The Blogging Sponsorship Scandal

Comments 29 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Bloggers have the power to publish their opinions and information to the internet and with a good following and decent readership traffic, they have a lot more influence than you’d imagine. They can promote causes, spread news like wildfire and even catch a thief so why is it that it’s super tough for a respectable blogger to find a corporate sponsor for a contest or event?

First things first, not all bloggers are created equal. For instance if a “monkey knife fight blog” wants to get the SPCA to sponsor an event, that may not be the best idea. However when a Vancouver blogger wants to promote restaurants and businesses in the city, what does it take to get a company to hop on board? For example, I’ve personally been told by at least thirty people that my (unsolicited) blog post recommendation to visit a certain butcher shop/deli turned them into faithful regulars of the establishment – score! Blogging equals links equals customers.

Photo credit: Roland Tanglao on Flickr

Recently I’ve been asked twice about finding a sponsor for an event. The first being CaseCamp, which you’d think would be an advertising exec’s DREAM. A packed house of marketing professionals all dialed into social media? What better way to get visibility. The second is Duane’s StartupWeekend. Dozens of tech-minded, career-driven entrepreneurs getting together to build a product or even a new company – why wouldn’t you want to have your business or product showcased for these people?

I know I had a heck of a time finding sponsors for my blogiversary contest. Without going into too many details about my site traffic per month (let’s just say it’s probably close to the population of White Rock), why wouldn’t companies want to get their name in there? It would be FAR cheaper than placing an ad in a newspaper and you’d get a) instant traffic to your own website and b) new customers, should people enjoy the product. Also if it’s as a part of a contest, we all know the benefits of a gift card or gift certificate; you get that person in the door and spending and they’re likely to come back and spend.

I’m grateful to Mount Seymour and the Vancouver Giants for embracing this and their openess to sponsor my past contest. Because of such, I feel even more encouraged to go to Giants games and to carve up Seymour. A positive experience with an organization can go a long way.

Now I don’t know the legalities of some situations – I don’t claim to know much about anything, really – and I personally don’t have any contests going on so this isn’t a plea for my own gain. This is pretty much just to find out… why not ? Why are companies so hesitant to sponsor anything to do with blogging when it could mean hundreds or thousands of hits to their website and have the potential for so many new customers (which we all know equals $$).

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’m looking for a little enlightenment and a bit of a discussion here although maybe we all just need to sit down and read the Social Media Marketing Playbook.

Current Contests on Miss604
*All contests are open to residents of Canada only, unless otherwise stated. Contest timelines are published on each individual post along with entry methods. Some contests may only be open to those 19 years of age and older. Winners are announced on the contest blog posts. Contest policy »

29 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. bzWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:11am PST

    re: the benefit of a blogger’s recommendation …


    I listen to Daily Source Code with Adam Curry, and he kept talking about his great experience flying Virgin Atlantic. He was talking about Virgin because, you know, he’s a human being and he loved the experience. Well, guess what? When I was flying to the UK and thinking about which airline I wanted to fly, I ended up flying Virgin – all because of one person – one person’s not even overt recommendation, but endorsement. I’ve never met this person before, but I trusted him. I just felt like I trusted him. I trusted them because I listen to him regularly. Gee, that sounds pretty familiar.

    It sounds like the radio business.

    We trust these people we listen to because of the power of asynchronous intimacy. We build a relationship and rapport with them over time. And that trust almost goes out the window in the radio business when I hear, for example, these Dan Patrick live reads, you know: ”Hey, I’m Dan Patrick and when there’s a snowfall in the …. (Laughter) I use some brand of gloves, or whatever.” And I’m like, “Come on!” It’s ridiculous.

    People are the message. They’re carriers of the message, but they’re also originators of the message as well.

  2. Derek K. MillerWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:19am PST

    Blogging is ten years old, and as a potential advertising/sponsorship medium of any power, much younger than that. The budgets and measurement methods and networks of contacts and agencies and advisors that most companies (small or large) use, or are familiar with, don’t have blogs on their radar as serious potential purchases yet.

