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New Swag Collection Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Hocus Pocus

In a Nutshell
  • • Hocus Pocus is a family-friendly Halloween movie that has become a cult classic.
  • • Released by Disney, the merch collection gives fans a fun way to take new joy in the flick.
This merch will cast a spell on you. And it comes just in time for those summer-heat-weary folks (me) starting to crave cozy sweaters, carved pumpkins, and a little cool-weather autumn fun.

The branded merchandise in question is a new collection of promotional products from Disney celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus, a family-friendly Halloween flick. While the movie wasn't a box office hit when released in 1993, it has grown in stature over the years. Indeed, it's now widely watched during the fall in the lead-up to the annual Trick-or-Treat day. Tapping into the movie's latter-day popularity and the current pop penchant for all things 90s', Disney released the Hocus Pocus collection, which includes a journal, spirit jersey for women, T-Shirts, pin set, coffee mug, faux leather bag and more. Here's a look at the merch!

The Sanderson Sisters! Female fans of Hocus Pocus are going to dig this T-Shirt depicting the movie's entertaining antagonists – the witch sisters Winifred, Sarah and Mary. Image from ShopDisney.

This spookily attractive journal references the version of "I Put a Spell On You" that actress Bette Midler leads the singing of in her role as Winifred in a popular scene in Hocus Pocus. Image from ShopDisney.

The Hocus Pocus Spirit Jersey for women references the black candle that plays an important part in the film. "Hocus Pocus" is printed across the shoulders on the back. Image from ShopDisney.

You can start each morning with a little magic with this Hocus Pocus coffee mug. Image from ShopDisney.

The Hocus Pocus Faux Leather Bag is by Loungefly. Image from ShopDisney.

While much of the 25th anniversary merch is aimed at women, male fans weren't left out. This tee helps them express their Hocus Pocus fandom. Image from ShopDisney.

The official pin set. Image from ShopDisney.

Lastly, kudos of The Walt Disney Archives for preserving the below. The costumes are not part of the swag collection, of course, but they're a neat bit of pop culture history that just might put a smile on your face.

Child Prodigy Inspires T-Shirt Brand

From the tip of Walter Champion IV's pencil a hippo roars to vibrant life.

Walter Champion IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order.

The quick strokes and strategic scribbles combine to form a drawing that's deft and detailed – an image that exudes the energy of the alpha animal it represents. The artwork becomes that much more impressive when you realize Walter was four when he drew it. Even more impressive still when you learn the hippo penciling was the inspiration for a T-Shirt brand that has Walter, now 6, installed as creative director.

Juvenile Virtuoso, as the nascent line is called, features Walter's hippo drawing on several styles of T-shirts. It's just the beginning of a tee collection Walter's parents say is aimed at revealing the hidden talents of child artists and supporting a worthy cause. The brand is also a testament to the power of imprinted T-shirts to convey powerful messages with layers of meanings.

"T-shirts are experiencing a renaissance," says Walter's mom Adepeju Champion, who started Juvenile Virtuoso in March with her husband, company president Walter III. "People are using them to display thoughts and feelings and affiliations with different ideas. We wanted to highlight the really beautiful things kids are capable of."

To that end, Juvenile Virtuoso expects to hold three or four new T-shirt releases annually. Child artists will create the graphics. Walter IV will play a lead role in selecting which designs make it onto T-shirts, and occasionally contribute additional designs of his own. A portion of sales will benefit Arts For Healing, a nonprofit organization that provides art therapies for individuals with disabilities. Children affiliated with Arts For Healing will be among the contributing artists. The next release is scheduled for August.

"We want to use T-shirts to do something bigger than just make money," says Walter III, who, like his wife, is a physician. "The whole concept is to encourage kids to pursue art, to show why that's important and what they can do with their abilities. Also, we have a child (Walter's brother William) on the autism spectrum, and we're passionate about supporting a charity like Arts For Healing."

For Walter IV, it's a thrill to see his art on T-shirts, and to view pictures of people wearing his tees on Instagram and Facebook. "He's just amazed that people like what he does," says Walter III. So much so, in fact, that Walter IV takes time to hand-sign cards that are sent out with each T-shirt order in a high-end gift box that also includes Juvenile Virtuoso merch, such as a branded pencil.

"Drawing is something he's used since preschool to calm down his nervous energy," says Adepeju. "All the positive reaction he's received has been a real confidence-builder." Walter IV draws every day at a table in the family home. Animals are his favorite subjects. "Drawing makes me happy," he says.

For now, Juvenile Virtuoso is in the startup stages. Nonetheless, the venture has garnered growing media attention, and Walter III said it's possible that partnerships with retailers and larger-scale production could be pursued. Whether or not that happens, though, the Champions will be happy if Juvenile Virtuoso does some good and inspires children – including their son – to use the potential they possess.

"My favorite part is seeing what our son is going to do next," says Walter III. "I just want to be part of his vision."

The young artist creates designs like these every day.

Shakira Removes Necklace Resembling Nazi Symbol From Merch Collection

In a Nutshell

*Shakira and Live Nation, the company that reportedly designed the controversial necklace, stopped selling the $9.95 piece in the wake of criticism.

*Live Nations said the symbol was based on pre-Colombian imagery and carried no racist intent.

Branded merchandise from pop star Shakira was at the center of controversy because of its use of a symbol that some criticized for bearing a striking resemblance to imagery used by Nazi Germany.

Neither Shakira nor the design's creators intended a connection to the Third Reich or modern day Neo-Nazis. Still, a necklace the singer was offering as part of the merch collection in support of her current Road to El Dorado Tour featured a design similar to a black sun, or sonnenrad. Ancient cultures had used the sunwheel image, but the Nazis appropriated it, inserting a swastika into the inner circle. As German publication Bento pointed out, the mosaic symbol appeared at the Wewelsburg Castle in Germany that later became a home base for Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler and his infamous Schutzstaffel. Twitter users latched onto the connection, and there was public outcry.

Some thought the criticism was overblown.

Live Nation, the events company that reportedly designed the necklace, apologized in tweets.

The necklace had been selling for $9.95, but is no longer available. For promotional products pros, perhaps the lesson here is: Make sure you and your clients fully understand the layers of meaning attached to the graphics, symbols, and logos you put out into the marketplace.

New Service Lets YouTubers Sell Swag From Video Pages

In a Nutshell
  • • The new merch service displays branded products in a shelf below videos –fans click on items to purchase.
  • • Teespring and YouTube get a cut of the sales.

YouTube just took a big step into the promotional products industry – and boosted a competitor to traditional distributors in so doing.

The San Bruno, CA-based company announced last week that creators with more than 10,000 fans can sell branded merchandise directly through their channel on the popular video sharing website. Teespring, a web-based custom merchandise platform, will provide the fulfillment. Creators will be able to offer more than 20 merch items with their custom branding, including T-shirts, phone cases and hats.

As part of the service, branded items will appear in a shelf below participating creators' videos. To buy, a fan simply clicks on a product image in the shelf and is re-directed to Teespring, where they purchase the item. A number of media outlets reported that some YouTube creators already had success with the new swag service during beta testing. The creator of Lucas the Spider, for example, made more than $1 million in profit in about three weeks after selling a plush version of Lucas through the YouTube/Teespring service.

According to Teespring, YouTubers that sold through the merch shelf during beta testing experienced an 82% success rate. In fact, Teespring said conversions from views to sales tested at 2-½ times higher than with the typical YouTuber process for pitching merch on the platform, which essentially involves providing links to online destinations where creators' swag can be bought. Bottom line: It all translated into 25% more units sold per participating user in the limited beta group, data showed.

Given such numbers, it's not a surprise that other YouTubers were keen to get in on the action after YouTube moved to full rollout late last week.

Still, there was some backlash against YouTube's decision to partner with Teespring, which has been at the center of controversy for failing to detect that independent creators were selling everything from swastika/Nazi gear to pro Dylann Roof T-shirts on its platform.

Meanwhile, some critics noted that certain YouTubers already have merch partnerships with other companies and might not desire to use Teespring. YouTube is not requiring creators to use the on-page merch shelf offering, meaning video makers can still plug links to swag-buying destinations as has been done. Admittedly, that might put such creators at a disadvantage. Even so, YouTube is reportedly looking to add more online custom product providers from which creators can sell merch directly through its platform.

For those interested in the financial mechanics, it appears Teespring will retain a flat price per item sold. YouTubers will be able to set the pricing on products so there is potential for mark-up on popular products, which could possibly lead to substantial profit. Teespring's cut can vary per item and on quantity sold. YouTube receives a commission on the sales, but did not reveal the specifics of its compensation.

For Teespring, the partnership with YouTube is a huge win. Laying employees off amid difficult times a few years ago, the web-based merch seller now stands ready to benefit from a potentially massive new revenue channel. Could the exposure Teespring will gain threaten at least some sales for traditional distributors? Could the YouTube/Teespring partnership weaken distributors' ability to compete for the business of YouTubers selling merch? We'll be interested to see how things play out.

Capsule Collection Weds High Fashion With World Cup Spirit

In a Nutshell
  • • Fashion designers created looks for hoodies and T-Shirts to represent nations participating in the 2018 World Cup.
  • • Part of the proceeds benefit a children's charity.

