barista comps: profoundly compromised?

barista competitions, trade shows, jams, tastings

Postby Rich Westerfield on Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:25 pm

Leaving the SERBC discussions to folks who were actually there, I do take issue with what I perceive as Ben's questioning of the events as regards sponsor investment and expectations.

Having tried to put one together, I don't know how you put something like the regional comps together without a lot of sponsors while also trying to achieve the goal of bringing the event's message to the masses.

If anything, I'd argue that these events should have MORE money alloted to them, and that the SCAA should stop trying to produce these on a shoestring while asking the hosts to take on significant financial risks. The result is lack of QC between events, most notably apparent in the countless variables between each region's production values.

As someone who's been a marketer in the events business for 20+ years and involved with a lot of top trade shows and conferences as an promoter, exhibitor, sponsor and paid attendee, I'd like to offer a short list of five suggestions:

1. Cut the nine US regions to four or five so sponsors can better focus their time and energies on larger, more productive events. You can't simply expect sponsors to keep paying out when they get little in return. Remember, sponsors not only pay the sponsor fees, they also need to pay T&E for reps to attend - you don't give away money without being around to see how it's being spent. And every event is an opportunity for feedback. Fewer events = bigger pool of sponsors for each and more money to spend on each.

2. Charge competitors a larger entry fee - like $250 or maybe more. Shops like mine make hay about our staff winning/placing, so one can certainly make the case that the entry fees are a marketing/PR expense. If your shop doesn't want to pay that much, suck it up or find a new employer. If you're good enough to place, you shouldn't have a problem finding a better gig anyway. Simple math for owners - one of your folks places. That's worth a press release. If you're not in a huge metropolis, your town's paper will use it 99% of the time. That's better than an ad. And what's an ad worth?

3. SCAA should negotiate a national contract with a competent event AV company to ensure consistency of onsite video production and presentation from event to event. Pay them accordingly direct from SCAA coffers, then each regional and the USBC pays a percentage back to the SCAA. All events use the same company, thus nobody is reinventing the wheel and the regional host has one less concern to deal with (and it's a big, time-consuming concern).

4. Improve the spectator experience not only with better AV, but with better sightlines to the stage. One way to achieve this is mandate that only those with press passes are the only folks allowed to get near the stage. I've been to five regional/nationals and in some cases it becomes extremely difficult to see what's going on because everyone is standing in front of the stage taking photos and in some cases are within an arm's length of the competitor's tables. So have a buffer zone that prevents this. And while we've got some great MCs, some other bells and whistles would be a good idea. Maybe some additional breaks for short videos or other entertainment instead of constant competitors - even if that means fewer competitors can enter.

5. The heck with just a 4th machine, have a 5th and 6th and 7th, showing HBs and foodies how to pull this stuff off - and have one or two dedicated to non-sig drinks from the syrup sponsors, but presented by the competing baristas. Add demos of other brewing methods besides espresso. Make each regional an event that's fun for anyone who really likes coffee, not just an event for industry pros. Have a kid's hour - kids training on pulling shots and making art. Make it truly interactive with lots of opportunities to touch some kind of brewer and taste what comes out of it.

As far as the host's investment in each regional goes, remember that cost is not just the money, but the time. I know from doing due diligence on holding one in Pgh that doing the venue visits and putting together draft line item budgets is a substantial amount of work in itself and that's maybe 5% or less of the total job. Add in the logistics and marketing... let me put it this way - I do less work for a real estate conference I market in San Diego and I get paid $35K for that.

I could add detail about our failed experience in trying to host what we thought would be a breakout event here in Pgh, but we'll save that for another time. Suffice it to say, there isn't an MARBC on the SCAA regional calendar yet for next year.

Taking that into consideration (two other regions are also currently without comps), regarding the suggestion that a competitor must finish in the top three in a regional to enter the USBC - I would hope that would mean if your region didn't support a regional that you could compete out of region and therefore earn entry into the USBCs through exceeding some set score.

Sorry to have gone on for this long - if I knew how to get along with committees I'd volunteer for Spencer and get some of this done. But you don't want me on a committee. If you think I get out of hand over here... :roll:
Rich Westerfield, Co-owner
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Postby barry on Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:27 pm

bz wrote:possibly. but i'm talking about something just for south carolina, or even one region of south carolina... we're talking about a hybrid jam/home junkie throwdown/latte art comp/public cupping/barista competition/general carnival. six barista competitors would be more than enough, all local. it's not gonna draw from beyond this corner of our state. no one needs recognize our winner.



