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Its time for C.U.L.T. Shirt Sponsorship Again! Don't ignore this then call me in November pleading for an open slot....

By Andrew Pollack on 10/03/2008 at 02:46 PM EDT

Last year we gave away 1800 shirts.

For those who don’t know, the C.U.L.T. shirt (Certified, Unofficial, Lotusphere, T-shirt) is a tradition that was originally started by Rocky Oliver (Lotus Geek) and Henry Newberry. In 2003, Henry decided to focus on other things, so for Lotusphere 2004 and ever since I’ve been doing that part of things.

Generally speaking, Rocky and I – with help from our friends – come up with a theme for the shirts. The idea is to be somewhat topical, but mostly fun. Sometimes we make fun of things just a bit.

We add a “top ten list” that comes from Lotus Community. We hope most of these are funny. This is usually done via Rocky’s blog, but not always. We’ll post a top ten list topic and you put your ideas in. We decide which we think are funny, and you find out when the shirt is printed.

The shirts are given away by sponsors at Lotusphere for free.

Shirts we've done that you may recognize:

2004 C.U.L.T. Shirt on HUMAN
2005 Zen and the Art of Collaboration
2006 Notes Man Group
2007 The Pirates of Collaboration
2008 ?

Sponsorship is a little different every year, so even if you've been down this road before, please read this carefully.

Once you’ve read this (really) send me an email if you want to sponsor.

Read This Before you Sponsor:

The first rule of sponsorship, is that NOBODY is going to call you or buy your stuff just because your name is on the back of a shirt. If you think that will happen, you will be disappointed.

From an advertising perspective, the shirts are only useful as a “touch” in the course of a general name recognition campaign. Most advertising people will tell you that it usually takes 8 or more “touches” of your brand before a consumer realizes it may be something worth looking into.

Some sponsors tell us they are good for drawing people to their booth. Others say that’s true, but those people just want shirts. You decide. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

From a “FUN” perspective, being a sponsor gives you some instant street-creds (if by Street you mean the walkway between the Dolphin and the Swan hotels for about 1 week in January).

Who can sponsor?

In the past, we were very selective about sponsors. The vast majority were Penumbra members and only one or two others were invited.

That has changed.

Over the last couple of years, we have opened the shirt sponsorship to others in our community. The traditional sponsor is a small to medium sized IBM Business Partner with a product or service to sell, but we're also inviting larger organizations and a more diverse mix to the table. If you've always wanted to sponsor and never were asked, contact me.**

**Please note that Rocky and I do reserve the right to select sponsors for our own entirely arbitrary reasons. If you work for Forbes, for example, I personally would not recommend applying since hell will freeze over before I'll do anything but veto. Previous sponsors will have a slight leg-up.

Can I order shirts without being a sponsor?

The best way to get a shirt for yourself is to find a sponsor who’s giving them away at the show.

If you want to buy a set of shirts for your office or to give away elsewhere and you’re not going to sponsor, you can order them in “Bags”. A “Bag” is a set of at least 25 shirts, and sometimes 30 or more. It is ¼ of a sponsor’s order. Sponsors get 4 bags. All bags are the same. They contain a pre-determined range of sizes, which is determined in proportion to the demand over years. In other words, there are more “Large” and “Extra Large” and less “Small, Medium, and Extra-Extra Large”

Bags bought separately will be $400 this year. Yes, that’s much more expensive than sponsoring. If you buy a bag of shirts, you will need to be at the hotel by Saturday evening to pick them up.

What does it cost to sponsor, and what do I get?

$1200. Sponsors (and we have room for an absolute maximum of about 16) cost $1200 - the same price as last year. With that, you get a logo on the back of the shirt, and at least 100 shirts.

Most years, sponsors get more than 100 shirts. Our cost to produce the shirts is slightly higher this year, but we do not expect the number of shirts we get to be substantially lower.

Please keep in mind that these are good quality shirts which are professionally printed with several color images on four locations.

Can I sponsor More than once, or get more shirts as a sponsor?

