|Statesmen Team with Sponsors at Roloff Farms luncheon and|
Zach Roloff in Basketball Jersey w/ Impact Advertising Specialties on back
The subject I decided to tackle first was about “Free Stuff”. Out of the many emails received there were a few that talked about this subject in some way or another. In one, it was suggested that the Roloff’s were rolling in the dough as “Highly Paid Reality TV Stars” and then asking companies for free this and free that. This perception bothered me for a multitude of reasons, mainly of course being that it’s simply not true. I thought it was a strong statement from someone who does not have a clear understanding of both sides of this coin. Have companies provided products and services in exchange for showing those products and services on Little People Big World? Yes. Was it free? Not necessarily.
I know because my company was a sponsor of the Statesmen team going to compete in Ireland at the World Dwarf Games. In addition to our sponsorship, we negotiated a trade out agreement. A ‘trade-out’, is a widely used business agreement in television, a formal agreement between the network and the company wanting to trade their products. Part of the terms I brought to our trade agreement was that our logo was on Zach’s jersey and that we would be the exclusive provider of all uniforms and customized products for the team and the event. We provided all of the initial team products at our expense, but other items were purchased from us. It was win win. They got a company who could navigate a complicated nine sponsor logo customization project and we got exposure on a hit television show. Another of the Statesmen sponsors was Viking Pools who I met during a luncheon at the farm. We talked about and admired the pool they provided in a previous season. The pool was the trade, but a big chunk of the prep work and all of the finished patio was not, for example. This worked out great for Viking because it was a multi-episode project and they really exploited their LPBW affiliation on their website and with social media, and still do. One of the biggest projects undertaken at the farm was the house remodel. It may surprise at least one of you to know that other than the Pella windows, driveway pavers, geo-thermal heat system and a few other branded products, the bulk of the massive remodel was all Roloff.
The parameters of a trade out agreement are set by the network, the production company and the talent. Discovery/TLC had the final approval for all trade outs on LPBW. Discovery/TLC had to consider their advertisers, and whether the company is a conflict, or is better suited to buy ad time. For the production company they consider how the storytelling will be impacted, specifically the shooting and editing logistics and if the ‘viewer value’ supersede any added costs to the production that may be incurred. For the Roloff’s, they had to determine if it fit who they were, because in the end, it becomes an endorsement and it should work organically into their story being told. And a biggy not to be ignored is the cost associated with the trade, because as I said, free is not necessarily free and actually many times their costs exceeded that of the trade.
In season one there was a learning experience when a producer had a miscommunication with some vendors at a local street market who had invested in sprucing up their booths and signage in hopes of being on television. Although it was not a formal trade out situation, Matt emphasized that it became very important to him and Amy not to leave any “dead bodies” in this process. It was important for them to make sure supporters and trading partners had a realistic expectation of their return. Especially with the smaller trades that could be gobbled up by the bigger story. There are hundreds of hours of video being filmed to produce one 30 minute show, after editing the storyline together, their product, service or location may only get a few seconds of air time in addition to their name in the end credits. Nevertheless there were many companies who wanted to be apart of LPBW, far too many to have ever had on the show especially without causing a editing room revolt. And I don’t say that lightly, I really mean it. The Statesmen sponsorship episodes probably put more than a few gray hairs on the heads of LPBW camera operators and editors in having to deal with so many different companies at one time. It was a unique situation that probably still gives them nightmares, but it was great fun for us!
One thing is clear when speaking to the Roloff’s on this subject, they are very appreciative to all the individuals and companies that provided goods and services during the production of LPBW. Matt expressed that they are sincerely grateful to each and every one of them.