Blogfest Not A Sell Out for Absolut

June 9, 2010

Yeah, I agreed to let Absolut sponsor the Brooklyn Blogfest because usually I pay for most of it out of my pocket plus some admissions fees (and a small number of donations plus plenty of volunteers and in-kind contributions).

Full disclosure: one year Robert Guskind contributed $200 towards paying for the space rental god bless him. For other Blogfests bloggers have loaned me small amounts of money. Two years ago, Petra of Bed Stuy Blog donated $100 but I never cashed the check because it was written to the Lyceum and I’d already paid them.

The in-kind contributions of time and talent from Adrian Kinloch for the photo blogger video, Blue Barn Pictures for the video opener, stage management by Larry Lopata, set design by Dede Kavanaugh, panel coordination by John Guidry, Blogs of a Feather coordination by Mike Sorgatz and Atiba Edwards, the poster by Mike Sorgatz, moderating of the panel by Andrea Bernstein, entrance coordinator Kim Maier and the work of a lot volunteers are just amazing and much appreciated.

Thank you all.

But a lot of the costs still do come right out of my pocket. I’m sorry for not wanting to go broke on it. And it’s not like OTBKB has all that real estate advertising like Brownstoner. Wish I did but…

Absolut paid for the drinks, the food (though I had to arrange it and I gave newbie Fourth Avenue restaurant, Oxaca, the job). They did a great job and the food was delicious. The fee Absolut gave me paid for some but not all the operating expenses.

The Lemon/Spike section of the night had a kind of crackle to it, an electricity that was fun. It was cool when it looked like Spike and Marty were going to get into a row about the Knicks vs. the Nets. I had a hard time cutting off Spike to begin the Q&A and he turned to me and said: “Chill, I’ve got this covered, Miss.  That was pretty funny/embarrassing.

Sure, the inclusion of Borough President Marty Markowitz may have put some people off. He is a highly divisive figure in Brooklyn due to his support of the Atlantic Yards but his purpose was to give me one of those Proclamations and I was happy about that.

To paraphrase what I said in my opening remarks: Brooklyn is a place where people strive to know their neighbors, their politicians, their artists, their educators, their developers, their social activists, and those they agree – and disagree with.

Blogfest is a highly democratic and diverse event. Sometimes it’s like a see saw that goes this way and then that.

There have been years when the Develop Don’t Destroy crowd dominated the Blogfest. Although  I agree with their views on the Atlantic Yards project, there was criticism from other kinds of bloggers that Blogfest isn’t just for political activists.

But that just goes back to what I LOVE about Blogfest. It is an opinionated and spicy event and last night it was alive with an obviously diverse and opinionated mix of people and ideas.

The elements created by me and my wonderful Blogfest collaborators actually did include the many diverse voices of Brooklyn. For instance, Blogs Aloud, the dramatic reading from blogs, included many points of view as did the The Big Picture, which was chock full of images of social activism and protest Brooklyn-style. The panel discussion, led by WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein, was also a really interesting discussion with panelists, Atiba Edwards of FOKUS and Visual Stenographer, Faye Penn of Brokelyn, Heather Johnston of, Petra Symister of Bed-Stuy Blog and Jake Dobkin of Gothamist.

Finally, I was comfortable with my working-relationship with Absolut. It was definitely a  balancing act to keep Blogfest true to its essence, an annual gathering of Brooklyn bloggers. Obviously there’s some disagreement about how well I balanced things. There’s definitely a learning curve associated with having a sponsor and maybe the event tipped too far to the side of Absolut. I can’t tell. The evening is a bit of a blur (all those sponsor martinis). This is a criticism I will take VERY seriously and think about in the weeks and months ahead as I ponder doing next year’s Blogfest.

As for a quid quo pro: I am happy to reveal what Absolut offered the bloggers and me in the name of full transparency. In fact, I told Absolut that they should give the bloggers something for their participation and that people would want to be very transparent about that. I got a Flip Camera and plan to give it to one of the volunteers who was so helpful yesterday (I wish I had 30 Flip cameras).

They gave me exactly one bottle of Absolut Brooklyn.

They paid for all the liquor and food at the after-party. I can tell you what the food cost: $755 plus tip. I paid for the delicious skirt steak hero from Fairway that was approximately $120 plus delivery. I don’t know what they spent on the bar service.

They also contributed to some of the operating expenses of the event, which was a huge help to me because this is an expensive endeavor. There were lots of extra costs that they DID NOT cover like fees for a producer, extra security for a free, hard liquor event and event insurance, space rental, video rental, technicians, table rentals, chairs, etc.

Apparently I will be included as a Blogger of the Week on the Absolut Facebook page, which I think is cool because it will hopefully expand my audience. My piece is not about Absolut but partially about 9/11 and hearing the second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center from my stoop.