Some mega popular international footballers – soccer players to us Yanks – are known to translate their sporting stardom into being fashion icons off the pitch. Just think of the ever Instagramable David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Given that, the new Soccer Couture collection of printed apparel tied to the 2018 World Cup makes a lot of sense.

The capsule collection is the fruit of a partnership between online fashion retailer Yoox and SEPP, a publication covering soccer/fashion. The pair enlisted fashion designers to create looks to embellish T-Shirts and sweatshirts. Each graphic represents something about the spirit of a nation whose national football team is participating in the World Cup, the international tournament being played now into July. Participating fashionistas include Vivienne Westwood, Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida, and Esteban Cortazar.

Hearteningly, part of the proceeds from sales of the #YOOXSOCCERCOUTURE capsule collection are being donated to Stars for Children, a charitable foundation founded in 2015 by Russian soccer player Alexander Kerzhakov to support kids in need and help them get involved in sports.

Anyway, without further ado, here are a few samples from the collection:

This design from Isolda supports Brazil – the nation that's won the World Cup more than any other (five times). Designers intend the plants and wildlife in the print, which are native to Brazil, to capture the essence of a big multicultural country that is unified by its love of soccer.

Created by Kolor, this design displays the famous Rising Sun of the Japanese flag. Designers said the idea is to show that passion for soccer can connect people, encouraging unity that helps them to become one – like a single rising sun.

This design from Nio Far x Mwami represents Senegal – sadly now eliminated from the tourney. Still, it's a great design, using the symmetry and position of the Senegal lion as a nod to traditional African masks.

Marques'Almeida came up with this creation that takes the brand's penchant for stripes and divvies the concept up into abstract shapes in the striped colors of Portugal's flag.

Let Freedom Ring with Vintage Americana Clothing

In a Nutshell
  • • Retro patriotic styles have an enduring appeal.
  • • Don't limit yourself to Independence Day. There are plenty of opportunities year-round to pitch this trend.

A sea of people in red, white and blue emerge each year to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and festivities. But stars and stripes – particularly with a faded, distressed look – have an unflagging, year-round appeal.

Classic Americana "never goes out of style because it's homegrown and therefore touches on the nostalgic aspect of the unique American spirit," according to the Creative Market blog.

Alternative Apparel (asi/34850) recently released its Americana-inspired apparel line that features the classic red, white and blue in vintage style. The company used a "fabric first" approach to ensure soft, simple and eco-friendly apparel.

"Our Americana collection is the perfect apparel for any [Fourth of July] celebration," says Kevin Miles, director of sales operations for Alternative Apparel. "And beyond our favorite star-studded holiday, the vintage look of these styles is classic and timeless. The elevated stars-and-stripes prints create neutral design elements as a backdrop for embellishment."

Alternative Apparel's Americana collection includes baseball tees, ringer T-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops.

To achieve a Vintage Americana look, designers typically use dusty reds, dirty whites and faded blues. The perfect balance of all three ensures no color overpowers another. Plus, it's more subtle and retro than the bright and vibrant flag motifs typically deployed for the Fourth of July. Think of any design or aesthetic that brings you back to the good old days. Vintage Americana reflects classic cars, 1970s-era John Travolta films and cozy diners from the 1950s.

Vintage Americana has an enduring patriotic feeling, which thrives despite the challenges the U.S. currently faces, according to Lea Robinson, vice president of sales and marketing for Staton Corporate and Casual (asi/89380). "It's a feeling that never goes away, whereas [saturated red, white and blue looks] feel like we are celebrating more in the moment."

The vintage Americana trend has broad appeal across party lines and demographics. After all, "Vintage is ageless," Robinson says.

"It's really the convergence of three well-established trends — the popularity of classic styles like baseball tees and ringer tees, the appeal of the vintage look and feel, and the drive toward authentic brands," Miles says. "It also connects to the idea of sustainability and durability."

Vantage Apparel (asi/93390) has also been capitalizing on the retail trend by applying vintage design to its merchandise. Even the cover page of this year's Vantage Apparel catalog is rendered in red, white and blue.

"Our design team spent a lot of time researching trends and putting together different ideas for this year's merchandise," says Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage. "We decided on something that would show different colors and patterns that would work for various companies. The colors red, white and blue were up there and we saw an opportunity to go beyond the basic idea."

The Vansport Zen Pullover (3450 men's, 3451 women's) from Vantage Apparel

A screen print with a vintage Americana feel by Vantage Apparel.

This Gildan Fleece Hoodie with Custom Color Draw Cord features decoration with a vintage Americana feel.

Vantage Apparel has also explored the idea of adding the stars and stripes pattern within the fill of a logo to give it a patriotic look. Even clients that have strict logo guidelines have options: "Adding the company established date to a logo or using a small flag as a second placement are easy ways to put a heritage spin to apparel," Barreca says.

The company also recommends screen printing with soft-hand inks and distressed art filters to achieve the vintage and nostalgic aspect of the Americana theme. Soft cotton-rib appliqué also fits with the vintage Americana look.

For J. America (asi/62977), vintage styles have been surfacing in the past few years. Steve Zimmerman, vice president of sales, says that vintage designs continue to be a staple of the company's assortment, because "they are timeless." J. America recently introduced vintage Americana to its Top of the World headwear collection, by adding a vintage wash to the fabric.

Vintage Americana evokes a classic, nostalgic and retro feeling in the wearer. Showing off samples in that style will help you get that message across to clients, Miles says. "Create a trend sheet that captures vintage Americana styles from runways to retail displays," he suggests.

Though vintage Americana is a perfect fit for Independence Day, there's no need to retire the style after the fireworks fizzle and the picnics peter out. Opportunities to use the retro motif abound, suppliers say.

"Our country has gotten very patriotic the last couple of decades, not that we hadn't been prior to then," Zimmerman says. "Between our national holidays, sporting events, the agriculture market and what now seems to be endless election campaigning across the country, there are numerous opportunities for distributors and decorators to work with end users on Americana themes year round."

J. America introduced vintage Americana styling to its headwear collection.

Techdirt Promotional Products Based On Declassified NSA Security Posters

Techdirt is an influential blog that delivers keen insights into technology's legal challenges and related business and economic policy issues.

The Techdirt team is also pretty savvy when it comes to spotting an opportunity for clever promotional products that, in their way, augment the blog's brand and help it to raise funds to support its mission.

Case-in-point: Government Attic recently filed a Freedom of Information Request that resulted in the release of posters the National Security Agency (NSA) made in the 1950s and 60s to remind employees about security. After Techdirt got feedback about the posters, they decided to reproduce the prints on T-Shirts, hooded sweatshirts and coffee mugs. The branded merchandise has been on offer in the blog's swag store on Teespring. All profits from sales of the merch support Techdirt's ongoing reporting on copyright, technology and innovation.

A Techdirt T-Shirt based on an old NSA security poster. See this print on a mug and hoodie here.

The use of once classified information as swag is a nice match for the Techdirt brand. After all, the blog is focused on journalistic digging – on delving deep to uncover the real roots of important issues at the intersection of technology, business and related economics.

Also, quite honestly, the merch is cool in a retro way that we dig. Check out a few examples below.

See this print on a T-Shirt and hoodie here.

See this print on a T-Shirt and mug here.

See this print on a T-Shirt and hoodie here.

See this print on a hoodie and mug here.

Promotional Products Part of Historic TrumpKim Summit

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un are set to engage in historic face-to-face talks regarding possible nuclear disarmament of North Korea in Singapore. While the potential geopolitical implications are beyond our humble scope, we thought we'd mention this: There are promotional products tied to the summit – perhaps not a surprise given the global interest in the event.

The Straits Times, an English language broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore, had the below prefilled, single-use water bottle on offer:

At least some folks were eager to get their hands on summit swag:

Others disparaged The Straits Times summit-branded merchandise:

Additionally, Los Angeles Times reported that, on the ground in Singapore, there were cardboard fans and coffee cups that showed depictions of Trump and Kim. BBC Asia Bureau Chief Imelda Flattery noted that the summit's media center had summit-branded coffee cups:

Back in May, in anticipation of an earlier round of proposed talks between Trump and Kim that were cancelled, the White House Communications Agency was selling a coin – or medallion since it has no currency value. It was to commemorate the meeting:

It appears there will be more coins/medallions. The White House Gift Shop was making new commemorative coins available for pre-order as of Monday. The gift shop website said images of the first coin – apparently there will be another as well for a series of three -- would be released on Tuesday June 12th. Coins were expected to begin shipping Aug. 1.

Beyond the merch, there's a bit of a surreal atmosphere surrounding the summit between two of the world's most controversial leaders. For example, people were lining up in Singapore to take pictures with Kim and Trump impersonators. Pics reportedly cost $11.

Another element kicking the "What the heck?" factor of the summit into overdrive was the fact that Dennis Rodman, the eccentric former NBA star, was traveling to Singapore. Rodman says he is a friend of Trump and Kim. He was going to Singapore as part of a promotional push for a digital currency for the cannabis industry. While certainly not expected to figure in the talks, Rodman was offering to be a facilitator for Trump and Kim:

Los Angeles Times reported that about 2,500 members of the media have registered for the summit. That's the largest contingent ever hosted in Singapore, according to The Straits Times.