So do it. Put one together. There's no prohibition against a local un-sanctioned event, and, as I mentioned before, there can be a competition element in a BGA sanctioned jam.

Nothing stopping you, Ben.

--Barry "mouth, meet money" ;)
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Postby bz on Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:42 pm

barry: uh, did you miss the above post? that's exactly what we're working on.

in fact, i only brought it up because it's a working idea with a potential venue, interested parties, prospective sponsors, etc.

i'm tired of full-time pontificators too.
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Postby barry on Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:49 pm

sorry, ben. all i read was that it ought to be done, not that it was being done.


if i can help, give a holler.
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Postby td on Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:38 pm

I have not posted on this board for well over a year, but feel that, as the lead organizer of this year's SERBC event, a response is necessary, if not mandatory, in this case. So let me begin by thanking those sponsors, volunteers, SCAA staff and, most especially, those competitors that attended this year's event. Without whom this event would not have taken place. This year we attempted to do something at once unique and more expansive than has been attempted before; in some ways we were successful, in others we were not.

Our overall goal was to attempt to bring more training and relevancy to these competitions and to try and build a more accommodating, open, flexible and sustainable coffee event. To that aim we had both a 28 roaster Cup of Excellence cupping going on at this event as well as a 14 station barista jam, containing 12 espresso machines and 24 grinders, all available throughout the event (not 4, or 5 but 12 espresso machines). Furthermore, we designed after hours events that brought baristas, roasters, cafe owners, and sponsors together in an informal (and in one case competitive, barely) environment. Far too many times in the past during these events, the baristas went one direction at the end of the day and everyone else went another. This splitting into groups is, I feel, unhealthy, unsustainable and stifling to the informal exchange of information and relationship building that often leads to innovation within an industry. All in all, there were over 200 coffee professionals here at one time or another throughout the weekend. Many, if not most of these people witnessed at least part of the barista competition. Many of these people saw a competition for the very first time. In a beautiful facility with perhaps the best AV set-up for a regional event ever (the screen was 10'x12'); the entire event was professionally filmed; and each finalist will receive a professionally edited version with their interview of what these competitions meant for them. Additionally, we will post any and all unedited content once it becomes available to us. Including my ROI speech referenced below, as well as in BZ's blogs.

Now let's move on to the complaints listed by Mr. BZ:

Why allow a syrup company and a roaster manufacturer to host a barista competition?

Ambex and Monin (the companies that you are referring to, either here or in your rant), together and independently, have supported not just barista competitions but also the BGA from the very beginning. In fact, Ambex organized the very first BGA SCAA party ever at the Atlanta SCAA in 2004. Perhaps the best outlaw party ever held in this industry. One of the sponsors of that party was Monin. Another was Astoria, the 3rd co-host for this year's SERBC, and the one co-host you neglected to mention in your little editorial.

You overlooking Astoria I find especially interesting, as it becomes much more difficult to sustain the underlying thesis presented in your blog (i.e., that it was not in the interests of these sponsors to throw a good event, nee that these sponsors intended to undermine the entire SERBC) when an espresso machine manufacturer is thrown into the co-host mix. Additionally, all of these sponsors have been involved, as sponsors and/or organizers in any number of SCAA and coffee industry training events. Your lack of understanding surrounding the history and production of this particular event, and these specific hosts relative to this competition can only be ascribed to ignorance or malice. Woeful ignorance; nefarious malice; or perhaps simple laziness when fact checking, none of which are becoming traits for a professional journalist.

The Hosts for this year's event were Astoria, Monin and Ambex. Let us try and get it correct next time, shall we?. How about a little journalistic accuracy here , or is it integrity?

The event was disappointing, if not a catastrophe

I apologize if the event was not all that you believe it could have, or should have been. At the end of the day however, I believe the best barista won. All technical issues that arose (including a UPS induced problem experienced by the winner) were handled quickly and competently. The judging and scoring was honest, fair and timely without much of the controversy that has surrounded many of the past competitions. In fact, I believe that your rants more than prove the point that this event, while not perfect by any stretch, went well; allowing you to try and manufacture a little controversy, where no greater one exists.

