Livestrong Name Comes Off Arena

January 16, 2013       Mark Hrywna      

The Livestrong Foundation appears to have taken the first tangible hit from the saga of Lance Armstrong’s mea culpa tour.

Livestrong Sporting Park yesterday announced that it has ended its relationship with the Austin, Texas-based foundation, terminating a six-year, $7.5-million deal after less than two years. Crews removed the Livestrong sign from the stadium overnight, according to video from KMBC-TV, and will be known simply as Sporting Park.

Citing “permanently damaged faith and trust” in the partnership with Livestrong, Sporting Kansas City (SKC) terminated its agreement, effectively immediately. “Over the course of the past year, it became clear that Livestrong no longer shared the same spirit of partnership, despite our perseverance to the contrary.”

Livestrong Sporting Park’s website was temporarily unavailable this morning but several media reports in Kansas City last night cited a 400-word statement from Sporting Kansas City, which runs the MLS franchise and the stadium. “This morning we were disappointed to learn Livestrong is utilizing aggressive tactics designed to force us into an unsatisfactory arrangement,” according to the statement, which also expressed surprise about the action “in the midst of a significant transitional phase for” Livestrong.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) facility in Kansas City, Kan., had guaranteed annual payments of at least $1 million to the charity. Annual contributions to the charity would come from a portion of ticket and concession sales to Major League Soccer (MLS) matches as well as other events at the stadium which seats 18,500 for soccer and 25,000 for concerts. The new, $200-million stadium opened in June 2011 and will host the MLS All-Star Game in July.

ESPN reported that the termination actually came from the foundation’s end, claiming the team had paid only a quarter of the $1 million it owed for last year — and if the remaining funds were not paid in two weeks, the deal would be nixed. SKC did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment today.

In response to a request for comment, Livestrong issued a statement from its chief financial officer, Greg Lee: “While we don’t talk about the specifics related to any of our partners, part of my role…is to ensure compliance by our corporate partners. We strive to be great partners ourselves and expect the same from those we do business with. If a partner doesn’t live up to the terms of our agreement, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end.”

Cause Marketing Forum President David Hessekiel said it’s unusual for differences between cause marketing partners to play out in public this way. “Usually, unsuccessful partnerships just fade away without any public pronouncements,” he said.

Sponsors fled Lance Armstrong the individual after damning reports from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) came out in October. He stepped down from the board of the foundation he helped to create but the charity had remained relatively unscathed until now, even reporting increased donations last fall.

Armstrong reportedly admitted to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, taped on Monday and set to air over two nights on the former talk show host’s cable network this week.

“There have been several instances over the last 22 months when our partnership has been called into question, both by media and the general public. Throughout this period, we have staunchly defended the Livestrong mission and never wavered in our continuing support of the cause,” according to the statement from Sporting KC. “Despite the distractions, leadership from Livestrong and Sporting Club were actively engaged in discussions to redefine expectations for both parties. Based on assurance from key Livestrong leadership, we believed this ongoing dialogue was very positive.”

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