By Dale E. Smith
There have been many darts thrown at me the last couple of years. All of them directed my way for speaking my mind when it comes to animal charities, shelters and rescues, even though Paw Prints has supported ALL local animal charities since our inception in 2004. Paw Prints, whether in print, online or on the radio has whole heartedly embraced our unique position as a media outlet for the pet community. We never intended for Paw Prints to be a platform for anyone’s particular agenda; our only agenda was to inform, educate and entertain the pet owner. Over the years we have accomplished that.
We didn’t realize that by becoming a media source that was solely pet-centric, every word we would write, every word we would speak would be scrutinized like it has been. The light switch turned on and we became aware of that when our very first issue hit the street in May 2004. Since then we embraced our position and have made every effort to help animals in need whenever we could. We still are not affiliated with any one particular animal welfare organization of any kind and we still refuse to be a platform for animal rights or pet ownership.
This brings me to a subject that has finally come out in the KC pet community. This subject doesn’t surprise us at all; in fact we have known this for years now. The following background and what you will learn is just something, as pet owners and members of your beloved pet community, should know.
In 2008 Paw Prints came back in to print after a 15 month hiatus. The hiatus was due to the fact that I had been going through treatment and then recovering from cancer. Later the same year, Kansas City suddenly had a choice on what pet publication to read. Another magazine popped up in circulation called Metro Pet. 2008 continued on and we discovered that many of the events and fundraisers we had supported with sponsorships were no longer welcoming us or our audience. You see, since 2004 we gladly offered ad space to any non profit organization that held a fundraiser. If they would like us to sponsor the event we offer above and beyond the advertising space and media coverage for the event that we get in return in exposure. For us, it is just the right thing to do. These shelters and rescues work really hard to help animals in need and we have always felt this was a way we could help also.
Suddenly we began to hear from those charities that they took out an ad with Metro Pet and in the contract Metro Pet stated that they could be the only “pet media” sponsoring the event. We always found that odd, since none of these events were a “Metro Pet” or “Paw Prints” owned event. This would be like your local TV station telling a fundraising event that if they had ad time with them they couldn’t advertise with the other TV stations in town. From a fundraising aspect, that is just stupid. You want to get in front of as many of your target audience as possible to be able to raise the most money. Right?
Over the years we have NEVER stipulated any type of exclusivity from a charity as far as sponsorship. Neither Paw Prints nor Metro Pet is writing a 10, 20 or 50 thousand dollar check to them to make the event ours. What we do is trade the advertising space, time, media coverage, etc. for the sponsorship. In the end it is the animals that need the exposure. That is why there are people in the shelter and rescue world.
But why a magazine like Metro Pet, whose slogan is “The pet owner’s resource,” would demand these events to only be able to advertise with them is beyond my comprehension. Even though we would tell charities that this practice didn’t make sense they would still acquiesce to their demand. Events that we had sponsored for years were now closing their doors to us. This wasn’t hurting our company (we had little to gain exposure-wise and nothing to gain financially and neither did our competitor), it was only hurting the events and the animals they were trying to help.
The reason I say that is that Metro Pet boasts 65,000 readers and 80 locations. Impossible! They don’t deliver enough magazines per location to equate that readership. When Paw Prints was a print product, we had over 1200 pick up locations in the KC area, we had over 3500 locations in 23 states. We almost printed as many copies of the magazine as Metro Pet claims to have readers. You can’t have increased participation at events if the media outlet you pick gives you less exposure just due to the numbers. We have seen several events that had steady growth from 2004 to 2008. Now we have seen some of those same events either have abysmal turnouts or, in some cases, have even completely stopped. All since the advent of the “your event can ONLY be sponsored by Metro Pet” policy our competitor implemented.
A Few Examples:
Lakewood dog run, stopped due to low sponsorships and low participation, we were involved with this event from 2004 through 2008. They even gave us an award for our outstanding service and support a couple of years.
The original KC Pet Expo, discontinued due to lack of revenue. We became involved with them in 2005, the first year after the production company called us for help due to our expertise and knowledge of the pet community. We also sponsored it in 2006. From 2007 through 2010 it was a Metro Pet exclusive.
Dogs night at the Wizards was an event that was born from Paw Prints and the Wizards marketing department. Our sales representative at the time, Andy, sat down with them to talk about advertising and before it was all said and done, we partnered with them to put on the event. 150 registered dogs came in 2006, (the first year), to Arrowhead Stadium. The Wizards were in negotiation with other venues in 2007 and 2008 so the event was put on hold. In 2009, the Wizards called us and asked if we were ready for Dog’s Night II at their new venue, Community America Ball Park, we said yes and saw 150 plus registered dogs at an event that was virtually starting from scratch. In 2010, we sponsored it but the only ads ran in Metro Pet; there was a turn out of fewer than 50 registered dogs.
Over time we continued to sponsor events even if Metro Pet was a sponsor as well. It never has bothered us. The more exposure the better for the event… after all it’s all about the animals right? Evidently not in Metro Pet’s eyes, for them it seems to have nothing to do with pets.
And just this week we were told by another group that Metro Pet’s response was that they were out because Paw Prints is in. (Seriously!)
We could truly not believe that Metro Pet’s response was that “they were out because Paw Prints is in”. From that statement Metro Pet’s primary interest/criteria when it comes to sponsoring events seem to be that Paw Prints isn’t involved. They could care less about the event being a success for the charity and in the end helping out the animals for which the event is put on. That statement came from an email forwarded to us from a volunteer that was canvassing us for sponsorship of an upcoming pet charity event. When we first were approached by the organization we looked to see if we, Paw Prints, had the advertising space available to donate. We did have space and we gladly offered ad space on PawPrintsTheMagazine.com, Paw Prints Live, our radio show, and offered up some on air interviews to talk about the event. We assumed Metro Pet would be involved and were told up front they were being asked (just in case we had a problem with it)… we didn’t have a problem with it… we really didn’t care. We were just happy to help the pets.
What is curious to us is why any non-profit organization would agree to such terms in the first place. They should insist that their own policy is to NOT be held hostage by their sponsors. I feel like they are being backed into a corner and as many are strictly volunteers they are simply finding it easier to give in to the demands so they don’t have to fight about it. It sounds exhausting to me, so I can only imagine a rescue group’s volunteer that has another full time job, not wanting to deal with it. Or perhaps they don’t discover it until it’s too late and the agreement arrives with that language in it and they have no authority to back out.
I don’t get it. Does anyone else? Tell us what you think.