The Value of Sponsoring a WordCamp from a Business’ Perspective

Tony Perez, CEO of Sucuri
Tony Perez, CEO of Sucuri

This is a guest post written by Tony Perez, co-founder and CEO of Sucuri. Sucuri is a website security platform that helps clean and protect websites. I would consider us a small mid-sized company. Our annual sponsorship budget is in the range of $300 – $400k per calendar year (CY).

One of the industry events we’ve been actively participating in since our inception has been WordCamps. Unlike 2015, in 2016 I decided to be more pragmatic in the way we invest in WordCamps. This new approach stemmed from two basic questions – What is the ROI of sponsoring a WordCamp and should a business sponsor a WordCamp?

One qualifier I want to add before getting started is that tracking success at events is very difficult. Even with the number of tools and approaches in the market, many organizations struggle getting their hands around the actual ROI of any event sponsorship. This means that many of the points in this post are not unique to the WordPress ecosystem, but the uniqueness and openness of the community makes it worth discussing.


The Reality of WordCamps and Sponsors

It’s been many years since I helped co-organize a WordCamp (San Diego back in 2011), and there is no denying that a lot has changed in the way they are put together. The one thing that hasn’t changed however, is the struggle organizers face when it comes to fundraising. Over the years we’ve seen a number of awesome initiatives by the WordPress Foundation to help assist in the process.

At WordCamp US 2016, the State of Word reported that in 2016 alone there were:

  • 116 WordCamps around the world
  • 36,000 attendees
  • 2,056 speakers
  • 1,036 sponsors
  • 750 organizers

What makes it even more impressive is that these are events put on by volunteers. Matt Mullenweg also shared that these WordCamps are made possible by the generosity of the various sponsors which cover 85 – 95% of the costs associated with such events.

It’s because of these sponsors that the costs are kept so low for attendees; including the annual event (WCUS) which came in at a cost greater than $500 per person but sold for ~$20 / day (Total of $40 / person). This is truly a herculean feat, and I commend them on their success to date.

The Sponsor Canoe Is Leaking

Canoes
photo credit: dolbinator1000 Boyhood(license)

With this in mind, I think it’s fair to say that at the rate things are going we might find ourselves with a problem of scale. While there have been 1k + sponsors in 2016, I would wager that a majority of the money is likely coming from a smaller subset of that group.

Taking this into consideration, unless you’re Automattic, I can’t help but imagine that as a business the ROI question continues to come up as it does for me. This is further compounded by the dramatic increase in the a) request for sponsorships (# of camps) and b) the economics of the sponsorship itself (the $$ amount).

This makes me think that it’s only a matter of time when the source of funds will be exhausted. Organizations have fiduciary responsibilities to their companies to spend their cash flow wisely, especially in today’s turbulent economic times.

The impacts of this, as highlighted above, are going to be felt (if not already) by those volunteers trying to put on these great WordCamps. This will become exceptionally difficult for new camps, especially those in remote cities and countries.

Why Do Businesses Sponsor WordCamps?

Smaller Question mark featured image
photo credit: Matthew McVickarcc

There is one common phrase every business that has invested in WordCamps has come to terms with – sponsorships are done in-kind; expect nothing. I’m not clear how this guidance came to be, whether it was explicitly outlined by the Foundation or guidance that came to be over time. What I do know is that a good number of sponsors are familiar with it.

Whether intended or not, allow me to be the first to publicly admit that while we are familiar with the phrase, no one really subscribes to it. The dirty little secret is that every business has some form of an expected ROI. It’s not always financially based, but there is some expectation. Companies sponsor events because there is some vested interest unless we’re talking about a child’s gymnastics or softball team.

ROI takes many different shapes. Allow me to share the ROI as I see it when I look across the spectrum of some of today’s top sponsors (know that these are all my opinions as a third-party observer):

GoDaddy

They sponsor because they need to. When they came into the space two to three years ago, after the changing of the guard they identified the potential in WordPress. They had an image problem; one that couldn’t be fixed remotely. It had to be fixed with boots on the ground.

Building relationships. Sharing experiences. Engaging influencers (do not underestimate the power of influencers). Whatever you might think of the brand today is nothing compared to what it was a few years ago. WordCamps have been a critical piece of their strategy to make this work. Who doesn’t know Mendel Kurland?

SiteGround

When they started to make their big push into the market, they were at every camp giving away free accounts. For them, it wasn’t about the short-term gain as much as the long-term gain. They had everything going against them. They were from Bulgaria working to service the biggest economic market, the US. They were trying to penetrate what many would argue was an already saturated market.

I remember when they first appeared. No one knew them, and yet through their guerrilla marketing tactics, brand ambassadorship, stellar performance with customers, and word-of-mouth referrals, they are a powerhouse in the WP hosting space.

WP Engine

While they exploded through a number of initiatives, I believe that WordCamps and their strategy to engage with the community is what propelled them ahead of their competitors. Their focus wasn’t revenue generation early on. I recall their free accounts campaign. I think it ran for close to two years.

What better combination than to have a freemium-like model where all you have to do is focus on user adoption (oversimplification of course). Your product and support are spot on, you just need more people touching it, more people telling their friends about it. They grew organically and these events made that possible.

Automattic

Honestly, they have no choice but to sponsor. They are the project sponsor by design. They are in many ways tied to the success and continued growth of the platform. They too have their free services that require adoption and user growth, things like Jetpack, Akismet, WooCommerce, and so many others.

Without growth, they are dead solutions. They have to show support for a product that they’ve gone all in on. If they don’t sponsor, why would anyone else? Their fates are intertwined.

And the observations go on. Granted, these are obvious gross oversimplifications, but I share them to highlight what ROI can look like. I also share them to show you what success looks like, and what the DNA of these organizations look like. Most of the scenarios above are built on the idea of “free” or “free-ish” services, with the exception being GoDaddy whose prices are so low you might as well consider them a freemium-like model.

Measuring the ROI of Events

What happens if you’re a premium service though? In this scenario, your ROI is no longer about adoption or user growth. Instead you’re now focused on growth in the form of revenue and sales. User adoption will never be as great as the freemium model.

As organizations, we’ve invested a lot of money. There has to be something we’re getting out of this. Only in the WordCamp community have I seen this idea that people will donate not only time, but money, under the assumption that there will be nothing at the end of the tunnel.

I wanted to better understand this myself, and what better place to look for ROI than our own data here at Sucuri.

The data below highlights the period between December 2015 – June 2016. I encourage other businesses to share their own data to add to the conversation. When speaking to ROI, I looked for measurable attributes first:

  • How many marketing leads were captured?
  • How many sales leads were captured?
  • How many of those leads converted to sales?
  • What kind of exposure did we get via social?
  • What kind of exposure did we get via backlinks?

Perhaps the biggest immeasurable metric being:

  • What kind of brand awareness are you really getting?

