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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.