Sponsorship Opportunity

Geocaching Australia governance issues
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caughtatwork
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Sponsorship Opportunity

Post by caughtatwork » 30 September 08 6:10 pm

Greeting Senators.

Please forgive the length of this post. It contains background information as well as thoughts and discussions that have happened privately. It is important, so please take a few moments of your time to read it.

First of all thank you for all of your donations so far for the new GCA wesbsite. GCA were ultimately looking for around $3,600 for the first year and we are very close to achieving that.

As you are aware the need for donations was to assist us in moving the website to a faster, better, more "future proof" webserver. The rate of growth of the Geocaching Australia website has meant that our current arrangement, kindly provided by ideology, has neared saturation point and there are issues that are arising as a result of the volume of people and data GCA is providing. You don't necessarily see the issues that arise as they are dealt with quickly in the background, but on occasion you do see the impact. The forum is the place that the biggest issues are being manifest with posting and retrieval times getting longer and longer.

Originally the GCA community was asked to raise some thousands of dollars to lease a server for the next 12 months. The amount sought has been discussed in quite a few threads and as the developers learnt more and discussed long term growth, the amount sought has varied. The current target for a 1 server environment is around $3,600 per year which is very close to being achieved. In the next couple of years this would need to increase if the current rate of growth continues. In future years this is likely to be a dual server environment costing around $5,000 annually.

There are currently around 8,000 registered members at GCA. The rate of signup has been:
2005 - 3 signups per day
2006 - 5 signups per day
2007 - 6 signups per day
2008 - 6 signups per day (so far)

As can be seen, since 2005 GCA has doubled the number of people signing up to the website per day. In total, GCA serves around 1.6 million pages per year. There is no doubt that the number of people signing up has had an impact on GCA's ability to serve them from the current webserver. Your generosity so far has enabled us to look at leasing an upgraded server for the next 12 months. For each year beyond the 2009 calendar year, GCA would need to ask again and again for your generosity to continue. Donations that have been received so far are in the hands of the Treasurer of Geocaching Tasmania Inc.

Out of the blue, in the last 2-3 weeks, the developers have been approached by a marketing company who has a client that would like to sponsor the website.

riblit and I have spoken to the marketing company. We understand their interest in becoming sponsors of Geocaching Australia is genuine and is for the medium to long term. It is my understanding that this would be at least 5 years.

I am not at liberty to discuss the client at this point. The developers have mulled over the nature of the business that the client operates and while the developers have a few reservations about their product and how it would be associated with Geocaching Australia, only the fullness of time will layout the full marketing plan and allow the community to make a proper decision.

The approach to sponsor Geocaching Australia is based on the following idea, to quote them "The new advertising package is along the lines of new wild places and places not previously visited. Geocaching fits in well with that."

They are NOT looking for ads across the site. They do their own advertising. They are looking for an established activity that would fit with their needs. They would be seeking something like "Geoaching Australia sponsored by ...", etc on the home page and possibly as part of the logo (not sure about the logo yet). They have also suggested that the home page could be redesigned to take that into account and to accommodate some changes to make it less "cluttered" and more "streamlined".

They have indicated that all forms of media would be used in the marketing. Radio, TV, Print, etc. They would set up their own website based on their marketing which would drive people to Geocaching Australia. This could potentially mean many, many thousands of people.

The marketing firm spoke about ideas that they had. Things like placing caches around the country that if you "joined the dots" would show the client logo. People who found those caches might be entered into a significant prize draw. Major caches hidden around the country with significant prizes. While nothing has been decided yet, prizes may range from new GPS receivers up to boats and cars.

From both riblit's and my discussions with them it seems that the client is very interested in NOT upsetting the community. As marketers they know what bad sentiment can do to an ad campaign. This is our site to remain our site. They would set up another site for their ad campaign which would drive traffic to us. i.e. We are the target site, not the marketing site.

They are very forthright in stating that they do not want control of the game (not that they could anyway) and they want the community to be supportive of the approach.

They suggested that the client would be up for paying for things like:
Hosting and other associated costs
Prizes / Equipment
Events
Other things

Ultimately, this will secure funding for the website as well as dramatically increase the visibility of the game in Australia.

I will highlight that at NO point do the developers or administrators of the site gain any monetary benefit whatsoever. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bugger all. All of the benefits that would come from this sponsorship would be ploughed back into the GCA site and Geocaching Australia community.

There are any number of pros and cons, so let me list those which I can immediately think of.

Pros:
A faster wesbite for us all.
No more begging for money.
GCA retains control of the site.
GCA remains free and open.
With the client sponsoring caches, the quality of their caches and swaps would be very high.
More Australians being involved at Geocaching Australia and the caching community.
Publicity for the game.
Thousands and thousands of people signing up and joining in the game.
A dramatic increase in the number of hides and finds on GCA caches.