Promotional Products Were Everywhere At Wizard World Comic Con

From free swag to swanky branded merchandise, Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia abounded with promotional products. There was everything from official logoed event gear for purchase, to giveaways from a variety of vendors and exhibitors, including household name brands like Xfinity and 5-hour Energy.

Held Thursday through Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, the pop culture event featured talented comic book artists, unique toys and comics for sale, in-person autograph signings from celebrities such as Sebastian Stan, Elijah Wood, Jason Momoa, Sean Astin, and Henry Winkler, and much more. I swung by to check out the merch on offer (tough gig, I know). Here's what I found…and a saber fight…keep scrolling...

First up, official Wizard World Comic Con branded merchandise! As you can see in these first four photos, wearables, totes, drawstring backpacks and lanyards were part of the mix.

DKMS is a nonprofit that helps blood cancer patients find matching donors. To get Comic Con attendees engaged with its mission, the group came up with what the best giveaway I spotted from an exhibitor: This branded cape. It's a perfect product to connect with the superhero-loving Comic Con crowd. DKMS was also giving out the below earbuds in a branded clear plastic slide-open pouch.

Xfinity was promoting HBO GO with the above hat, which attendees were snapping up. Xfinity, which offers cable, internet, telephone and wireless services, also co-branded with Wizard World on the below freebie tote. Neat aside: Xfinity had screenprinters creating totes on the spot.

You could get these 5-hour Energy sunglasses by participating in a basketball shootout game at 5-hour's tent booth, which had a real-world game set similar to this for the hoops fun.

A super friendly woman at The Lasik Vision Institute table asked me if I was interested in Lasik surgery. I felt bad telling her not really, but she was still nice enough to give me this credit card holder to slap on the back of my phone.

Lots of parents attend Wizard World Comic Con with their kids. It makes sense then for a charter school like Commonwealth Charter Academy to promote at the event. As part of the effort, Commonwealth was handing out free pens, drawstring totes, dog-shaped stress toys, and info cards with a friendly dog mascot.

Army recruiters had a table at the event, too. The guys were very friendly and insisted I take this water bottle and keychain. I was happy to oblige.

A fair share of movie promoting was going on, and there were various types of swag to support the hype-push. I scored these Teen Titans buttons at a booth after playing a little game. To get the buttons – or potentially other movie-themed freebies – you spun a game wheel. You got whatever swag item the wheel fell still upon.

TV station PHL17 was promoting itself. By liking the station on Facebook, you were entered for a chance to win one of these fun show shirts, I was told.

Well, T-Mobile wasn't about to let itself be missed, was it?

Dudes from The Saber Legion, an international saber combat organization as it were, had quite the duel. I didn't record to the end because it went on a bit (sorry), but the fellow in all black emerged victorious (I'm pretty sure).

Trend Alert: Clear Tote Bags

Clear tote bags are the rage of the runways – which means the trend could soon be sweeping the promotional products industry too.

While the roots of clear tote bags might be utilitarian, some high fashion labels have suddenly fell in love with them, creating astoundingly expensive offerings in the category. The Prada tote below is a great example of the trend. It was retailing online at Nordstrom recently for $1,040 before selling out.

Made in Italy from PVC, the transparent tote features Prada's black logo print across the front and a white canvas trim. In a little nod to privacy, the push-stud top closure reveals a detachable zip-fastening pouch for storing essentials out of sight.

Meanwhile, this transparent Kara PVC Pinch Tote is another example of transparency couture. It retails for $325 at – hardly even the cost of a lunchtime appetizer for your average Manhattan billionaire.

For those of us sitting in the proletarian seats, though, there's good news. You can still get in on the namebrand clear tote trend for a relatively reasonable price. Urban Outfitters offers this tote for $25.

Interestingly, the high-fashion transparent trend extends beyond totes into other bag categories, including reusable shopping bags. The bag below is an exclusive collaboration between Voo Store and Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons. Available for about $180, the bag includes a dustbag that can also be used as an inner compartment.

Given the popularity of clear bags in fashion circles, promotional product distributors should anticipate that demand from clients in the promo space will increase, too. And who knows – the trend could proliferate well beyond bags altogether, if this tweet from Prada is a clue.

Lego Lovers Crowded Expo Center for Merch, Memories

Lego enthusiasts of all ages crowded into the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, on April 21 and 22 to enjoy Brick Fest Live!, which bills itself as the #1 Lego event in the U.S. The show featured feats of artistry and engineering, including detailed cityscapes, working miniature rollercoasters, a life-size statue of Darth Vader and a lovingly rendered replica of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" – all crafted from the colorful plastic bricks that have been a toy chest necessity for decades.

The event was also an opportunity for vendors to peddle Lego-themed merch, from vintage building sets to apparel and accessories decorated with actual Legos. At the official Brick Fest Live! Booth, attendees could purchase a $20 #BrickSwag box, which included a T-shirt, flashlight keychain and a mystery minifigure. Other booths were selling caps modified with Lego baseplates, allowing wearers to customize to their heart's content. Several entrepreneurs had crafted hair clips, bracelets, earrings and bow ties out of Legos. There were even brick-shaped pillows and molded chocolate lollipops.

The Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School also set up a booth at the expo to share information about its virtual summer camps. To help build goodwill and boost name recognition, the school was giving away a slew of promotional products. Children could spin a wheel, and receive a branded foam stress brick, backpack, temporary tattoo, chip clip or other prize.

Brick Fest Live! heads next to New York City in July, then stops in Pasadena, CA, in August and Houston in October. Check out some of the highlights from the Philadelphia show below.

Hawaii Bans Certain Types of Sunscreens

Hawaii's state legislature has passed a bill that bans sunscreens containing chemicals that can reportedly damage coral reefs – a new regulation that could impact sales of branded sunscreen.

Senate Bill 2571, passed on Tuesday, prevents the sale and distribution of sunscreen that has oxybenzone and octinoxate, unless prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider. If Governor David Ige signs the legislation into law, the prohibition would take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Should the ban become law, promo distributors and suppliers could no longer provide sunscreen containing the blacklisted chemicals in the Aloha State. What's more, the Hawaiian ban could resonate to the U.S. mainland, possibly influencing some would-be buyers of branded sunscreen to seek natural options that are perceived as better for the environment – or to avoid purchasing sunscreen altogether in fear their brand will be perceived as a polluter.

Found in popular sunscreen brands like Coppertone and Hawaiian Tropic, oxybenzone and octinoxate contribute to coral bleaching, studies show. For example, a recent study from the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that chemicals in sunscreen kill coral and result in DNA damage in larval and adult stage coral. The impact on DNA limits coral's ability to grow and develop healthily. Coral bleaching was reportedly a cause behind widespread destruction of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. According to researchers, about 14,000 tons of sunscreen glop onto coral reefs annually. Sunscreen concentrations were found to be among the highest in the world on the beaches of Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Certain environmental organizations praised legislators for passing the bill.

"Hawaii's reefs have been slowly dying over the past 20 years, and that death spiral has been accelerating with the impact of El Niño-induced mass bleaching events and increased local pollution impacts from both tourism and development," Craig Downs, the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, told The New York Times. "Everyone has come together to support this legislation, from local nurses and doctors, to resorts and airlines, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of new sunscreen companies to supply reef-safer products."

Of course, the ban had opponents, too. Traditional sunscreen manufacturers pointed out that the chemicals are FDA-approved and important ingredients for protecting people from skin cancer. Ban opponents also included the Hawaii Medical Association. The association expressed worry that the prohibition could encourage people to reduce the degree to which they wear sunscreen – a concern given the heightened risk for skin cancer that comes with not using sunscreen.

Forbes reports that mounting public pushback against sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate has opened the door for a niche market focused on natural sunscreens made in Hawaii. "Tourists and locals on the islands can find Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen, Mama Kuleana Reef, and the mainland All Good products," wrote Geologist Trevor Nace for Forbes. Of course, chemicals found in sunscreens are far from the only pollutant causing problems for coral reefs. Ocean warming, agricultural runoff and sewage dumping also are weakening and killing reefs, research shows.

Promotional Products Opportunity: Canadian Premier League Reveals Official Logo

Canada is ready for its own kickabout. And now it has some branding in place to show it means business.

The Canadian Premier League is expected to begin play in the spring of 2019. It will be a FIFA-sanctioned, top-level, Canada-specific fully professional soccer league. While play hasn't begun yet, the league recently revealed its official logo – a crest of attractive green and blues.

As the CPL explains, Canada's people and natural beauty inspired the crest. Certainly some thought went into it:

"The North Star acts as a guiding light for the game of soccer in Canada, acting as a beacon for talent within our borders. The four rings portray a soccer ball, our coasts, and the earth formed out of a stylized time lapse of a star field. The maple leaf is comprised of many parts, which is a reflection of the diversity within our country."

