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urbanMamas partnership with studio vitaminwaterZERO, KINK launches

Studio_zerologo_200 We here at urbanMamas are more about create-it-and-they-will-come than active outreach to the mama community in Portland, and when one of our readers came to us with an opportunity to reach a new audience -- and participate in a fun campaign to help us train for the Hood-to-Coast, which many of us run each year -- we were excited about the possibilities. So today, a joint effort with vitaminwater ZERO and KINK FM launches, and we'll steal the blurb from the web site: "studioZERO is a series of lifestyle workshops for all members of the KINK and urbanMamas Hood to Coast teams and "home invasions" for the founders of urbanMamas.com and KINK fm morning show host Sheila Hamilton. Conducted by Portland experts in fashion, fitness and nutrition, they're going to show you how it can be done!"

While the ladies that founded urbanMamas are not product loyalists, we were thrilled with the chance to -- we hope -- invite more Portland mamas outside of our circle of influence to join our supportive community of parents and children. And we're hoping that you'll enjoy watching as we take advantage of the experts who will give us tips on how to better make use of our cross training and can assess our bike-to-work-and-farmer's market fashion choices. We'll have the opportunity to post videos to report on our training process, and recount some fun things with other aspects of our life-as-mamas, too.


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Just voicing a concern that you would choose to partner with a beverage maker whose sweetener (erithyritol) is heavily marketed by a major agro food conglomerate (Cargill)? Besides, aren't we trying to promote and support local/sstainable? Perhaps next year...or the next...someday...

B, yes, we do have a yen to partner more with local, sustainable businesses, and have in fact spent many years actively pursuing those that we felt fit our value system best. (for instance, Lucy activewear is one I spent hours trying to sell on us last year, and ended up with nothing more than a little mismatched free runwear -- appreciated, surely! -- but not an agreement to sponsor our two teams). none of these have ever had the capacity or willingness to sponsor our team, though we certainly do spend our own dollars there.

vitaminwater came to us, with a concept for a whole campaign that, we thought, would allow us to further our mission without doing anything that we didn't want to do. we won't, for instance, be asked to place product in our photographs and videos; we haven't been asked to specifically endorse vitaminwater. we're taking part in a few events sponsored by a big corporation whose mission we don't generally agree with. when we weighed the benefits (increased reach to parents who don't currently read urbanmamas, freeing up our funds to use for more community-focused activities and to allow we founding mamas to devote more time to creating content) with the drawbacks (accepting money from a profit-seeking corporation which does, indeed, use ingredients we don't care for) we felt that we could do this campaign with our souls intact.

No way

took me a night of sleep to figure out why this post bothered me so much. i get the wanting to reach out to moms and the freeing up funds BUT i don't get like or support the advertising you put on this post. and also wonder if the means justify the ends. also get that this is your decision not mine :) just dont want to find advertising where i also find support and love.

I am disappointed with uM for being "sponsored by a big corporation whose mission we don't generally agree with."

Taking money from a company you don't ethically agree with, even though you are using that money for good, is still bad. Now you are aligned with vitamin water. They may not "make" you advertise for them, but you already have.

urbanMamas holds an especially important role in Portland parenting circles. I often recommend the site to new, harried parents (which I see a lot of in my business) who need more advice and support than I can give in a 20-minute meeting. I recommend the site as a parenting tool, and as such, I always appreciated the lack of big corporate advertising.

Aside from the initial feeling of surprise at seeing the vitamin water logo on the sight, instantly my second thought was, "Oh, maybe vitamin water is good for me now." Of course it's not, I was just easily duped by big corporate ad execs who know parents love (and TRUST) uM, and who think if it's supported by uM, it must be good.

But what about all those people who are only moderately aware of uM, vitamin water, big corporate ads? They will hear and see that this Portland parenting institution supports (and is supported by), this giant corporation: do you really think you are not advertising for this company, increasing their sales, putting them out into a market they hadn't previously been able to tap?