Cons:
An influx of new hiders and all of us know the sorts of fun and games we have with newbies.
Movement from an essentially "underground" activity into "mainstream".
More administration of the website.
The potential that the game is viewed as being "owned" by the client.
The client pulls the plug in 6 months and we're screwed*.

*The developers do have a strategy to ensure we always have a copy of the database held offsite (probably no longer than 24 hours out of date) so GCA can fall back to a leased server arrangement in short order (maybe a couple of days).

They have given an indication that if this is going to occur, then we would need to ready, possibly by November.

Ultimately Geocaching Australia is run by volunteers and is part of your caching community. The developers would love to ensure the website's viability without having to go cap in hand each year begging for funding. The developers do seek your input. As part of the Geocaching Australia community this is your website and you have the right to provide feedback. In the event that the community decide no, then we fall back to our current position of asking for increasing donations each year for the site. In the event that the community decide yes, then all of the donations received to date will be saved for the future when the sponsorship phase come to a close. There is no intent to disperse those funds for anything other than the intent for which they were donated.

Please ask any questions you may have. Questions about the total amount of funding, the client or what the client product is cannot be answered at this time. I know it leaves you without some salient information and for that I apologise.

caughtatwork
on behalf of the GCA administrators and developers.
Last edited by caughtatwork on 03 March 09 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Spruce Mooses
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Post by Spruce Mooses » 30 September 08 7:36 pm

Wow, the deal sounds too good to be true!

As good as is sounds, it doesn't sound like the kind of community I'd like to be a part of. I'd be happier to pay a subscription fee than have a massive ad campaign from a single company.

Where would the fun be in trying to explain geocaching to a muggle if we didn't have muggles anymore! To rephrase a GPS salesman, we'd no longer be a 'fringe activity' which is part of what attracted us to the sport in the first place.

Had the company been a small local company it might have been ok but by the sounds of it, it's a big company and I don't think there's a place for that in GCA.

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Post by rhinogeo » 30 September 08 7:59 pm

Spruce Mooses wrote:Wow, the deal sounds too good to be true!
I subscribe to the old adage ... if it sounds too good to be true that's because it is too good to be true
Spruce Mooses wrote:As good as is sounds, it doesn't sound like the kind of community I'd like to be a part of. I'd be happier to pay a subscription fee than have a massive ad campaign from a single company.
I agree. I'd be far happier to pay a subscription than 'potentially' sell our soul for 30 pieces of silver

The only reason this organisation wants to sponsor GCA is because they think they'll make $$$ from it

Whatever altruistic noises they might make, they're in it for the marketing potential

Requiring you be be a GCA Subscriber to hide a cache would also weed out a lot of the crappy caches that get placed sans review

I await the howls of protest about how subscriptions would destroy the Free and Open nature of GCA but I reckon it's better than being percieved to be owned by a corporation (whoever they are)

GCA would be owned by its subscribers

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Post by SecretSquirrel-BJC » 30 September 08 8:24 pm

It is a very generous offer - mutually beneficial.

My first response is that I too prefer the "fringe" activity and would prefer to pay a subscription or make a donation.

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Post by KevL » 30 September 08 8:34 pm

I've only been caching for a little over 12 months.:D
The following is some mental ramblings on what is a tough subject.

Picture , if you will, a popular park /location on Saturday afternoon with 25 people trying to get a FTF? :?
How hard will that virgin parkland cache be to find after 2000 people have worn a path to it?
Part of the charm of geocaching is the "underground" nature of the 'sport'. The nonchalant glance under a rock, the casual look in a hole in a tree. Who hasn't had a phone conversation with their gps. How much fun will it be if everybody in the park knows what your up to. And yells ,nah the other rock!
Whilst we certainly don't want any sort of limit or control on who plays, advertising on national scale to encourage participants may be going too far. Is this a sport that can handle vast numbers of players?
Word of mouth and stumbling upon caching has worked so far.

But it's hard to say no to financial security. This will be an interesting topic in the coming weeks.


Kev

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Post by totalube » 30 September 08 9:07 pm

Does this mean that this marketing company will have access to our details?
Will they be using the GCA community as a data mine for their other clients?
Who else do they market for?
If it is relevant to geocaching that might be OK, but it would be good to know who there other clients are.

I too would prefer to pay subscription.

Or be sponsored by a a company like Johnny Appleseed, Garmin, etc

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Post by ian-and-penny » 30 September 08 9:33 pm

Whilst I'm not a senator . . . I would also like to emphatically say "NAY", for all the reasons outlined in the posts above mine.

Ian

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Post by caughtatwork » 30 September 08 10:12 pm

totalube wrote:Does this mean that this marketing company will have access to our details?
Will they be using the GCA community as a data mine for their other clients?
Who else do they market for?
If it is relevant to geocaching that might be OK, but it would be good to know who there other clients are.

