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Back to the future

Bsides Cheltenham is one of the largest BSides conference in the south west, attracting 300 guests for their 2023 event (if you aren’t familiar with BSides, think TEDx for cyber security and tech).

Run by and for the cyber security community, their goal is to bring everybody in the infosec space together to learn, innovate, and ultimately drive the industry forward.

Each and every BSides event, wherever it takes place, has its own theme, branding and merchandise – and this year’s event for BSides Cheltenham took us Back to the Future.

With limited time, resource and budget, Founder Illyana Mullins knew that she needed to speak to M&M.

Back to the future

The Brief

BSides Cheltenham is run on a not-for-profit basis and is reliant on both volunteers and sponsorship.  With plans to increase the capacity of this year’s event, budgets for merchandise would need to be stretched that extra bit more.

In addition, whilst timescales were tight, the quality of merchandise was important to Illyana, as was a sustainability element.  She was also hoping to match a bottle to a cup she had chosen last year, but didn’t know where to even begin looking.  

The final challenge was the graphic element of BSides Cheltenham’s 2023 branding, namely a retro Rubik’s Cube.  Whilst this bright, colourful imagery was certainly very apt and eye-catching, it was definitely not budget friendly from a production and print perspective.

The approach and the merchandise

In Illyana’s own words, the event merchandise plays a huge part in how BSides Cheltenham brings their community together.

No pressure then!

Having talked through the scope, from budgets and ideas to preferences and timescales, we settled on a collection of four items – a T-Shirt, a drinks bottle, a recycled cotton shopper (always popular) and some Rubik’s Cube shaped stickers.

At M&M, we spend every day sourcing the perfect promotional products, so finding merchandise to meet Illyana’s brief wasn’t hard, including locating that elusive matching bottle and meeting the project’s deadlines.

Ensuring an eco-friendly and sustainable element was also important to Illyana.  But eco is a broad term and we wanted to match our choices to her values, so we chose a bottle made in the UK, from recycled plastic, and picked a reusable cotton shopper that is not only eco-friendly and ethically produced (with traceability from source), it is literally helping change lives by helping to end modern day slavery and empowering women in India.

Now for the clever bit.  By printing the T-Shirts and the bags at the same time and to the same spec, we reduced production costs, meaning that the BSides budget stretched that little bit further.

We had one last thing up our sleeves too, namely our storage solution, meaning we could collate and hold everything securely in one place in the run up to the event.

The approach and the merchandise
The Results

The Results

BSides merchandise is an integral part of the events themselves (often becoming coveted collectors items), and visitors to this year’s BSides Cheltenham weren’t disappointed.

Illyana received great feedback and the quality of the items was a big hit with attendees. We ticked all her boxes, managed to stretch her budget and freed up her valuable time too.

“Community is key to me and M&M being so local was an added bonus” explained Illyana.

“For our first event, I spent hours looking at websites for merchandise without any clear idea of quality or credentials – or what to do if something went wrong. We had issues with quality and issues with shipping.

“This time round, it was all so very easy. From start to finish, the M&M team took care of everything (and gave me a nudge when needed) and we ended up getting a lot more merchandise than we were originally expecting. On top of this, the storage was an absolute lifesaver. I don’t have that much space so knowing everything was being kept safely in one place for me to pick up as and when was such a relief.

“Their extensive experience and supply chain meant we had a cohesive collection of merchandise, that really brought the brand together – something that is important and definitely brings an extra level of excitement to our events. I’ve also spotted our merchandise being used when I’m out and about, which reinforces how well it was received.

So, will Illyana be coming back to M&M next year?

“Without doubt! The whole experience has been quite an eyeopener in terms of how much choice is out there and how much you can do. Our theme for next year’s BSides Cheltenham is robots and I’m already really excited about working together to create a collection of unique items.”

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