BZ, it is always a balancing act trying to ensure that everyone is recognized- competitors, sponsors, SCAA staff and volunteers alike. Someone always gets overlooked, or under recognized, slighted or ignored and if anyone feels this way about this event, I am sorry. In fact BZ, perhaps your real beef is that you were not recognized for having driven 16 hours just to bask in the reflected glory of those professional baristas on stage. I am sorry also that I neglected to acknowledge your stamina, commitment and personal service to the art of the bean. But, I guess you insured you would be recognized through your own intrepid reporting of the catastrophe in Clearwater ?. Hyperbole always gets good play, even if it is somewhat inaccurate. Bravo Zulu to you BZ.

Do comps need these peoples (sic) ? money?

Only if competitions wish to survive at this level and in decent venues do they need to take the money of Allied manufacturers like syrup, chocolate, smoothie, and yes, even roaster manufacturers. I for one would love to see the day when specialty coffee roasters and caf?s could host and sponsor these events all by themselves ( in the spirit of full disclosure I am currently 50% owner of a caf? and a partner in a roasting company, both of which also sponsored during this event). But, I do not believe that day is close at hand. Even the NWRBC has, as their platinum sponsor a company that manufactures syrup. If they cannot make it in the NW without syrups, how can we in the SE be expected to do so? More importantly why should we be expected to do so? Are syrup companies not a part of our industry?

The odd thing here is that we had more specialty coffee roasting companies as sponsors this year at the SERBC, than at anytime in the past.

(For a full list of the sponsors that so offended BZ please go to http://www.serbc.net )


Perhaps those few coffee consumers ? that like to rub shoulders with, and write about coffee professionals could get together and begin a charity to fund the events that more closely resemble their versions of what an event should look like. Then, instead of the posters and logos that so offended you (as you wrote on your blog), you could place the websites, blogs and podcasts of the few uber-consumers that have certified themselves as the lead evaluators of all things coffee. How about it gadflies? Step up with the cash, the labor and the know-how and get it done the right way- the BZ way!


Return on Investment ( ROI )

BZ, in your rant ? on your blog you commented that some guy (me actually) spoke of the return on investment that was necessary for these events to be sustainable. Although, you pulled the quote out of context, or more accurately, presented a partial quote - I said it, and I stand by it. Without some return on investment for the sponsors, why would they sponsor at all? Whether it is goodwill, advertising or cash there must be a return on investment for a business to wish to be involved in any event. If I wanted to give to a charity, I would, and I do, closer to home. Industry events are not set up to be charities. Barista competitions, while often under funded, do not, in my opinion, rise to the level of a charitable contribution. Or at least they should not be seen that way.

In fact, let us take this a little further- what is your return on investment? I mean why are you so vitriolic (not here, but certainly on your blogs ) when discussing: 1st time competitors, coffee companies that you do not know ( mediocre in your words), locals, sponsors, sugar, posters, logos, Clearwater, Florida, and that most American of past times- softball? Why are you so angry with this event? Who would you have liked to see sponsor? Why don't you ask them why they did not sponsor? Perhaps you could help all the regions find suitable sponsors in the future? Do you have a hidden agenda, here?

BZ, everyone seeks a return on their investment, even you. The investment of time, energy, etc it took you to drive to Clearwater, post up here and to write your blog, requires some sort of return. Your return, instead of the business associated returns listed above; is whatever celebrity you can glean from that narcissistic piece of editorial you call a blog; Shame on you for calling yourself a journalist. Shame on you also, for stating that you seek to begin a high-level philosophical ? discussion. When what you really seek is to suck up to the professionals you so admire by demeaning those that you do not know; and assigning motives to those that you are to afraid to ask questions of. My understanding is that journalists should probe and ask questions, seek to find the answers. Not jump to half-baked conclusions, assign motive, or unnecessarily denigrate and in the process possibly cause lasting damage to an association, an event, a business or the psyche of a young 1st time competitor.

Your attempts to stand on the shoulders of those that you profess to admire, while pushing into the mud those that make all of this possible, is very simply, disgusting. One only has to read your blog to know you for the self-aggrandizing coward that you most certainly must be. If you wish to be in this industry, then pony up, get in and start working. Otherwise, why don't you find another hobby? I am sure there is another industry out there somewhere that would love to have the benefit of your all knowing intelligence, your extraordinary eye for talent, and your balanced, witty writing.