Yes. You can buy two distinct sponsorships, in which case you get two logos and twice as many shirts. It costs the same for each sponsorship.

Alternately, you can buy out another sponsorship, so you get one logo, but twice as many shirts. This costs $100 less ($1100) for the second sponsorship, and we’ll give you some favoritism in placing your logo on the shirt if possible. This will mean there is less clutter on the shirt, so everyone wins.

Finally, you can opt to just add more shirts to your order by buying additional “Bags” (a bag is ¼ order of shirts). The cost of this will be ¼ the cost of a sponsorship.

What will the shirts look like?

This year's shirt is, of course, still secret. Anyone who sponsors WILL get a chance to see the design and back out. We'll do that once we receive a check or credit card but before we process the payment. That gives truly committed sponsors a chance to back out if they really hate it.

If you REALLY must see the shirt design first, ask me or Rocky nicely and we'll think about it. We may ask you to swear a blood oath or perhaps sign an NDA and leave a DNA sample.

Can I pick my own sizes?

No. Not unless you pay me (personally, and under the table) a ton of money. It just makes things much more difficult for us.

Can you ship them to me instead of to Lotusphere?

Sure, but it won't be cheap -- probably about $300 more. It makes things difficult for me. I don't recommend this at all.

What are the deadlines for sponsorship?

Sponsors also must have a final decision by 12/1/2008 and check no later than 12/15/2008, and must have finished artwork to me by 12/15/2008. Please see my note below about what constitutes finished artwork.

What kind of artwork do I have to send you as a sponsor?

Your logo should meet the following criteria:

It must be 100% VECTOR GRAPHICS.

That means it was probably done in Adobe Illustrator or something similar. If you don't know what this means, you probably don't have it. If you do not have your artwork in this format, PLEASE contact me ASAP. I can probably reproduce it but it takes anywhere from an hour to a day. I'll tell you how long it will take me, and if I have to charge you to do it I'll let you know how much. I've gotten fairly good at this.

It should look good printed in moderately low resolution

(kids, it's a t-shirt and ink) so avoid small fonts and tiny details. These things tend to be about 3" by 3" or smaller (we fit them in the space we have available). Look at last year's shirts for examples.

Don't try too hard with contact information or such

Maybe a simple URL, phone, or booth number, but that's it -- not all three either. Look, nobody is going to call you just because you sponsor this t-shirt. It doesn't work that way. If you expect it to, you'll be disappointed.

We'll be doing these in three or four colors.

Black, white, yellow and IBM blue are likely. Red or orange is also possible. Remember, keep it very simple. If you have questions about this, ask me sooner than later. We’ll take your logo and apply the colors we’ve picked that we thing give the same impression, and get your approval before printing.

Can I add my own specific colors if I want?

Sure. The cost of this will be AT LEAST $200 per color that you want and we’re not already using, and could be much more. It depends on how many total colors there are. If the screen printer has to add another whole machine run to the process, it will be pretty expensive.

Do you and Rocky make money on the shirts?

Not to any significant degree. If we do end up with money left over, it is an accident, and very little.

Since I produce the shirts here through a local vendor (and they get made at the same shop a great many of the Lotus shirts get made, as a matter of fact) I handle the finance side of it. The goal is to produce as many shirts as possible, saving out enough to cover a significant prize for the night of the party. We haven't decided on a prize yet this year. Finances will determine. Shirt expenses go toward the following:

1. Shirt creation, setup fees, and production

2. Shipping to Orlando - We've so far avoided the huge cost of shipping directly to the show hotel

3. Rental Van - by agreement, I'll be again renting a van to pick up and distribute the shirts. It takes a BIG van. Last year I used a really great diesel box truck and that was much better than years past.

4. Prize - as mentioned above.

The benefit to Rocky and I is our logo on the sleeves. I suppose you could consider the rental van use compensation but to be honest, it is more work than it is worth. Trust me on that. I do not get compensated for the dozens of hours spent designing the shirts, working with the vendor, on-site approval meetings at the production facility, or accounting.

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