Why I Turned Down a Potentially Huge Sponsor for Cardiff SEO Meet

Cardiff SEO Meet crowd photo
Sponsorship for Cardiff SEO Meet isn’t really that big a thing. For the first three events, there weren’t any sponsors – I paid for it myself (well, Morgan Online Marketing paid for it, technically). But then our first venue was a bar, where people could buy their own food and drink if they wanted to. When we moved venues to somewhere where I needed to provide my own food and drink, the costs shot up. I wanted to keep the entry fee free, so I couldn’t recoup money that way. Therefore I knew that I’d need sponsors to help cover those costs, and a few people I know were happy to oblige.

It’s simple: for £100, your sponsorship goes towards food & drink costs. In return, you get a link from the Meetup group and event page, a mention in the announcement email that goes to all of the group’s members, various tweet ‘shout-outs’ before and after the event, your logo on the absolutely massive screen, and a couple of shout-outs/thank you’s at the event. In my eyes, that’s a pretty decent deal. We get about 40-50 people to each event, which isn’t especially a huge number, but it’s not tiny either. The Meetup group has over 300 members as well.

So far, most of our sponsors have been local (and local-ish) freelancers, agencies and fellow event organisers – I’ll list them here, as I want to thank them again for their support to date: HQ SEO, Cardiff Digital, Xanthe Studios, All Things Web® and Traffic Jam Media (and not forgetting Tramshed Tech for being our venue sponsor). I casually joked with someone though that it’d be awesome if one of the big global SEO software providers expressed interest in becoming a sponsor.

Weirdly enough, a few days later… one of the big global SEO software providers expressed interest in becoming a sponsor. They sponsor a lot of the bigger events worldwide, and (somehow) my piddly little meetup had gotten onto their radar. I was elated.

But I ended up turning them down.

Why? Well, the negotiations were going well: I mentioned all of the perks listed above and even mentioned that we run live site reviews, and that we could use their software to help us with the process. So all the perks above, plus a quick free demo of their tool to a room full of potential customers. For just £100.

However they also wanted this:

Cardiff SEO Meet sponsor email snippet screenshot
Here’s the text, just in case you’re reading on a mobile device and that image looks super tiny:

“Also, I would be interested in lead data of the 300+members (names and emails). Is this something that we can add to the sponsorship.”

Err, no fucking way.

I take data protection very, very seriously. I absolutely despise it when someone randomly adds me to their mailing list – just because they have my email address – and I’m sure that many of Cardiff SEO Meet’s members would feel the same way, too. Even so, I hadn’t gotten members’ permission to pass on their personal contact info, so I really don’t think that I could if I wanted to (I imagine that doing so would be in breach of the Data Protection Act, the ICO’s rules, or something similar). And even so, given that I run it all via Meetup, I doubt that I have access to members’ email address info anyway. Also, it’d be a shitty thing for me to do, so it’s a shitty thing to ask really.

I’m sure it was just one of those ‘just trying it on’ type things, where they were hoping that I’d be naïve enough to agree, but if I didn’t then it’s no big deal. If I’d said no, I’m sure they would’ve settled for everything else I was offering. Just a ‘no harm in asking’ type thing. But harm was done – and now I’m turning them down completely. I don’t want to work with a sponsor who thinks that’s an acceptable request – doing so would ultimately encourage that behaviour. I don’t think I’m arrogant or big-headed enough to say that they’ve ‘blown their chances’ with Cardiff SEO Meet, but in one way or another, I guess they have. I don’t want them as a sponsor – not now, not ever. The damage has been done.

I implore other event organisers to consider doing the same, if they also get a similar request. It’s the only way companies will learn that it is not a reasonable or acceptable thing to ask of event organisers.

Maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic here. Heck, I might even sound a bit self-righteous or pompous. Call it whatever the hell you want. (If it helps, I didn’t actually ‘turn them down’… the conversation went quiet because one of my kids was in hospital – he’s fine now FYI – and I simply haven’t made the effort to pick things up since.) But regardless of that, it’s an important issue – and it shouldn’t be taken lightly or glossed over.

…But heyyy, y’know, if any other potential sponsors are reading this and are interested in sponsoring a future event, then email me or tweet me. I won’t list the perks again – you can see them above. And I usually don’t bark or bite this much – just don’t ask me for people’s email addresses, okay? 😉

[Cardiff SEO Meet crowd image credit – Tramshed Tech]


  • Tom Buckland

    September 16, 2017 at 10:18 am Reply


    Wanna know, wanna know, wanna know…..

  • Andrew CS

    September 24, 2017 at 4:29 pm Reply

    Fair play Steve – more power to you for turning it down. I’m learning from the sharp end myself that running these kind of events is hard, time consuming and personally expensive (in lots of ways!) so sponsors can be a great addition.

    Like you, I want my events to be authentic and trustworthy and fun – and no part of selling on people’s email address is any of those. Hopefully, the result is more people trust you, sign-up and as a result more sponsors come your way.

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