The company staffs, the volunteers, the SCAA staff and the competitors that you have demeaned here and, especially on your blogs are all good solid people, most of whom I am sure you do not know. You have also belittled the very people you sought to praise by making them unwitting accomplices to your own vice: hubris. None of these people deserve what you have dished out here and on your blog. What's worse is that you have done this nasty, dirty little thing for your own pleasure and in the furtherance of your own celebrity, whatever you may say to the contrary; and in the process you have sullied us all.

You sir are no David, and I am no Goliath. You have killed no giants here today, but you have succeeded in further weakening that which you say you wish to strengthen: the Barista Competitions.

As I prepare to send e-mails to all of the SERBC sponsors, volunteers, competitors, and SCAA staff encouraging them to visit your blogs, and this bulletin board. I would encourage you to practice in our industry many of those tenants that you are required to practice in your own. I would sincerely hope in your professional life as a daily print reporter that you exhibit more integrity, compassion and good sense than you have exhibited so far here.

I also challenge you to post this, in its entirety, unedited to your blogs. If you feel unable to post this response to your own very derogatory writings, then I would hope that you have enough integrity and decency to leave this industry and bother us no more.
-T.D. Davis
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Postby Brent on Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:27 pm

Pondering the various um ideas in this thread.

Should a syrup maker sponsor a barista event?

why not.

never assume you know the reason why someone has agreed to sponsor an event. It could be simply because they could - my day job sponsors a top internationally competing sports team, and I swear the only thing we get from it is invites to parties and discounted merchandise, we sponsor the team because we can. It's a six figure deal, and I monitor the return.

And, if the sponsors are being well looked after, the reason for sponsoring can change over time. If you start challenging the why, you risk biting the very hand that feeds you as they analyse their sponsorship.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it's also reality

and if sponsors are few and far between, then most similar events are going to be in the same predicament. Sponsors are there to be thanked, and supported appropriately.

If that doesn't happen eventually sponsors will disappear, and so will the events.

BUT the sponsors will often also help improve the event if asked - they do have a vested interest :)
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Postby bz on Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:45 pm

td: nice to meet you. i, for one, appreciate the response. it always amazes me that people even care what a hack junkie with a blog thinks, and i don't take it lightly. thanks for talking. much of what you say is very thought-provoking and, of course, i don't blame you for being miffed.

frankly, if you don't like what's on some dude's blog, you needn't read it. tons of people don't! it started as a place to sound off among local friends, and to this day i'm mystified why some (and probably very few) coffee pros bother to read it. as for this forum, i had honestly hoped to maintain a discussion about the issue at hand while avoiding personal flame-throwing. for that reason, i'm not gonna respond to a lot of your personal pokes. we can duke it out in e-mail, if you want.

it is worth saying that what i've written is NOT journalism. it's perhaps independent minded, but in no way any kind of journalistic enterprise. i deliberately check those brains at the door, preferring in my private coffee life to simply call things as they appear from the spectator seats. that means i don't know anyone very well in this industry, and certainly have criticized (in good humor) a lot of people you may think i'm trying to impress. again, i have no idea why they pay attention to me. i also don't know the history of this event, as you say, and have no inside knowledge of its driving forces. i'm writing only as a consumer with his eyes open, and the most frequent butt of ridicule on my blog is ... myself. take it or leave it.

To that aim we had both a 28 roaster Cup of Excellence cupping going on at this event as well as a 14 station barista jam, containing 12 espresso machines and 24 grinders, all available throughout the event (not 4, or 5 but 12 espresso machines). ...


wow. for all your efforts to try new stuff ... great. glad to hear that was the intent. somewhat stunning to me is that the "14 station barista jam" even existed. nothing i saw there (and i did wander) gave any clue that such opportunities lurked. i wouldn've liked to play a bit.

Ambex and Monin (the companies that you are referring to, either here or in your rant), together and independently, have supported not just barista competitions but also the BGA from the very beginning. ...


and i said i was all for a big tent. all for sponsorships. all for not going snobby and leaving some stakeholders out. i'm simply interested in the real life effects of the sponsorships in question, what this says to non-insider consumers, how it affects the quality message. to me, it's worth discussing.

