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News 5 Investigates: Sports advertising scheme targets area school

COLORADO SPRINGS- Our News 5 Investigates team is sending a warning about a sports advertising scheme that promises to help high school sports teams by selling sponsorships that the schools themselves know nothing about. Lewis-Palmer High School has perhaps the best basketball program in the state. We’ve learned a sports advertising company is taking sponsorship money from area businesses to produce shirts, banners, cups, and other merchandise under the promise they are working directly with the school, but the school says it’s all a scheme to make money off the school’s name.

In Monument a chance to see high school state championship contender Lewis-Palmer Basketball has become one of the hottest tickets in town.

“When you’re having a lot of success you are going to have a lot of people filling the stands,” said Lewis-Palmer Athletic Director Nick Baker.

Baker says recently unexpected sponsored merchandise has been arriving by the box full.

“These are just some examples of things they’ll send us,” said Baker showing us a t-shirt and a plastic cup. “They’ll put logos on the back and so they are co-branding with our name without our permission.”

None of the items have been approved by the school and the athletic department hasn’t seen a dime of the sponsorship money. It turns out sports advertising companies are taking the money of local businesses giving off the impression they have ties with the school. Instead, local business owners are out hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars because the merchandise will never be used.

“That’s kind of the hook,” said Baker. “They really want to support the schools and the local community and get their word out.”

Local business owners say one of the companies taking their money is Texas based Touchdown sports which has an “F” with the Better Business Bureau and countless claims online from people saying they paid money to help a school and it never happened.

Terri Hayes is the CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce. She found contact information for the the company on the nextdoor social media site and contacted them directly.

“They were trying to convince us they are legitimate, but i basically cut them off because i said i know you’re not,” said Hayes.

The same tactics were used by Touchdown Sports also known as Boost Sports in Dallas back in 2017. Owners of a local gym say they were called and sold a great offer.

“They hooked me up with a special deal that they could do for this opportunity with the high school I got a t-shirt spot on like 300 t-shirts, I think they said, and then call-outs over the pa system at every home football game,” said Texas business owner Preston Driscoll.

But just like the situation at Lewis-Palmer, the area school never agreed to this deal. The information on the shirt wasn’t even correct.

“It’s just something that needs to stop,” said Driscoll.

In Monument, Hayes says it’s unlikely local business owners will be able to get their money back and she’s working to get the warning out before small businesses lose any more precious dollars.

“We are telling businesses do not do business with this company,” said Hayes. “People just have that faith. they think this is legitimate. this is great. I feel good about this supporting, but the bottom line is now unfortunately people just need to do their homework.”

At Lewis-Palmer High School the boys basketball team is preparing for another state championship run. Baker says the school really does need the support from area sponsors and warns businesses across Southern Colorado saying all of the problems can be avoided if people contact their schools first.

Through this investigation we learned schools across Southern Colorado have been dealing with situations like this for years. Athletic departments are working to combat these tactics by sports advertising companies who have no interest in helping the schools themselves. The best advice is if someone contacts you is be sure to ask specifically how your money is helping the team. Also, talk to school administrators to make sure the company is really paired up with the school.

Patrick Nelson

Patrick Nelson

Patrick Nelson is an investigative reporter for News 5 in Colorado Springs.
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