Art funding and corporate involvement

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Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Thu May 23, 2013 1:52 pm

Hi all,

Myself and a few friends are attempting an ambitious project this year which we're calling the Diodome. So we're on the fundraising drive to try and get the funds together to make it happen.

Now, I am all for keeping Burning Man clear of corporate involvement, especially on-playa. But I work for a rather cool company and we have an electronics lab in the office which I'll probably be making use of to help build the Diodome. One of my colleagues is helping me source components from China and generally helping out as a technical advisor. This is perfectly acceptable obviously, but if the company would like to help fund the project how would people feel about this? With the perks on the campaign I've promised the funders name to be added to the art info plaque that will accompany the Diodome on-playa. If my employer contributes to the campaign would including the company name on the plaque be bad form? I'm assuming that yes it would be unacceptable....but I'm in two minds about the whole thing.

Our company also has a blog that accompanies our engineering and electronics projects in the office lab, we have thus far been blogging anything our employees do in the lab. Would my blogging the development of this project on the corporate blog be a step too close to corporate sponsorship?

Right now this is a largely hypothetical discussion as no such offer for corporate funding has been made yet, but the possibility was raised in general terms, and I would like to discuss the possibilities for how this sort of sponsorship can be done without bending Burning Man principles too much.

Its an interesting topic and I know has been discussed before with regard to large artworks receiving sponsorship and being used elsewhere outside of the playa to promote companies. Whats the general opinion on this? Should corporate names be kept out of it entirely or is support for the project off-playa ok so long as we don't have branding on-playa?

Let me know your thoughts.

---
Update:
I've had a response from Trilobyte on this topic:
it would be completely inappropriate to include a commercial company's name, logo, and/or branding on a plaque on the installation on-playa. It would also be inappropriate for the company to then use photos or video of the installation on the playa on any of its corporate pages. They're welcome (and encouraged) to support playa projects, but not if that support is in exchange for an on-playa presence or brand awareness.

When in doubt about corporate involvement, the advice I'd give is to swap out the name of the company with something else like Nike or McDonald's or BP. If that seems like it would be inappropriate for those companies to be putting their names on the playa or using the Burning Man name and event on their company blog, the same would be true of others.

And of course, use of any Burning Man trademarks (including logos, the name Burning Man or Black Rock City, etc) would be something that the company would need permission from Burning Man in order to use - they can be reached via the ip@burningman.com address.


I then asked if there was a compromise that could be made here.

If the corporation contributed funding to the project, and we blogged about the projects creation on our engineering blog would that be ok? There would be no on-playa branding or use of company name on the artwork, and I could keep mention of Burning Man out of the project blog posts. This way the company gets benefit out of it in that we can continue to blog all the funky things that go on in our lab, but there's no pollution of the Burning Man name, or mention of the company on-playa. There would also be no images of the work from the playa included on corporate sites. Is that an acceptable compromise?


This appears to be satisfactory, Trilobyte advised that as long as we keep blog posts focused on the project itself, and only referred to the festival in general terms then this would be an acceptable compromise.

I'd still like to hear others thoughts on all this as I think its a tricky ground to tread, but at the same time I think it would be a shame to have to leave money on the table and close down artwork simply because we can't find a good way to work with corporations on this type of thing.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Eric » Thu May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

Honestly, if it's a Cool Thing on the playa, and there's no way to know if there is/was corporate funding, I don't have an issue with it. Most of those big pieces have donors, some of them have major donors, and as long as the donors are doing in the spirit of Burning Man (ie: they're not profiting off of it or getting recognition) I don't see how it's different than a kickstarter campaign, except with less public begging. I know others who will have problems, but some of the coolest pieces out there have turned out to be either fully or partially corporate funded (Belgian Waffle anyone?). If it was used later for advertising it would basically destroy all the good-will it had gathered by just being a cool piece (not to mention the legal issues).
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Thu May 23, 2013 2:30 pm

Thanks for the reply Eric. I think I'm generally in agreement. Ensuring that the work isn't used post-burn for any obvious corporate alignment is probably the hardest part of all this.

