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Monday
Jul272009

"Sponsor Me!" Smackdown

Imagine, if you will, that my best friend sends me an invitation to her wedding. Imagine, too, that she lives across the country and there is an entire year before the event. Naturally, I'm going to look at the calendar and check to see if I can make it. Next, I'm going to assess whether or not I'm in need of a new dress and shoes. Then, I'm going to start writing letters to family members and friends and the occasional neighbor to see if they'd like to sponsor me. You know, pay for my airfare, hotel, and possibly pay for some new clothes for me to wear while I'm there. Then, I'm going to mention that I'd love a new DSLR camera and a bigger, better laptop on which to download the pictures because this MacBook I'm using actually belongs to the school district I work for and hey! It'd be great if THEY could pay for it all and give it to me for FREE. All I would have to do is mention them in my card that I give the bride and groom for their wedding present. While I'm at it, perhaps I could get Williams and Sonoma to sponsor a gift. Something really nice and in the price range of $300 or so and, oh, what the hell, I'll just ask for two of them so that the new couple could enjoy one and so could I! This is a genius plan, right?

You see, bloggers, this is a ridiculous notion. I have a whole 12 months to plan for this wedding. In the meantime, I will have to continue to pay my bills, keep up with my car insurance, buy groceries, and deal with the same financial issues as everyone else. We even have a word for this. It's called R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y. If, by chance, I'm unable to afford such things then the conclusion I come to is that I simply cannot go.

Asking for a sponsor on the very post that BlogHer tells us that next year's conference is in New York City is beyond low. Shame on you.

But I understand why you did that. You saw lots of women do it this year and get away with it. But really, have they? In every circle of women in which I was included in a conversation we were appalled at your behavior. Your lack of shame in striking a pose and declaring that your head-to-toe outfit was sponsored by so-and-so. In fact, my response to that was to do my best model pose and exclaim, "This, ladies? THIS was sponsored by Goodwill and hand-me-downs." It's just that I can't help myself when you act so outrageous.

The onus is on us as a community to fix this. As a community, I was excited that I got to interact with companies this weekend. INTERACT. Which meant that I didn't grab free swag and leave a party as soon as I collected some loot. I had a conversation with the folks from Microsoft who gave me new information about how to use their new interface and answer my questions. Did they shove crap in my hands? No way. They respectfully cared about me learning something new. Not getting something new.

Obligations from companies who want to see us use their product are at an all time high. Those of us who were sympathetic to the free stuff did our level best to come up with a way to re-use it. Would a hotel employee want this free swag? Could I convince people to give me products that I can take back to my highly impoverished high school and put in the hands of teenagers? While that's a good intention, companies, it's not what you wanted. You wanted your product in my hand and you want me to use it and love it and share it. Right? Unless I'm making a poor assumption about that, Mr. and Mrs. Corporate Sponsors, you're going to have to come up with a way to connect better with me. I'd like to see that happen because the alternative is that you don't hand out free stuff at all. (As an aside, I don't expect you to give me expensive products like cameras and those of you who expected that? I'm looking at you.) (Another aside: As I'm looking at you I'm rolling my eyes at you, Greedy McNeedy.)

For some reason, it's as if we pandered to the lowest common denominator this year with some attendants at BlogHer acting entitled and privileged and like their entire reason for being centered on getting free stuff. I'll take responsibility here and use the pronoun "we". That's because I'm a part of this community and have even signed the pledge to Blog With Integrity. But I did this to write. I only started a blog to write. That's been the passion all along. If you think you can start a blog and make money right away then you're doing it wrong. Not just wrong. You're doing it pathetically and you're making a poor reflection on the writers.

So, companies? Take all that and learn from it. If you do better, we will do better. Having a better plan helps us all in the long run and we can make better informed decisions about products and things we'd normally purchase.

Or not purchase.

You know. Because maybe we don't have the money for something and will have to do without.
« Diversity: Not Just For _____ Anymore | Main | Operation Get-My-Crap-In-Order »

Reader Comments (101)

I'm a little bit in love with this post.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjodifur

I love you.

That is all.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMir

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Thank you for this - it needed to be said and you said it so well.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLara

Smackdown. Not even a standing eight count.

All this, that you describe? Glad I wasn't there to see it. But rather than deter me from attending next year, it encourages me to attend, next year - to do my little, non-materialist part to even the balance.