Yes, I was invited to the VIP gala but I probably won’t be able to attend because I’m presenting a Brooklyn Reading Works event on Thursday night (June 10th at 8PM) at the Old Stone House in Park Slope with the great novelist Martha Southgate, author of Third Girl from the Left, which won the Best Novel of the year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association in 2006. Lauren Grodstein and Danielle Evans will also be reading from their work. It should be a great event and you’re all invited!

Will all of this “payola” convince me to say that I heart Absolut Brooklyn even if I don’t? I don’t think so. (Personally I don’t like the strong apple fragrance).

Will this make me a “drink the Kool Aid follower of Absolut?”


Does this mean I will only order Absolut for the rest of my life?


Does this mean they can buy me?

Not a chance.

Filed under: arts and culture  by · 8 Comments


8 Comments on Blogfest Not A Sell Out for Absolut

  1. Matthew on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 5:03 pm
  2. Multinational corporate sponsorship raises numerous questions, including the broader one of why Americans are so willing to abandon citizenship for consumption (which was once a disease and quite plainly still is).

    So why aren’t participants charged, as in most other conferences? A couple hundred people at $15 bucks a head, for instance, should have covered the nut nicely, no? That’s cheaper than a movie & popcorn & corn syrup soda. With a sliding scale for the brokelyn, of course. Why don’t several people organize this event, to take the pressure off one?

  3. Miss Heather on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 5:47 pm
  4. Speaking as someone who was a close fried of Bob’s I would like to make it known that the $200 you profess he donated to you was in fact a loan. He was very upset you never paid him back too. Please amend your tome to reflect the truth.

  5. Norman Oder on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 5:58 pm
  6. Please link back to some of the critiques (with video)

    That’ll help people make up their minds about the “crackle” in Lee’s performance .

    As for whether “people would want to be very transparent about” the gifts from Absolut, do you think that’s what happened?

    Did what Absolut’s p.r. agency called a “viral, underground effort” foster that?

  7. iamnotstarjones on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 7:14 pm
  8. I think you should partner with Absolut, Apple, Fairway, Trader Joe’s and anyone else possible so you can take a salary and properly pay a staff to produce the event. There’s a recession on and a FLip camera doesn’t pay the rent.

  9. Lisanne! on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 8:32 pm
  10. Don’t you think that it would have been proper for Absolut to cover any expenses that were incurred as the result of their introduction of hard liquor into the event? It seems funny that they would not do so. Why should that risk and expense be placed fully on the blogfest organizers?

  11. clintonhillbilly on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 9:32 pm
  12. I appreciate your hard work in making this event a success year after year. Overall I enjoyed myself, especially during the parts that actually reflected Brooklyn blogger culture, the voices and the images. The panel, the tribute to photobloggers and especially the dramatic reading were awesome. This was my 1st blogfest and I would happily pay admission ($10, $15, $25?) to defray the cost of the event next year.

    Seeing Spike Lee and Marty Markowitz was like a slap in the face in light of the Atlantic Yards debacle. To have Spike Lee (aka George Jefferson) chide us about gentrification made my stomach turn. and apple vodka is vile. i probably wouldn’t be so outraged if the sponsor were Ketel One.

  13. Mike on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 10:32 pm
  14. So you gave Absolut about $50,000 worth of internet publicity (counting all the other people who posted weird stoop tie-ins) for $755 plus an open bar? Sounds like they got a great deal, and you should negotiate harder next time.

  15. Heather Johnston on Thu, 10th Jun 2010 9:26 pm
  16. Louise, I cannot thank you enough for starting the blogfest so that Brooklyn Bloggers can get to see each other in person. An online community is one thing, but nothing replaces face time. As I said on my blog today, it is utterly laughable that ANYONE would criticize you for having Absolut help you defer the costs. One of the most generous features is that it costs nothing. Us bloggers aren’t exactly ringing the cash registers, it is a very kind and understanding gesture to have it be free.

    The Vodka is fine, no better or worse than, say Sweet Peach Iced Tea Vodka or Smirnoff’s Green Apple. No need to be outraged. As a “collaborator” blogger, I, too, got a bottle, but the cost in creating my video far outweighed my “windfall.” I don’t need a flip I shoot in HD. I feel critics, in particular huge blogs like Brownstoner and Atlantic Yards are simply engaging in cybersnark. It’s their bread and butter It is disgusting that they would even imply Louise is anything at all like Ratner.

    Not to say their isn’t room for criticism. I feel both Mr. Markowitz and Mr. Lee were tone deaf the the horrific ramifications of the arena when they were discussing the Nets vs the Knicks. That they were hissed and booed when mentioning it did not go unnoticed at all.

    This is a tempest in a teapot, and a mean-spirited one at that. Grow up, people.