In the table below, sponsorship is exactly what you’d think, while financial investment implies ancillary costs of getting people there, lodging and eating. It does not include labor, collateral, shipping and other items.

Sucuri WordCamp Investments Dec. 2015 - June 2016
Sucuri’s WordCamp Investments Dec. 2015 – June 2016

This chart shows the ROI we got in terms of money (did we close deals?) As a for-profit business one of the many attributes we look at are the total net-new customers we can generate from any investment, including events.

Sucuri Investment CPL/CAC Analysis
Sucuri Investment CPL/CAC Analysis

To date, from all the events including WordCamp US (2015), we were able to track a total of 13 deals that closed from a direct engagement at the event. Putting the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) in the neighborhood of $12.4k per closed lead.

This means that my lifetime value (LTV), if they purchased a basic plan at $199.99 would have to be 45 years. If they purchased our $499.99 plan, we’d be looking at a 18 year LTV.

Sucuri Investment Measurable ROI
Sucuri Investment Measurable ROI

Focusing on exposure, it is one of the many things you get from sponsoring an event. You get linkbacks from the event, shout outs on the pages, posts highlighting your sponsorship. What does that really amount to? Can it be measured? The easiest way to answer these questions was to look at the main site links and social engagements.

Sucuri Web / Social Sponsorship Impact
Sucuri Web / Social Sponsorship Impact

We generated 190 sessions total, the most coming from WordCamp US (at the time of the event, not leading up to it, or after). We generate over 500k sessions a month across all our platforms. This makes 190 total sessions over a six month period negligible.

In my review, we looked at direct traffic from referrals and traced down the social “thank you” and “promotions” each event provided. It’s fair to note, that the lack of success in the measurable values above could be very closely be related to our ineffectiveness as an organization as well. We could just be really bad at working events; it’s an art in and of itself.

I intentionally did not include marketing leads. For me, my focus is looking at what actually converts so when we go to events, we place more emphasis on qualified sales leads (opportunities) than marketing leads; I am not very big on getting into the card collection and SPAM business.

What does this all mean?

Well, if I was a rational person this would mean that as a premium service provider, investing in WordCamps doesn’t make sense. Trust me, I love the community. We are involved in many ways, but this is really too difficult to digest and justify. I wonder what happens when more companies, even the ones that I shared above, start doing the same mathematics.

The WordCamp Sponsorship Conundrum

The WordPress platform promotes the idea of Free and targets a very curious niche of people – self-service/Do It Yourself (DIY) types. By this self-proclaimed profile, they are not buyers of premium services; they are the ones that will invest sweat equity to build or find an alternative to their problem – it just has to be free.

This ideology is fine, but it also means that it frankly may not be the right market for most premium businesses. I would be remiss however, if I did not highlight the fact that a number of the sponsors for WCUS 2016 were premium service providers. The only challenge I would make to this claim is that just because they are sponsoring, doesn’t mean they are getting a return.

I’d also challenge it and say some of them have a need to sponsor for some of the same reasons described above. Just because a premium service sponsors, it doesn’t mean their goal is defined purely around selling, in many instances it’s built around brand awareness and ambassadorship – especially unknown brands, or those with bad reputations. GoDaddy is a perfect example of this.

Does this mean that there is no hope? No, I don’t think so. I just think we have to ask ourselves some key questions, both as organizations and a community. To assist in the conversation, I’ve highlighted a few areas that I find challenging as a business and encourage others to introduce their own. If nothing else, this can help both the Foundation and organizers alike better work with sponsors.

The Audience Quality Factor

When we turn our attention to WordCamps, events designed to promote and bring together these ideals, you realize that the problem with WordCamps for businesses is the audience.

I’m by no way saying that their current design is bad for what WordCamps were designed for. On the contrary, I’d say they’ve done an exceptional job sticking to their predefined audience, at least in terms of cost bracket. They don’t, however, do a good job of differentiating between the various personas in attendance. They’re all rolled up into one big bucket. This creates a severe imbalance between the economic investment and audience potential.

This imbalance I think has to do with the quality of the audience. This is not meant to imply that the audience is not good in their own right, but from a company perspective not so much (i.e., as a potential customer). In a world where everything is expected to be free, and quickly commoditized, how do you bridge that divide?

This also has residual effects as well into the quality that can be expected at the event, in terms of organization, presentation and speakers. There are so many different ways this can go, does it mean WordCamp Pro like events? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that in it’s current incarnation something has to give.

Granted, this does not apply to everyone. I know a number of theme shops that bring and meet their customers at these events. Where closing one deal cannot only cover their costs, but set them up nicely for a couple of months.  My points here are more tailored at product / premium shops that are operating at a very different scale and configuration.

Increasing Number of Events Globally

WordPress WorldThe sheer volume of camps and sponsorships presents a very big problem, not just for the Foundation but for businesses as well. Which ones do you invest in? Which will offer the most return?

I assure you, these are the conversations that are occurring. There are so many, and it’s impossible to invest in them all (at least in a meaningful way). This will continue to put undue pressures on all the organizing teams looking to raise funds. I think you can see an example of this with this years WCUS 2016 sponsorships, a very different (stark) representation of today’s reality when it comes to sponsorships.

Yes, I’m very familiar with the new Global Sponsorship opportunities the Foundation has put together. They’re divided by geographic region, and don’t include the main geographic events like WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe. The prices are below:

Global Sponsorship Prices
Global Sponsorship Prices

It’s definitely a great idea, but providing a large sum of cash that gets distributed across events that you may or may not attend isn’t something I’m particularly fond of. I worry about the longevity of this program, and while I know there are always new sponsors, what will the churn look like in the program. Only time will tell.

Impacts of a Corporation Type

For those unfamiliar, the entity responsible for facilitating the growth and management of WordCamps around the world is now known as the “WordPress Community Support (WPCS) Public Benefit Corporation (PBC)”. This new entity is a subsidiary of the WordPress Foundation, which is still a non-profit, and established in 2016 (Yes, Matt said it’d take effect in 2017 but I’m pretty sure that was in error).

After March 31, sponsorship payments sent to WordPress Foundation accounts will be returned to sender. Please send revised payment instructions to any sponsors who have not yet paid.

This new entity is what is known as a benefit corporation, and should NOT be confused with a b-corp. Although it is used in many instances interchangeably, there are a number of differentiating factors, the biggest being that to obtain a b-corp classification an entity must be certified.

B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Establishing a PBC to handle the WordCamps I firmly believe was done with the best of intentions for the community, but it does present a few challenges for private businesses. A PBC is still a private for-profit company. The biggest difference, however, is that unlike other corporation types (e.g., C, S, etc..) a PBC allows an organization to be a charter (or mission focused) in addition to more traditional goals of generating profits for its shareholders.

This change is a bit more significant than might be implied when reading through the announcement. One of the driving forces for the change was to make the sponsorship process easier for both the organizers and sponsors alike:

One of the main advantages to the change from the WordPress Foundation (a non-profit) to the WPCS (a public benefit corporation) is that the rules around sponsoring official WordPress events are much simpler.