And to hang out with the incomparable @mochamomma, of course! And @{insert names of any number of bloggers with integrity}... and etc.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

What I find fascinating is that this year, I thought the PR from the PR folks was great, mostly because it was completely limited to the expo hall. Last year, I was being approached non stop by PR professionals.

This year, it was bloggers coming up to you with barrels of swag and press cards and requests for your own cards for giveaways. And honestly, most of them were at really inappropriate times.

I think I have less tolerance for it because a) bloggers should know better and b) I know some of these companies and I'm really sad that they paid money to be represented so poorly.

Being sponsored at a conference is very much like being a spokesperson. That job should not be taken lightly. You reflect on the sponsor.

Dove should be banging down your door, beautiful.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotherhood Uncensored

thank you for this post.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennyalice

Well said!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarathonMom

Um, love ya, mean it. One of biggest regrets of this year was not getting to hang out more.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKBO

Thunderous applause from me.
Love you.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchris

this is crazy! but I'm not surprised. thanks for this post.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustice Jonesie

Thank you for taking the sledgehammer approach, as my pre-BlogHer "registry" post was apparently taken as a great idea by some (instead of as the gentle nudge toward reality I intended).

Sadder than ever that I didn't get to ogle you this year, but ridiculously excited that I will be working with you on Brand About Town.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie @ The Mom Slant

Exactly right. I have such a small little corner of the blogosphere and, while I would love more readers, the whole materialistic aspect is a bit freaky to me. And a lot insincere.

I am small, and my impact minimal - but I clicked right over to your integrity link - and signed.

The whole blogging thing can leave you so exposed - I hate the idea of being corporate bait. Especially since it implies you will be gobbled up in the process.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatrinkaS

Great post. However, on this point: Your lack of shame in striking a pose and declaring your head-to-toe outfit was sponsored by so-and-so.

Um, didn't the BlogHer founders to that Very. Same. Thing. Up on stage, projected out to 1,000 bloggers in the audience? That + the mention of a make-up sponsor on behalf of these very wonderful and successful women was tacky! If our leaders and role models in the blogging community can shill like that why can't Jane Blogger from SmallTown USA?

I'm more than a little in love with you for this post.

Writing and relationships. That is what it is all about to me. I have developed wonderful relationships with writers AND PR people alike--but never because of their swag.

Manners people. Get some manners.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMammaLoves

Last year, I was sooo envious of all of the women who were at Blog Her '08.

This year, I'm not at all upset that I didn't get to go.

I feel bad for the people behind BlogHer, the sponsors, the attendees, the panelists, anyone who had their experience ruined because a handful of "Mommy bloggers" forgot how to act amongst grown ups.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterApril

Girl, I have such post envy right now. Perfect perfect.

Still? That ass smack in the lobby was a good one, even though it was sponsored. I'm just sayin.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUpsideUp

I just fell further in love with you.

Thanks for keeping it real. On your blog and face to face.

Now go phone your mama and tell her to adopt me.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

Unbelievable. I wouldn't think for a minute to shop for a sponsor to a conference. That is frickin' insane. It's like those people who sell the naming rights to their children or have their own wedding sponsored. Where is our self-respect? UGH!! Infuriating.

Well Said. You Rock. Maybe I'll make it BlogHer '10 and finally get to meet you--even though we only live under two hours apart.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Amen. I understand that some people get sponsored for things, but that's not what blogging is about. The more bloggers act like money grubbing whores instead of a community of thoughtful individuals the less of a voice we all have in raising legitimate concerns to the companies that care about our community.

I also wish there were a better way to target the swag/PR or at least recycle it. I don't need baby food or a little kid's book. I would have loved to have had the option to choose to donate it to a school, a shelter, a military family or anyone else who really could have used it. A company initiating that kind of option would certainly elevate them in my eyes, and I would remember that when I get to the point where I DO need those things, or have a friend in need of a recommendation.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTutugirl

Amen. You put what I have been thinking into words much more eloquently than I could. I am too much of a loser to everbe invited, much less sponsored to blogher, but it seemed, from what I have heard and read, to be a gift grabathon. Not sure this is what blogher was supposed to be about at all.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Love this. Unfortunately those who really need to read it probably never will, or if they did wouldn't even recognize themselves in it.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterannettek

Oh my love Kelly. As usual you are the one! Even for someone who wasn't there (damn!) your post said so much. NOT that I'm surprised. If I had a nickel for every time I've commented here on how wonderful you are, I'd be a rich little blogger even w/OUT sponsors. Since I spent most of my life in journalism, the whole idea of sponsors is kind of weird to me. How can you cover mercury on toys if toy makers sponsor you? For example.