    I used to work in advertising for a small, very specialized magazine. Even in that case, with a highly targeted audience, the entire mindset of advertising was still broadcast-ish, i.e. include material that gets to everyone who reads the publication, but which only a small percentage might actually find useful. Blogs and unconferences and the like usually have smaller and more focused readerships, but that’s not what companies are used to targeting yet.

    Blog and techie event sponsorship becoming more mainstream, but it will take time yet I think.

  3. RaulWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:21am PST


    No idea! I was just talking on email with Ethan from Urbanspoon and asking if they could have a ranking system for the restaurants that I’ve reviewed. For example, my review of The Cascade (I think they’ve dropped the word Room) near Main and 10th Avenue is getting lots, and lots, and lots of traffic! So, I could very well say that lots of new customers are due to my stellar review of the restaurant (I think it’s phenomenal, but that’s besides the point).

    I haven’t asked The Cascade to sponsor anything I’ve blogged, but they were extremely sweet to me the past three times I showed up for dinner with friends (although to be truthful, their service is always stellar, so not sure if I get any better treatment because of the rave reviews :D). But maybe it’s because not a lot of people ‘get’ blogging?

    Tanya (aka NetChick) had that as one of the questions in her socializing game – a lot of people apparently don’t “get” blogging. I can certainly tell you that some of my very close friends read my blog, but many of them don’t, and they don’t find blogging rather interesting.

    And on the traffic note, *sigh* I think I get the monthly traffic of 1/20th of the student population at any of the universities here. (*sobs uncontrollably*) 😀

    I actually think that corporate sponsorship of bloggers is cool, particularly if they have similar values. For example, if Mountain Equipment Co-op sponsored a contest on my blog (which is environmentally-centric, for the most part), it would be very well aligned with their corporate values and with the overall feeling of my blog. And since I promote sustainability in restaurants, I don’t think that those restaurants that give you Styrofoam containers will be asking to sponsor anything I write, hehehe 😀

    Have a wonderful week! I’ve ranted for way too long. This should’ve been a post on MY blog.

  4. Duane StoreyWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:23am PST

    I don’t really understand it either. When I think about you live blogging an event, and all the other associated blogs that usually start linking to yours and talking about it, it really seems like a no brainer for me for a company to kick in $50-$100 in exchange for some links and some blog love.

  5. Miss604Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:28am PST

    @Raul go ahead and blog it too, then get over to WordPress finally and the auto-trackbacks will work their linking magic 😛

    @Duane yeah it’s not even so much about the money (although money is nice) but say, donating a prize. If they’re worried about the legitimacy of the blogger, a non-cash prize would be a more comforting solution/promotion, I’d think anyway…

  6. LizWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 10:57am PST

    Are you, or any blogger for that matter, that’s asking for some sort of sponsorship able to provide donating companies with proper paper work for tax deductibility?

    Companies like to help…but mostly themselves. And if they can’t deduct AND get some PR out of it they may not want to be involved.

    PS I’m no tax expert, but thought I’d throw that possibility out there.

  7. Miss604Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:01am PST

    Interesting point Liz, I hadn’t thought about it that way. I was thinking like it would go moreso under a company’s promotion or advertising budget and less as a taxable donation.

  8. Duane StoreyWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:05am PST

    Hey Liz, I think in general the advertising and word of mouth generated for the event is the end-result of sponsorship, at least for the things I frequently am a part of. Understand that many of these events generate photos and videos that end up on flickr/youtube and are viewed/watched over and over again. A sponsor plug in one of those will be seen many times.

    Tax receipts are a good idea if it’s for a charity event though, and I think some of the ones Rebecca has done have also been in charge of receipts (the blog-a-thon comes to mind).

  9. Miss604Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:14am PST

    Two separate things: you get a tax receipt from a charity when you donate to them (and they determine what dollar amounts merit a tax receipt). If you happen to click through my site to get to that charity, you’re still 100% dealing with them. I am in no way at all handling money, donations, receipt etc. I simply put a link to the cause on my site as a conduit.