I could see how if we blogged the construction of the piece under our corporate blog it would be quite hard afterwards not to post a picture of the completed piece in-place on the playa. That might be where the line starts getting blurry. Where is the line between advertising and "Look at this Cool Thing we helped make!"?
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Savannah » Thu May 23, 2013 3:00 pm

Pretty project.

I think the line is up to Burning Man, via IP as Trilo suggested. If you're not clear on whether you can post a finished picture of corporate-sponsored art, write to them. (I did note there was originally a fundraiser link. If your corporation isn't actually paying for it, who is? Fans? Employees? Just curious!)

If it turns out that the company can't sponsor this without guaranteed glorypoints or attention, perhaps they shouldn't. It might be a shame to you & your company if there's one less art piece, but almost 60,000 people won't miss it. Besides the art that folks themselves are paying for or fundraising for, there are 66 art grants this year compared to 44 in 2012. This is going to be a great year for art.

If I walked into an art installation and saw a company name on a plaque I'd be irritated, and make a point of not buying the product. There's a brand of champagne I won't be buying for the same reason. They wanted to make money off the event, flouted radical inclusion, and left a mess on the playa. Awful.

I can't say that all Burners would react like I would, but I do think this is something non-Burners who visit your site are more likely to enjoy than Burners.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Thu May 23, 2013 3:09 pm

Thanks Savannah, I hope its as pretty in real life as it is in my head!

Currently we're funding about 1/3rd of it ourselves, but have just started the IndieGoGo campaign to try and pay for the rest. The company is not yet involved, but I've had a great response from my colleagues so perhaps it might be in the future which was why I wanted to kick off this conversation. Obviously I would have loved to apply for an Art Grant this year, but we didn't get our act together quick enough for that.

I completely agree with not having the company name on-playa. Definitely important for my playa state of mind to not even remember there's an outside world.

I guess what I'm driving at is there's an odd middle ground of corporate sponsorship, especially in the startup culture here in California, where a company can help support something its employees want to do without it really being 'company branding' or official marketing. Its an indirect sort of marketing in that it establishes a company culture that's full of great people doing cool things. That personally is something I really like to see in my employer (and potential employers). How to allow that to work with BM philosophies and IP rules is a little tricky.
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THE CORPORATIONS ARE ALREADY HERE!!!

Postby lemur » Thu May 23, 2013 3:13 pm

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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Savannah » Thu May 23, 2013 3:41 pm

benjamd wrote:Thanks Savannah, I hope its as pretty in real life as it is in my head!

Currently we're funding about 1/3rd of it ourselves, but have just started the IndieGoGo campaign to try and pay for the rest. The company is not yet involved, but I've had a great response from my colleagues so perhaps it might be in the future which was why I wanted to kick off this conversation. Obviously I would have loved to apply for an Art Grant this year, but we didn't get our act together quick enough for that.

I completely agree with not having the company name on-playa. Definitely important for my playa state of mind to not even remember there's an outside world.

I guess what I'm driving at is there's an odd middle ground of corporate sponsorship, especially in the startup culture here in California, where a company can help support something its employees want to do without it really being 'company branding' or official marketing. Its an indirect sort of marketing in that it establishes a company culture that's full of great people doing cool things. That personally is something I really like to see in my employer (and potential employers). How to allow that to work with BM philosophies and IP rules is a little tricky.


I think many of us can list a few companies that we've heard are supportive and have a good company culture, and feel positively towards them. I feel positively towards the entity I work for because 1) it allows me time off to Burn, 2) paid for a certification that I found useful at the Burn,
3) doesn't require me hide the nature of my vacation or hide my Burner swag. It's still a leap to get to the point of being happy if I heard that such a company had paid for a piece of art and was showing it off on their website and saying proud sponsor of Burning Man, because no one is. They should be a proud sponsor of you.

