and saying they would regret it, and I also remember I was far from the only one saying it. There are plenty of charities out there that would have been equally as good a choice to help (as long as they stayed clear of the ones donating money to controversial political issues from either side of the political divide).

  9. Modibo says:

    Knowing Lance, there WILL be lawsuits. His lawyers have probably already filed them. I know that technically LAF and Lance are separate entities, but he is still actively involved and he likes to play hardball – just ask Betsy Andreu, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, among others.

    • Seriously? says:

      Sorry, but I feel badly for Livestrong. It’s an organization that tires to do good, but it’s name has been ruined by how Lance chose to lead his life. I think that should be his legacy, he could have created an organization that could have helped many people, but because of his hubris and incessant lying, that organization will probably die. The fact that he doped doesn’t bother me as much, because EVERYBODY in cycling did back then, it’s not like an innocent guy would have won had he not doped (and I think it’s far more prevalent in soccer, the difference is cycling wanted to get rid of it, while soccer authorities wanted to pretend it didn’t exist, as MLB did for so long), but the way he treated people and acted like he was so pure, for so long, that is truly galling.

      One person I don’t feel badly for is Floyd Landis, I think less of him than I do of Lance.

  10. Dick Tracy says:

    Thank God.

    Sporting making the right moves all day, though this one should have come a while ago.

  11. malkin says:

    What exactly does SKC owe to Livestrong and for what? Seems a little backwards, no? As in, shouldn’t the brand throwing it’s in name all over the stadium be paying the bills?

    I know it’s a unique setup because it’s a non-profit obviously, but I thought that was mostly to help out with taxes/government assistance.

    • malkin says:

      Looks like SKC agreed to donate no less than $7.5mm over a period of 6 years. Still curious if anybody knows a bit more detail about the flipside (ie the tax benefits etc)

      • Josh D says:

        I would assume it’s threefold: awareness (i.e. Livestrong is a global brand), community (makes them look good to be so charitable), and a write-off from the government.

        I just think it was absurd for them to give away so much money. Even Barca didn’t give away as much to UNICEF, I don’t think.

  12. The Imperative Voice says:

    I said something about this the other day when the ASG was awarded. I think stadia should have separate, locally-related identities independent from the sponsor out of something akin to self-defense. I mean, what was Dallas left with when Pizza Hut took off, after the stadium becoming synonymous with the pizza vendor? “Your Name Here” Park? The teams and localities should preserve some identity of their own. The Astrodome is the Astrodome even if Reliant goes bust, but what about Reliant Stadium (or BBVA Compass, whose very name reflects M&A and the vicissitudes of business)? The busts are happening often enough that it’s a responsible thing to do.

    I also think having the independent signifier is simply more useful for the fans. Baltimore’s football stadium has changed names so many times it’s hard to keep up, and the media often tends to just toe the line and give the new name, not maintain some transition where the fans can follow. So if some stadium in another city changes names — or a new one opens — and you’re not paying attention, “where’s that?”

    • Rory says:

      I think the whole __________ Sporting Park was a good move. Just slot in the sponsor’s name from now on and everyone will start calling it “Sporting park” anyway. Just let the sponsor’s come and go but keep the Sporting Park as part of the name.

  13. biff says:

    I was confused about all this–why in the world Sporting KC would be paying Livestrong to put Livestrong’s name on the stadium? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And then I read the linked newspaper article and found the answer. “…one of the most progressive naming-rights deals in professional sports…” Progressive? I think there is another adjective that would be a more accurate description of the deal. I am sure SKC’s intentions were good, but not a smart way to run a business, which — face it — a soccer team is.

  14. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    Seem like bad move..haha

  15. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    Lets not bash few living icon American like Lance Armstrong, remember, Armstrong is being witchhunt by these worthless investations.

    • Neruda says:

      Lance is coming clean on Oprah. This story has been everywhere this week. This is no longer a witch hunt. Everyone new it was true after the latest usana report.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        It’s more like, he’s trying to get ahead of potential perjury charges related to his denials under oath — now that his teammates are willing to testify against him — and he’s trying to re-open the tap on sporting opportunities after the doping ban came down (perhaps because he needs it for legal fees).

        The Lance-Oprah hookup is mutually useful bolstering, they hope. Lance is running out of reputation and probably trying to salvage his image, career(s), and moneymaking ability. Oprah’s new network is not doing amazingly — it’s not on her defunct show, it’s on her TV station — and this is her little scoop. Of course, like the guy who made up his autobiography that launched her book club, he’s appeared with her before, so this also has elements of payback, except Oprah’s had enough of these boomerang on her where you might suggest your significant other take her less seriously as a result……

  16. dan says:

    HOW THE F* are they paying Livestrong? Livestrong should be paying them! And if it was because they are a nonprofit then it should just be free!

    SPORTING PARK, plain and simple done.

  17. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    These investegations are worthless!! Go investegate foodstamp fraud, Stolen Honor, or child support!!!

  18. Nate says:

    I’m not sure why they’d feel it necessary to pay LIVESTRONG anything at all. Stadium naming rights are valued at millions of dollars. They essentially gave LIVESTRONG millions of dollars worth of advertising. If the market rate for naming rights is $1M a year (not sure what it is, actually) then that should be considered a donation.