This weekend, an article was penned on BuzzFeed about the viral response from a bakery owner to sponsorship requests from TV shows “X Factor” and “Love Island” in exchange for “exposure”. Here’s the gist:

TV Shows (and others asking): Hey! Those desserts look amazing! I want to try them. Ooh, I know! You give me a cake and I’ll mention you on my social media accounts and get you some “exposure”!

Bakery Owner: Um, I don’t need social media mentions, I need money. Pay or beat it.

Baker Owner (on Twitter Feed): See! Big corporations don’t value the little guy! How dare they ask me to work for free?

The rest of us (err-y’all): Yeah! How dare they? (While some of you are in other business owner’s DM’s doing the same thing).

Me: It didn’t have to go down like this. (But I’m kinda glad it did).

Unlike the reps from X Factor, Love Island, and Laura’s Little Bakery I’m not going to miss the opportunity to educate on this all-too-common exchange between property (sponsorship seeker) and sponsor.

What this entire situation amounts to is being (and feeling) valued. Laura’s Little Bakery is not feeling the love, y’all. She’s a mom and a small business owner and at least 52 times a year, someone is sliding in her DM asking for free treats. I get why this is annoying but Laura took her frustrations out on the wrong people. When two TV shows asked, they were met with snarky responses for asking for in-kind sponsorship. Then, she posted them on her Twitter account and it went viral.

While many are applauding her responses, how many of those people are either already customers who are going to love anything she does OR people who aren’t in Liverpool to support her business? Has she netted anything other than more social media followers by burning bridges and shaming X Factor and Love Island? We will see.

Now, Love Island staffer, could you have crafted a crappier ask? What is required of Laura’s Little Bakery is amazingly clear, but what you will provide is not. Your client will post “a few pics tagging” the brand in exchange for a chocolate cake with 26 on it. More importantly, you made it clear what you value about your client — her 630K followers, but you didn’t ask what was important to Laura. You didn’t consider that maybe Laura’s target market doesn’t watch Love Island or know who your client is.

X Factor’s ask was better. They offered Laura the flexibility to make the cake the flavor and size that works for her. They offered her tickets to the event and alluded to national television “exposure”. But they didn’t ask Laura what works for her — what they have that makes it worth her while to donate a free cake? Again, Laura’s response was snarky, explaining what X Factor should do is purchase the cake from her instead of asking for it in-kind.

Here’s what Laura should do:

  1. Add a page to her website that explains who she supports and why. Add a Google Form to capture information.
  2. Change the attitude towards the requests. When you are viewed as being successful in your industry, the requests will start pouring in. While getting asked for free stuff all the time is annoying, I suspect that Laura’s snarky-ness is coming from the fact that she can’t support everything or take advantage of every seemingly great opportunity. It’s having to say no more often than not that is causing the annoyance. That’s why doing #1 will help qualify the asks.
  3. Turn it into a win-win. (This is for the askers, too). What if Laura responded to Love Island and X Factor staffers with a request to meet the catering director for the shows in exchange for a cake? Looking at her website, I’m betting on her ability to sell them into a contract for the time they are taping in Liverpool. Instead of getting paid for one cake, she could’ve gotten paid for many cakes.

Both sides were wrong. Neither Love Island nor X Factor representatives attempted to find out if their “exposure” would ultimately lead to more cakes, cupcakes, and brownies sold or more wholesale accounts opened for Laura’s Little Bakery. However, no matter how annoyed you are with people asking you for sponsorships, in-kind or otherwise, responding to the requester (who is often an intern or assistant) in a harsh way will hurt your brand more than it will build it. Though X Factor was asked to comment and hadn’t when the BuzzFeed article was released, here’s something to consider:

Laura’s Little Bakery now has 16.9K Twitter followers. This “viral” post has 971 comments, 8.4K retweets, and 23K loves. X-Factor has 7.05 MILLION followers on Twitter. Snippets of various auditions have between 21 and 41 MILLION views on YouTube. Where could some creativity and conversation lead if these two had partnered up? I guess we will never know.

What do you think about what happened? How would you have handled it from your side of the ask? Comment and let us know!