There were two main local sponsors at last week’s Ignite Seattle 5 event at the Capitol Hill Arts Center.

The first was Ontela, a local mobile-imaging startup. A really nice representative named Janette Fong got there early and was handing out drink tickets with the Ontela logo on them. I’d never heard of Ontela, but they have what looks to be a great product in a good niche, with high-powered backing. Strangely enough, they don’t have a consumer product, which makes me wonder why they sponsored something like Ignite — I can’t just jump on their website and try something out. My carrier (AT&T) has to roll out a product on Ontela’s platform, and even then it might be invisible to me in terms of branding. Maybe they just want to support the local startup scene, which is cool.

The second was Biznik, which I first ran into a few months ago. Their tagline is “Business Networking That Doesn’t Suck”, and the Ignite crowd seemed tailor-made for their pitch. But there wasn’t one (a pitch, I mean). I didn’t see any Biznikers hanging around out front, and it wasn’t until the end of Ignite when Brady put up the slide thanking the sponsors that I even realized that Biznik was there.

Now, there was a huge crowd, and much like startups in China, the Biznik rep only needed to reach 1% of the crowd to have a good ROI. But the whole thing got me to wondering about sponsorships — strategically (in Ontela’s example), as well as tactically (in Biznik’s example).

Promoting the sponsorship on the web would seem to be natural, but none of the three organizations mentioned say anything about the sponsorships on their websites. In the case of Ignite, that’s probably unacceptable to not throw a shout out to sponsors somewhere. They have references to both Ontela and Biznik, but they’re buried and the posts were in reference to Ignite 2 or 3 or something back in August 2007.

For Ontela and Biznik, not mentioning the event probably speaks to a strategic gap in their marketing. They could use a 360° scorecard or something πŸ™‚

What do you think? Are strategy and tactics both essential for making the most out of local tech event sponsorships? Is one more important than the other?


6 Responses to “Sponsorshipisms”

  1. 1 Dan McComb February 24, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Anthony,
    Good questions. As it turns out, I actually did blog about Ignite (see http://blog.biznik.com/2008/02/04/ignite-seattle-returns-to-chac-on-february-19/“) two weeks prior to the event, so I was in fact helping promote Ignite on our website.

    We’re proud to sponsor Ignite, but the idea that we would be there “pitching” attendees is something that just doesn’t work for us. Biznik is being built on a different model – if you like it, tell your friends. Blog about us. Add a “view my profile on Biznik” badge. But don’t expect us to show up at events with a sales pitch!

  2. 2 Dan Shapiro February 24, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Good observations. We will make sure to post something on our home page the next time we sponsor something. I’m glad to hear you scored a drink ticket from Janette (our product manager)! We gave them out to the first 100 people who attended and with the overflow crowd they ran out fast.

    To answer your question… no, it wasn’t pure altruism. We think Ignite Seattle is one of the best places to find the kind of people that we want to hire to work at Ontela. Recruiting folks who are incredibly good at what they do while still being thoughtful and well adjusted is hard. Ignite seems to be a pretty good source of them.

    In fact, you may have noticed that your drink ticket stub had a link to jobs@ontela.com

  3. 3 Anthony Stevens February 24, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    You know, the recruiting angle hadn’t even occurred to me. What a great idea!

  4. 4 Anthony Stevens February 25, 2008 at 7:31 am

    @Dan McComb: I didn’t see your blog entry about Ignite — sorry! πŸ™‚ It’s worth noting that a search for “ignite” on the main biznik.com website doesn’t turn up any entries.

    And I didn’t mean for the readers to construe “pitch” as “hard sell” — but at Ignite, anyone who didn’t know about Biznik beforehand would have had no additional information after the event – except the name. Now THAT’s a subtle pitch! πŸ™‚

  5. 5 Dan McComb February 25, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Good point, Anthony. We can certainly do a better job by having postcards describing what Biznik is all about available as people walk in or leave. Will work on that for next time!

  6. 6 brady February 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Anthony!

    Thanks for pointing this out. We’ve rarely made formal arrangements with our sponsors. I think that we’ll try to firm this up.


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