I recently attended a benefit dinner. It was the usual song and dance — literally, a buffet dinner with an evening of supposedly off broadway style entertainment. Many of us groaned at the bad jokes and swilled what we could by robbing any un-spoken-for drink tickets just to make the evening bearable. The grilled chicken was rubbery and the carved prime rib was about as warm as a popscicle. It was a yawn evoking event filled with obligated professionals, on Valentine's weekend. Yes. I said it. Valentine's. I would have much rather spent the sub freezing evening on the couch in my jammies with a bowl of popcorn, blanket and re-runs of Law & Order SVU. So, exactly, why did we attend the event? Because I committed the cardinal sin of a professinal designer. I traded my service for a "free sponsorship".
Every year I tell myself that I am not going to do this. As it often does, this designer faux-paux winds up heavily gauging the designer.
I have spent over 20 years of my life as a marketing and advertising professional. I do understand the value of sponsorship, that is, when it is carried out with intent and integrity. It is my general policy to provide the client with an estimate, then the level of sponsorship can be negotiated from there. However, on this particular occassion, I was very familiar with the client, as we often are, and I agreed to provide brand materials without laying out associated costs ahead of time. Big mistake. After providing over 30 hours of design service, I was given 4 dinner tickets (worth approximately $200 in face value). You do the math. There was absolutely no mention of my level sponsorship at the event. No mention of my business in the program. No public "thank you" from the event organizers for smashing event promotion and, to add insult to injury, we were given a really, really bad table placement next to the door, in the back of the room. I think the guy next me was about ready to hack up a lung on my plate of almost moldy cheese and crackers.
Ultimately, the event was a success in that it's mission was accomplished. Money raised went towards a scholarship for local high school students. I always want to support my local kids. The trouble is, they never really knew I was supporting them! I suppose in the big picture, I have to remember that making a mistake such as this really is just a learning opportunity. Every designer has to learn this lesson. I, unfortuntaly, keep commiting the same mistake over and over again. Do I attribute this to a soft heart? Maybe. There are lots of soft-hearted designers out there willing to give away their talent for a couple of dinner tickets and a bottle of wine. But next time, if I can't at least be in the program, I'll have to settle for an all expense paid vacation to Hawaii.