You overlooking Astoria I find especially interesting ...


indeed. i've seen a long list of sponsors, but repeatedly heard from pros that this was ambex/monin's gig. i'm not sure if astoria's premier sponsorship status helps or hurts your case. glad to know their giving level.

skipping some personal issues ...

Only if competitions wish to survive at this level and in decent venues do they need to take the money of Allied manufacturers like syrup, chocolate, smoothie, and yes, even roaster manufacturers. I for one would love to see the day when specialty coffee roasters and caf?s could host and sponsor these events all by themselves ( in the spirit of full disclosure I am currently 50% owner of a caf? and a partner in a roasting company, both of which also sponsored during this event). But, I do not believe that day is close at hand. Even the NWRBC has, as their platinum sponsor a company that manufactures syrup. If they cannot make it in the NW without syrups, how can we in the SE be expected to do so? More importantly why should we be expected to do so? Are syrup companies not a part of our industry?


that's a helpful and reasoned response to what i was asking. thank you. i'm ignorant of the economics of these things, and seriously wanted to know.

Although, you pulled the quote out of context, or more accurately, presented a partial quote - I said it, and I stand by it. Without some return on investment for the sponsors, why would they sponsor at all?


it's possible i don't remember the full quote -- mainly because the phrase in question was quite a jolt, given what people were expecting. you make a compelling business argument for ROI. unfortunately, the comment landed very clearly as a slight to those we were assembled to honor.

... Do you have a hidden agenda, here?


i love excellent coffee, and wish to see it effectively spread. and so i blog. apparently, though, i don't know enough industry insiders who could help me navigate the tenuous politics of it all.

i'll skip the rest of the personal stuff. as for posting your response on my blog, it's open to you. post it under your name. i won't take it down and i won't retaliate in kind.

thanks again for speaking your mind. it's much better than the covert alternatives.
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Postby bz on Thu Oct 25, 2007 9:09 pm

i'll reiterate, in good faith, a couple of honest questions that td has yet to address.

1. ok, so you hafta have the syrup money to pull off a regional event. i understand the business argument. but what does this say to consumers? isn't it true that, if this kind of coffee truly succeeded on a grand scale, it would hurt the syrup business? (i.e. could monin ever sponsor an elysian event?) how does one rectify this tension? it's not just cognitive. it's real-life.

2. so there were hundreds of people in the building. many of whom, according to td, saw the competition. where were they at the climax of the whole thing? why were organizers and leaders in the hall? is 13 spectators a reasonable number for the finals?

3. was the event seriously marketed? why was it so hard to find -- even after arriving at the harborview center? how is it that the 14 extra machines were unknown to many people? are there legitimate ways the barriers of entry could have been lowered for the public?

4. why no significant prizes for the top three? was the baseball field and the AV production really more important, financially?

5. if a stated goal of comps is "to establish a greater interaction between the barista and the consumer," then how was that accomplished in clearwater? avoiding the various insider cliques is a worthy goal ... but does that rise to the level of the official mission statement?

from these questions, the overall impression i come away with -- as a spectating nobody -- is that this event wasn't for non professionals like me. junkies and consumers are not welcome. this is an honest question: is that true?

i find many of td's stated goals and successes from this event truly worthwhile. however, they're all insider goals, for the professional club, and not outward looking. maybe that's what the SERBC is all about.

but if i were a sponsor, backing an event with that kind of mission would seem kind of like preaching to the choir.
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Postby scottlucey on Thu Oct 25, 2007 10:27 pm

bz wrote:i'll reiterate, in good faith, a couple of honest questions that td has yet to address.

1. ok, so you hafta have the syrup money to pull off a regional event. i understand the business argument. but what does this say to consumers? isn't it true that, if this kind of coffee truly succeeded on a grand scale, it would hurt the syrup business? (i.e. could monin ever sponsor an elysian event?) how does one rectify this tension? it's not just cognitive. it's real-life.



have you checked out competition hosting criteria? click it! i know these details/criteria may encourage you to critisize them, but lets just focus on this for now, why does one need the syrup money.

