Sponsorships: A Reflection and Commentary

I had originally planned to bring your attention to my new sponsorship policies in yesterday's post, but the general topic felt heavy enough to address in a post of its own. Then, I received an email today that confirmed the need for a separate post. The email, from relatively well-known online retailer Oasap, requested bloggers to post fake, pre-written, sickeningly sugary reviews on three of Oasap's Amazon items. Those who followed suit would then be rewarded with "a gift."

I was appalled and offended by the request itself, but only sadness can describe my reaction when I followed the links. It was dismaying enough that Oasap's marketing team had the audacity to ask bloggers to act dishonestly, but even more deeply disappointing that a few of them had actually complied. (Google Doc of screenshots and links here).

It would be easy to heap the blame on Oasap. It would be too simple to criticize the company for its unsavory marketing tactics and leave it at that. But it's beyond clear that the problem rests on both sides--both retailers and bloggers have played a part in this unhealthy, self-absorbed relationship.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not completely innocent.

I'm definitely not proud of how I've allowed companies to use my blog as a blatant advertising board in the past. Was a post about a shoe brand with specialized soles really necessary? Was a glitter eyeshadow post really pertinent when I don't usually wear makeup? Was a post raving about a wholesale website really sincere when I had yet to shop there?

I admit that I've let my better judgment slip before. I admit that I've allowed the appeal of a free item or a paid post corrupt the true purpose of this blog, which is to inspire and be inspired--not to pollute the internet with platitudes in exchange for personal benefits. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with sponsorships. They can be plenty good when used correctly and judiciously. In my opinion, the original intent of collaborations is to promote brands or items with which bloggers truly resonate, and to honestly review things that perhaps didn't work out. Sponsorships should be genuine expositories--not a way to build personal wardrobes, not a way to feel validated as a blogger. 

On the sponsor side, offers should be a way to garner honest opinions and exposure for the brand--not a means to exploit bloggers. And they should definitely not encourage breaches of integrity.
Before this update, my only guideline for sponsorships was "all brands and items must reflect my personal style and I will express my honest opinion." This statement is still the core of my sponsored posts philosophy, but I've added a qualifer. 

In an effort to be as authentic and genuine as possible, I will now only accept no more than 6 sponsored items a year, and will no longer write any compensated introductory posts. 

Furthermore, as a challenge and experiment to encourage greater growth this year, I will limit myself to only 4 posts featuring sponsored pieces, including the recent eShakti skirt and a previously-accepted offer from Firmoo. So, for the remainder of the year, I may only participate in 2 more collaborations.

This way, I must now consider all offers with more scrutiny. Do I truly resonate with the company? Will the item really enhance my content? How will this post affect my readers? How will it influence my blog's voice? What message will I convey? 

It is my hope that brands will no longer see bloggers as mere advertising tools, and bloggers will no longer see brands as a way to enhance their wardrobes. Yes, there are many bloggers and brands who do uphold the highest integrity when it comes to sponsorships, and I admire and applaud them for it. But from my observations, the general attitude is toxically self-serving.

It needs to change, and I will do my very best to do my part. 

I've made mistakes--I've been disingenuous, selfish. But I'm learning and striving to improve, and I ask you to hold me to it.


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Final note: this post is not intended in any way to shame or pressure anyone. I simply hope to prompt an open, healthy dialogue about one of the many conundrums of blogging.

14 comments

  1. I have tried my hardest not to fall prey to the demands of sponsor companies and refrain from being an easy marketing tool. (It's pretty cheap for a company to comp a $50 dress in exchange for a good review that will stay up on the internet forever).

    That being said, I feel that cutting down on the sponsorships might not be the best route for me either; my sponsors are pretty much in line with other blogs of my size (Firmoo and eShakti are also my sponsors) and it seems repetitive and also kind of shallow to allow myself to be part of a wave of bloggers recruited for a wide marking push on the part of these companies.

    Another Beautiful Thing

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your insight, Brittney! I've definitely noticed how judicious you are in sponsored posts, and consider you a prime example as a blogger who features companies genuinely while still maintaining her individual voice.

      I understand your thoughts on cutting down and also resonate with your feelings about Firmoo and eShakti. On one hand, I genuinely appreciate the companies (Firmoo for its inexpensive but stylish frames, eShakti for its custom sizing), but on the other hand, they definitely have been talked up plenty, and I don't want to be just another number. I know my posts are more new and relevant to my readers who aren't immersed in the blogging world (I have a hunch a significant amount of my audience is somehow connected to me in real life), but they are definitely hackneyed for other bloggers. I guess it comes down to finding the delicate balance.

      For me, that's were limiting the number of sponsorships comes it. It'll prevent me from doing too many posts on the same brands (Firmoo and eShakti also tend to offer long-term cooperations) but also really force me to think about whether the review will be pertinent and in good taste. For you, however, I could see how cutting down wouldn't be effective--you've successfully avoided those problems, and I really do look up to you for it.

      Delete
  2. Wow, they actually sent an email like that? Urgh!!
    I have nothing against sponsored posts if the person really likes the product and posts honestly about it but I can spot a standard review a mile off and don't bother reading the rest. My most hated phrase, "x have been on my radar for a while...."

    Don't beat yourself up, perhaps it is good to feel this way now and build mindfulness.
    I don't publish my email address so I've luckily never been approached!x

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  3. Oasap sponsors some of my favorite bloggers. I'm really saddened to hear that they sent an email out to bloggers like that. While I am proud of your efforts to avoid being fake, I don't know that it's the best decision in the long run ti cut down sponsorships. I really don't care how much a blogger has from sponsors as long as they stay true to themselves and give honest reviews of the pieces.