Anyway K I love you and one of the biggest bummers of not being there was not getting my annual hug. I might have to fly out to your school and demand one on the intercom!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Samuels

Word! I just love you!

I don't have a ton of money and BlogHer is a bigger expense for me. But I wouldn't ever consider being sponsored. I go to see friends and make new ones. I want to be ME and REAL, the person that I am on my blog. And I don't want anyone ever wondering if something I said was genuine or if I was being paid to do so. That is SO not the point of blogging.

And I agree with Tutugirl above about doing something with the swag. I know last year BlogHer had a recycling room, but that's never open on Sunday when I'm packing and going through my swag bags.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristabella

I'm just so surprised all these companies could AFFORD to give away so much stuff. Recession, schmecession.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShe Likes Purple

I saw the comments to the post announcing BlogHer10 and thought the top of my head would blow off. I'd heard about the swag hags--thankfully, I didn't actually witness any of that behavior--but begging for sponsorship over a year in advance? Just throwing out a generic query to anyone who happens to be reading the announcement? Do they really think that's how it's done? Do they really think corporations are that easy? Or stupid?

Sheeeyit, why don't they make a sign saying "Will Pimp Your Company for Airfare" and stand in the parking lot of the nearest Fortune 500 company headquarters. Or get a sailor drunk and steal his wallet. It would make the rest of us look better.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy Buxom

Whoa, do I ever have a girl crush on you, now. ;) Loved what you said here, AND on the Blogher '10 announcement post. Amen!

I wholeheartedly agree. Do we all enjoy free stuff? Yes. And do we occasionally re-purpose free stuff if it is given to you and you don't realize it's there? Yes. (I'm looking at you, scads of 3M sponges, but hey! My mom and I both need to clean!) But there is no reason for people to blatantly be DEMANDING things to be given to them. We (should) attend conferences like these to meet women like us, different from us, and to connect with them and everyone in between.

Also? It was great to meet you after the Women of Color ROYO, and I will definitely be in touch about the College Board/SAT project. :)

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarcey

Damn. I was hoping you'd wear my logo stretched all across your tits.

Just sayin'.

With love,
The other Heather

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChookooloonks

I was sponsored by the stank of late July Chicago.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpalinode

I need to get back on a plane and fly back up there to kiss you for this. I guess I should check if we have enough frozen pizzas & spaghettios in the house.

(That wasn't product placement, BTW. That is what my kids will eat when left to their own devices.)

Thank you for this, the awesome afternoon cruise, the fantastic company of your sister and the ride to my hotel. You inspire me to be a better person, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. :)

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShash

I really appreciate your post. You make some amazing points, and I am glad to see someone is making them. I was part of the "LobbyCon" losers so all I was able to do was hang out in the lobby & expo ALL DAY LONG. I was bored senseless. This was my first time at BlogHer and I was suprised to see people go apesh*t over the swagbags at parties. I was able to "win" a few cool products from sponsored people who tweeted that they were giving away items. I did not feel bombarded (though may have if I had been before). I am thankful for what I got, and will use what I want to use, and pass on what I don't to people who may need it.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

At a party recently a woman came up to me and said "Kim, I need to make extra money so I want to start a blog. How do I do it?" She didn't even know what a blog IS. I told her "don't start a blog to make money." I didn't even punch her in the face.

Great post, it's what I've been thinking all along. I got to almost every party late which meant there were less people and more opportunities to actually talk and meet and foster possibility. I did not meet YOU, but there were sightings...

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim Tracy Prince

I'm reposting my comment from blogher.com...

Amen.

If you take blogging seriously, you will find a way to get to NYC for this conference. And yes, it's a conference, not a bachelorette party, so it's a tax-deductible business expense. If you don't have the money lying around, you should find a way and figure it out before expecting other people to do it for you. You will track flights on yapta.com, find 3 other women to share a room with and find some small luxuries you can give up so you can put the conference ticket on your credit card and pay it off by the time next summer rolls around. If you STILL can't make it happen, THEN start coming up with ways that will bring value to your readers and potential financial supporters and pitch them. But if you think there are companies who are going to want to send you a fat check just because you ask, you're one of the entitled mommy bloggers giving everyone else a bad name.

