Canon sues Balloon Fiesta, seeking sponsorship refund

A balloon lifts off between inflating balloons at the start of the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The halting of the Balloon Fiesta 2020 during the pandemic has resulted in a legal dispute between the fiesta organizers and the main sponsor of the event.

Canon USA, the presenting sponsor of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, filed a lawsuit this week demanding a refund of $250,000 and alleging event organizers violated the terms of a three-party sponsorship agreement. years.

The dispute appears to center on whether the 2020 event was ‘cancelled’, as Canon claims, or ‘postponed’ – the term fiesta organizers used to describe last year’s shutdown. .

In June 2020, party officials announced that last year’s event had been “postponed” until October 2-10, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its lawsuit, Canon alleges that “the 2021 Fiesta is not advertised as the postponed or rescheduled 2020 Fiesta.”

Crowds await a mass ascension launch during the 2018 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The annual event at Balloon Fiesta Park is usually Albuquerque’s biggest tourist attraction, but COVID-19 concerns led organizers to shut it down in 2020. The Balloon Fiesta is scheduled to resume in October. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“Fiesta 2020 has been canceled, and Fiesta 2021 is in fact its own separately scheduled event,” the lawsuit alleges.

To support the allegation, Canon cited a variety of media reports describing the 2020 balloon rally as having been cancelled.

Balloon Fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity declined to comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday. He confirmed that the Balloon Fiesta 2021 will be held as scheduled from October 2 and about 600 balloons are registered.

The party’s attorney, Sarah Shore of Albuquerque, said in a written statement that the party does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Canon USA, a manufacturer of cameras and photographic equipment, entered into a sponsorship agreement with Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 2017 that made Canon the event’s “Presenting Sponsor” from 2018 to 2020.

The deal required Canon to pay the fiesta a total sponsorship fee of $720,000, including $250,000 for the 2020 event.

The agreement provided Canon with a number of promotional opportunities, including the placement of the Canon USA logo on the cover of 12,000 official event programs and the entry of the Canon USA ball.

In July 2020, fiesta organizers sent Canon a proposed amendment that would have extended the terms of the 2017 sponsorship deal for an additional year, according to the lawsuit.

The amendment would also have applied Canon’s $250,000 sponsorship fee to the 2021 Balloon Fiesta. Fiesta executives offered Canon the proposed amendment a second time in September.

Canon USA rejected the proposal to extend the sponsorship agreement for one year.

“Canon USA never consented to postpone Fiesta 2020 to a mutually agreed date,” the lawsuit states. “Therefore, whether (Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta) characterizes its decision as a ‘postponement’ or ‘cancellation’…Canon USA was entitled to terminate the agreement” and be reimbursed for its $250,000 sponsorship fee. $.