    Theatricality by Mariah

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    1. Hello, Mariah! Yes, I was deeply disappointed because I do admire Oasap's products and many of their high-profile bloggers, such as Lauren from Someone Like You.

      Thanks for your opinion on my changes--I agree that cutting down in itself may not change the problem, but I do believe that the limit will push me to be more prudent in my decisions. If I only have a certain number of sponsorship slots, do I really want to use one on another glasses review or another post by the same company?

      Of course, it comes down to personal opinion. I actually do mind how many sponsored pieces a blogger has if it's clear that the entire outfit not from her/his personal wardrobe. In my opinion, that's allowing yourself to be an advertising board, even if you do resonate with the pieces and brands. I want to see what bloggers put together from their own shopping excursions, where they find the best items and deals. I think that grounds the posts, especially since I know the blogger liked it enough to spend his/her own money on it.

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  4. I get e-mails where companies want me to post articles they have written by themselves. I just don't do it because.. well, I don't read such stuff from other blogs either and I just don't like it. many companies tend to think that if they give you a ridiculous little thingie from their goods it's obvious you will write and publish a nice review with lots of photos. it's like they don't understand that creating a post is like a job and it should be appreciated more. that's probably the reason why I haven't agreed to any sponsorships during quite a long time already. if they "order" this job from me (and I work hard on my posts) I want to see they appreciate it. that rarely happens though, haha. so, overall I don't have a blog because of sponsors and I'm absolutely fine without them. but if a sponsor who's actually reasonable and nice wants to collaborate then why not. and your new policies look good to me. you shouldn't be a slave for a sponsor, it's not nice. and when someone has a blog only because of sponsors then it's a little bit sad in my eyes. people are different of course but yes, my opinion is quite the same as yours, Lily.

    Maiken,
    Part of me

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  5. Yep... It's really exciting to get people giving you things and asking you to blog about them, but at a certain time, you start to realize that the professionalism between each company is different and certain items... just don't mesh with your blog!

    I've recently been spammed from a sponsor, and it's honestly quite offputting.

    7% Solution

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  6. I'll be honest, I've done some reviews in the past that I SMH at, and I did it for the money. I definitely try to be conscious about genuinely working the product into my life, though. If I can't think of an honest way I'd use it, then i don't accept it.

    Putting a cap on your sponsored posts might prove difficult, hats off to you, though! I'd personally just be sure to filter my sponsor acceptances more, and I vow to do just that!

    Thank you for this post!

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    Replies
    1. Hello, Gentri! I'm glad I'm not alone in that respect. I think it's harder to be judicious about sponsors when you blog for a living, as you do (if I'm not mistaken), so I do admire you for taking strides to be as genuine as possible!

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  7. I cannot tell you how many e-mails have filtered through to my blog's email from random companies looking for an easy way to advertise on my blog...I've just started to delete them right off the bat if I can tell from their opening line what they're all about.

    That's rather disgusting how Oasap blatantly asked others to lie for them - but what's worse is that bloggers complied.

    I've fallen prey to writing up posts that I wasn't completely behind, all because of a sponsorship or paid advertisement...but this past year I feel I've stayed more true to myself and my blog.

    Hats off to you Lily. You've proven once again what an upstanding young woman you are!

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

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  8. Thanks for your insight, Brittney! I've definitely noticed how judicious you are in sponsored posts, and consider you a prime example as a blogger who features companies genuinely while still maintaining her individual voice.

    I understand your thoughts on cutting down and also resonate with your feelings about Firmoo and eShakti. On one hand, I genuinely appreciate the companies (Firmoo for its inexpensive but stylish frames, eShakti for its custom sizing), but on the other hand, they definitely have been talked up plenty, and I don't want to be just another number. I know my posts are more new and relevant to my readers who aren't immersed in the blogging world (I have a hunch a significant amount of my audience is somehow connected to me in real life), but they are definitely hackneyed for other bloggers. I guess it comes down to finding the delicate balance.

    For me, that's were limiting the number of sponsorships comes it. It'll prevent me from doing too many posts on the same brands (Firmoo and eShakti also tend to offer long-term cooperations) but also really force me to think about whether the review will be pertinent and in good taste. For you, however, I could see how cutting down wouldn't be effective--you've successfully avoided those problems, and I really do look up to you for it.

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  9. Hello, Mariah! Yes, I was deeply disappointed because I do admire Oasap's products and many of their high-profile bloggers, such as Lauren from Someone Like You.

    Thanks for your opinion on my changes--I agree that cutting down in itself may not change the problem, but I do believe that the limit will push me to be more prudent in my decisions. If I only have a certain number of sponsorship slots, do I really want to use one on another glasses review or another post by the same company?

    Of course, it comes down to personal opinion. I actually do mind how many sponsored pieces a blogger has if it's clear that the entire outfit not from her/his personal wardrobe. In my opinion, that's allowing yourself to be an advertising board, even if you do resonate with the pieces and brands. I want to see what bloggers put together from their own shopping excursions, where they find the best items and deals. I think that grounds the posts, especially since I know the blogger liked it enough to spend his/her own money on it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello, Gentri! I'm glad I'm not alone in that respect. I think it's harder to be judicious about sponsors when you blog for a living, as you do (if I'm not mistaken), so I do admire you for taking strides to be as genuine as possible!

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  11. It's a fine line...I get all those spammy e-mails of giveaways and freebies in exchange of a quick, fluffy write-up. I just skip through them all to get to those that truly want to collaborate with me. But I guess that's just the way it is. Though I'm not anywhere near being a top-blogger, I've still become very selective about what advertising opportunities I will allow on my blog!



    Great, meaningful post sweetie =)


    - Che


    www.style-che.com

    ReplyDelete

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