LOVE THIS!

full disclosure: this was my first BlogHer & i WAS sponsored, but it was by chance & by a site for moms of color who wanting to make sure more brown mommies got to attend.

now...

like i said, this was my first BlogHer and i was amazed at the level of sponsorship going on. i had no idea this even went on, because for the most part, i don't read most "mommy blogs" other than a select few. i was shocked because it seemed like a lot of people took pride in selling themselves, touting the fact that they got a free trip, and got free stuff, and when i went home to check their blogs, i could barely read the content because of the advertisements.

i, too, became a blogger because i love words. i love to write. i love interacting (there's that word again), and meeting interesting and absolutely fascinating women. it was GREAT. i left most of my "swag" for the cleaning ladies at my hotel with a note of thanks. i think your post & others like it NEED to be said. there are many of us who feel this way & we need to make it known that the greedy don't outnumber us.

BTW: LOVED, LOVED LOVED the things you said at the WOC breakout session! that whole conversation inspired a post: "Post Racial Promised Land?" http://bit.ly/10wTqK

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertheprisonerswife

Oh wow, please come snuggle up next to me right now and let me tell you just how awesome you truly are.

I have various reasons that I don't go to BlogHer but this year one of the main reasons was due to a lack of moola. Getting divorced and moving cross country tends to do that to a girl and since I am an adult, who is responsible, I had to pick and choose vacations and trips. That being said, it never occurred to me to ask a company to sponsor me (not like my blog is big enough anyway but yanno).

People have the choice to start saving right now. It's pretty simple, really.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilly

I just purchased my ticket to BlogHer 2010 in NYC. I was leaving this comment to see if you would personally be interested in sponsoring my underwear for the 4 days that I plan to be there (Thurs-Sun). That's only 4 pairs of underwear; therefore, 4/5 of a cotton pack, if you choose to sponsor the undies from Wal-Mart classic 5 pack. I'm not picky about my drawers so long as they aren't thongs. Again, the decision is up to you. If so, I will well represent your brand by tattooing your portrait on my left breast. Holla!

So the last sentence might've been creepy, but I'm sure you get my sarcasm. Also, I hope to see you in 2010. Sponsored undies or not. :)

Well I didn't go, never even occurred to me to go.
That sort of behavior seems to come from the same women who will empty the Splenda packets (not sponsored) into their purses from the coffee setup in their rooms.
They will rush to the red blinking light for the special "gift" junk that they get for listening to some huckster sell his slicer dicer. Plus they will line up their kids to try and get one too.
This is not a behavior of necessity but of greed and entitlement. It is also a behavior that portrays women as juvenile and unprofessional.
Nothing wrong with sponsors but that can't be all you are about. Sponsors are the gravy but you better be serving some meat and potatoes girl.
Just like being back in the preschool executive meetings 20+ years ago.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLori E

I really enjoyed the post and the great comments. Love your passion. JD

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce E. Davis

You did it. Good for you!!!

And of course, I'm in agreement that the madness needs to stop. I think next year we will probably do The People's Party much differently as none of us wants to perpetuate the hyper-acquisitive vibe of this year.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIzzyMom

I would comment but I am looking for a sponsor for it first.

But I will say for free that I love you and your Goodwill outfits.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMom101

i usually try not to hate, but i saw those very comments and thought the very same thing.

this was my first blogher, so i didn't know what to expect. the amount of free stuff given away was staggering and, yes nice, but absolutely unnecessary. again, i can't compare it to the previous years, but it seemed like the substance of the sessions and the opportunities to connect were swallowed by the swag.

rest assured, the @blogalicious09 ladies are taking notes.

PS
Kim Moldofsky makes a great point re Elisa, Jory and Lisa announcing that their wardrobes were sponsored by Ann Taylor...

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustice Fergie

I was somewhat soured on attending BlogHer in the future based on some of the posts that I was reading over the past few days, but I am glad to see my faves (yep, you're one of them) have instilled confidence in me once again! Perhaps, if I can afford it, I may grace the conference next year.
BTW, GW Boutique is a perfectly respectable place to shop! ;)

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

You forgot about the part where you show up at the wedding reception in a t-shirt with "I got their wedding gift at Williams-Sonoma!" "stretched across (your) tits."

