In one of my earlier posts about BlogHer, I mentioned that I was surprised and happy to see the breadth of the sponsors list for the conference. Now that the final sponsors list is up, I wanted to say a bit more about that.
First, here are the sponsors (this list is pulled directly from BlogHer's site):
Platinum Conference Sponsors
- Green Works
- Tide & Bounce
Gold Conference Sponsors
- Microsoft Office and Bing.com
- Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project
Premium Conference Sponsors
- Bill Me Later
- National Pork Board
- Suave and Degree
- Wild Planet
- Mary Kay
- Ann Taylor
- Disney Consumer Products
- Geek Squad
Exhibiting Conference Sponsors
- Blue Avocado
- ZESPRI Kiwifruit
- Safety 1st
- CHPA Educational Foundation
- Safe Kids USA
- The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies
Other Participating Sponsors
- Johnson & Johnson
- Pearl of Wisdom Campaign
- PBS Parents
- Gilbert Guide
- 20th Century Fox's Strawberry Shortcake
- PBS Frontline
A couple of caveats:
First, some of these are companies with whom I strongly disagree on major issues. Some of them are even companies that I boycott. I'm not going to write about that here. I don't censor myself on those issues on this blog, and I may well write again about those companies, but that's not the purpose of this post and I don't want to get bogged down in it.
Secondly, I honestly and completely appreciate each of these companies being willing to sponsor BlogHer. I know they're doing it for business reasons--there is absolutely something in it for them--but I still appreciate it.
I've been interested in advertising towards women for a long time, in particular since I wrote my thesis at Reed on Ms. magazine. One of the major problems with Ms. early on was that there both unable to entice advertisers who weren't "traditional women's labels" (cosmetic companies, appliances, etc.) and unable to appease their readership on the subject of morality of advertising "anti-feminist" products. This issue still exists today, obviously, and BlogHer is a great example of how it plays out.
When I last attended in 2007, one of the sponsors was Curves Cereal and Snacks. Some of the people to whom I spoke, particularly those on a panel about blogging and body image, took issue with that. It was a particular problem, I learned, because Weight Watchers had been a sponsor in 2006 and there had already been backlash about that. For my part, I was perhaps not thrilled with Curves' inclusion, but I was generally very happy to see so many companies that are not traditionally "women-focused" on the sponsorship list that year.
This year is even better. Yes, there are some sponsors who are definitely the same ones Ms. would have drawn ire from their readers for all those years ago: Mary Kay, Ann Taylor, eos, and Dove, which are obvious, as well as GreenWorks, Tide/Bounce, Ragu, all, etc., since advertisers still seem to think only women cook and clean. There are several more who are clearly there for the mommy bloggers: Playskool, Disney Consumer Products, Sprout, JumpStart, etc. But there are also a long list of sponsors Ms.'s advertising department would have given up their fringed ponchos for--honest to God gender neutral companies. Some of them are the non-surprising tech companies that go along with a blogging conference, gendered or not, like Microsoft Office/bing.com, Bill Me Later, Motorola, Brother, and T-Mobile. Others, though, I have trouble connecting in any obvious way with women or with blogging, and that makes me inordinately happy. The big one is Platinum Sponsor Chevrolet, but there are also Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project, public relations agency Ketchum, technical publisher Wiley, Elations (a glucosamine condroitin supplement company), Michelin, and PBS Frontline, among others.
What does it mean that these companies have chosen to put their support behind a fast-growing conference of blogging women? Dare I hope it's respect for women's buying power, not just as mothers, cleaners, or purchasers of clothes and cosmetics, but as full-share American consumers who buy cars and cameras and pork (yep, the National Pork Board is another sponsor) and make investments and watch Frontline? Could they really be seeing us for what we are?
Time will tell. I'll be sure to report back next week on how these sponsors conducted themselves and what impressions I got from them at the conference. In the meantime, again, thanks to our sponsors!