ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After the pandemic shutdown the 2020 Balloon Fiesta, now one of the annual event’s major sponsors is suing for a refund. Best known for making cameras, Canon is seeking reimbursement of $250,000 and accusing the Fiesta of violating the terms of a three-year endorsement deal.
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Filed in U.S. federal court Monday, the lawsuit accuses Fiesta of continuing to use Canon’s brand in advertising for the 2021 event. Balloon Fiesta organizers announced in a video published online in June 2020 that the 49th annual event would be “postponed” until 2021.
During the video announcement, AIBF Event Director Sam Parks had a message for the event’s various sponsors. Canon’s support was directly mentioned. “Thank you for your continued support, we could not do this event without our valued sponsors and Canon is at the top of the list,” Parks said. “We really do appreciate that support, we recognize that we want to fulfill as much as we can of your sponsorship for our event.”
In the same video, organizers went on to describe how Fiesta was planning to “rollover” sponsorships from the “postponed” 2020 event to the next planned 2021 event. However, court documents suggest Canon sees its sponsorship differently.
In September 2020, the camera company sent a letter to AIBF organizers, seeking to terminate the camera company’s contract as Fiesta’s “presenting” sponsor. Citing “force majeure provision” language from their contract, Canon claimed an “epidemic” is among the qualifying reasons for ending the deal.
According to court filings, 2020 was supposed to be Canon’s final contracted year of their three year AIBF sponsorship. The company claims it has already paid AIBF $250,000 for the final year of the deal that was collectively worth $720,000 across 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Canon claims Fiesta organizers have “refused to refund” the $250,000 the event was paid. Court documents allege AIBF responded in part to Canon’s September 2020 letter with a letter in November, claiming Fiesta has been “rescheduled.”
In the same June 2020 online video where Balloon Fiesta organizers announced the “postponement” of the 2020 Fiesta event, Parks suggested that sponsors were eligible for refunds.
“If they can’t be part of that event, they can also get a refund on their sponsorship,” Parks said in the video. “Any type of sponsorship, even to a balloon sponsorship with a banner, you can carry that over to next year, or ask for a refund or make a charitable contribution to Balloon Fiesta.”
Balloon Fiesta organizers have since announced plans for a full event to take place in the first week of October 2021. A law firm representing the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta sent the following statement:
AIBF does not comment on pending litigation. However, AIBF assures its balloonists, sponsors and guests that the 2021 Balloon Fiesta event will go forward. AIBF looks forward to launching 600+ hot air balloons over nine days, beginning October 2, 2021.Butt Thornton & Baehr PC, law firm representative of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
KRQE News 13 did not hear back Monday from representatives for the Albuquerque law firm representing Canon. Canon has been a Balloon Fiesta sponsor since 2015. According to the lawsuit, the company is suggesting their brand be dropped from any affiliation with Balloon Fiesta for the 2021 event.