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Ex-sponsors objected to fees, lack of return

But Pride Society says new sponsors coming onboard

FORGING AHEAD: Despite his earlier claims that Pride 2008 'won't have much, if anything' due to a sponsors dropping out, VPS president John Boychuk (left) is now more optimistic. Credit: Natasha Barsotti

With this year’s Pride festivities just over a month away and next year’s 30th anniversary celebrations already in the early brainstorming stages, information is still surfacing about the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) announcement last month that it lost thousands of dollars worth of sponsorship money.

Xtra West reported last issue that five of the VPS’ corporate sponsors, including long-time supporter Air Canada, had pulled their in-kind and cash donations, leaving the VPS claiming an anticipated shortfall of $55,000 for next year’s Pride.

Xtra West has since learned that IKEA pulled its in-kind support because of its unwillingness to pay the VPS’ festival entry fee, while Citytv cites a lack of corporate visibility bang in return for its sponsorship buck.

Repeated attempts to reach Hewlett Packard finally connected with Daren Stratichuk in account support, who refused to comment without his bosses’ approval. He did not call back by press time to explain why Hewlett Packard had dropped out.

Meanwhile Wet International, which initially pulled its sponsorship due to budgetary constraints, changed its mind and informed the VPS Jun 15 that it would sponsor the parade again this year after all. The company will supply 200 trash receptacles along the parade route.

“My budget is really tight. [But] some events were cancelled [so] we tried to shift our budget around a little bit,” says Wet International’s Arturo Quitevis.

IKEA spokesperson Mic Lim says his company contacted the VPS last November to say it would not be returning as a sponsor for the 2007 Pride celebrations.

According to Lim, IKEA had originally been asked to “provide a service and add a family-friendly element to the [Pride] festival,” which led to the establishment of a children’s craft section called the Kids’ Zone.

But last year, Lim says the VPS asked IKEA to pay a “substantial fee” to be part of the festival. The request prompted IKEA to review the human and material resources it provided versus the return it got for its investment. The answer, says Lim, was not enough.

Asked the dollar amount the VPS requested, Lim says he doesn’t think “that’s important at this point.”

“We never had to pay anything until last year,” he points out.

“The fee would have gone straight to the VPS. We’ve always seen it as providing a service, not the other way around,” Lim contends, adding that IKEA only has two outlets in BC and “it takes a certain amount of resources to send people out on a busy weekend. We had to take the difficult decision to divert the resources within the store.”

VPS sponsorship coordinator Caryl Dolinko says IKEA knew a fee was involved from the very beginning.

“This isn’t a freebie. The fee actually paid for the Kids’ Zone to happen, so they actually knew from the beginning that there was a fee. The first year, I gave it to them for free with the understanding that the second year, there would be a fee,” Dolinko says.

“So we’re asking them for $2,000. It’s not a lot,” Dolinko continues. “Any queer who owns a place can go there and spend that much on candles in a weekend. Our community supports IKEA tremendously.”

Citytv’s regional promotions director Steve Skarrow says his station did not receive enough of a return on its Pride investment either.

Citytv’s support of the event was “in the $20-30,000 airtime range over a couple of weeks,” says Skarrow.

“There was no ill will. It’s not by any means, from Citytv’s perspective, a pulling of support from the gay community,” he says. “We still continue a number of initiatives that support the gay community through programs like airing Pink Planet,” he adds.

Part of the problem for Citytv was its lack of visibility in the sea of corporate sponsorship at Pride, Skarrow continues. “Our biggest thing was they had so many sponsors, so we really didn’t feel like we had a whole lot of coverage and visibility at the events.

“And through no fault of their own, the number of things they could do within the parade was heavily limited, which I believe was more the city than them,” Skarrow concedes.

“We used to hand out water, and we weren’t allowed to hand out water,” he explains. “We used to throw beach balls and we weren’t allowed to throw beach balls. It became more and more challenging for us to do things. And really, all we received in return was our logo in very small print included in their print material, which for the amount of airtime and support we were giving, we just didn’t feel we were getting enough value out of it,” he argues.

What surprised Skarrow was that the VPS didn’t get back in touch after Citytv gave notice that it wasn’t renewing its support. “They never even contacted us to find out why. They didn’t even ask,” he claims.

Dolinko says it’s the other way around.

“I never met them to show them the amount of logo placement because they never had the time to sit and meet with me, so they would never know how much exposure [they got],” she counters.

“Last year, Vancouver Pride received more exposure, more press, more advertising than anywhere ever,” Dolinko claims. “What they were giving, they received triple. They would have known that if they met with us.”

As for Air Canada, which attributed its February departure to budgetary constraints as well, Dolinko says another major airline has now come forward to take up the slack but declined to reveal who the replacement is. She would only say she was “thrilled” to have a “global partner” aboard with a commitment through 2009.

She says a list of “exciting” new sponsors will be unveiled in the coming days.

Asked why the VPS struck what is perceived by many to be a note of panic in its May 31 press release, VPS president John Boychuk says the intention was to register disappointment.

“We had a lot of questions over the last month as to what was happening with Air Canada, what was happening with IKEA. It’s coming from other sponsors, as well as members of the community. We felt the best way to approach it was to put the information out there, so that all the gossip would stop. So if it came across as being panicked—um, not panicked. Disappointed was the way it was coming across.”

Last issue Boychuk told Xtra West that the drop in funding meant Pride 2008 “won’t have much, if anything, to celebrate with.” Now he says he’s a little more optimistic.

“Are all my concerns gone? By no means,” he says, adding there is still work to be done to win sponsorship commitments for next year’s anniversary celebrations.

The VPS held a public meeting Jun 15 to gather ideas for Pride 2008. Though only 20 people attended—many of whom already on the VPS board or affiliated with the society—a number of ideas were presented for the 30th anniversary celebrations, including street theatre in the Village, open-air film screenings, a fashion show and a human rights conference.

It’s “very exciting because we’re hearing fresh ideas,” Boychuk told the small group. “I hope that the ideas don’t stop here.”