I too would prefer to pay subscription.

Or be sponsored by a a company like Johnny Appleseed, Garmin, etc
This is worth responding to in the interests of clarity.

No-one will have access to ANY GCA data apart from the site administrators and developers. It will remain exactly as it is now.

As the marketers will have no access to any information other than what is currently public, they will not be in a position to mine our data.

The marketing firm do a lot of marketing for other clients. They have no current association with anything geocaching.

Thanks for the question, it is indeed very relevant.

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Post by roundcircle » 30 September 08 10:51 pm

Without knowing exactly who the company is, or exactly what the product is, it's not really possible to give an opinion. Though I would question how successful any campaign that was based on selling Geocaching would be. As much as I think it's a great sport, I have friends and family who think I'm nuts. (Perhaps this opinion is not based on Geocaching).

I think that the sponsorship as described is very opposed to the the idea of "Free and Open" caching. But subscriptions are hard work in the long term and at the end of the day, regardless of what the outcome is, sponsorship, subscriptions, donations, generous benefactor, not everyone will be happy. We (you) need to chose the outcome with the least dissatisfied people.

I have been looking at the way Radio station RRR has been run and funded. If you live near Melbourne you may have heard them. I think they are a great radio station, and they have launched many names that have been successful in radio and TV in this country. Much like Geocaching, they have a product that is hard to restrict (radio) and is predominantly funded by their listener community. They have a subscriber drive once a year They drive listeners mad for a few weeks, but the rest of the year it's just background noise. They have had big sponsors. Ford in particular. But ultimately the listener community said they didn't like this, and so RRR said no to Ford and the listeners have stumped up since.

Personally, I have no real issue with a sponsor. As long as long as the sponsor is seen as a supporter and not the owner of the game and does not substantially change the way the game or the GCA site works.

I have no real issue with developers making money for their efforts. I think nearly all of us work to live. If the developers can get some financial benefit for their efforts, and it does not unreasonably impact me, then good luck to them.

Given the growth that the sport (hobby, activity) has experienced both here and globally, I don't see how it can continue as a free hobby provided to the many by a few keen individuals. Looking at the growth of GC.com, I'm sure it would have failed if a somebody had not stood up to run it as a business. As unpopular as that has been with many at the time. It would seem that GCA is going to have the same challenges over the next few years.

GCA should also be aware that if they turn the current sponsor down, then the sponsor may go to GC.com or to one of the other caching sites. GCA might get the traffic, but not the benefit.

In short, I don't really like it and don't think I really have enough information to give an answer anyway. Keep in mind I'm not that keen on subscriptions or donations either, though I understand and will support through these methods.

In short and in principle, I'd give sponsorship serious thought. So go for it.

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Post by Papa Bear_Left » 30 September 08 10:56 pm

I'm very much in two minds about this...

On the one hand, the money would be nice and, if the activity was confined specifically to GCA, I think it might be workable.

On the other hand, having a wide-spread perception that geocaches are something you find and maybe win a car from doesn't sound like a good idea and I'd hate to see my GC.com caches trashed by greedy yobbos who are pissed off because there's nothing but $2 shop stuff in there.

It's the old question of how much we want the sport/game/activity to grow, isn't it? If it goes completely mainstream, then the nature of it changes a lot. Hard to keep a cache safe by being sneaky around muggles if their first thought is "Oo, I wonder if he's looking for one of those.. thingy... geocaches, like in the ads!"


At the very least, if we do go ahead with this, I'd like to see an opt-out option for GC-listed caches being referenced here. And I'd use it for most, probably all, of my caches. (Better yet would be an opt-in system, since GC.com cache-owners haven't even tacitly agreed to be part of the GCA sponsor's collateral.)

Another thought, led to from that one... Groundspeak would be less happy to turn a blind eye to the TOU violations that presumably drive the current system here if another commercial entity was making money from their listing service.

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Post by Richary » 30 September 08 11:17 pm

I'm not completely sure but lean towards saying yes.

I agree with roundcircle's and PBL's comments. It depends on how they want to market it I guess.

As for the previous comments, geocaching isn't so much a hidden secret activity these days. Just look at the media sections both on GCA and GC to see the newspaper articles and radio interviews that have happened. A lot of the public have been informed about it (whether they choose to remember is up to them). And yes, I have done a couple of those radio interviews.

To put it in a nutshell I am happy with "GCA sponsored by xxx" concept as long as the sponsorship only means an extra icon to click on if you choose to on the front page and doesn't develop into annoying popup ads etc. As long as we retain control of the site and what happens then it is OK. Of course this would be easier if the site was run by an incorporated association rather than a group of volunteers with no formal structure but that is a separate issue.