The people involved in overseeing the program have updated sponsor rules accordingly, to eliminate the barriers to value-adding stuff like direct links, discounts, and calls to action, while keeping the ones that helped us form such a trustworthy, community-focused sponsor program, like the rule about not using superlatives or unprovable claims.

As a prior WordCamp organizer, there is perhaps no greater challenge in my mind than asking people for money. While my experience was back in 2011, I can only imagine that the struggles are still the same and one of the things leveraged when pitching to companies are the benefits of a non-profit. The non-profit classification was not just about securing donations like venues (which is very important) but it’s critical for some in securing the dollars they require.

For a company, it also makes it harder to justify the costs. As the dollar investment continues to increase, the one thing that could always be counted on was the non-profit status. By changing it to a private organization (on paper) it’s donating money to another company (regardless of what the mission may or may not be). This might not be a big deal for some, but when we start talking significant investments, it becomes a serious problem.

Incentivizing Businesses

When you read through the Sponsorship rules for 2016 the changes are not incentivizing enough for a business. The biggest change being the ability to print comparisons or introduce pricing on collateral, both of which are insignificant as you can account for most of your physical collateral to end up in the trash and difficult to track.

I believe there will be, or are changes in the works, to include pricing on virtual print as well which will definitely be a positive move, but I defer to the ROI measurements above as well.

While the idea of incentivizing a business might be repulsive, it’s a necessity. As a good friend of mine mentioned, it’s about exposure for businesses. If we’re investing significant dollars and being such pivotal players in the success of these events, then we’re going to ask for as much exposure as possible.

We’re also going to push the limits of our imaginations and require some flexibility, in return I think most companies would willingly be open to negotiation and flexibility. If ROI is going to be based on exposure and brand awareness, we need to be able to capitalize on that.

What might be interesting here is to perhaps do a survey of businesses, those that have been supporting the WordCamp communities for years, and take a poll. Maybe present some options and make them part of the process. Even if it’s a fixed list, maybe ask for a wishlist of things; things that can be discussed and openly taken into consideration.

Like I tell my teams –most reasonable people don’t need to always win, they just want to be heard and be part of the process. This applies to companies as well. When it comes down to it, it’s but a few people at each organization that will be your evangelists.

WordCamp Sponsorship Can Work

I am not saying that sponsoring WordCamps is not valuable. I’m also not saying that it’s a lost cause working with WordCamps.  I am saying that it’s important to have a dialog if longevity is what we’re after in the community,  sponsorships are the bloodline that keep these events going.

There is little that can be done about the growth of events or the new subsidiary (and I don’t think either is bad). They are today’s realities and as organizations we’ll have to work through them independently.

The two areas I think can be improved on is the audience and how businesses are incentivized.

  • I’m not particularly hopeful of the audience, that’s a problem the community will need to solve and not necessarily something the Foundation should concern themselves with. If I were the Foundation, I would be doing exactly what they are doing – keep the price as low as possible to make it reachable to everyone (need a low barrier to entry). We’ve already seen a few events attempt this, and the best example in my opinion so far has been WooConf and WPCampus.
  • The one I’m more hopeful of is how businesses are incentivized. If we can agree that at a minimum all organizations are looking for exposure, then that should be the easiest place to start. A few examples might include: speaking guarantees, more prominent branding, access to some form of audience information. Yes, some of these are highly controversial, but I have faith that together we can make something work that is in line with the spirit of these events. I would also encourage other camps to look at WordCamp Miami; beyond  having a Learn JavaScript Deeply track, they do an exceptional job with the way they engage with their sponsors.

I share this post as a way to provide a perspective that I hope is unique and valuable. If it starts a discussion, and opens a better dialog between businesses, WordCamp organizers and the Foundation then I will consider it a success. Sponsors are a critical piece to the continued success and growth of these community events, and I’d like to ensure that continues.

64 Comments


  1. First off: Well written and thank you for showing us the numbers behind your company! Sucuri has invested a lot in the WordPress community!

    When looking at these numbers it’s daunting for anyone to become a sponsor, especially small or startup businesses. With the current prices and the ROI you show above it just doesn’t make sense for anyone but the largest companies to make investments into sponsorship (and even then maybe not). I find that instead of sponsoring, using that money to travel to more camps to speak and connect with the community is a much more effective for small businesses and startups. Guerilla marketing is key these days.

    A few ways to combat this issue though, I think, is by possibly raising the price of admission to some of the larger camps, reducing the entry point for sponsorship, and finding new ways like you mention to reward sponsors. I’ve been to camps where things like coffee, lunch, arcade machines, and even couches/lounges are sponsorship opportunities with low costs compared to having a booth. This will have a direct effect on the community at large as it will create new opportunities for the community to meet and learn about new companies, rather than adding another t-shirt to the collection.

    I don’t think there’s a silver bullet here, but I appreciate the conversation and hope it spurs new ways in which sponsorships can create value to the businesses around the community.

    Report


    1. Like Tony, I’ve spent time on both sides of the WordCamp experience. I co-organized Toronto from 2011-2015 and part of that time was spent handling sponsorships. I’ve also worked for small and large businesses that have sponsored over the years.

      In that time I’ve seen WordCamps drift from a low-overhead, volunteer-run, community-oriented gathering towards a highly polished industry conference experience.

      Full disclosure: I remember pushing for the “bigger and better” approach in WordCamp Toronto organizer meetings. More people, bigger venue, nicer swag, better food, fancier afterparty, yada-yada. All while keeping the cost down to $20 a day per head.

      In hindsight, the ambition is great, but it doesn’t scale. (It also puts unnecessary stress on organizers.)

      Sponsorship dollars could go a lot further if the budgets were capped/reeled in. It may even provide an incentive for smaller communities to start up WordCamps of their own.

      If a community wants to do something more high-polish and big-budget, great – have at it. Just don’t call it a WordCamp.

      Report


      1. One challenge in containing costs, though, is event size. Wordcamp Seattle had several hundred people. Even if they didn’t provide lunch (actually gift cards to nearby lunch spots this time), the rental for the space can’t be cheap.

        it would also help if some of the silly restrictions were lifted on marketing to past attendees. At a Meetup I asked one of the organizers why I’d not seen emails about the upcoming Wordcamp since I’d signed up in 2014 and gone. Turns out that they can’t market to past attendees. Um.. What?

        (to be clear, I was not involved in Wordcamp Seattle as anything but an attendee)

        Report


      2. Really? I still receive emails to this day from WordCamp Raleigh and it has been years since I attended.

        Report


      3. Jeff – that’s what one of the organizers said to me. I’m not involved in organizing Seattle, so I can’t verify from personal knowledge. Could be a misunderstanding or something.

        Report


    2. Hey Chris

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, some thoughts..

