Beer Blogging, Ethics, Journalists, Payola, and Maybe a Beer or Two…

A few weeks back, a handful of beer writers and bloggers kicked around the issue of writing, ethics, and coziness with the brewers we all cover in one form or another. As the discussion occurred on Twitter, it was necessarily limited to 140 characters, which, frankly, got pretty ridiculous when I added @Beervana @agoodbeerblog @BoakandBailey @stanhieronymous @evanrail @Thirsty_Pilgrim @nagbw to the discussion. Eventually we broke down to Morse Code, but I left the discussion with the idea that these issues should be raised in one of the upcoming Session events hosted by various bloggers. I’m not sure anything will ever come of it but I still think it was a good idea. The next Session, to be held on April 6, will discuss “What Drives Beer Bloggers?” Not really on point but perhaps the subject will be touched upon there.

After having harped on this subject plenty in recent years, I simply let the idea go…until I saw this post by The Potable Curmudgeon today describing the available sponsorship opportunities for brewers and other beer industry folks for the upcoming Beer Blogger’s Conference to be held in July in Indiana.

Now I can’t really tell TPC’s angle on all of this but it seems clear that something isn’t quite right. Now I’ve had plenty to say about the Beer Blogger’s Conference in the past and I’m not looking to rehash that except to note what TPC posted on the sponsorship opportunities:

2012 Sponsorship Opportunities

About the Conference

The International Beer Bloggers Conference is a unique opportunity to connect with the “new media” of beer. Beer bloggers are more than just enthusiastic about their beer experiences. They are actively socializing their experiences by publishing their thoughts on the Internet. There are almost 750 “citizen” beer bloggers in North America and approximately 130 are expected at the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference, with hundreds more paying attention online.

Elite Sponsorship ($20,000)
Elite Sponsorship is a unique category that provides half of the sponsorship funds to bloggers as a stipend to offset the cost of their attendance. The stipend fund pays the registration fee of up to 100 attending citizen beer bloggers. Elite Sponsors win via a) promotion of the stipends by the conference itself, including
two direct emails to our worldwide list of bloggers, two blog posts, and multiple Tweets, b) connection to the attending bloggers, c) requirements for minimum posts, and d) Premier Sponsor benefits as below (with an extra registration). If you are interested in Elite Sponsorship, please ask for our separate Elite Sponsor
document.

Grand Sponsorship ($10,000)
• Opportunity to organize a special program, such as: participate on a panel or other content session, approved by conference organizers, that highlights your business; sponsorship of a Beer Blog Awards; giveaway promotion; etc
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations

After Hours Party Sponsorship ($7500) – one available
• Provide beer for an After Hours party Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 PM
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the party
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweets about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations

Dinner Sponsorship ($5000 plus cost of dinner) Sold
• Provide beer for one of two conference dinners, either at the host hotel or elsewhere
• Sponsor is responsible for handling all dinner arrangements
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the dinner
www.BeerBloggersConference.org info@BeerBloggersConference.org
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference email to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations plus multiple invitations to your dinner

Lunch Sponsorship ($5000 plus meal costs)
• Provide beer for a conference lunch, either at the host hotel or elsewhere as you choose
• Sponsor is responsible for handling all lunch arrangements
• Opportunity to address all participating bloggers during the lunch
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference email to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweet about your company or organization
• Includes two conference registrations plus multiple invitations to your dinner

Premier Sponsorship ($4000)
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday
• Sponsor listing and logo on website; highlighted in pre-conference packet sent to participants; hang banner at the conference; and recognition during the event
• One blog post on the BBC site and multiple Tweets about your company or organization
• Includes one conference registration

Event Sponsorship ($1000)
• Staff a table (and optionally pour your beers) during Meet the Sponsors on Friday; this is the least expensive option to be able to pour more than one of your beers for all conference participants
• Does not include conference registrations

Live Beer Blogging Sponsorship ($400)
• Bloggers will have five minutes to taste, review, and blog or Tweet about one of your beers
• You will reach 10 tables of bloggers with about six to eight bloggers per table
• Does not include any conference registrations but you must have someone present to pour

Now some of this may seem somewhat innocuous, while some other parts may seem a touch close to payola. You can check out which breweries and organizations have already ponied up their money to hang with the beer bloggers. You may also note something unusually similar about the sponsors. All told, it looks like the conference founder, Zephyr Adventures, has finally found a way to make beer blogging pay. Just not for the bloggers…

7 Responses

  1. Hmm. How much for a private dance in one of the back rooms?

  2. H.F.

    I had no idea there was such a wholesale opportunity to sell out over just one weekend. Who gets the $$$? Who owns the conference?

  3. Andy, after reading this it occurred to me that I have no idea how this is handled elsewhere? Is a for-profit conference uncommon? This one involves media (“media” if you prefer), so I guess there’s a certain spin on it, but might sponsors for other conferences also be accused of payola? I don’t actually know. I’m wondering, though–is this just business as usual?

    • Whosisbrew

      I would say some of it is, some of it certainly is not. The bit about having five minutes to have bloggers tweet about a brewer’s beer is a bit alarming.

  4. But isn’t the “traditional” media riddled by exactly the same thing?

    I’ve read about the lavish treatment winemakers can give some reviewers, just to mention one example. Sooner or later something like this (though with a much less generous budget) was going to happen with beer blogging, too. And just like with “prope” journalism, we will have to learn to read between the lines…

  5. \”Live Beer Blogging Sponsorship ($400)
    • Bloggers will have five minutes to taste, review, and blog or Tweet about one of your beers\”

    That one especially rubs me the wrong way, for some reason.

  6. After paying to attend the conference, (extra for the Goose Island trip) plus the flight and hotel, I don’t feel like anything is “free”. I perceive ‘payola’ as receiving money to promote positively. Getting “free” products to review as I see fit doesn’t match ‘payola’ in my opinion. I also don’t have an issue stating the beer was handed to me with the intent of review by someone that has a financial stake.

    I hope I’m not coming off as defensive. Media events are quite common these days. There is never a contract stating you must write about it at all, much less in a positive light. The only thing at stake is a future invite. I look forward to attending the conference and possibly covering it from this point of view.

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