From the outside this sponsorship seems like quite a departure from the past. I understand needing ads for the website as I don't think the founders should fund that by themselves. But, this sponorship does a few things that seem strange to me: (1) it focuses on the founders as celebrities which feels counter to the stated goal of outreach and forming community; (2) it funds the private Hood-to-Coast teams of the founders in the name of urbanmamas (you may argue that the teams are not private, but I have certainly never seen an open invitation to join the teams); and (3) it sets up a relationship with a big corporation that I worry will lead to others. I think there are other ways to do outreach if that is truly your interest. I can appreciate that this site is not a democratic entity and you have made a decision that you can live with, but I want you to know how this decision can be viewed from the outside.

Wow. Ditto on the above comments. So, the new "earthy" look is now coupled with sponsorship from a major corporation whose mission you don't generally agree with? There is some serious brand dissonance going on here. I think you've just lost a lot of credibility with your primary audience.

Like the above commenter, one of my first thoughts was, "Oh, I thought that zero calorie Vitamin Water had scary stuff in it -- maybe it doesn't!" When you put on your beautifully matched, logo-laden running gear, do you seriously think you aren't sending a message of endorsement?

I'm also really disturbed at the coment about "mismatched gear" from Lucy. You say it was appreciated, but you also cite it as an example of "Well, the local companies wouldn't partner with us, so this move to a big dollar corporation justified." I'd be grateful for any freebies at all, and would have reciprocated with a big, Lucy logo-identified thank you post. What happened to the no-waste, reuse everything, pro-Goodwill stance? Do you really need these big dollars to reach the broader community? I'm not convinced.

I don't care about being invited to run, but this whole thing feels so, so off the uMamas message.

Not a good move, ladies.

Hi everyone. As always, we appreciate all the feedback - on the new look, on our HTC teams.

In the past few weeks, not only have I been overwhelmed by summer schedules, kids, work, etc, I have also been overwhelmed by the general tone of the comments on the site. I hesitate to even leave this comment, for I know it will be subject to utmost scrutiny. But, that is the community we have set up. We expose ourselves for the sake of sharing, of letting other mamas that perhaps another mama out there is feeling the same. We expose ourselves for the sake of learning more, learning from you, you, and you, without feeling judged if I drink soda, feed my kids keebler cookies, and shop at the GAP. But, from our conversations, perhaps I will learn a thing or two about about high fructose corn syrup, about the supporting local. I know it is idealistic, but we have always hoped that our community is light on the judgment.

"Not a good move, ladies" is a hurtful comment. We work hard in the off hours to try to moderate this site. We have full time jobs. This is our "hobby". If there are better thoughts and comments out there, please email us. We welcome all thoughts, suggestions, offers for help to work to keep this site going. I, for one, am running out of steam.

For the past five years, I have personally approached many local Portland-based small businesses to see if they wanted to partner with us, support our amazing moms who come together to run this event. It is such an accomplishment, even for the fittest of the mamas, to make time to train and be away from our families for the 36-hour stretch. We haven't been too successful in finding good partnerships. And, when Lucy gave us a box of their samples and other miscellaneous items, we were happy, but we were also sad we couldn't be team Lucy.

We were approached by Vitaminwater. Their marketing director is an urbanMama who lives in my neighborhood. Her journey with the company has been long and she has constantly evaluated whether she should stay on with the company FT while also raising two children. I have really been empowered by her journey. She has pushed her company to support her as she worked at home, flexible hours, so she can spend some good hours during the day with her children, while working into the night for the business. I have seen that, even though Vitaminwater is now owned by Coca Cola - a big bad corporation - it really has been a family-friendly place to work.

We aren't getting money as part of this sponsorship. We are getting some cute matching outfits to wear. They will not have any logos on them aside from the swoosh. The program/sponsorship involves offering some personal training to the moms on the teams. There is also a wellness consultant lined up to talk to us about making healthy choices, making easy and healthful food on the go. There is a fashion person lined up to help us find apparel that makes us feel confident.

We wouldn't have necessarily thought it up ourselves to seek out Vitaminwater and say, "hey, will you be our sponsor?" It really wouldn't have occurred to us. But, since we were approached with a few other gimmicks that we thought would be fun ways to get to know one another, we said, "why not?"