Some soccer fans were already chiming in to say that the CPL logo is superior to the crest for Major League Soccer – the top professional soccer league in the U.S. MLS features several Canadian teams, too.

The CPL also released an all-red version of the league emblem. Teams will wear the crest of red – Canada's traditional color, of course -- on their uniforms on Canada Day. They'll also don the red logo during the Canadian Championship and when playing in the CONCACAF Champions league – an international tournament that features professional clubs teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The CPL expects to begin play with 8 to 10 teams. Teams will reportedly be owned and operated, at least in part, by a mix of National Hockey League and Canadian Football League ownership groups. The league aims to foster and enhance Canadian soccer talent, as this promo video details.

For promotional product distributors, learning about the CPL's crest is an interesting case study in how a logo can be crafted to invoke the intended essence of a brand in a way that resonates with target audiences. What's more, it's a heads-up that there could soon be new opportunities to provide branded merchandise for teams in the forthcoming professional league. So far, it's confirmed that there will be teams in Hamilton, ON and Winnipeg, MB. Reports suggest there could be teams in Halifax, Calgary and the York Region as well, among others.

Even if you don't score orders directly with teams, distributors and/or decorators could hit the back of the net on any number of ancillary promo deals, such as providing scarves and T-shirts for fledging supporters' groups or soccer-related swag for pubs that want to be the go-to spot for fans to watch CPL matches. No doubt Canadian footy fans are already excited:

Pantone Creates New Wine-Inspired Color

Wine has helped fuel many an artist's creative endeavors. And now, a particular wine is the muse behind a new unique color from the Pantone Color Institute.

Pantone partnered with Valspar Paint and Laithwaite's Wine to develop English Sparkling Laithwaite's Wine. The color takes its inspiration from the shade of Wyfold Vineyard by Barbara Laithwaite -- one of England's most awarded sparkling wines.

Pantone said English Sparkling is "a subtle and stylishly elegant, creamy hue that quietly expresses effervescence and good taste. Young in spirit and timeless in its appeal, this natural off-white shade conveys feelings of spring freshness and modernity. Carrying an undertone of pleasantness and geniality, the inherent warmth of Laithwaite's Wine English Sparkling creates a sparkling yet soothing presence."

Available as paint from Valspar, the new hue could harbinger forthcoming color trends in the apparel world – something promotional product distributors whose clients have fashion-forward tastes and audiences will want to be aware of.

"English Sparkling is more than just a new shade of Valspar paint. Like every bespoke color we mix, it's about eternalizing a personal feeling, a moment in time, a memory," said Kasia Wiktorowicz, marketing communications manager at Valspar. "For us, this color is reminiscent of a warm laughter-filled summer's evening, enjoying an English Sparkling wine with close friends and family."

The new hue is also serving to promote English sparkling wine, elevating it into the official pantheon of color terminology in a manner akin to continental rivals like "burgundy" and "champagne."

"Just as burgundy and champagne are very well-known terms for colors, it's now time for English Quality Sparkling Wine to take center stage," David Thatcher, CEO of Laithwaite's Wine, was quoted as saying. "Creating an official color is a great way of acknowledging the ever-growing popularity of the English wine industry around the world."

Minnesota Twins & Princes Estate Launching Merch Line

Purple Rain is going to fall during Minnesota Twins games this baseball season.

The Twins have struck a deal to sell Prince-branded merchandise throughout the year at their stadium in Minneapolis – Target Field. Items, which will include hats, shirts, pins, patches and balls, will go on sale at the Twins home opener on April 5th. The StarTribune reported that the co-branding deal could be the first of its kind for a Major League Baseball team.

Why the Twins and Prince? Simple: The international best-selling musical artist was from Minneapolis. "Along with our fans, we look forward to celebrating the legacy of a man who brought an international spotlight to our great city," Twins CEO Dave St. Peter told the StarTribune.

For the second year in a row, the Twins will also host a special Prince Night. During the June 8 game against the Los Angeles Angels, additional Prince merchandise will be on offer. Game attendees who purchase a Prince Theme Night package will receive a Twins/Prince co-branded hat.

Attribution: Minnesota Twins

Perhaps most interestingly for Prince Night, there will be a special giveaway – inflatable purple guitars in the shape of Prince's famous symbol that will also display Twins branding. During the 7th inning stretch, the 10,000 folks lucky enough to have scored the limited edition guitar giveaway will be encouraged to stand and illuminate the item – a show of remembrance and respect to the hometown musical genius who passed away in 2016.

Attribution: Minnesota Twins

Who knows, the inflatable purple guitar could become a sought-after bit of merch. After all, the umbrellas the Twins provided fans on Prince Night in 2017 were being offered for as much as $220 on eBay.

Attribution: eBay

For those curious about the nuts and bolts of the co-branding deal, it seems that Delaware North Sportservice, the Twins' retail provider, negotiated it with Bravado – the company handling the merchandising and branding for Prince's estate. The word from the Twins is that Prince's family is cool with the merchandising.

The Bobblehead Tax: Cincinnati Reds Court Case Could Impact Promo Industry

The Cincinnati Reds, Ohio tax officials and branded game-day merchandise like player bobbleheads are at the center of an intriguing court case that could send reverberations throughout the promotional products world.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to consider an appeal from the Reds. The Major League Baseball team argues that state tax officials have no legal basis to demand the payment of $88,000 in taxes tied to Reds-branded promotional products that the team provided to fans on game days between 2008 and 2010. The Ohio Department of Taxation, however, is doing just that, saying the Reds owe the levy.

The Reds contend that they're entitled to a resale exception/exemption because they're reselling the items as part of advertised ticket sales. Ohio law exempts companies from paying tax on items they buy to resell.

Lawyers for the Reds explained their position: Team officials identify certain games on the schedule they suspect fans won't be as interested in attending. To beef up ticket sales to such contests, the team advertises – and then provides – bobbleheads, player cards and other Reds-themed memorabilia as part of a fan's ticket purchase. "The price paid for the ticket includes consideration for the promotional item," Reds attorneys say in a court filing. "Accordingly, the Reds purchase of such items is exempt from tax since the items are resold to game attendees."

Ohio tax officials take an altogether different view. They say the Reds didn't resell the promotional items as part of the ticket price, but rather gave them away for free to increase interest in games. As such, the state tax commissioner contends that the promotional items should be taxed because the Reds bought the products to be distributed as freebies and are not, in fact, part of a ticket sale.

To support their position, tax officials say that the ticket price for each particular seat is the same throughout the season, whether a promo item is offered or not. Furthermore, not all patrons are guaranteed that they will get promo merch for a game in which it's advertised because supplies are limited. Relatedly, if a game attendee decides she doesn't want, say, a bobblehead, then her ticket isn't discounted. Given all that, the state Board of Tax Appeals denied an appeal from the Reds.

"We conclude that the Reds have not provided this board with competent and probative evidence in support of the position that it does not owe the assessed tax," board members wrote in their ruling. "It is the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals that the decision of the tax commissioner must be affirmed."

The Reds decided to appeal to the state Supreme Court. There the case rests, awaiting an initial hearing.

Depending on how the court rules, the case could have sweeping implications for the promotional products industry. Should the court side with tax officials, will teams and other businesses in Ohio be discouraged from investing in branded merchandise for game-day promotions and, indeed, other events because they don't want to pay taxes on the items? Could an Ohio ruling in favor of the tax commissioner's findings influence other states to enforce similar actions? Stay tuned.

Beach Town Considers Towel Ban

A tiny coastal town on Italian island Sardinia has proposed a ban on beach towels and large beach bags, in an effort to preserve the sand dunes at La Pelosa beach. The popular Mediterranean beach attracts thousands of tourists each day during peak season, many of whom leave with sand-caked accessories.

"We didn't come up with the idea of banning towels," Stintino Mayor Antonio Diana told La Repubblica. "The entire plan is based on scientific studies that indicate towels as one of the biggest dangers, since when they're damp they retain a lot of sand. This isn't some airy-fairy idea."

Instead of towels, beachgoers would be able to rent folding chairs, mats and reusable see-through bags.

La Pelosa is also scheduled for a number renovations to begin after the summer of 2019, including removing the road that leads to the beach and replacing it with pedestrian paths and bicycle lanes. The plan also calls for installing a new raised walkway along the beach to keep pedestrians off the sand dunes.

Last year, La Pelosa was ranked one of the top 10 beaches in Italy by Trip Advisor. Diana said he's not ruling anything out to protect and preserve the popular beach.

Backlash Over Walmart T-Shirts Portraying Negative Ethnic Stereotype

A New York man of Irish ancestry is calling for a boycott of Walmart's online store because the retailer's website is selling St. Patrick's Day-themed tees that feature images and messaging that promote negative stereotypes about Irish people being drunks.

After Kevin Westley, a radio show host and Irish dance instructor from Long Island, found a slew of shirts on that bore such portrayals, he began calling for the boycott. A search for "St. Patrick's Day shirts drunk" on makes it evident that Westley isn't making things up. See pictures below for examples from the site.