That shit never gets old.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStefania

LOVED this post. At times it was hard to find the distinction between who was a marketer and who was a blogger. I think next year you'll see more charitable involvement and less emphasis and swag. At least that's my hope!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

Great post.

This was my first BlogHer, and I was a bit dismayed in the days before that no one seemed to be talking about sessions. All of the talk was on sponsors and swag. Think about it - if you paid to get into the event, was any of the stuff you got actually free?

I've been to many conferences and exhibit floors (attendee and working). From a company perspective, you want people to be thrilled about the swag. You want there to be talk. But showing off your free ride is a different story from showcasing gifts that brought you to a conference, or helped you look your best during it.

It is no easy feat to put something together like this event, and BlogHer & sponsors knocked it out of the park with the amazing parties, swag, guest speakers, celebs and a place for bloggers to come and bond for a few days. Maybe this was a transition year, but hopefully in 2010 attendees will focus just as much on sessions to promote a learning/career & personal enhancing environment angle as much as swag.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersolessence

Awesome post, but I'm still so conflicted about this. I didn't think I'd be able to go to BlogHer this year. I was laid off two years ago and have been embracing being a SAHM. I have only just started seeing a little income from my blogging (so do not make enough to start deducting things as a business expense).

My husband surprised me with a conference pass for Valentine's Day. What money we were able to save up for BlogHer had to go to unexpected car repairs, dentists and basically life in general. I received a scholarship to help with some of my expenses and I went after my sponsors on my own.

I was wearing clothes and jewelry from someone and I gave people I knew a few items of swag. I'm hoping to continue those relationships as 3 out of 4 of the sponsors I went to were products I used and believed in before BlogHer.

If it weren't for my parents, Visa, sponsors, scholarship and my husband I wouldn't have been there at all. I do take my blog seriously, don't feel entitled to anything, I did share a room (lied to the hotel to get a lower rate!) and I'm continuing to pay for my airfare at a rate of 11%. Quite frankly, going to the conference put us in debt (but I'm so glad I was there and am glad to take on the burden!).

I can't fault the people who went after sponsorship. I did enjoy the swag (recycled what I couldn't use, left some in the room for the staff) and look forward to surprising my nieces with the toys and feeling good about not using any plastic bags at the grocery store. I guess all I'm saying is there are often two sides to a story. I agree with you and will start squirreling away my change for next year but take a little (OK a lot) of umbrage at the idea that I shouldn't (don't deserve?) to go to next year's conference because I may need help to get there (that is in response to a comment on the BlogHer announcement post not to you Kelly).

(LOVED meeting you and feel the Women of Color ROYO was the best panel I went to).

I do believe it was less about the companies this year, and more about the bloggers who set this negative tone. For once, I wasn't being chased down in a hall by a PR person so he could get my card for any future endeavors they might have. You know, as long as I am a mommyblogger.

And I'm still totally in agreement with your idea for BlogHer10 Sumo. I would gladly save my money to rent those sumo suits and let people battle it out for swag bags.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

If my husband wouldn't mock me endlessly, I would stand up right now and literally applaud you.

You already know I love you. Now I just love you more.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngella

You rock, Kelly. I'm saving for next year so I can tell you so in person :)

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Kelly: Just went over and read the announcement and the following comments. I assumed you were talking to one or two people but... wow... yeah. A whole plethora of peeps asking for sponsors? What does that even MEAN? Do I have to get a "Ford" tattoo on my butt or something? Is this like selling space on your back at a boxing match? I don't follow the whole idea.... My closest thing to a sponsor is 5 foot ten, fathered my children, and puts out on a regular basis. (Also: He liked it so he put a ring on it.) (And you're welcome for the ear worm.) But mostly he sponsors me by agreeing to watch our small, noisy people while I escape to fill my empty cup-of-sisterhood. I'm still a little sniffly that I had to miss this year due to financial issues, but that's the way it goes. I go when the stars align and I can make it work. (So far just '08).
Which is to say, I'm securing my ticket for NYC. And you better save a spot on that bodacious booty for me to give it a resounding smack of love. :) Plus it's the new impetus for me to get off my buttocks and get rid of this pregnancy weight. New goal: Skinny Jeans by aught-ten. See you in NYC???

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeL

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