If I were in your shoes, I would just have extremely good communication with IP and ask "If I end up getting __ % support from my company from an art piece I'm making, can I post a picture on the site under 'work culture', or the company blog? Am I allowed to say 'first shown at Burning Man' or do I have to be more generic?" And then tell your company the truth. Maybe you're allowed to post the photo but not list the trademarked name, or maybe you'll get everything you want. But you might as well be honest and direct, or it'll be a negative experience.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Thu May 23, 2013 3:44 pm

Completely agree.

Thanks, this has been pretty helpful. Will be interesting to see where it goes.

Anyway, fingers crossed and we won't have to go that route and we'll get enough funding from the campaign and generous Burners!

Thanks everyone.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Simon of the Playa » Thu May 23, 2013 3:51 pm

i've seen both sides of this line that is very difficult to walk.

back in 2007 our kitchen was set up by a solar company that wanted to test out their equipment under harsh conditions...basically the whole structure generated enough juice to power our kitchen and some other needs.

they paid for it all.

they also wrote a brief blog / tech note in an industry magazine that did mention BM in the article but they bounced it off of the ORG first and got approval all along the way concerning any documentation / usage of name etc....it was Green Man and there was alot of start-up tech involved all over the playa.

no plaques but they did talk about the tech to anyone who would listen, and i'm sure they "Networked".

it was unobtrusive, discreet and tasteful, and im certain no sales pitches were made.

product placement, Branding, Logos, giveaways with Names of the Company....not kosher...

it's no secret, corporate america is interested in and participates in Burning Man.

i think the key is to keep it within the standards of the community, and this means very very low key, and with the benefit of the community at heart, not selling product or scoring contracts.

Donating services, time, equipment, technology is Fine with me, i see nothing wrong if you're not expecting anything in return, but if you are capitalizing on the BM name by using it as a "selling" point, thats another story.

just my IMHO....im old school, and we used to cover or modify ALL of the obvious logos....this seems to be not the case in recent years.

id like to see it get back to that way.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Thu May 23, 2013 3:54 pm

Well our company doesn't actually make anything that we'd be using anyway. It would just be pure culture marketing - "Look we're so cool our employees make things!".

But yeah, getting BM IP involved seems to be the best approach, I'll cross the bridge when/if it comes to it. Such early days on the funding I don't even know if the project will make it this year. Wish I'd thought it up a few months earlier!
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby trilobyte » Fri May 24, 2013 9:57 am

As I was suggesting via the private messages you posted, you would need to contact the folks at ip@burningman.com in order to obtain permission for not only use of trademarks (like the name Burning Man or Black Rock City and any logos/symbols that may appear, among others), but for commercial use of any photography. A picture taken on the playa and posted on a company blog is most definitely commercial use. Obtaining this permission is a requirement.

Don't ever post your project's on-playa pics on a corporate site or company blog. If the company wants pics of the completed project for corporate/commercial use, the team building the project should arrange a separate build for the corporate sponsor (in the company lot or on the lawn, at a park, etc).
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby benjamd » Fri May 24, 2013 10:03 am

Yes fair enough. Though in the cases of some one-time artworks this wouldn't exactly be possible, especially if its a burnable piece. In this case I assume IP would be the people to talk to with regard to reusing images from the playa?
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Savannah » Fri May 24, 2013 10:35 am

If you are shooting still photography, video or are recording audio for any reason other than to show your friends and family, you must register, preferably in advance of the event, with the Media Team. You can start the registration process by emailing press(at)burningman(dot)com or reading through the Press Here section of the website.

http://www.burningman.com/press/pressRandR.html
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby trilobyte » Fri May 24, 2013 10:41 am

You'd probably also want to get in touch with media mecca (their page on the main site can be found here). While they work primarily with the press, any commercial use of images/video from the event need Burning Man's permission.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby swampdog » Sun May 26, 2013 2:31 pm

Could you put an individual's name on the plaque? Possibly even "Gerry McTavish of blah blah"?
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Eric » Sun May 26, 2013 3:25 pm

swampdog wrote:Could you put an individual's name on the plaque? Possibly even "Gerry McTavish of blah blah"?