Back in 2015, Westley took up a similar cause when he bought hundreds of St. Patrick's Day T-shirts with stereotypical portrayals that were on sale at his local Walmart – just to clear them from the shelves. He then returned the tees on March 18. Westley's actions gained ample media attention and led at least a couple Walmarts in his area to desist in carrying such shirts.

Still, tees like "Kiss Me I'm Irish or Drunk or Whatever" and "Loud Proud Drunk Irish" remain available for purchase on And, Westley wants to change that.

"All stereotypes are bad, regardless what group they demean," Westley states, according to IrishCentral. "Think of the thousands of job or housing opportunities that have been lost because of them. If you agree with me, please call Walmart corporate office on their toll-free line at 1-800-925-6278. Better yet, 'contact' them at and let them know what you think about these T-shirts."

Westley has stated that, so far, Walmart has not replied to him.

IrishCentral has thrown support behind Westley, and encouraged site visitors to confront other retailers about St. Patrick's Day-related merchandise they find offensive. Suggestions include asking stores to remove the merchandise, while explaining that St. Patrick's Day is a holy day in Ireland and asking stores if they "would sell offensive stereotypical T-shirts for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Puerto Rican Day, St. Joseph's Day, etc."

If retailers refuse to remove the merchandise, IrishCentral suggests taking a page from Westley's book and buying up the merch, then returning it after St. Patrick's Day.

Company Aims To Revolutionize The 'Swag Bag'

Another disruptor has entered the promotional products industry, with her sights set on revolutionizing the swag bag. How? With what some are calling the anti-swag swag bag.

Lynne Lambert is the founder of the popular NYC Subway Line collection of mass-transit merchandise. From T-shirts and hoodies to hats and backpacks, her brand of clothing and accessories pays tribute to the Big Apple and all of its iconic elements. She has taken that same geographical approach with her new company: Mapt Gear.

"Many of us are not comfortable being a free walking advertisement for a company," Lambert told Adweek, "and many companies aren't doing anything more than putting logos in big text across the products. So I think there's room for a very tasteful product to come in."

Using a license to access a cartographic library, Mapt Gear imprints canvas totes with maps that pinpoint the location of a brand's headquarters -- or its various locations, or even the location of a conference it's having. The idea is that the image of an antique map with a pushpin will arouse enough curiosity and interest in a company without splashing its logo all over a product. However, the customizable map does leave enough room for a brand's name or logo – done subtly.

New York-based Mapt Gear currently offers three styles: a Gucci Nylon messenger bag, a 100% cotton tote bag and a silky 100% Poly/Canvas tote bag. Also available is a "Pad-Folio" iPad case made of vegan leather. If Mapt Gear generates sufficient interest from corporate clients, Lambert says she'll expand the product line.

Religious Freedom, Anti-Gay Discrimination Collide In Court Case Over T-Shirts

A Kentucky apparel decorating company and the imprinted T-shirts the business declined to print for a gay pride festival are at the center of a renewed court battle that pits arguments for freedom of conscience and religion against accusations of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

The case involving Hands On Originals (asi/219413), a Lexington, KY-based company that specializes in producing branded apparel for Christian organizations, schools and others, is before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Blaine Adamson

Last May, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hands On Originals (HOO), a verdict that marked the second court victory for the company, which previously prevailed in 2015 in the Fayette Circuit Court. Nonetheless, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission appealed the 2017 ruling and the case is now to be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The issue began in 2012 when the Lexington-based Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) asked HOO to print shirts for its pride festival. HOO Owner Blaine Adamson declined the order, saying that printing shirts that bear certain messaging would conflict with his conscience and religious beliefs as a devout Christian. Adamson has said that he offered up another print shop that would produce the order for the same price.

In reaction to Adamson's refusal, the GLSO filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission and HOO was charged with violating Lexington's fairness ordinance, which, in part, prevents businesses open in a public forum from discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.

An initial ruling went against HOO, but that decision was reversed in the subsequent Fayette Circuit Court decision, reports show. In that 2015 ruling, Judge James D. Ishmael cited Kentucky's religious freedom statue and stated that Adamson was not refusing the GLSO as would-be customers because of their sexual orientation, but because he objected to the message on the T-shirt. "It is clear beyond dispute that HOO and its owners declined to print the T-shirts in question because of the message advocating sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman," Ishmael wrote. "The well-established Constitutional rights of HOO and its owners on this issue are well settled." In 2017, the appeals court ruled that HOO's right to free speech supersedes Lexington's fairness ordinance.

In the latest court battle, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently filed a legal brief in support of HOO, saying Kentucky's constitution ensures freedom of conscience. "Requiring (HOO's) owners to engage in speech with which they disagree is a violation of their freedom of conscience, and we are hopeful that the Kentucky Supreme Court will reaffirm this bedrock of Kentucky's constitutional charter," said Steve Pitt, Bevin's general counsel, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Josh Mers, chairman of Lexington Fairness, an organization that works for fairness and equality in Kentucky, told the Lexington Herald Leader that arguments for freedom of conscience are a "tired old message" that do not have bearing on the HOO case. "I think the most disappointing part is that the governor has decided to add the political aspect to the case by weighing in as the Governor of Kentucky," said Mers, who is running for a seat in Kentucky's state house.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Adamson and his company. In a video posted to ADF's YouTube account, Adamson explained his reasons for declining the order from GLSO.

Also, in an online commentary, Adamson has said: "I've happily served and employed people of all backgrounds, of all walks of life.... I have gay customers and employ gay people. For example, we have printed materials for a local band called Mother Jane whose lead singer is a lesbian. That was never a problem for us because ... we'll work with everyone, but we can't print all messages." Adamson added that he has declined other orders, including one for "a simple black shirt with white text that read, 'Homosexuality is a sin.'…I don't think that's how Jesus would have handled the issue; Jesus would have balanced grace and truth."

Elon Musks Branded Flamethrower: The Hottest Promotional Product In The World

Elon Musk is a lot of things: genius, billionaire, pioneering entrepreneur, cracker-jack hat salesman. Now, he can add another eye-opening entry to his ever-growing list of impressive epithets – purveyor of the most dangerous (but hella cool, some would say) promotional product in the world.

Last weekend, The Boring Co., of which Musk is CEO, began taking pre-orders for flamethrowers branded with the company name. You read that correctly: flamethrowers.

Through early afternoon Tuesday East Coast time, The Boring Company had reportedly pre-sold about 15,000 flamethrowers – a figure that amounts to approximately $7.5 million in sales.

In announcing the branded flamethrowers, Boring Co. pitched the items as "guaranteed to liven up any party." Indeed, Musk was having fun on Twitter promoting the fire-spewing device. Amid tweets that gave a running tally of the number of pre-orders, Musk inserted funny "pitches" that included "Great for roasting nuts" before adding later, "Obviously, a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don't buy one...Unless you like fun."

After tweeting that flamethrowers would come in handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse, Musk felt the need to address some scuttlebutt that was making the rounds: "The rumor that I'm secretly creating a zombie apocalypse to generate demand for flamethrowers is completely false," he tweeted, with a chuckle no doubt.

While Musk and Boring Co. were hyping the flamethrower with jokes and humor, not everyone was laughing. Boring Co. is based in California, where rampant wildfires wreaked havoc in 2017, scorching vast tracts of land and claiming lives. In the wake of such tragedy, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles criticized the flamethrowers, saying they could be a public health hazard. "We've just gone through some catastrophic fires in California," he told The Los Angeles Times. "It's a bad joke."

Still, sales of the flamethrowers were continuing to climb. The same consumer frenzy flashed out during Musk's earlier venture into promotional products with The Boring Company (which incidentally is focused on infrastructure and tunnel construction). Late last year, Musk started selling Boring Co.-branded hats. By mid-December, Boring Co. had sold more than 35,000 of the ball caps, generating $700,000. The LA Times reported this week that Boring Co. has now sold about 50,000 hats.

One thing's for sure, if Musk ever is looking for another new field to enter, he certainly has a future in promotional product sales.

Grumpy Cat Wins Copyright Case

Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, the feline face that launched a thousand memes, just had his day in court – and won. The sour puss was awarded $710,000 in damages in a California copyright case, after a beverage company used the cat's likeness for unauthorized purposes.

Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, has millions of followers on social media, hobnobs with celebrities and even has an animatronic likeness at Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London. Owner Tabatha Bundesen created Grumpy Cat Limited to capitalize on her pet's popularity after her brother posted Tardar Sauce's pic on Reddit, back in 2012. The cat's famous frown is likely caused by feline dwarfism and an under bite.

In 2013, Grenade Beverage, owned by father and son Nick and Paul Sandford, struck a $150,000 deal to market iced "Grumppuccinos," bearing the cat's likeness on the packaging. However, Grenade also began using the Grumpy Cat image on its roasted coffee and on T-shirts, neither of which had been agreed upon, according to the lawsuit.

Grenade filed a countersuit, claiming Grumpy Cat didn't promote the brand as promised in the original deal. However, the jury ultimately sided with the cat.

Grumpy Cat's lawyer, David Jonelis of Lavely & Singer, told TheWrap that this was a precedent-setting case. "It's the first verdict ever rendered in favor of a viral meme," he added. "Memes have rights too."