      With the current prices and the ROI you show above it just doesn’t make sense for anyone but the largest companies to make investments into sponsorship (and even then maybe not).

      Don’t think this is entirely accurate. I’ve seen countless smaller companies sponsor, and seem to be somewhat successful. The real question will always be, what is your intent? What are you trying to get form the event? If you have a product that is free and requires adoption, then it’s a great way to get awareness. If you’re a brand that has a bad reputation, and need to humanize your work, then it makes a lot of sense as well. It all just depends. They also serve as great ways to start building an audience and relationships.

      With that in mind, I do agree that there are a number of other ways to engage (i.e., speaking, volunteering, etc..). I also agree that there is a lot of room for creativity with what can be sponsored (i.e., waffle bars, cofee bars, lunches, etc..).

      Report


  2. sponsorships are done in-kind; expect nothing

    Afaik this has to do with the Foundation being a non-profit, so they could not offer for-profit sponsorship opportunities (from a tax-related angle; others may be able to comment on this more sufficiently). It will probably change now as Matt highlighted in his SOTW recently.

    The other notion behind that perspective as I have learned is that as an organization who is able to maintain a business with WordPress I already have been given a lot (which refers to WordPress being free and open-source obviously). Thus, the expectation behind a sponsorship should not be how do I get something in return, but rather I’m giving something back through my sponsorship, in return for the great value and opportunities WordPress and it’s community have provided for me to build and maintain a business.

    Report


    1. Hey Caspar

      Thanks for the thoughts. I did want to expand a bit..

      It will probably change now as Matt highlighted in his SOTW recently.

      This change actually took affect in 2016 (think the reference to 2017 was an oversight in the SOTW).

      Thus, the expectation behind a sponsorship should not be how do I get something in return, but rather I’m giving something back through my sponsorship, in return for the great value and opportunities WordPress and it’s community have provided for me to build and maintain a business.

      Yes, I agree this is in fact the general theme and message organizations receive. I think it’s great. I just also know that businesses don’t operate in this manner.

      Report


      1. I just also know that businesses don’t operate in this manner.

        Amongst the 2 of us, you’re the business owner, so hm. You’re making it sound like choice is out of the picture. However, some businesses (i.e. people) choose to operate like that? Not going to drop names, but they don’t all end on attic.

        Report


      2. Hey Casper

        This is probably an oversimplification:

        However, some businesses (i.e. people) choose to operate like that?

        Btw, don’t know what hm or attic mean.

        : /

        Report


      3. A business that doesn’t care about ROI on marketing spend will, if it’s not careful, find itself in bad financial straits. Sure, you have some leeway, but if you’re spending any significant percentage of your marketing budget you’d better be able to justify it somehow.

        Think of it this way… let’s say a company found itself in a tight position and had to let go 5 people. But in the same year, they spent $300k on a sponsorships that they couldn’t show ROI for. Is that responsible?

        Report


  3. Very interesting post, thanks a lot for sharing Tony. We’ve sponsored 7 WordCamps in the past 2 years (3 x 2015 / 4 x 2016) and while we’re very thankful for the business opportunities that WordPress has opened, we see as well that the impact of a WordCamp sponsoring is almost non-existent, at least for us from a business perspective.

    We usually booked Silver sponsorships and especially since paying $500-2k for a sponsorship can be quite a lot for a small business, you usually still hope that there is some kind of ROI, apart from giving back to the community. It’s just the usual way of thinking when running a business, instead of a charity organization.

    I’m not saying that sponsoring a WordCamp is useless from a business perspective, as you surely get some spotlight and you give something back, but expecting that this will have a noticeable effect on your business usually is the wrong approach. At least from our experience, other sponsors may have seen a huge boost in business after sponsoring a WordCamp, who knows. :-)

    However, I think part of the problem is the “It must be free” attitude that sometimes is noticeable, when it comes to WordPress. It’s fine to bring in all your expertise, contribute in many ways, helping out users, etc… But when it comes to the part where you start asking things in return, you often quickly are confronted with denial.

    Usually nothing on this world is free, apart from the love of your family and the expectation also shouldn’t be that things are free. Behind the curtain people are working hard, investing their valuable time and doing everything they can to do things right. It shouldn’t be a problem if there is a price tag on that, no matter in what form.

    It will be interesting to see how WordPress businesses will evolve in the next few years, apart from the big guys like Automattic, GoDaddy or else. I’m referring to the small businesses that in the end contribute a lot to what WordPress is today. But in times of saturation, businesses from low-wage countries flooding the market with cheap WordPress products and services and increased competition, we’ll probably see a market where the big guys rule and small businesses will probably have a hard time to compete with that and this may surely affect WordCamp sponsorings as well.

    Report


    1. Hi Michael

      we see as well that the impact of a WordCamp sponsoring is almost non-existent, at least for us from a business perspective.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of business do you run?

      Also, you bring up some very good points about smaller businesses. One trend I’ve noticed over the past year is that the sponsorships continue to go up, not just in quantity but in total value. This increase in sponsorship $$ will introduce a barrier to entry for smaller entities. I think a perfect example of this is the exponential growth is seen between 2015 / 2016 for WCUS sponsorships.

      Report


      1. Hi Tony, thanks for asking, we run a WordPress theme business since 2013 – MH Themes.

        By the way, I find it very impressive and absolutely awesome to see what you’ve built with Sucuri over the years. :-)

        Report


  4. Great Read Tony,

    I’m on the other side of the coin, I was the co-organiser of a WordCamp, and next year I’m taking a step back from being a co-organiser to focus on the Sponsorship opportunities. As such two frustrations I see you raise:-

    1. Sponsors don’t see a value and don’t return. This is very frustrating and disappointing but completely and utterly understandable. This forever gets harder as more and more WordCamps pop up, but I feel that maybe WordCamps will eventually find their niche and cater for it (in the UK, for example, there are talks at rotating the smaller WordCamps to give everybody time to recover). If costs can be kept down (difficult I know)

    2. Having to say no to sponsors. I completely agree that sponsors shouldn’t get a free reign on things, but there are things that sponsors would like to do but having (2 such incidents happened this year for me that I personally would have signed off as being okay but were deemed not).

    I’d be curious to know more about the engagement that you get from WordCamp Miami. What works and what could the wider community adopt?

    Report


    1. Hi Rhys

      Thanks for the note. I fear that you’re spot on, more and more companies I talk to are groaning at the volume of events, increase in sponsorship $’s and ofcourse those things combined.

      I feel that maybe WordCamps will eventually find their niche and cater for it

      Honestly, I think WordCamp has it’s niche. The niche isn’t the problem. The challenge comes between the divide that’s created trying to support that niche, while also increasing the sponsorship demand.

      Having to say no to sponsors.