Well, all the reasons you pose above are reasons why not. I respect those thoughts. But, I want to relay that our intention is not to "sell out". We really just wanted to have some fun, vis a vis the perks mentioned above. But, yes, you are right, there is an element of endorsement now associated with uM & vitaminwater. We did it to allow for some mamas to have a little fun while training for the event. That's where we're coming from.

We have had open calls in the past to join our teams. And, the members of our teams have opted to continue to run for a few years in a row. When we have an opening, we broadcast it. We are not hand-selecting from only an elite group of mama runners.

I'm not really concerned about the *partnership.* If the corp. wants to sponsor a group that publishes opinions/discussions against their product type/ingredients, so what? I don't see it as UM endorsing the product at all (nor do I feel that their other advertisers were cherry picked because UM approved of their product). And I'll bet there are a lot of ums who visit this site who consume much worse, and still appreciate what they read on this site. This isn't the Mayo Clinic site, it's a community discussion site (or at least that's how I see it), and it's maintained by people who get very little material support to do it. I think they've been very resourceful and productive.

Thanks for verabalizing your thoughts so well, Olivia! You always do. Running out of steam is an understatement. We are not a corporation, just a couple mamas trying to keep the site going on fumes. When Olivia asked if we could go live with the site this week, I did it while I was away on work travel (after the kids were all tucked in bed at Grandmas). It was the last thing I wanted to do, but do it we do. uM is not my full-time job nor do I personally get compensated. The ads you see on the site pay for the Web redesign, but it does not feed my kids. Sometimes I wished that I could have that time at night to read a book or relax with my husband rather than field criticism or demanding emails.

When I read these comments, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm excited for a sponsor for our Hood to Coast teams this year so we don't have to figure out where to rent or borrow vans. Coordinating HTC (thank you Andrea & Shetha) can be demanding and it's nice that Virginia (VitaminWater) is taking care of vans and finding us coordinated outfits to wear. It's the little things that makes a difference. However, I did wish that the sponsorship meant that I wouldn't have to worrry about my kids college tuition!

I love that Sarah gives uM the green vibe, but it might be disappointing to some of you to find out that I wash my hair, and don't make my own deodorant; and yes, I sometimes enjoy a coke.

Totally dittoing Colleen here. Just want to say I appreciate this site, especially the fact that it is maintained by moms who already have a lot on their plate(s).

I'd just add that I was bit surprised that VitaminWater became your sponsor (and I don't really care who approached who; that seems beside the point) simply because this site has taken a very commendable, but frankly sometimes alienating slant toward all things Radical Homemaker, though I suspect that's because Sarah has been doing the lion's share of the posts lately. As someone who is trying to be more sustainable and conscientious about the choices I make, I appreciate the view and the suggestions and try to employ some of them. But the site often reads more like a green parenting site instead of a site for the general parenting community.

Maybe I'm just very dense today, but if this partnership doesn't give any money to the uM website, and therefore doesn't contribute to making running the site any easier/less time consuming, or give it a shot of hi-test as opposed to "running on fumes," as Hau put it, then what exactly does it do for uM?

I am very, very appreciative of all the hard work that the uM's put into this site, on top of all the other work you do. I value the conversations that happen here. I just don't understand what "taking part in a few events sponsored by a big corporation whose mission we don't generally agree with" actually does for uM as a whole, or how it furthers the uM mission. Maybe I'm not seeing the big picture here?

I'm also having a hard time with this partnership/sponsorship.

You know, there's no shame in asking for help from the very community that you created. How about next year, if you want to run HTC as a team, you ask the uMama community to sponsor you? Much better, in my opinion, to allow us to show our appreciation for all that you do rather than go the 'big corporation' route.

Wow. Just wow.

What a bunch of entitled, demanding holier-than-though judges most of the commenters on this post are.

This group of women put their precious time and effort into hosting this site for all of us and yet you sit behind your computer terminal and berate them because suddenly they took advantage of a small opportunity that came their way?

Yikes. Seriously, how ungrateful you all seem. Good for you UrbanMamas for all that you do...even if it wouldn't be what all of us would choose. I just thank you for the fact that you haven given us this outlet to dialogue.