Imprinted Tees Commemorate Missile Attack

What do you do in the wake of a missile attack scare?

Make cheeky T-shirts to commemorate the event, apparently.

Indeed, a day after Hawaii issued false alarms that a ballistic missile was rocketing toward the state in the Pacific Ocean, a shop in Honolulu began selling tees that ironically acknowledged the scare.

As you can see below, the shirts say, "I Survived the Hawaii Ballistic Missile." The image of the shirts in the shop is courtesy of Alastair Gale, The Wall Street Journal's Japan editor.

The Honolulu store was far from the only retail entity eager to capitalize on the false alarm with T-shirts. A quick Google search revealed similarly themed tees for sale on sites that included Amazon, Redbubble, and Etsy.

As you've probably heard, the missile attack was really no such thing. A worker at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency accidentally issued an alert that a missile was inbound. The message caused pervasive panic, fueled particularly by increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Some 40 minutes after the alert went out, Hawaiian officials issued a second message saying that the first message was a false alarm.

Following the jolt, some islanders were clearly ready to dispel the excess nervous energy with a little humor – as evidenced by the T-shirts. It seems there really can be a T-shirt for every occasion these days.

Ice Cream Fit for a Jedi

The force is sweet with this one.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the latest film in the Star Wars pantheon, is set to begin playing in U.S. theaters on December 15. An Everest-sized swell of branded merchandise is expected to support the film. For fans with a sweet tooth, a favorite among the merch could very well be a new Star Wars-branded offering from Ample Hills Creamery.

In a licensed collaboration with Disney and Lucasfilm, the Brooklyn, NY-based ice cream maker has created three limited-edition flavors that celebrate Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Inspired by the heroes, villains and enduring themes of the iconic film franchise, the interstellar ice cream is available in a three-pack that includes a specially designed, limited-edition pint of each of the three flavors. If that weren't a sweet enough deal (pun intended), there's also this: Each three-pack ships in a specially designed box with a punch-out X-wing fighter.

Here is Ample Hills' description of the flavors:

  • First Order: A celebration of the monolithic, fierce power of the First Order. Embrace relentless villainy with this salted deep dark chocolate ice cream, made with intense cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate and a dash of powerful espresso.
  • Resistance: A celebration of the spirit and determination of the motley band of resistance fighters, it's a brown sugar and vanilla bean ice cream with a wild assortment of mix-ins: passionate, fiery red velvet ooey gooey butter cake, hard-edged toffee pieces and spirited, hopeful mini-marshmallows.
  • The Force: A celebration of the power and beauty of the Jedi. Bring balance to the Force with the harmony and serenity of this sweet cream ice cream (the light side), but beware the seductive swirls of rich chocolate fudge (the dark side) – an epic conflict set against a galaxy of white and dark chocolate pearls.

We don't think were the only ones whose tummies are grumbling with nerdy anticipation after hearing those descriptions.

Ample Hills says the limited-edition ice cream should be available at least through the end of March 2018, but you might want to act fast. As Bloomberg reported, Ample Hills also made two special ice cream flavors for the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Light Side and The Dark Side, as the ice cream offerings were called, sold out faster than an A-wing Starfighter.

New Stranger Things Merch Collection Is Off-Beat 80s Nostalgia Perfection

'80s nostalgia and an intoxicatingly dark storyline with elements of sci-fi and horror have earned the Netflix series Stranger Things a loyal – and growing – following of devoted fans.

Now, with season two launching last weekend, Netflix has teamed up with retailer BoxLunch to create a new collection of branded merchandise that seeks to capitalize on the enthusiasm around the show.

Inspired by scenes and '80s-tastic styling cues from the first and current season, BoxLunch and Netflix are offering a capsule collection of apparel, accessories and collectibles, some pieces of which you can see below.

For the uninitiated, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, IN, in the 1980s. The plot centers on the investigation of a disappearance of a young boy and supernatural events that include a young girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps the missing child's friends in their search for their friend. The second season picks up the story a year after the events of the first season.

If you haven't yet indulged in binge-watching the show, give it a look and you'll see why so many people have done just that. And, why they're so excited about the new merch collection, which includes a Stranger Things Holiday Sweater; Hawkins High Crewneck and Duffle Bag; the '80s-arcade styled Pixel Tee and Merrill's Farm Tee; and three additional shirts that feature imagery from Season Two. Plus, there is a trio of limited-edition Madrid Skateboard decks and a line-up of Funko Pop! vinyl figures.

Just as cool, Strangers Things is spawning ancillary merch opportunities. As the StarTribune reports, fans are going bonkers over the retro purple sweatshirt from the Science Museum of Minnesota that character Dustin wore on the show. Sharp to spot an opportunity, the Science Museum is going to create a line of the imprinted hoodies. It's already using Twitter to encourage folks to sign up for the museum's email list to learn when the sweatshirts are available.

If that weren't enough merch-related fun, there is also this candle holder that's as wonderfully weird as the show itself. It's in the shape of psychokinetic character Eleven – wax bleeds through its nose. Available from Firebox, the candle is expected to be available by mid-December. "Easily the strangest thing we've ever created," says Firebox.

Then, of course, there are these rad Stranger Things-inspired sneakers/trainers from Reebok and BAIT.

What's the takeaway for promotional product distributors? Perhaps this: While you certainly can't rip off Stranger Things, you can tap into the same market current as the show. That's to say, there's a definite appetite for offbeat, retro '80s entertainment and products from both millennials and those in their later 30s and early 40s. When end-buyers target such audiences – particularly in urban areas, at cultural events, product launches, music festivals and the like – engineering a promotion that involves merchandise and messaging that draws on the quirky vintage vibe from the decade of MTV and big hair could be a smart move.

Branded Tees at Center of Beer Feud

Craft beer maker Arrogant Brewing is cleverly promoting its bad boy image and delivering an upper cut to competitors it calls "sellouts" with a new antagonistic promotional campaign that puts branded T-shirts in the spotlight.

With its "Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month" campaign, the Arrogant Brewing team is inviting suds lovers to send them the T-shirts of beer brands that were once independent breweries but have since sold to become part of global beer conglomerates.

Based in Escondido, CA, Arrogant Brewing says it will then either donate the T-shirts to charity or mail them in a show of cheekiness to corporate beer behemoths Heineken International or AB InBev.

In addition, Arrogant Brewing is offering to sell consumers who mail in "sellout" brand shirts an Arrogant Brewing T-Shirt for the reduced cost of $15 – a charge that includes shipping and handling.

To encourage participation, Arrogant Brewing stays in tough-guy character with its marketing of the campaign. Its website thus sets the stage for Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month: "Face it, there are brands out there you used to love. They meant something to you, and you thought they stood for something. And then the rug was pulled out from under you, all for a stinkin' big fat check. What did you get for your fandom? Jack. And now wearing that sellout brand's T-shirt doesn't feel quite so cool does it? Of course not. They're sellouts. That's simple math."

While some will object to the thrust and tone of Arrogant Brewing's campaign, there's no denying that it is a potentially powerful marketing initiative. It taps into the ethos of the brand's core audience, which values drinking the American-made beers of independently owned U.S. breweries; paints competitors in a light that undercuts their credibility with that core audience; strongly promotes its own brand image; and helps stoke sales of its T-shirts.

Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month is the next generation of Arrogant Brewing's "Fizzy Yellow Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Program." That "program allowed those that had recently converted to real beer to turn in their old corporate fizzy yellow beer T-shirts," Arrogant Brewing says.

Despite all the chirping about sellouts, it should be noted that Stone Brewing, Arrogant Brewing's parent company, appears to have some outside capital backing itself. "In 2016, they accepted a $90 million investment from VMG, a venture capital firm that specializes in food and drink investments, although it would seem this minority ownership doesn't currently jeopardize their ability to be labeled as 'craft' beer by the Brewers Association," Paste reports.

Washington Capitals' Gravy Boat Giveaway is Promo Gold

The Washington Capitals will be doing their bit to moisten overcooked turkeys this Thanksgiving courtesy of an uncanny promotional product.

Fans attending the NHL team’s Nov. 22 game against the Ottawa Senators will receive a gravy boat in the form of a mini ice resurfacer. "Ice resurfacer" is the generic term for what fans typically call a "Zamboni" – the man-driven machine that comes out between periods in hockey games to smooth the ice. (To be a true Zamboni, the resurfacer has to be made by the Zamboni Company, but we digress.)

To the gravy boat at hand:

Fans willing to pay for theme night packages (starting at $69) on Nov. 22 will receive the unique piece of branded dinnerware just in time to grace their Turkey Day tables the next day with a showing of team pride that is sure to irk visiting family members who do evil things like root for the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

As a hockey fan, you have to love a clever one-upper like that, eh hoser? Just think of watching your Penguins-loving cousin having to decide between conceding to use the Capitals gravy boat or trying to scarf down grandma’s dry turkey without the gravy’s lubricating assistance. It’s schadenfreude as delectable as apple pie.

As a promotional initiative, the Capitals are scoring big with the gravy boat, which is being presented by Walmart. After all, it’s unique, memorable, timely, useful, and genuinely expressive of the brand – all elements of a winning promotion.