    In this post I’m just talking about companies sponsoring events and blogs, not non-profit organizations or registered charities. By “donations” I mean putting up some funds to get the event off the ground in exchange getting their name on a website, banner, tshirt, word of mouth, OR by offering up a prize on a blog in exchange for that publicity etc.

  10. LizWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:16am PST

    Oh yeah I absolutely agree with you Duane, except for when a company doesn’t really have an advertising budget. And if they don’t, they’ll want to deduct it from their taxes.

    There are plenty of mom & pop shops that have made it without advertising. As you know, word of mouth is the best advertising. That’s why blogs are so great. It’s word of mouth magnified by millions.


  11. DaveWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:26am PST

    It just goes to show the power of the internet. I have no doubts that Amy Winehouse’s fame in North America is largely because of perezhilton.

  12. AdelaideWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:32am PST

    I’m new to Mainstream Blogging. I was a “private” blogger to close friends and relatives. Only recently have I’ve been blogging, with invitation to the general public. At first I was a bit freaked that a coworker or old friend may come upon my site (since it’s more ‘personal’ and not so much ‘informative’). But I’ve done posts recommending a restaurant or community company that I’ve been pleased with too. I would like to think that I’ve contributed to their ‘traffic’ too 🙂

    I think you’re completely correct. As one loyal reader of your blog, I definately take note of the places you recommend, and go into their links. So there!

  13. The PublicsWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 12:37pm PST

    ” Why are companies so hesitant to sponsor anything to do with blogging”

    Could have something to do with the quality of Vancouver blogs. I find the majority (there are a few exceptions) of Vancouver-based internet media to be terribly boring and sub-par, so if I was a businessman I would stick with traditional media formats that are also shite, but have at least proven to be cost-effective.

  14. The Aesthetic PoeticWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 12:57pm PST

    I would have to agree with The Publics. I think most Vancouver blogs especially within the techie community seem to be overly Vancouver centric. Not to mention, the quality of many are sub par.

    Not to say that blogging about Vancouver is a bad thing by any means, but when it becomes everybody’s focus, scope/reach and frequency becomes limited – which are all necessary to landing blog related sponsorships or advertising. It would be wise for Vancouver bloggers to start networking on a more global platform. Then I could see the idea of a sponsorship becoming more relevant.

  15. Tanya (aka NetChick)Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 1:44pm PST

    Wow, “The Publics” — I’d have to completely disagree with you there. I think many Vancouver bloggers are on the cutting edge of what blogging can and should be, at least in my books… I’ve been blogging for 10 years now, and I don’t expect business types to be coming to my daily diatribe for advice. Rather, the opposite. Escape, and connection.

    But, what Rebecca and Duane are talking about are two very excellent opportunities to get a business name out there for an incredibly good value. Having just had Third Tuesday Vancouver sponsored by a local venue (yay for that!!), I know that I’m more likely to consider that company for their offerings than another. And, I’m just one woman, who’s got a business in marketing, and has a good deal of disposable income. I know many others like me as well.

    Just my two cents worth. YMMV.

  16. Miss604Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 2:03pm PST

    I’m just talking blogs in general that have a focus — and if you’re a company that specializes in that focus, what would stop you from considering that specific blog for promotions?

    Say you have a blog about sewing and fabrics, would a shop like Dressew be interested in some link love, word of mouth via the blog or offering up a prize for your contest? (just using Dressew purely for example purposes).

    I have a link for a local adventure race on my sidebar. I really could care less about reaching out and grabbing the attention of CBS and the producers of the reality series “The Amazing Race” (going more global with it). This is a race run by a Vancouver guy who creates the challenges himself and even produces videos for the local contestants. I’m all for it as this is the focus of my blog content: being hyper-local. I think bloggers have as much “veto power” as the advertisers.

    PS – great discussion everyone!!

  17. Duane StoreyWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 2:16pm PST

    I think most of the events being pitched for sponsorship are local, and so it makes sense to have local sponsorship as well. There isn’t much point in promoting someone globally if their business simply doesn’t accommodate that kind of market.