      This is a big issue. I too agree sponsors shouldn’t have free reign, but some things are tough to swallow. In 2015, Sucuri was one of the top sponsors. We had a number of pull up banners. We asked to put this in one of the many halls, further down by the rooms (none had any pricing, just our branding). After several conversations with organizers, we were told:

      Sorry, that’s against the rules and we’re restricted by the IRS on what we can do.

      The poor IRS has served as an unfortunate scapegoat in a number of instances as a way to justify a “no” response. Obviously, I am painting this with a very broad paint brush. But this speaks to my point around exposure.

      Report


    2. Hi Rhys,

      Myself and Ptah Dunbar (lead organizer) was asked a similar question recently. This is what our thoughts were on how Miami handles things, and although not speaking for Tony I wouldn’t be surprised if he was thinking of one or more of these:

      – Financial – We don’t have total control over sponsorship amounts, but we even have provided in the past early bird pricing for sponsors who want to get on board early. This helps us too since the more support we have early, the better we can plan for the event.
      – Communication – We talk to sponsors as soon as they express interest, and stay in communication with enough updates as to not annoy them. At the event, we assign a sponsor coordinator and that person(s) touches base with the sponsors physically before registration and during the event. Sponsors also get a private Slack channel, and some other perks.
      – Exposure – We make it a point to accommodate sponsors that have tables/booths in our area. We include them in conference “mini-events” – like our kid’s camp, and we also make “trading cards” for them (as we do for our speakers) to increase foot traffic and interactivity.
      – Announcements – It might seem small, but we strive at WCMIA to not rattle off mentions of sponsors quickly at all announcements, esp. during the opening remarks. We try to give each top level sponsor a half-minute or two of why we respect them and why attendees should check them out. We are constantly tweaking this, and we might be trying new ways of introducing sponsors at next WCMIA. We also tend to mention sponsors at after parties and other functions, in visual (in the form of signs) or vocally.

      At some point, I would love to write up a blog post. We are constantly making adjustments, correcting a mistake here or there, and doing our best. Personally, I think little details can make a difference.

      As organizers, our uncompromising goal is to throw a phenomenal event for WordCamp attendees by packing in as much bang for their buck as we can.

      Report


      1. I would love to see that post. I consistently hear great things about how Miami’s WordCamps are run. :)

        Report


  5. I appreciate the recent discussion from WordCamp sponsors and understand the fiduciary responsibility that those entities have to their investors. The significance that money plays in all of our lives is self-evident, but discussions about ROI seem off the mark of the mission, intent, and purpose of WordPress. If common sense would say that money has a louder voice than time and effort of individuals, then I will submit that I’m not interested in being common.

    I applaud the actions of the WordPress Foundation and its founder at this past weekend’s WordCamp US. I can imagine it was a difficulty situation for all parties involved, but I see it as a courageous move to draw a hard line in the sand. It’s a slippery slope from the point where the scales tip in favor of profit. We should all keep in mind the idea behind WordPress, namely Democratizing Publishing. As a result, the focus should not shift from the software to a financial discussion. To do so would almost surely kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

    I see this community as appreciating all of the resources invested in its upkeep, whether it be from individuals donating their time and expertise, as evidenced from the several hundred volunteers who showed up for Contributor Day on Sunday, or from companies who carve out a business model on top of the platform the software provides. It takes a village, for sure, and we all get to vote.

    Report


    1. Hey Paul

      Thanks for taking the time to respond.. some thoughts…

      discussions about ROI seem off the mark of the mission, intent, and purpose of WordPress.

      I agree with you, it’s not the purpose of WordPress. It is however the purpose of the businesses that make it happen though.

      If common sense would say that money has a louder voice than time and effort of individuals, then I will submit that I’m not interested in being common.

      Don’t think that’s the discussion at all. How WordCamps are getting sponsored and supported, has nothing to do with the contributions being made to build and power the platform. Nothing in my post was designed to imply that, and I’m sorry if you interpreted it that way.

      We should all keep in mind the idea behind WordPress, namely Democratizing Publishing. As a result, the focus should not shift from the software to a financial discussion. To do so would almost surely kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

      Agree again, the principles from which the platform was built is not being debated or questioned.

      There also isn’t a shift in my eyes. Also, while I appreciate the ideology and points you make, we should not be quick to dismiss the affects of the economics you reference. Which without, this years WCUS would have cost over $500 (SOTW reference). Sponsorships are what have allowed these WordCamps to be as affordable.

      Also, while no one is taking away from the investments made by contributors, one can’t take away the impacts businesses have had – promoting and helping grow the platform. They are not mutually exclusive.

      Report


      1. I think we pretty much agree here. My point is that it’s too easy to let money rule. Of course I don’t see any mutual exclusivity, the relationship is symbiotic, just like the relationship with all of the volunteers. I feel that not enough voices chimed in on the delicate balance.

        Report


  6. Tony, once I saw your numbers and ROI, my first thought was – he could hire ~3 really qualified developers to work on WordPress core full time at that price and could potentially gain more exposure from that investment than any of the WordCamps… Has Sucuri considered moving budget towards hiring resources to assist the WordPress community in a different way that could potentially not only garner more business, but allow your company to help direct the software your business is tied to?

    Report


    1. Hey @David

      Thanks for the note..

      once I saw your numbers and ROI, my first thought was – he could hire ~3 really qualified developers to work on WordPress core full time at that price and could potentially gain more exposure from that investment than any of the WordCamps

      Those numbers speak specifically to investments in WordCamps, and not in investments we make in other ways. Doing one, doesn’t do away with the other. :)

      Has Sucuri considered moving budget towards hiring resources to assist the WordPress community in a different way that could potentially not only garner more business, but allow your company to help direct the software your business is tied to?

      Ofcourse, and we do in a number of ways. Not just in WordPress, in the various other communities we participate. Also, remember, Sucuri is not a WordPress shop or dependent on it. We are a platform agnostic SaaS, we have engagement and a number of other communities that include Magento, Drupal, Joomla, and a number of other security related groups.

      :)

      Report


      1. Well that’s not allowed, you should only do WordPress stuff! ;) I appreciate your response, and I didn’t expect you to solely do one or the other, but more wondering what the return on investment comparison might be between sponsoring WordCamps vs sponsoring WordPress development.

        Report


      2. hahah.. :)

        Cool, and fair points for sure.. honestly not sure, would have to figure out how to begin thinking about that.

        Report


  7. Tony, this insight is greatly appreciated. I’ve had similar conversations with other sponsors, asking about the return on investment. The feedback received was met with striking similar remarks and was reinforced by your numbers. I was the organizer for WordCamp Phoenix this past year and ensuring sponsor engagement was something I really focused on. For me, the fiduciary responsibility even trickles down to WordCamp organizers to allocate money wisely.

    Some things will have to change. As it was mentioned at State of the Word, sponsor involvement keeps the ticket cost low and accessible to everyone. Which, in itself is fantastic. However, it seems the increasing number camps of each year is only going to deplete funds a faster rate.