In fact, the Capitals seem to have a knack for successful game day promos. This year, other branded products fans will receive with purchases of theme night packages include a puck-shaped bottle opener and a nifty Capitals ice scraper that features the shaft of a hockey stick that ends in an ice skate at the scraping edge.

Taco Bell, Forever 21 Launch Joint Fashion Line

Promotional clothing lines are a serious marketing opportunity for brands. Need proof? Consider the latest iteration that was unveiled this week in California.

Fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 and fast food chain Taco Bell have teamed up to launch the limited-edition Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection, which officially hit the apparel retailer’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores this week. It debuted at a fashion show in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was announced on Taco Bell’s Instagram with the hashtag #F21xTacoBell.

Among the apparel pickings are cropped hoodies with the food chain’s iconic bell logo, graphic T-shirts, shiny metallic anorak jackets, and even colorful bodysuits that mimic Taco Bell’s hot sauce packets, featuring slogans like “Fire! Don’t Wait Up.” There are also youth T-shirt, hoodie and jacket options, along with iPhone cases. The men’s styles (including an anorak jacket with major color-blocking) are already sold out.

Taco Bell says the unconventional offerings are a serious part of its marketing strategy, which has focused on social media and millennial-centric branding in recent years.

“We really took pains to make this a legitimate collection that is relevant and fun and modern,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO, said in a statement. “We’ve seen our fans get individually creative in expressing their love for Taco Bell through fashion, and we believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative, a little quirky and definitely fun.”

Taco Bell, which operates 7,000 locations across the U.S., is no stranger to branded merch. At the food chain’s online Taco Shop, fans can shop graphic T-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, notebooks, pencils and phone cases. One of its first forays into the fashion world was in 2014, through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds to offer custom socks. And in 2016, Taco Bell opened a brick-and-mortar Taco Shop in Las Vegas, which sells apparel, towels, bikinis and swim trunks, caps, tie-dyed T-shirts, taco-shaped pillows and more.

In general, fast food fashion and branded merchandise are having a moment. Pizza Hut, owned by Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, released a Hut Swag line in 2016, featuring items like snapback caps and T-shirts with slogans, such as “My Pizza My Life.” Another Yum brand, KFC opened the KFC Ltd. ecommerce store earlier this year, offering sweatshirts, T-shirts, socks, jewelry, scarves, lapel pins and pillowcases. And this summer, McDonald’s unveiled a playful Big Mac collection featuring pajamas and pillows, among other items.

Additionally, it seems tacos in particular have major branding power. The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, rechristen the team as the Tacos once a week during the season, with special Taco-emblazoned jerseys and caps. The name originated from Californians’ long-time affinity for taco trucks. “It definitely targets a younger crowd,” Sam Hansen, director of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, told Advantages magazine earlier this year. “Or at least that was the intention – I’ve noticed a lot of older people starting to wear Tacos jerseys and hats.” 

WrestleMania Promos Take Over Orlando

A week of magic and mayhem has ended as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) presented WrestleMania 33 – professional wrestling’s annual promo-filled Super Bowl inside Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. And, Counselor was on the scene to see all of the promotions that sponsors and hosts were running.

An all-time Orlando Citrus Bowl attendance record of 75,245 fans from 50 states and 62 countries made the pilgrimage to witness their favorite athletes clash at the nearly seven-hour event. WrestleMania 33 gained a record 18 million social media fan engagements, up 66% from last year. Digital and social media video views reached 133 million, skyrocketing 105% from 2016. For the first time, WrestleMania was made available in China on a pay-per-view basis via PPTV’s digital platform.

“WrestleMania made a triumphant return to Orlando and again broke multiple records,” said WWE Executive Vice President of Special Events John Saboor in a press release. “This success would not have been possible without the tireless support of Mayor Dyer, the Local Organizing Committee and all of the public and private sector partners throughout Central Florida.”

WrestleMania 33 grossed $14.5 million in revenue, down from the company’s record $17.3 million for last year’s event. It also generated an estimated $125 million in economic impact for the Central Florida area. That’s why each year cities bid on hosting the pop culture extravaganza – New Orleans has been chosen over Philadelphia and Minneapolis to hold WrestleMania 34 next year as part of the city’s tricentennial celebration.

"WrestleMania Week was a tremendous success for the city of Orlando and it was an honor to host WWE and their fans back in our community," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "This is a testament to the investments we've made in our community venues that continue to attract these showcase events and solidify Orlando as the nation's leading sports and entertainment destination." Orlando is home to many WWE operations including its developmental brand NXT and its training facility the WWE Performance Center.

As soon as fans arrived at Orlando International Airport, they were greeted by WrestleMania signs at baggage claim and rental car stations. The streets of downtown Orlando were plastered in WrestleMania banners showcasing top stars such as Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. There was even a 30-foot-wide, 12-foot-high championship belt replica on display at Lake Eola.

Throughout the week, fans mobbed the Orange County Convention Centerin Orlando for WrestleMania Axxess, an annual fan fest with autograph signings, exhibits and merchandise. Attendees scooped up hats, shirts, wrist bands, posters, foam hands, and inflatable Bailey buddies, all emblazoned with the WrestleMania and WWE logos. Snickers sponsored the event for the second straight year, giving out free candy bars and sharing clips through social media and YouTube. During the WrestleMania broadcast, an ad featured WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair and WWE Superstars Charlotte and James Ellsworth as part of the “You’re Not You When You're Hungry" campaign.

Coffee Mug Is Popular Promo for News Station

Los Angeles Tribune TV station’s KTLA 5 will be celebrating a milestone anniversary with an iconic item that appeals to a wide target audience.

The “Anchor Desk” drinkware, which is placed prominently on the studio desk during broadcasts, is a 15-oz. coffee mug. When the station worked with its distributor partner to develop a giveaway program celebrating 70 years of broadcasting, a special anniversary edition of this mug was the logical item. The mugs have been a coveted giveaway among viewers over the years.

Beginning on KTLA’s 70th anniversary date, the “Watch and Win” promotion gives viewers in the Los Angeles area the opportunity to text the station with a specific code word during its daily broadcast. KTLA then chooses winning viewers to receive a special-edition anniversary branded mug that matches the official Anchor Desk drinkware. The station was provided with 2,500 of the double-sided mugs. The promotion will run all year, and if the anchor mugs’ popularity is any indicator, they’ll continue to drive many viewers to enter the contest.

Surfs Up

Luxury swimwear brand Basta Surf’s identity is built on a line of conscientiously-produced beach apparel aimed at discriminating customers. Shoring up that brand identity means that even the hang tags on Basta’s products must reflect values of quality, subtlety and an environmentally conscious worldview.

So, when Basta approached its distributor partner with an idea for a seeded hangtag, the rep knew just the right product. She suggested the seeded paper hang tag, an idea that became a resounding success. “They wanted to elevate their brand,” the rep says. “They thought that this would be effective in showing their earth consciousness and organic materials.”

Basta donates a part of its profits to causes that promote clean water. The company promoted this eco-conscious initiative on the back of the letter-pressed tags. Beyond complementing Basta’s environmental efforts, the wildflower-seeded tags promote a free-and-fruitful attitude that is in keeping with Basta’s worldview. The rep adds: “It allows the business to show the customer they are thinking of them in other ways than just selling swimwear.”

Plan the Perfect Golf Outing

Hosting a company or charity golf tournament? Remember: Gifts and prizes are key to golf events, and in fact, are the reason many people play in events and return again the following year. However, experts say it’s important not to skimp on promotional items and giveaways.

Here are four popular areas for gift-giving:

  1. Tee Gifts: These are participation gifts that are given to each golfer at registration. The gift should encourage the participant to want to come back the next year. The higher the entry fee, the better the gift should be.
  2. Winner’s Gifts: In charity events, most play in teams of four. Gifts are presented to first-place, second-place and third-place finishers. For higher-end tournaments, a nice crystal gift, like a clock or trophy that will be kept and displayed is recommended. These awards help bring people back – they’re motivation to participate.
  3. Sponsor Awards: These may be the most important items. They can be crystal or utilitarian, and they don’t have to be golf-themed. For example, branded Sherpa blankets for individual sponsors. If the sponsor is corporate, a plaque or award that can be displayed on the walls of the office to demonstrate its commitment to charity.
  4. Volunteer Gifts: The volunteers work hard, and you want them to come back too. T-shirts are common choices, but food or wine could also be a good choice.

In addition to the gifts above, you’ll also need contest prizes for Longest Drive, Closest to the Pin and Hole-in-One. Items to consider for these contests include a branded bicycle and a messenger bag.

No matter the use, be sure all items have high perceived value to match the exclusive feel of the tournaments. Also, consider non-golf items like can coolers, tumblers, stainless-steel bottles, sunglasses, sun screen, folding chairs, umbrellas, sport packs and even tech products. With the amount of time spent on the golf course – minimum four hours – attendees will appreciate power banks for their cellphones.

Contact your promotional products distributor for more golf outing solutions and product ideas.

Customized NFL Cleats Raise Money For Charity

The NFL was a little more colorful this past weekend, as hundreds of players wore logoed customized cleats to raise awareness and money for charity.

