NSCA Has Unethical Awards Program Too

payforplay-featI am shocked that NSCA (and its board) is promoting a completely unethical “pay-for-play” awards program.

Yes, you read that right! To enter their Excellence in Product Innovation Awards you have to pay an entry fee — and not just a reasonable $10 or $20 “administration” fee, but, in fact, the fees $299 or $499 for EACH entry — depending on whether your company is a member of NSCA or not.

This is pathetic and unethical. Why?

Well, let’s start with the obvious: By attaching a ridiculously high fee, they’ve already eliminated a bunch of companies that can’t afford to “pay to play” and can’t apply for an award because they have to pay a fee that’s not affordable to them. Remember when you were just starting a business? Every dollar you spent on your company was money you took away from your kids or family vacation. So, this may not seem like a lot of money ($499), but it is. So, if they can’t afford to enter, they don’t. Do you think only product innovation comes form well-established companies? It doesn’t. I have seen many start-ups in 10×10 booths at InfoComm or even people carrying around a cool new product in their briefcase at a show that had amazing technology. That’s how I found Crowd Mics — I was the first person in AV to write anything about them. They couldn’t have afforded a $499 fee when they debuted.

Thus, now we’ve weeded-out the “those that can’t afford” from their product even being evaluated for the unethical NSCA Excellence in Product Innovation Awards. So, that leaves those that pay-to-play as being entered. Is that really representative of the “Excellence in Product Innovation?” Or, should it be re-worded to be called the “Excellence in Product Innovation from companies who have a lot of money” awards?

Next, the second most obvious issue with these awards is that many companies will pay the giant, over-bloated fee (we’ll get in to what that fee really goes to pay for) and not win one. So, they’ve “paid-to-play” and they don’t get anything — other than a PAID for nomination. Yay, we were nominated for an award, so check us out (PS — we paid to nominate ourselves…).

And, the bigger the company, the more entries they can make — heck, they could even, potentially, enter any category — there’s no limitation on that specified anywhere. So, if I were still running marketing at Extron, $499 was not much; I’d enter my stuff in every category. Now, I am increasing my odds of winning exponentially.

So, now we’ve eliminated all the “normally” funded start-ups AND those that didn’t pay enough to win.

So, we’re left with those that have enough money to PAY-to-PLAY.

Oh, and where does all the money go for these pay-to-play awards go? Well, when I asked NSCA Executive Director, Chuck Wilson, about it he said, “We didn’t have the infrastructure or software in place here to manage it so using a media partner for that purpose made it where we had to do it on an entry fee basis.”

Uh, that’s bullish**. Why? Well, we do awards every year — in fact, we do five sets of them (we gave out a total of 250+ awards in 2016). All of them are respected enough that hundreds (not tens, but hundreds) of manufacturers run press releases and promote on their websites, eNewsletters and mailing that they won. You know how much we charge? NOTHING. That’s how much. Zip, Zero, Zilch, Nada. Oh, and we SPENT (not charged) over $5500 on trophies and certificates that we distributed to the winners. For FREE. Nope, we didn’t even charge the manufacturers to get the physical trophies. We just felt that was, well, unethical.

How can we get (using Chuck’s words), “the infrastructure or software in place here to manage it” FOR FREE considering we are literally 1/3rd the size of NSCA? Well, we use FREE tools like Survey Monkey and Evalandgo and ZOHO that have FREE programs that manage things like this. Sure, that means that you see their logo on the forms, but it’s free. And, verifiable. So, no cheating or ballet stuffing.

So, no, Chuck Wilson, that’s not true. You can manage this on your own, for FREE. I suspect NSCA is getting a kick-back ($$$) from the company running the awards program for doing it. So, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

I then reached out to Chuck again to ask why they were charging a ridiculous fee and to bring to his attention why I thought this was a disservice to the industry (and completely unethical) and he seemed to come around to my thinking that this might not be a good idea but said that, “We are bound by contract this year… so nothing we can do.”

I can Bullsh** again. He’s participating in something completely unethical and DAMAGING to the NSCA brand. I think cancelling a contract based on brand-protection, professionalism and ethics is possible and warranted.

So, again, I ask you, Chuck, please stop this PAY-for-PLAY awards crap and do it for free — or at least a reasonable fee — like $10 or $20. I’ll make you a deal, I will do it for $1. We will manage the entire thing for $1. And, I will then donate that $1 to the NSCA Educational Foundation.