    Two areas that I think could use attention are ticket price and sponsor opportunity. For tickets, in order to balance some of the financial weight, the price could be increased. Even at a fifty or sixty dollar price point, attendees would get a ton of value for their money and still the camp would still be accessible.

    I’ve read that in the past, limitations of the non-profit status prevented what sponsors were allowed to do. Now that the status has changed we’re told those rules have loosened. I would love to have an open discussion as to what, as organizers, we are ok to offer in our sponsor packages. On the other side of that, I’d also like to hear some ideas from the sponsors. In my opinion, a two or even three-way discussion with WordCamp Central, organizers and sponsors has the potential to create some common ground.

    Report


    1. Hi Justin

      Good thoughts..

      this insight is greatly appreciated. I’ve had similar conversations with other sponsors, asking about the return on investment. The feedback received was met with striking similar remarks and was reinforced by your numbers.

      I’d encourage you to send this article to those sponsors and encourage them to get involved in the conversation. I never understand why they’re willing to say things in the hallway track but refuse to say things publicly.

      Some things will have to change. As it was mentioned at State of the Word, sponsor involvement keeps the ticket cost low and accessible to everyone. Which, in itself is fantastic. However, it seems the increasing number camps of each year is only going to deplete funds a faster rate.

      Spot on, and exactly what I have on my mind…

      Two areas that I think could use attention are ticket price and sponsor opportunity.

      Again, I agree completely. While I appreciate the desire to keep it low, increasing the pricing could help improve a number of things, include making the audience more attractive to sponsors.

      limitations of the non-profit status prevented what sponsors were allowed to do.

      I have heard the same thing, but in the make post talking to the changes, the biggest change was adding pricing to collateral. The rest stayed the same. Unfortunately, adding pricing is the last thing any sponsor cares about.

      Report


  8. Tony thank you for writing this and sharing in such detail. There are so many great points here I couldn’t possibly touch them all in a comment.

    I’ve been talking a lot lately about missing the old days of WordCamps when the talks and sponsors were more diverse. It’s not the sponsors that have changed camps for the worse, it’s the organizers and the growing scale of camps.

    The last few years it seems the talks are all targeting developers and not just developers but developers of similar skill/interest level. Heck even the “lifestyle” talks I’ve given about remote work and digital nomadism are essentially targeting intermediate devs. Gone are the talks about writing, photography, publishing and connecting with audience. Once upon a time camps had legit user/content tracks. As an organizer it was always hard to fill those podiums, but it could be done.

    With great irony however the users that used to come to camps to see those kind of talks are the very ones sponsors would see better ROI from. While yes many are spending adverse free/DIYers, they’re fresh meat, that can be convinced to spend money on thier passion/hobby/business.

    The sponsors predominately seem to be hosting companies or Automattic brands, and be because of thier global sponsorship getting better placement smaller players are loosing interest in sponsoring local camps. It’s hard to tell a local business “please give us money for virtually no return, and oh your logo will be half way down that page even though you’re a major sponsor in our eyes”. The only return they’re getting is visibility akin to a banner on the fence at a softball game… They’ll do it but only if someone how comes to the game at least sees thier banner.

    1.I want to see city camps get smaller smaller, predomintely sponsored by locals and targeting locals users, publishers, SMB (not WordPress professionals, and yes beginning developers.
    2. I want to see regional camps that target WordPress professionals (I’m talking 4 camps per year in the US, not just WCUS/EU). Targeting WordPress professionals from freelancers and agency staff to owners and B2B product providers.

    Note: while I miss smaller camps WCPHL 4? years ago at Temple Univ. (Halloween costumes, I recall Brad in a Green Bay Jersey and tutu) was a great example of how a big camp can reach a diverse set of attendees, props to that organizing committee.

    Report


    1. Jon’s comments reasonate very strongly. My 2c — the reason you’re not seeing a great return as a sponsor is because the attendees are not your target buying audience. Most of the people I meet at WordCamp are hobbyists. Jon’s point about professional content creators coming to WordCamp is bang on. More importantly they are going to spend money on valuable products.

      In short – WordCamps must attract businesses who spend money on tools and services as attendees. There are probably a lot of things that can help. Increasing the price and the quality of the agenda is one thing. Holding the events during business hours M-F is another. And there is much more.

      This is a natural thing that happens to every open source product. Look at RedHat and how that’s managed. I think WordPress is at the same cross roads now as it aims to be a professional platform, professionally run with a professional community around it.

      Report


      1. Hey Alex

        the reason you’re not seeing a great return as a sponsor is because the attendees are not your target buying audience.

        I agree completely.

        Report


      2. I think that WordCamps, with the “volunteer-run community gathering” ethos, are a good fit for hobbyists and users. I wouldn’t want to see that audience change.

        I suspect we’ll see more non-WordCamp events pop up catering to the professional/business crowd. It’s already present in the US with LoopConf, Pressnomics, and Prestige.

        Report


    2. Hey Jon

      Thanks…

      It’s not the sponsors that have changed camps for the worse, it’s the organizers and the growing scale of camps.

      I love this, might use it in the future. I agree wholeheartedly, sponsors are simply responding the requests we’re getting. Organizers can’t expect to ask for more money, and not get requests in return.

      “please give us money for virtually no return, and oh your logo will be half way down that page even though you’re a major sponsor in our eyes”.

      This message needs to be pushed up to the Foundation.

      Great points all around, thanks again for taking the time.

      Report


  9. One thing that I always thougt was unfair is the prohibitive cost of sponsorship. While a big company like GoDaddy (full disclosure: I now work at GoDaddy) needs to spend only 0.0001% of revenue to sponsor a WordCamp, a small/new company that really needs WordCamp exposure has to spend 100% or sometimes more of its revenue to be a sponsor. This seems against the spirit of a community oriented project.

    A system where sponsorship can be ‘earned’ in other ways, specifically by contributions to the WordPress project might solve a part of the problem. Imagine earning a sponsorship slot by having all your devs contribute to the next core release.

    Having said that I dont agree completely with the premise of the article. Sponsoring WordCamps is more thany anything showing support for the project, where the sponsor eventually becomes recognized as an influential brand in the community which then given enough time has indirect benefits to the sponsor that are not easy to measure but are often substantial.

    I do agree that sponsors sometimes feel like second-grade citizens (this mostly depends on the organizers and their treatment of the sponsors) and this seems too against the spirit of the project. WordPress now more than ever needs all commercial companies that are helping drive WordPress adoption in this growingly competitive environment.

    Report


    1. Hi Vladimir

      You make some very interesting points, although I’m not even sure how to think or provide thoughts on this

      This seems against the spirit of a community oriented project.

      I do think you bring up a very interesting point with your thoughts around earning a place opportunity base don other actions. That’s a very interesting idea for sure.

      Having said that I dont agree completely with the premise of the article.

      Would love to know what you felt the premise of the article was.