I was surprised to see the UM founders and vitaminwater partner. My surprise doesn’t mean I cast the UM founders as “less than my standards.” I am drinking a Diet Coke as I write this, as I do every afternoon. Rather, I think I tend to idolize the UM founders and that caused my surprise. I mostly expect more of the UM founders in the way of product use, behavior, etc. than I manage to do myself. Probably that’s because most of the time they do manage to do better. And, because many of their posts are excerpts of their lives that are meant to inspire and encourage us. And they succeed. Many posts are ambitious in terms of sustainable living, including growing / using non-processed foods, etc. so the partnering with this company is unexpected. But I (and most of us) have a very limited “virtual” lens and relationship with the UM founders. I am bound to be kind of off-base and have an unnuanced understanding of who they are. I do NOT think the UM founders are hypocritical for doing this thing with vitaminwater while also generally encouraging sustainable practices, non-processed foods, etc. We don’t have to be perfectly in alignment (or puritan) all the time. You can have a beer occasionally (or nightly) and still be against DUI. Having beer is fun, after all. Choosing to have an ounce of something once in awhile does not make you unable to also refuse to drown in it.

I hope you'll continue with this site despite the harsh criticism you're getting with this decision. Really, it's a non-issue in my mind. UM is an amazing resource and support and I personally can't thank you enough.

Free clothes, some fashion advice, a little help with training - sounds good to me. Have people noticed the ads already here? This is just another way to get a little support for the site and the founders. Have fun with it! I look forward to hearing from you what you learn.

Olivia's comment does a much better job of revealing the "partnership" than the original post -- it gives some real perspective, reveals the motivations and process, and better explains what uM is getting out of the deal. Thanks so much for that. The original post really did make it sound like this was a significant sponsorship deal from a company that most of this community doesn't support. But I think I get it now. I still really wish that a local, ethically-sound company would come forward, but having heard more from behind the scenes, now, I guess you're all doing that you can do on that front -- except maybe needing to send out a call to your larger community (here!) for ideas and support!

And thanks, too, for revealing that not all of the uMs are "radical homemakers." I have a whole essay going about my serious problems with this phrase/trend (another topic). Olivia, you just convinced me that this is a more balanced place than I'd begun to think it was.

Let me say, too, that this site was a HUGE support to me when I was a new mama four years ago. I fully relate to the amount of work that you do here. And I appreciate it. And, I'm sorry if my comment of "Not a good move, ladies" was especially hurtful among all the criticism -- I didn't intend it as a barb, just a reflection of my gut reaction to the announcement.

No problems here. :) I am a mama product of contradiction I suppose. I save my jars and clean the goop off with a harsh chemical, goof off. I do not have time to make an awesome jar of salt... (not that I think salt is bad, I just do not have time I said awesome it's because the idea was awesome I tried it and it doesn't work fast enough) we do what we can how we can. I am thankful for this site. Keep it up and running how ever you can. I am not sure how l like the look for no other reason than i hate change. :) I have no idea how you ladies keep it up as I do not even have time for face book on a good night unless I trade it for sleep. (I to work full time) So thanks for what you do keep it up!!! I am grateful.

I drink vitaminwater, use cloth diapers, use vegetable based cleaners, drive an SUV and support OPB. I also love my kids and continually strive to teach them not to compartmentalize people and to never judge. Oh, and I also enjoy a good cocktail.

Ladies, if you don't like the new design, or posts, or whatever blah blah.......here's an idea......leave the rest of us alone and go start your own dang site!
Maybe then you'll see how much hard work it is, and have a little more sympathy for these hard workin mama's behind the scenes!
Yeesh......all you guys and your high horses.
Love you Urbanmama's!

I never thought that any individual urbanMama was perfectly green. Rather, the site as a whole, tends to exemplify green parenting. I would hope each individual mama has her own foibles/guilty indulgences/quirks/whatever--it's what makes you (the uM admins) relatable as people, and it makes me feel better about the bad habits I am trying to change (and the ones I am not trying to change, like chocolate consumption).

My perception of the site, though, is that it is not just a parenting site, but a green parenting site (this perception was reaffirmed reading the key words for the new design). From that perspective, the vitamin water team-up was surprising. I realize now, though, that my perception of this site was incorrect.

Knowing that the goal of uM is to be a parenting site, not a green parenting site pretty much invalidates any objections I had to the sponsorship.