  18. AdelaideWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 2:30pm PST

    What makes this blog awesome, to me, is the fact that you ARE such a Vancouver promoter/lover. Any more changes, and you’ll be like Victoria & David Beckham breaking into the “global” market from having just been from the UK. Don’t tell me “Miss 604” is going to become “Miss International” 😉

  19. Miss604Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 2:39pm PST

    Adelaide – that title somehow makes me think I’d have to start wearing a tiara… and a lot less clothing haha

  20. LizWednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 3:05pm PST

    I must admit I appreciate that your blog is Vancouver related. That’s how I found you. Good ‘ol GOOGLE and “vancouver blog” brought me to you!

    I’m a Vancouverite who now considers herself a “Canadian Expat” having lived in Cancun, Mexico for the last 5 years.

    I’ve got my own blog and know that the network between blogger friends is immense and often the best way to get entertaining information, when it’s most convenient for you.

    I’ve missed Vancouver and felt out of touch so I searched the internet for blogs….not newspapers, or local news networks. I can get the 411 on the 604 and I can get it in a way thats most entertaining to me.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  21. nancy (aka money coach)Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 — 11:35pm PST

    Hi Rebecca – I have a couple thoughts both as a business owner and as a blogger.
    1. I know when I hear about sponsorships available, I have no clue at all about the size of sponsorship. My budget is pretty small, and I assume that I likely can’t play in that game (yet). Maybe I’m wrong.
    2. Like Derek said, I think this channel is still at best only a dim light on the radar of larger companies (and I work part-time for one as well). The world of analytics and click-throughts etc simply isn’t something we’re used to yet. I know for those inside, like you (and a teeny bit me) that seems incredible, but honestly, the vast majority of people in my crowd (professionals over 40, with money) still only have a vague idea about blogs period, much less look at them, much less consider them an advertising channel (I’m sure the awareness of pro marketers is higher than my cohort).
    3. I still owe you $75 for my advert on your blog! Send me an invoice, already 😉

  22. MortenThursday, January 17th, 2008 — 7:57pm PST

    I think the main problem is that people just don’t understand the web let alone blogs. Working as a designer I’ve realized people in general (and business owners in particular) just don’t get what the internet is all about. To them a website is usually a catalogue of their products or just a show piece. They have no strategy and no understanding of what a website can do for them or their business.

    This ignorance is proliferated when it comes to blogs. It’s quite simple really: If they don’t understand what a web site is and they sure as hell won’t understand what a blog is. To them it’s a weird website with all sorts of random stuff – a diary of ramblings.

    The problem here in Canada is that businesses just aren’t used to online advertising. In Europe all the major papers went online for free over a decade ago and online advertising has become a huge business. Now the bloggers can mooch off the papers and get the tech savvy advertisers on their sites. Here the newspapers still don’t get it and online ad sales are dismal.

    It’s a nightmare really because advertising on a popular blog could easily be the best investment a company has done. But getting them to realize it is a different matter. They see a blog as a fleeting medium, the site visitors as random people with vague interests and the advertising (even if it’s just $50) as a wild gamble that could easily end with nothing.

    As a result the only blogs that really earn any money on ad sales are tech blogs and how-to-make-money-online blogs because they pander to a market that “gets it”.

    We the blogging community need to educate the rest of the world on what we can do for them. Until they understand it’s going to be an uphill battle.

  23. fotoeinsFriday, January 18th, 2008 — 5:12am PST

    Morten, it would be interesting to see (and for us to read about) how Europe was ahead of the curve, and how they continue to benefit from having seen and continue to see the light.

  24. JaimeFriday, January 18th, 2008 — 6:26am PST

    Hello Rebecca,

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I have been researching the blogosphere in Canada (mostly as it relates to domestic and international tourism). I am also a blogger and online entrepreneur. Getting sponsorships/advertisers is always a struggle. What I have found in my experience is that networking (developing relationships with potential clients) and presenting a strong value proposition are the best ways to achieve the goal. When it comes to blogging or Web 2.0 (or even Web 1.0/static websites) advertising we are all competing against Google – a formidable opponent. However, there may be hope for the best blogs out there, depending on their focus. I can tell you that the buzz in tourism in the last year or so has been Web 2.0, i.e. blogs and social media. The tourism business works in partnerships (private sector/public sector, provincial tourism orgs and federal tourism org, etc). Perhaps we can similarly partner in some way so that we can increase our opportunities to find advert and sponsorship dollars. My business is a small business (though with high traffic sites) and I can tell you that I am interested in advertising in your blog. As for sponsorships – depending on what’s required I would like to know more about the events and opportunities. Cheers. Jaime (Toronto)