      Sponsoring WordCamps is more than anything showing support for the project, where the sponsor eventually becomes recognized as an influential brand in the community which then given enough time has indirect benefits to the sponsor that are not easy to measure but are often substantial.

      It is, I agree, but it’s also a lot more than that. GoDaddy can attest to this, as you can now appreciate. Even ManageWP, can attest to this. If it was truly about showing support for the project, then we’d all just give money and not invest in marketing or brand ambassadorship. There is ofcourse no denying the indirect benefits, I too agree they exist, but they are just so difficult to quantify and objectively grasp.

      I would also challenge the notion of support for the project. I can assure you that GoDaddy, a public company, will ofcourse support a project that now makes up a significant portion of their hosting revenue. Every business supports the domains where they feel they have the most opportunity. If it wasn’t, there are a number of other open-source CMS’s that could be supported. The line will be towed as long as the platform is still the platform of choice amongst small business owners. Please realize that I’m not against this, just highlighting the obvious that transcends any ideology that we might want to believe. The minute the revenue potential ceases, so will the investment.

      I do agree that sponsors sometimes feel like second-grade citizens (this mostly depends on the organizers and their treatment of the sponsors) and this seems too against the spirit of the project.

      This, I can’t agree with more. It’s a sad reality that a number of organizations I’ve spoken too can attest to.

      Report


      1. I do agree that sponsors sometimes feel like second-grade citizens (this mostly depends on the organizers and their treatment of the sponsors) and this seems too against the spirit of the project.

        I’ll chime in for a bit. We’ve just sponsored a WordCamp (gold package, highest one) and sponsors were not even listed in the sidebar of the WordCamp website. I haven’t been there in order to comment on the offline part of the things, but there were no sponsors listed in the sidebar, no blog posts praising any of the sponsors, and no tweets either.

        Having said that, we’re on very good terms with the organizers and that’s not a personal issue with us – there was simply ZERO sponsorship coverage online from any of the usual channels. But that oversight isn’t very promising and also proves lack of internal planning with regards to the sponsors, which I consider a problem.

        Report


  10. I spoke with a few WordCamp US newbies this weekend. They were people I knew from the Drupal and Magento worlds. They were shocked how many hosting companies and how few agencies were sponsoring.

    For an agency, $12.4k per closed lead might well be worth it. Agencies can bring in 6-figure projects from sponsoring conferences like this, because conferences like DrupalCon and Magento Imagine explicitly try to get decision makers to attend. But, as Tony says, WordCamp US attendees are more likely to buy services in the $199.99 range.

    Report


    1. Hey Steve

      I agree, with your statement. As an organization that sponsors events across various communities, including Drupal and Magento, I’ve always been surprised by the stark difference in type of sponsors. I have my thoughts on why this is, and will likely write another article on the subject in the near future.

      Thanks

      Report


    2. Unlike a DrupalCamp or any other business-oriented conference, as someone indicated above WordCamps are mostly attended by hobbyists, DIY folks and people working within the WP ecosystem. For many years now I’ve only seen 6-figure clients invited by agencies for a meeting, not attending just like that.

      Since we also go to technical, marketing and business conferences (I’ve spoken at DrupalCamps too), things are not comparable at all.

      Report


      1. I agree completely, there is a big divide in the audience between WordCamp and almost every other event. Which is fine, but also very challenging for businesses.

        Report


  11. Great Post Tony, thanks so much for taking the time. I’m the lead local organizer for WC US 2017, and also a long time WP Engine employee. I’ve gone to at least 20 camps with WP Engine and spoken at ~15. All this to say, I’m very excited about that experience helping shape a great WC US in 2017. Your points are very valid, and ones that I personally think about both for our local WordCamp Nashville, and for the next two years of WC US in Nashville.

    I hope that we’ll be able to work together with sponsors to hear their concerns, and I know we’ve already had conversations about this as an organizing team. I look forward to speaking with you next year about this topic.

    Report


    1. Awesome! Best of luck to you guys as you start to think through and plan.

      Tony

      Report


  12. While we’re a relatively new company, we have considered sponsoring a few WordCamps, but it just didn’t pan out. We went personally to some to do some research on the audience, format, etc. and it would tough to justify like you mentioned. The ROI.

    While we do care about ROI, I believe what needs to really happen is that WordCamp organizers need to give sponsors more love. More often than not, I have found many WordCamps to really not give the love sponsors need. The sponsors and their dollar is what really allows them to do what is done at an event, but often times they get a tweet, a banner, tradeshow booth, and a small mention here and there. Organizers need to find more creative ways outside of “oh you can do a talk too.” to integrate sponsors with the community so it builds that level of trust / value for the long run (as Vladimir from ManageWP mentioned) — something that may not be measurable, but very powerful.

    While most people I’ve seen at WordCamp are DIY-ers, I do know from going to events, Sucuri’s brand is the #1 security place, and I’ll give it a recommendation in a heart beat for those who can afford it.

    But back to integration with sponsors, I find attendees tend to shy away from sponsors because no one likes to be sold to, they want to connect in a more meaningful way – I don’t have that solution at the moment or perfect formula, but I have agreed to help out WordCamp Toronto this coming year and I’m going to see how we can bring a new level of interaction where sponsors are more deeply integrated.

    Report


    1. Hi Jeremy

      Thanks for your thoughts.. I found this one very interesting, and something I’d thought about but hadn’t shared yet..

      find attendees tend to shy away from sponsors because no one likes to be sold to, they want to connect in a more meaningful way

      This is a very interesting problem, it’s not always the case, but sometimes you can in fact see the uncomfortable feeling people get talking to sponsors at their booth. You can see them going through the motions, they pick your flyer and throw it in a bag; a bag you know won’t see the day of light the minute they leave. Like you, this highlights the need to really find ways to engage with the audience in a more meaningful way. And by meaningful I mean going beyond giving something out (i.e., ipad, watch, etc..).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and good luck with Toronto.

      Report


      1. Exactly. Something I’m putting together are like Round-Table talks and sponsors will be like attendees to learn, give, relative to the topic per table. But this gives them a chance to connect with people on a deeper level, build that trust.

        Gone are the days of a banner sign, logo on website, etc. People need to connect and feel like they are dealing with a human being sometimes ;)

        Report


  13. No mention that Bluehost sponsors a lot of WordCamp events.

    Report


    1. Hey Luke

      The point of the article wasn’t to highlight everyone that sponsors. Instead it was to highlight those that I could clearly see the ROI for.

      I didn’t include my observations for Bluethost for a reason. For the longest time I’m not sure anyone really knew what their ROI was, outside of some relationship with with the Foundation that no one could trace. It seemed they through money for the sake of throwing money, with no real direction. I can’t count the number of times I would see a bluehost table with no one in attendance, or swag just thrown on a table. I can’t tell if this was intentional, or just something that was lost in the EIG marketing strategy. I think back to WCSF where I’d see the bluehost table with poor Mike sitting behind the table playing on his phone or something else. ROI felt like the furthest thing from the discussion.

