Is there a problem with the sponsorship of public sector events?

We ran some user testing of the GovCamp website last week. One of the topics that came up was the size and positioning of the sponsors logos.

Actually the comments did more reflect on the difficulties we had last year adding the logos to the site rather than any bigger issues.

However it did spark a discussion about sponsorship in general some of which have been raised in the past.

So here are some thoughts/questions which feedback is welcome. They are definitely not directed against any particular sponsor.

As far as I know at least the first two GovCamps did not have any sponsorship. Jeremy Gould kindly held them in the basement of MoJ – I have no idea who paid for the food at the time – maybe even Jeremy himself?

As the event grew a bigger space was needed which leads onto issues such as needing to pay for a venue; then security, then food; then sponsors..who need visibility so then t-shirts are needed to display logos and money is needed to pay for the t-shirts. You get my drift.

Is there a thing such as a ‘good’ sponsor who the public sector should accept money from and who it should refuse. So it is it a smallish startup ran by someone well known in government digital is that alright? What if the company offering is a big SI who might not have such a great public profile? Does it make a difference where the money comes from?

Are the people planning to attend influenced by which sponsor logos they see on a website? Should the organisers of public sector events draw some kind of moral line and say I cannot work with x kind of sponsor? What if their boss tells them not to?

Should there be a percentage of sponsorship which one organisation should not be able to exceed? Should sponsors serve ‘fixed terms’ so that there is not an over reliance on particular companies?

What kind of information should be provided to sponors about attendees? Their name, job title, interests, contact details? If someone is attending on their own time at the weekend are they even to be linked to their weekday job title?

During the event is there a way that sponsors should behave. Sit in a corner and ignore the event and try to pitch to likley business or attend all the workshops? How much visibility should be given to the sponsors logos – splash them all over the event with many stands or pop-ups; or is something more discrete sensible?

So there are a few questions. What do you think?

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