Put a company name on there in any form & you will get shit on the playa. Period.

Let me give an example: I've worked for Piss Clear/ BRC Weekly since 2003, we run fake ads using real companies names (basically parody ads). Every single year we get people who come up in a rage to complain about the ads. This isn't even real sponsorship, these are jokes (real sponsorship got even uglier)

I'd even feel sort of iffy about putting someone's name on a plaque, unless it was a memorial. Borders on tacky, IMHO
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby swampdog » Sun May 26, 2013 4:01 pm

Lots of kickstarters and indiegogos offer "your name on a plaque" for a certain donation. So if it's a name among many, I don't think you'd be unusual. A special plaque for "Thanks to Gerry McTavish for all his support" I agree would be tacky.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby mgb327 » Sun May 26, 2013 4:44 pm

Well, along the sponsorship/art line, I paid to get my name on Simons' arm.....and part of my name is a brand of car. Is it art, or is it Simon? It's ARTMON!
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Savannah » Sun May 26, 2013 4:51 pm

swampdog wrote:Lots of kickstarters and indiegogos offer "your name on a plaque" for a certain donation. So if it's a name among many, I don't think you'd be unusual. A special plaque for "Thanks to Gerry McTavish for all his support" I agree would be tacky.


Maybe the plaques are intended for the default world. I've literally never seen a thank you plaque on the playa (and I'm thankful, where it comes to commercial enterprise).

Maybe they're out there, but my lack of interest makes them invisible to me.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Simon of the Playa » Sun May 26, 2013 5:08 pm

fuck.

i'm a walking plaque.








oh well, i'm cool with that. :twisted:
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Roberto Dobbisano » Sun May 26, 2013 5:09 pm

open casket, naked i assume...



if not, better change that will now.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Savannah » Sun May 26, 2013 5:11 pm

Some sort of peekaboo mahogany number . . .
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby H.G.Crosby » Sun May 26, 2013 5:12 pm

Roberto Dobbisano wrote:open casket, naked i assume...



if not, better change that will now.




um, as your lawyer i have to remind you that currently you have some provisions for making some memorabilia out of certain sections of skin, and hence, the open casket would just be gross.


just sayin.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Ugly Dougly » Sun May 26, 2013 5:41 pm

If you gift something to someone on the playa, and they take it, but you stop and say "Ah, but there are strings attached", then fuck you, that's not gifting. You lose.

The same goes for corporate "gifters". If they can't give something away without strings, then you are still stuck in the commodity merry go round. And you are your art are a commodity as well.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Eric » Sun May 26, 2013 7:23 pm

swampdog wrote:Lots of kickstarters and indiegogos offer "your name on a plaque" for a certain donation. So if it's a name among many, I don't think you'd be unusual. A special plaque for "Thanks to Gerry McTavish for all his support" I agree would be tacky.


Like Savannah said, I've never seen a plaque on any of the art pieces out there, with the obvious exception of the temple (and those aren't donors names, most likely). The plaque may be something in the base-camp for the piece, or may even be something sent to the donor, but I think putting it on the artwork would be tacky tacky tacky. LIke Ugly Dougly said - if you can't gift without getting something in exchange ("look - my name's on an art piece on the playa!"), you're not "getting" Burning Man. As overused as that phrase is, it's very appropriate here.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby swampdog » Sun May 26, 2013 7:59 pm

uh, no. As Rick Perry said, "Ooops" Don't know where I got the idea that anybody was doing plaques on BMan projects, I seem to have invented that. Carry on.

(Actually I didn't ENTIRELY invent it, but you don't want to hear my lame excuse do you?)
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby theCryptofishist » Sun May 26, 2013 8:42 pm

We can always start a lame excuses thread.
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Re: Art funding and corporate involvement

Postby Ugly Dougly » Mon May 27, 2013 10:00 am

Eric wrote:... with the obvious exception of the temple (and those aren't donors names, most likely)...

Knowing the Temple, they probably gave more than most sponsors are willing to give. ;)
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