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CHICAGO On Thursday night, the Business Marketing Association hosted a gala that raked in about $200,000 for its operations, programming, internships, and events. Dubbed the Windy City Biz Bash (and not affiliated with our publication), the reception was held at the Murphy and marked the culmination of a media auction that ran throughout the spring. The auction allowed media buyers, marketers, and advertising agencies to bid on space in publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.
“We're a little different than your typical philanthropic organization,” said the association's executive director, Marla Schrager. “Our guests aren't going to come to an event and bid $25,000 or $50,000 on an item. Buying media is more of a thought-out, strategic effort. So a lot of the planning for the media auction happens before the event, when we sell [ad space] online."
Planners also promoted the live auction in advance. At the association's May luncheon, Schrager whipped up 22 cupcakes, which Jim Miller auctioned off. Though the treats ultimately went for as much as $130 apiece, “the idea wasn't really to get a certain number of dollars, but more to raise excitement about the gala and the auction,” Schrager said, adding that planners posted video footage of the cupcake auction on the association's Web site. “That way, our members could read about the event that was coming up and see the fun behind it.”
At the gala, ubiquitous signage called out companies. “We got a little creative this year and increased the visibility of our sponsors,” Schrager said. “We never had a brand-the-bar or a brand-the-auctioneer option til now. We had music sponsors and valet sponsors as well.” Companies could also opt for a listing in the program, which went for $100.
Microsoft, CareerBuilder, Google, and Search Engine provided top-level support. Other sponsors included Barkada Creative, Expocall, Gerard Design, Black Olive, Plum Productions, USG, Wildman Harrold, Motorola, Tellabs, and GyroHSR. “Our member base and our goals are geared toward education for business-to-business marketers, and that's why you see a lot of major companies supporting the organization,” Schrager said. “It's because they believe in further professional development for their employees.”