That's actually a significant problem with the structure as it stands, and casting no bad comments about any of the developers. At the moment it is on ideology's servers. He has total control of the site, if he chooses to shut it then it goes. What happens when it is on another company's servers with a number of developers having admin access. Then one of them takes a $100k bribe to hand over the admin passwords and the company that now hosts the site with the web address directed to them takes it over? I am not suggesting anybody would sell out, but with the current financial climate it isn't beyond possibility that with a financial crisis the offer could be tempting.

The legal side should be sorted and I am not sure how that could happen under the current arrangement, unless either the Tas or NSW organisations take formal ownership.

With those negatives put aside, if the protections are in place I am quite happy to take the money (figuratively speaking anyway)

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Post by PesceVerde » 01 October 08 12:51 am

Not sure of the Senate rules however as a cacher, "Please don't test the [sponsorship] water with both feet." was my initial response to this idea.

Any commercial enterprise, even marketing, will be planning to somehow make a profit, as well it should, but at what cost to GCA in the longer term. What is this company's track record regarding sponsorships of other entities? Would a partial sponsorship, without the new cars and flashing lights, be an option?

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Post by zactyl » 01 October 08 2:45 am

rhinogeo wrote:Requiring you be be a GCA Subscriber to hide a cache would also weed out a lot of the crappy caches that get placed sans review.
Straying from the topic, but I can't let this one go unchallenged, I've found a whole lot of crappy Groundspeak listed caches that were reviewed. With no disrespect to our reviewers all it guarantees (and not even that sometimes) is that it's probably in a public place at least 161m from other caches and has a container and a log book. Nothing about it being uncrappy.

Back to the topic, I think this sponsorship offer is worth looking into. Publicity isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's not as thought everyone hearing about it will rush out and look for caches, only the interested ones will, as with current media articles. Requiring a GPS is a big barrier.

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Post by Bewilderbeest » 01 October 08 8:39 am

The offer from this company is very generous and their offer of support is greatly appreciated - we should make sure they know that. However, I have some concerns about where some of their ideas might take geocaching. Perhaps some of their ideas could be discussed and modified to be more in keeping with the traditions of geocaching?

Ultimately I like the "fringe activity" aspect of the game, so would prefer a simpler and more unobtrusive form of support - such as the sponsor's name/logo on the website, and providing some prizes for annual cache of the year events in each State/Territory or something along those lines.

By providing prizes for good cache hides, it encourages the quality side of things, but doesnt change the nature of the game dramatically.

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Re: Sponsorship Opportunity

Post by Jardry » 01 October 08 8:54 am

caughtatwork wrote:Originally the GCA community was asked to raise some thousands of dollars to lease a server for the next 12 months. The amount sought has been discussed in quite a few threads and as the developers learnt more and discussed long term growth, the amount sought has varied. The current target for a 1 server environment is around $3,600 per year which is very close to being achieved. In the next couple of years this would need to increase if the current rate of growth continues. In future years this is likely to be a dual server environment costing around $5,000 annually.

There are currently around 8,000 registered members at GCA. The rate of signup has been:
2005 - 3 signups per day
2006 - 5 signups per day
2007 - 6 signups per day
2008 - 6 signups per day (so far)
Richary makes a point as to who "owns" GCA, initially it would be whoever owns the domain name. Likewise the voluntary developers have put a lot of work into making the site what it is. Ideally the "ownership" should be vested to a not-for-profit organisation like Geocaching Tasmania or Geocaching NSW.

In a corporate world, you never get anything for nothing, there is always payback.

C@W's numbers make interesting reading. Obviously not all 8,000 members are active members. However an annual membership fee of just a couple of dollars a year would ensure the future for the server requirements.

I also believe in the KISS approach - KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!

GCA can have "normal" members and "financial" members. Hopefully peer pressure will make normal members become financial members. Alternatively everyone gets a FREE one year membership and then agrees to pay a small annual membership which could be as low as $5/year. If 25% of the 8,000 members paid $5, there would be $10,000 available each year.

If others are opposed to formal memberships, then the donations drive each year is the go.

As others have said - it sounds too good to be true. I see the commercialisation of geocaching to be a negative. Conceivably any corporate sponsor could do a lot of damage to geocaching in a very short period of time.

Imagine the marketing company creating a competition to win a car by finding a set of different tokens they've placed in various caches. A bit like opening the top of Coke bottles and seeing if you've won a prize. If the tokens are then linked to having to buy another product before you can enter to win, the whole concept of the sport/hobby changes.

Again, C@W refers to the previous thread regarding the funding of the server, what was said in that thread could be echoed in this thread. As much as GCA is free and open, there comes a time where some formality is required (a NFP entity that "owns" GCA) so that it can be kept as free and open as possible.

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