There’s no such thing as a free lunch – Sponsorship of photoshoots
Sponsorship of Photo shoots, Event and Press.
For a while I have been debating whether or not to post this blog, however I think many others regarding the ‘Sponsorship’ of work for photo shoots, events and indeed press, may share my thoughts.
This is a post for both suppliers and press alike, from anyone needing ‘props’ for photo shoots, as well as for the photographers and stylists. And also for suppliers to start thinking twice before we hand out our nurtured expertise, free of charge.
Free pitching in design
To understand where I’m coming from, I should touch upon a topic that really runs in parallel to this, which is ‘free pitching’ in design. When you are starting out in a design business you could be forgiven for thinking it’s ok when companies or private clients ask you to just ‘whip up a design’ for free and then they will decide if they would like it, or indeed decide that actually, after 2 solid days of your hard work, they’re not that enamoured by it after all. Ashamedly, 10 years ago, being 20 something’s starting a business, we thought this was the thing to do for a short while and of course, wandered whether the clients attitude of ‘they need to see what we can offer before paying’, was actually right? Wrong. Not only for the obvious sense that they are asking for your expertise for free, but also it lets the industry down, if you do it, that’s what customers begin to think of the design industry, that free pitching is ok, when in fact what you are now offering is free design. It’s a blurry subject, but we chose many years ago, not to offer free pitching to anyone, we began to understand it was bad practice.
Collaboration and photo shoots within the wedding/event industry
So how does this relate to the wedding/event industry world? It is a slightly different stance, however almost in the same vain, and I hope you will see the dilemma that is so often at the face of design practices, and other disciplines, including the photographers, today.
When you are asked to contribute to a photo shoot which is sure to be amazing, it is exciting, your work out there in bright lights with the possibility of making it to print into the press for the big wide world to see. Quite often this is exactly what does happen and in turn you have wonderful feedback, great shots of your work and generally a warm fuzzy feeling to boost you to keep doing what you’re doing. Quite often you are also given creative freedom, which is the golden clincher when you say ‘yes’ to contribute your wares to a shoot. At this point I must also state that I am all for collaboration, I think you get the best results from collaboration, and I do find it very hard to say no, when the opportunities arise to have free reign and the possibility to create a new product, but it’s how it’s executed as a mutual, positive and lucrative end result where I find things are getting a little blurred in the wedding industry.
Profit or Loss?
I wonder though, let’s put our business heads on and see, quite simply, do we make any money out of it? Do you gain any new clients? Do you make good relationships? Getting exposure, is it resulting in your profit….or loss? This sounds incredibly cut throat however, if you are in a business, with overheads, this is how you must think, the most important scenario and worst-case scenario is are YOU out of pocket and has this ‘job’ cost YOU? It is a fine line, a very, very fine line.
Why you should do a photo shoot
So I will start with the positive take on the photo shoot and what I feel you should be gaining from it. Other than just exposure, you should always look to gain new business from a promotional photo shoot, exposure and indeed the ‘promise’ of exposure, is simply not enough. Look at your marketing budget, asses if this shoot is worth eating into your budget or even going over your budget if you’re nearing the end of the year, you have to pay for materials from somewhere.. I see the photo shoot as an opportunity to create new products for the business and in turn you get them professionally photographed, and when agreed credit and image distribution rights are arranged with the photographer you can then use those images to gain new business. We have created new collections and some amazing and more interesting bespoke installations for shoots that have no doubt helped us win new business. The other positive spin on the photo shoot is to submit a new collection you have done as then, again, you have the opportunity for it to be photographed professionally in a styled shoot, this is then a really sensible reason to do a shoot and then in turn added exposure is a bonus.
If you are a company who has products in stock on the self, then absolutely throw them at sponsored jobs if they want you, it costs you no time and you get the product back.
When you should consider carefully about doing a photo shoot
On the other hand, quite often we need to create an entirely new piece of work for a photo shoot, so, for bespoke work, your time, materials and labour costs simply MUST be considered. You have paying clients, they must come first. I’m not sure how many people realise in press or when asking for ‘props’ for shoots, that actually, in our case and other tailor made areas in the industry, we don’t have product hanging around, what you ask us to do, we do for you. From designing, to paying for your card stock, to laser cutting time, to hand finishing. Often sponsored jobs take up to a ½ week of our time; fine if this is for a great end results in new clients and good for relations but not so fine if all you get is one image in one blog post. We now have samples of work to send to press, yet often they ask, ‘can you just do it in this colour way for us’? Well yes, but that is 2 hours later, finding the time to dig out the artwork, possibly have to order new card, set it up for laser cutting and then cutting and hand finishing. 2 hours, or more, for the possibility of it to go into a magazine….hmm. There was a time when press would pay for samples, times have changed.
Needless to say when our ‘off the shelf’ collections launched last year, handing over product to press and for shoots is now a dream and far more sensible option for exposure.
Part sponsored photo shoots/projects = win win
I have the utmost respect for people who come to us and are willing to pay for our time for an item which others would consider promotion, we have had a good few clients who could’ve easily pulled the ‘you will get a lot of publicity for this’ line, but thankfully, these clients recognised that at the least, our time and materials needs paying for, in return they got a part sponsored job by us, for this we still go to town as they have acknowledged that we are business and they will get the best from us. The end result is a stunning piece of work that both brands can cross promote = great relationships and hopefully new business.
I say this, then I may find that when we next do an event ourselves, we need to pull in suppliers to be a part of it and need their time, not just product, and it has made me re-think, if we need to do this, I want to make sure there is something concrete that will benefit their business in the future if we are unable to pay in ready cash. Of course there will be exposure, but exposure isn’t always the thing that pays the bills…for instance some of our work is sponsored by our paper mill, it works 2 ways, they let us have a quota of paper, we create a stunning unusual piece with their name on but more importantly I know we are sending business, real business their way on a daily basis throughout the year.
I could go on, there is so much to consider for your business, your brand, your business values when taking on ‘sponsored work’, but I hope this has triggered a thought to perhaps stop and think about who you loan your time too, and considered the others in the industry.
So my plea, please be considerate as to what you are asking of a company when ‘persuading’ them to sponsor a job, and no more ‘this will get you great ‘exposure’…..Exposure simply isn’t enough as so often promises are not met. People like me then feel guilty and lose sleep over it if we have to say no, as our clients have to come first. And on the flip side if you are a supplier, think twice before handing over your wares, think twice for you and your industry, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
Disclaimer and positive outcomes of shoots we’ve done
That all said and done, this post has no reflection on the sponsored jobs we have done in the past, we have been very particular about the type of shoot and who we work with that we feel honoured to be apart of all the shoots we have contributed to this year. See below for some results of some really successful projects and shoots we have done over the past couple of years which have gained us great exposure and ultimately new business.
It was the sheer volume of shoots and events that we have been asked to do which has triggered this thought and has thankfully made us re-think what we do in the future. So our answer is this….we will now be offering a limited amount of sponsored jobs so we can give them our full attention and time required to create something special, if the slots are taken, and our marketing budget is fulfilled, then our time is taken too and no more will be allocated as quite simply our clients, and paying our staff, must come first.
Would love to hear comments, be kind…
Thank you to Anne-Marie, our senior designer, who created the brilliant info-graphics above! This is available as PDF checklist for you should you require when making the decision about photoshoots.
Part sponsored job by Cutture and Phillipa Lepley
Part sponsored job by Cutture and Phillipa Lepley