As I am not the only person with this erroneous idea of the site's mission, and as I would hate to lose any of Sarah's valuable greening advice, perhaps the green lifestyle posts could have their own area on the site (kinda like Activistas, but for green parenting).

I think Kat's got a great idea there with a "green parenting" tab. There are times, too, when I have wondered what the focus of uM was -- urban parenting, or green parenting? Both are fantastic focuses, but not being clear on which is primary can potentially get you in ideological hot water with your audience when making sponsorship decisions such as these. (For the record, since you're aiming to be a general PDX parenting site, I've got no bones with your vitaminwater matchup at all. At first, though, I was rather mystified, before the clarification, but heaven knows I'm a walking contradiction myself, so far be it for me to take y'all to task.)

I agree with the last two comments. I think the discussion on this post highlight some of the confusion that continues to make things more volatile than they need to be. Because Sarah strives to be a "green" parent and is also the main writer for the site, that's the feel the site comes with, regardless of how others may feel.

It's amazing the difference that is felt when Olivia and Hau weigh in. This is nothing against Sarah, I appreciate her insights especially when it comes to raising boys with significant challenges and advocating for them in everything. However, I've long though that the site would benefit from more writers/posts with different viewpoints and interests. I realize the urbanmamas are volunteers and I so appreciate the community you continue to support on your own time. I'm sure you have considered this, but what about having guest writers/posters?

I realize this could open up a whole can of worms, hurt feelings about who got chosen, who didn't, self-promotion, etc., but at the end of the day, I think that we all benefit a little more from hearing and reading the worldview and perspectives of others. Just a thought. Once again, thanks so much for what you do and for always being willing to jump in with a clarification!

I'm not sure the issue is one of green-ness. As a reader for about four years, it seems to me that umamas audience tends to accept more conventional ads that support the site - the business-card style ones you see (saw?)on the home page for things like the JBF sale, bella stella, etc. I doubt you'd get any blowback from a similar ad for Vitamin Water. But I've noticed this same audience has revolted when advertisers additional sales techniques adapted for social media, such as offering expensive products or services to be "reviewed" by urbanmamas or otherwise seeking an urbanmamas endorsement. Frankly, it has to do with the feelings of friendship and trust and "we're all in this mom thing together" that the writers of this site cultivate. After all, no one likes to feel manipulated or betrayed by their friends. As a comparison, you probably wouldn't feel offended by product placement in a cooking magazine, or a celebrity endorsement in a late night informercial. But when it comes to certain websites such as this one, it feels far more personal. Of course, that personal feeling is exactly what the social media advertisers are counting on when they seek the endorsement - implicit or explicit - of urbanmamas.

Joan makes a great point. I've noticed that whenever someone openly makes an effort to adopt more eco-conscious practices, people are often very quick to try to find fault with their efforts and malign them as hypocrites. The way people criticized Al Gore for riding in a stretch limo, for example.

Think about this for a minute. This is like saying that nobody should make any effort to adopt a greener lifestyle or advocate for the environment unless they are able to carry it to complete perfection.

We don't really believe that--I'm sure everyone agrees that it's better to do something than to do nothing at all. But we resent it when people make us feel bad about our own habits by setting a better example, and sneering at them a little makes us feel better.

I am just appalled and incensed by all the harsh criticism and flat out nastiness of our valued uMs!!! These mamas, whom I know personally and respect immensely, work tirelessly as full-time moms and earners and in their limited free time have created this FREE website for us mamas as a resource, not a place for you to dump on them and complain about their HTC sponsorship. And for crying out loud, this is their OWN run not yours. Who cares if they're sponsored by Vitamin Water or the devil himself??? If this is the way you treat the women who've been generous enough to create an awesome resource for you, I just wonder how you treat your own kids. I agree with the mom who said if you're so miserable and disappointed in uM, go start your own website of mom's who preach judgment, harassment and closed mindedness.

I love, heart and adore you uMs!!!!!!!!


Quote: "In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage. "
Does this mean that you'd have to be an unreasonable person to think that a product named "vitaminwater," a product that has been heavily and aggressively marketed as a healthy beverage, actually had health benefits?"

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