  25. The Blog According to Buzz » Blog Archive » What To Do When Ads Don’t Work AnymoreFriday, January 18th, 2008 — 10:04am PST

    […] So the blog as personal advisor works far better than the blog as advertiser. Local blogstar, Miss 604 is running into the same issue, how much is a blog worth? … when a Vancouver blogger wants to promote restaurants and businesses in the city, what does it take to get a company to hop on board? For example, I’ve personally been told by at least thirty people that my (unsolicited) blog post recommendation to visit a certain butcher shop/deli turned them into faithful regulars of the establishment – score! Blogging equals links equals customers.[Miss 604] […]

  26. MortenFriday, January 18th, 2008 — 10:53am PST

    @fotoeins: I’m not necessarily saying European bloggers are better off than Canadian ones (they’re not) but it is easier for European websites in general (easier being a relative term) to sell advertising because businesses have a better understanding of what web ads can do for them. I used to work for a Norwegian music magazine which was struggling because of lack of income. When I suggested we re-brand the magazine to an “online music paper” and sell ads that way everything turned around and the ads came flooding in. All that was missing was a deeper understanding of what we were doing on the part of the clients.

    Like I said, the problem here in Canada (I fight with it every day) is that businesses don’t get it. The big ones do, but small ones just don’t understand. I keep hearing things like “doesn’t everyone have a blog?”, “noone reads a blog” and “what’s a blog?” over and over again. And even if you present great numbers they still don’t understand how it will benefit them. In my experience the only thing that really works is sitting down with a potential client and actually show them how their brand will be presented on the site and how a simple click will lead the visitor directly to them. But who has time for that?

    There’s also one other problem that lies at the heart of blogging: Bloggers, by definition, write for free. So many businesses don’t understand why they should pay when they get the advertising anyway.

    Finally there’s a problem of time. For many bloggers (us included) it becomes a question of creating content vs selling ads. They just don’t have time for both.

    We recently redesigned to answer a request from potential ad clients of a stronger presence on the site. Since we do a lot of video content incorporating pre-roll and other video ads is a possible source of revenue and we are now starting to pitch the idea. Other ad-zones we’ve built include graphic ads in viral players and sponsorship banners on the main player on the front page. It remains to be seen if this will actually make a difference but we’ve had positive response so far. If only we had more time for direct sales…

  27. Cinci CsereFriday, January 18th, 2008 — 4:56pm PST

    Wow, great talks here. As the organizer of Casecamp Vancouver 3, I have had a very disappoint time finding sponsors. I have been shut down by venues, publications, newswires, printing companies etc. All I can say is they have bad business sense. Having your company exposed to ‘marketing specialists’..Rebecca your right, it’s a dream come true. I don’t ask for $$$$, just some $ for a drink and a snack for participants..Is that too much to ask? In reality $100 sponsorship is not much, esp. when people blog, discuss the product online and even use the product. An ad in a publication could cost a company about $1000.00 or more!

    I have one sponsor and so happy that he made the decision to put some money into CCV3, just a little goes along way 😉

    It’s the whole experience at the end of the day, as a ‘marketer’ I will not use the services that I have tried for sponsorship in a marketing campaign, I will use other services hence, I am the customer too 🙂

  28. Marginalized Action Dinosaur » The blogging sponsorship scandal,Monday, January 28th, 2008 — 7:39pm PST

    […] […]

  29. Boston RackSunday, October 12th, 2008 — 11:03pm PDT

    By having sponsors at any contest is a great privilege to the organizer. Both are benefited to each other by acquiring both strengths. I really admire to those people or a particular organization that had helped to the event promoter. Thanks for sharing your Social Marketing Playbook.

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