one of the first things that floored me, was that the cap on monies raised was $20,000. in thinking of getting together with ACR to host GLRBC, i knew i going to learn a lot, for i had never even raised a fraction of the funds we were going to need to get ($20,000 as a ball park starting point is scary if you ask me).
so many details! -- that alternative competition in that mall or tent is going to need more money that most might imagine (what do you imagine it cost?) will it have insurance? cuz that's cheap.

i think it's important to remember that specialty coffee represents quite a small percentage of the coffee industry in general, and the percentage that makes up the people who compete, know about competitions, go to them, etc... represent an even smaller portion. we need not get exclusive.
syrup companies probably don't worry in the least bit about their business hurting in sponsoring these events. the percentage of the world likely to flavor their coffee is much larger than the percentage that they're stoked to team up with and donate for.
i'd even say they're glad to team up and donate. these companies aren't stupid, they know nobody in the USBC or even most regionals are using their product in that sig. bev. ... these companies know how serious these baristas are, making their living loving coffee... they're glad to hang out and see where we're going to take it.
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Postby onocoffee on Fri Oct 26, 2007 4:23 am

Brent's comments remind me of the time my club was the club of record for the Aloha Racing syndicate in the 2000 America's Cup. Quite a number of companies, both within Hawaii and without - including HealthSouth, were sponsors for the syndicate. For those unfamiliar with the event, the America's Cup is a wildly expensive race to enter, compete and win nothing save for the Cup itself and the bragging rights.

Millions are spent by each syndicate in pursuit of the Cup. Millions that really will never see a "return on investment." Millions squandered. Why? Because they can. Because, for whatever reason, it's important to that company and the people that run them.

While the barista competitions do not have the media exposure that the America's Cup enjoys, there is some value to them. "Newer" barisas are routinely invigorated and energized by the experience - that is, those baristas who didn't arrive with a chip on their shoulder thinking they were "the best". What is needed are more regionals that reach out and touch baristas who are not "in the know" already. This is the important work of the regional competitions.

Granted, there are problems at all levels of the competition, from the regionals to the nationals to the WBC itself. However, what I'm seeing at all levels from US regionals to International National Championships are baristas excited and invigorated by their competition experience - even at the WBC. Within some circles, there has been much talk on changing the format and changing the approach of the competition and while I've been a proponent on how the USBC is a Banana Republic, I think these suggested changes are ill-conceived and designed to "invigorate" the minds of those who have been involved with the competitions for far "too long."

McDonald's doesn't toss their Golden Arches because everyone has seen them already...

It's tempting to beat up on the SERBC for a variety of reasons. And while Clearwater is far from me, one should note that the SE region is one of the biggest in the United States - exacerbating the problem. Maybe there was no prize money for those who placed, but have we forgotten the nightmarish "trophies" from the WBC or the antelope trophies from the 2006 WBC? Or worse, the controversies re-ranking the 2006 USBC and challenging the legitimacy of the champion and weakening the legitimacy of all compeitions? Those are the kind of problems we're not seeing here and that's good news to me.

Syrup companies might be involved because they want to help baristas knowing that the majority of competitors will not be using their syrups. But the competitors aren't really the target, are they? I'm betting their for the operators who we don't know. Those that operate with multiple flavors, flavored coffee, blended drinks and capps with bouffant foam. Those people see the competitions in the rags and maybe think it's cool. Then they see a glimpse of the syrup sponsor and maybe that helps solidify that syrup in their minds. If they're not using that syrup already, perhaps the day will come to switch and they'll think of that sponsor.

The problem with this conversation is that we're hearing from an industry observer, the event host and the gaggle of industry "insiders" but the competitors and judges are not part of this discussion. I'm interested to hear more on their perspective of the event and how it progressed.
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Postby bz on Sat Oct 27, 2007 11:24 am

thanks jay and scott.

i get the feeling we're bludgeoning the deceased equine here. but, ah, i'll just reiterate: i am NOT questioning the need for syrup sponsor money. you've answered that question (you need it) and as a non-professional, i believe it. the costs of our small potential mall gig will, no doubt, floor me.

the question is about the mixed mesages this COULD create. whether, en route to engaging the public, this is an obstacle. apparently, only a consumer would think of this. and maybe, as scott seems to be saying, it's worth it anyway.

for those interested in others' observations of the SERBC, td's latest, further accounts of the ROI speech and even continued personal vitriol, it's boiling now at the blog. i won't drag it all over this forum.
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