      The good news though is it could be used to their advantage. They are probably the only ones that could say:

      We really gave for the sake of the project, with no expectations.

      But yes, Bluehost is definitely an OG in the WordCamp sponsorship arena. :)

      Tony

      Report


      1. Normally BH will send out 4 or 5 people to a WordCamp event.

        Report


  14. Hi Tony, thanks for this great post. I’m currently organizing WordCamp Bilbao for next year and sponsorships is something I want to “change”.

    We are trying to have a free coworking space for our attendees the week before and after. I’ve been speaking with some of the possible sponsors and share them (and now to all of you) the next idea:

    Using the “hype” of the WordCamp, and the coworking space, let Sponsors organize Meetups/Workshops to share knowledge. They gain visibility, the community learns, the WordCamp gets more presence and the coworking space gets much more visibility (Win-Win-Win-Win?)

    Some possible examples (sorry for listing some names):
    – WPML: how to make our WordPress multilingual
    – WooCommerce: how to **** with WooCommerce/Sensei/etc.
    – Hosting Company: basic configurations in our cPanel/Plesk
    – Sucuri: how to clean our WordPress ourselves and when to hire a professional

    What do you think about that idea as an Sponsor?

    Report


    1. I like this idea, granted the company must send someone that has great knowledge of this specific realm. It’s similar to what we’re thinking about round-table discussions, like unconference style for WordCamp attendees. Most people are still DIYers I’ve found.

      Report


    2. I think these are great examples.

      I even think WC Miami did this one year, where they had a beginners workshop the day before and it was sponsored by WPBeginner.

      Pretty nifty.

      Tony

      Report


      1. Hey Tony,

        Wanted to make a correction – the beginner workshop was not sponsored by WPBeginner.

        I was one of the instructors along with Ptah, and I wore a WPBeginner T-Shirt. I also had several of my team members there to help out / answer questions, and they were wearing our company shirt.

        The workshop was officially sponsored by SiteGround because they provided free testing accounts for the attendees that came with WordPress pre-installed.

        This made it really easy for people to follow along (i.e install themes, change themes, create a post, add plugins, configure widgets, etc).

        Several folks from SiteGround were also present at the workshop, and we placed a SG banner in the front of that room.

        We also made a very clear point to tell users that they have other options for web hosting in our slides … where we mentioned other camp sponsors (hosting companies).

        -Syed

        Report


  15. Hi Tony,

    loved the article, well written, great data and food for thought…

    sincere thank you for writing this…

    ciao

    Luca

    Report


  16. Costs grow exponentially with the size of the WordCamp. At a certain number of attendees, the WordCamp model could potentially stop working.

    A WordCamp for 100 is almost free to organize, one with 200 will need a sponsor or two to help with paying the bills for t-shirts and speakers dinner. Almost no fixed costs at this point. One with 400 needs a paid venue, probably money for equipment, has many volunteers and speakers. One with 1000 requires very serious and early commitment – some of the organizers are almost full time for months, large fixed costs need to be paid as early as a year in advance. With 2000 the process is longer than a year, involves multiple external contractors, and is even more expensive.

    If we put things in that perspective, we should only do small to medium size WordCamps so that we don’t leak money from the IT industry to the travel & entertainment industry for overpriced accommodation and outrageously expensive venues.

    However, WordCamps are not sponsors driven, they are community driven. Many of the WordPress professionals, software engineers, bloggers, business owners seems to enjoy gathering together for WordCamps every year and this seems to keep happening even when very important individuals or companies step back.

    I have huge respect for what you do at Sucuri and I hope that your company keeps doing a good job no matter if you keep your involvement in conferences or not. There are many other ways to contribute to Open Source.

    Report


    1. Hi @veselin

      Thanks for the note, and kind words.

      WordCamps are not sponsors driven, they are community driven. Many of the WordPress professionals, software engineers, bloggers, business owners seems to enjoy gathering together for WordCamps every year and this seems to keep happening even when very important individuals or companies step back.

      I agree completely. WordCamps are community driven, but they are sponsor enabled. Then again, this doesn’t apply to all; just those camps that are looking to really grow. I have seen some camps that are very content staying at the size they are, with their audience, and their budget requirements reflect that.

      Do know, I have no intentions of pulling back or disappearing, just think it’s a conversation that needs to be had. I do also want to share why I may or may not sponsor an event when asked.

      Tony

      Report


  17. small mid-sized

    Must be a different definition from the rest of the world. With THAT amount of money, I’d consider myself not as “small”. But perspectives might differ o.O

    cu, w0lf.

    Report


  18. Great post, Tony. Thanks for being so open and honest.

    Are you able to disclose Sucuri’s annual revenue? It would help me put that 300-400k number in perspective. It looks like 1/3 to 1/4 of your sponsorships go directly to WordCamps – is that accurate?

    Where does ROI for WordPress-specific events fall in terms of all of Sucuri’s event sponsorships? Somewhere on the low end, or kind of middle-of-the-road?

    Report


  19. Great article, I’m also enjoying the feedback you’re getting.

    We’ve been having the same discussion internally for some time. As a small agency that doesn’t cater to the typical Camp attendee, it’s a difficuIt call to make each year when sponsorship rolls around.

    When considering sponsorships the business owner in me says one thing, the WordPress advocate says another. At the end of the day, can I expand or enrich my team with goodwill? No. I have to opt for smarter spending until I’m big enough to contribute meaningfully back to the community without the concern of ROI.

    On the topic of attendees: I’d like to see some sort of survey or info on the content of the crowds. Who is coming from where and for what reasons. (I can’t recall being asked to fill out anything in the past at registration, but it’s possible I’m forgetting.) Information like that would be a great way to start the conversation of who would find sponsorships financially feasible.

    Having attended DrupalConf in NOLA this year I can attest to the different vibe. I echo Mario’s sentiments there. The attending audience is different, as well as the ecosystem of Drupal in general (i.e. as a code base, at the cost level, in user perception).

    Report


  20. Hi Tony,

    I appreciate you being such an open, honest and bold about your findings and calculations on ROI with WordCamps. My company Multidots has also been the sponsor for many WordCamps. We have never cared and calculated our ROI with WordCamps as we have focused more to make Multidots a famous and loved brand in WordPress Community and stay in the community to learn and explore WordPress as Platform, meet and engage with other WordPress enthusiasts.

    From the service agency perspective, I have found investing in WordCamp both time and money has always rewarded in a better way – new relationships, good exposure, trust and reputation among existing clients etc. But, not sure from the Product perspective.

    I would say all my recent participations as Speaker and Sponsor has been the quite rewarding, But, I’ll start tracking our ROI onwards in more precise way and will surely share in the future somewhere. Also, I think you have addressed interesting facts about the audience and I am going to observe and monitor that in the upcoming WordCamps.

    Report

Comments are closed.