St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 8, 2011
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in St. Louis is warning area businesses to be alert for phone calls from a Texas-based sports marketing company selling advertising space on school T-shirts.
A University City restaurant operator said a saleswoman with Victory Sports
of Irving, Tex., phoned him late last month, asking him to buy an ad for between $200 and $400 to be imprinted on “spirit” T-shirts. He said the saleswoman told him Victory Sports had an agreement with Normandy High School’s current athletic director to print the shirts for the school. But the athletic director said last week that there is no agreement between the school and Victory Sports. At least three other businesses in the University City Loop area also have been contacted by Victory Sports.
Victory Sports has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible. Last year, the Dallas BBB issued a news warning, alerting small businesses to watch out for telemarketing calls from Victory Sports and another Irving company called IMG Integrated
, also with an “F” grade. The warning said the BBB had received numerous complaints from small businesses nationwide, alleging the companies used misleading sales tactics, supplied poor quality products and either delivered products late or not at all.
Complaints also alleged that representatives of Victory Sports said that the company had agreements with schools to print shirts and other items when it did not.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that most small businesses operate under tight budgets and want to get the biggest bang for their advertising dollars. “No business wants to pay hundreds of dollars to get its name on poor quality products or products that are not distributed as promised,” she said.
Victory Sports sent the BBB a copy of what appears to be a two-year agreement with a former athletic director of Normandy High School to provide T-shirts, concession cups and seat cushions free of charge to the school. But, based on the May 26, 2009, date on the agreement, it appears that the agreement expired more than five months ago.
Such solicitations are not unusual. Last week, Mike Williams, principal of School of the Osage High School in Osage Beach, Mo., said a businessman in that area recently was solicited by another Texas business to purchase advertising on a rally towel. The salesperson for that business implied the company had a relationship with the school when it did not, Williams said.
Last year, St. Louis area prosecutors warned local businesses to avoid yet another Texas marketing company, Jam Sports Marketing of Austin, Tex. That company allegedly took $299 each from at least nine businesses in south St. Louis in return for having their ads appear on 1,000 T-shirts to be distributed to new students at Webster University. University officials said Jam Sports had no authorization to produce the shirts. The university received about 200 unsolicited, poor quality shirts from the company, which were never distributed.
The BBB offers the following tips for businesses solicited to buy advertising space:
- Deal only with reputable companies with good track records. Unethical businesses have been known to collect money for ads that never appear or which see only limited distribution.
- Get any advertising contract in writing and make sure you understand it before signing the agreement.
- Withhold a portion of the payment until you are satisfied that the ad seller has met his or her obligations.
- Check out a business at www.bbb.org.