Players this season have been expressing their personality and fashion tastes with colorful custom cleats – shoes that would also violate the NFL dress code and draw a fine. For Week 13 of the football season, the NFL called a détente on the shoe wars and concocted “My Cause My Cleats,” a campaign designed to raise awareness for different social causes. More than a third of the league – over 500 players – donned cleats with custom designs representing a charity or cause of their choice.

“While there has always been interest and adoption at the youth level in sports, customized footwear has now taken the main stage in many verticals such as sports with the NFL’s Week 13 efforts or fashion with UGG stores offering the opportunity on their famous boots,” Josh Ellsworth, general manager of Stahls’(asi/88984) CAD-CUT Direct division, tells Counselor. Ellsworth noted the increasing demand for personalization and advances in a number of decoration techniques, including heat printing, direct-to-garment, UV printing and embroidery. “They are helping to drive quality products and, therefore, profitable new sales opportunities for businesses.”

Traditionally, NFL players must wear shoes without brand names and logos (beyond that of the shoe manufacturer) – it’s a fine of $6,076 for first-time infractions and $12,154 for subsequent ones. But the cleats sported by players last week featured all sorts of colorful logos, graphics and designs to raise awareness about issues such as domestic abuse, animal cruelty and rare diseases. NFL Auction has also allowed bidding on the shoes with 100% of the proceeds benefiting respective charities.

Ellsworth says customized footwear meshes well with the promotional product industry because it centers on memorability. “Custom branded shoes can be the next great thing that aligns with a campaign’s goals,” Ellsworth says. “Consider the following opportunities: customized footwear that supports a special cause for a charity run/walk, promotional footwear with a ‘Kick Cancer’ mantra that allows on-demand customization, promotional sneakers for a company’s event staff that will be on their feet all day or even custom shoes with a player’s name, number, or hashtag.”

However, Ellsworth warns that there are challenges to consider. “Footwear does bring in an element of sizing, so inventory risk for print on demand or in advance promotional opportunities can be costly,” he says. “The shoe fits when you have a good understanding of exactly who your customer is and what size they want.”

Here’s a look at several of the cleat designs that were worn by the players.

Promo Items for Pilgrims

In the months leading up to the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day 2016, preparations were as globe-spanning as the millions of expected attendees. First instituted in 1986 by Pope Saint John Paul II, World Youth Days (WYD) are hosted every three years by the Vatican and the incumbent Pope, and welcome droves of young people to a week-long faith celebration in a different city. The July 2016 event was held in Krakow, Poland.

Vatican representatives had a good idea of what they wanted for the attendees, known as “pilgrims,” who would eventually converge on Krakow from all over the world. For example, organizers wanted to include ponchos that could also double as ground blankets. So the organizers teamed up with their distributor partner and came up with an item made of a special fabric that not only protected wearers from the rain, but was both soft and durable enough to sit on. In addition, a dye-sublimated scarf was constructed of absorbent microfiber so that it doubled as a towel. 

Each item was color-matched, and the items came in red, blue and yellow. In addition to the ponchos and scarves, other WYD-branded items included backpacks, neck gaiters and silicone bracelets. The finished items were flown to the Polish port city of Gdansk, then trucked more than 350 miles to a warehouse in the Krakow area specially built for WYD, which also housed food and water for 2.5 million pilgrims that attended the successful event.

Interactive Alex Ovechkin Bobblehead Has Staying Power

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin is quite a hockey player. Not only has "Ovi" amassed nearly 1,000 NHL points in just over 11 seasons, but he's internationally recognized as one of the game's most talented and popular players. So admired is the Russian-born Ovechkin that his likeness is frequently etched on bobbleheads and given away as part of Washington Capital promotions, with this season being no exception.

However, this year’s bobblehead is a little different.

Included in this bobblehead statue giveaway – part of a promotion that encourages multi-game ticket purchases – is a clever Ovi “Career Points” counter at the base that can be manually updated each time a point is scored. So as the winger draws nearer to the vaunted 1,000-point club, fans can tick off the points in real-time!

What makes this small, but not insignificant, feature brilliant is that it transforms a traditional bobblehead from a somewhat boring collectible item, usually stored in dark closets and display cases, to an interactive one that commands attention. People are going to want to display this item prominently in their home theaters, man (and woman) caves, desks and offices.

And as Ovi continues to score points well past 1,000 – he’s still in his prime at 31 and could play another 10 years – this item will prove to have far more staying power and promotional impact than any traditional bobblehead ever could.

Pets Big Part of Harley Davidson Brand

Harley-Davidson has a longstanding brand connection with pets, dating back to 1914 when Miss Della Crewe drove cross-country on a Harley accompanied by her Boston bulldog, Trouble, in the sidecar sporting a special custom sweater.

“To us, dog is family, and Harley-Davidson is a family-oriented brand,” says Jodi Politowski, motor clothes manager at the House of Harley Davidson in Milwaukee. The company also has a strong relationship with the Humane Society and sponsors many pet-oriented events and fundraisers to support that partnership.

Pets are welcome at all of the company’s showroom locations, with pet bowls and treats available for furry friends, as well as an array of themed merchandise. Initially Harley-Davidson offered collars and leashes, but eventually its exclusive supplier, Coastal Pet Products, recognized it should expand its pet product offerings, according to Politowski.

“Harley riders are passionate about our product,” she says. “Many will come in when they get a new dog to have it fitted for a Harley-Davidson collar, and some even pick Harley-related names for their animals.”

Harley-themed pet merchandise is available for sale on the company website as well as in showrooms and at Harley-sponsored events. Its best sellers are its leather-spiked collars, pet apparel for smaller dogs and a pet fleece hoodie, according to Politowski.

Customized NFL Cleats Raise Money For Charity

The NFL was a little more colorful this past weekend, as hundreds of players wore logoed customized cleats to raise awareness and money for charity.

Players this season have been expressing their personality and fashion tastes with colorful custom cleats – shoes that would also violate the NFL dress code and draw a fine. For Week 13 of the football season, the NFL called a détente on the shoe wars and concocted “My Cause My Cleats,” a campaign designed to raise awareness for different social causes. More than a third of the league – over 500 players – donned cleats with custom designs representing a charity or cause of their choice.

“While there has always been interest and adoption at the youth level in sports, customized footwear has now taken the main stage in many verticals such as sports with the NFL’s Week 13 efforts or fashion with UGG stores offering the opportunity on their famous boots,” Josh Ellsworth, general manager of Stahls’(asi/88984) CAD-CUT Direct division, tells Counselor. Ellsworth noted the increasing demand for personalization and advances in a number of decoration techniques, including heat printing, direct-to-garment, UV printing and embroidery. “They are helping to drive quality products and, therefore, profitable new sales opportunities for businesses.”

Traditionally, NFL players must wear shoes without brand names and logos (beyond that of the shoe manufacturer) – it’s a fine of $6,076 for first-time infractions and $12,154 for subsequent ones. But the cleats sported by players last week featured all sorts of colorful logos, graphics and designs to raise awareness about issues such as domestic abuse, animal cruelty and rare diseases. NFL Auction has also allowed bidding on the shoes with 100% of the proceeds benefiting respective charities.

Ellsworth says customized footwear meshes well with the promotional product industry because it centers on memorability. “Custom branded shoes can be the next great thing that aligns with a campaign’s goals,” Ellsworth says. “Consider the following opportunities: customized footwear that supports a special cause for a charity run/walk, promotional footwear with a ‘Kick Cancer’ mantra that allows on-demand customization, promotional sneakers for a company’s event staff that will be on their feet all day or even custom shoes with a player’s name, number, or hashtag.”

However, Ellsworth warns that there are challenges to consider. “Footwear does bring in an element of sizing, so inventory risk for print on demand or in advance promotional opportunities can be costly,” he says. “The shoe fits when you have a good understanding of exactly who your customer is and what size they want.”

Here’s a look at several of the cleat designs that were worn by the players.

Netflix Recreates Lukes Diner to Promote Gilmore Girls Revival

On Wednesday, streaming giant Netflix transformed over 200 coffee shops across the country into the iconic Luke’s Diner, the fictional eatery made famous in the 2000s-era hit Gilmore Girls. Baristas donned aprons featuring the Luke’s Diner logo. Custom signage – including cardboard cutouts of Luke himself, played by actor Scott Patterson – completed the illusion.

Fans of the show lined up bright and early to nab a free cup of joe, decorated with special Luke’s Diner sleeves. Hiding under the sleeve were coffee-related quotes from the show’s fast-talking, java-loving stars. 

The effort was part of an elaborate marketing strategy to drum up interest for next month’s Netflix revival of the show, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Reuniting Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and other cast members, the four-part series debuts November 25. Netflix’s nationwide promotion also had a social media element, with #LukesDiner trending on Twitter, and codes printed on the free custom coffee cups unlocking a special Snapchat filter for 24 hours.

This isn’t the first time Netflix has turned to promotional products to promote its original content. Earlier this year, the company gave out T-shirts, buttons and other swag bearing the slogan “FU ‘16” to promote the fourth season of House of Cards, in which corrupt politician Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, schemes his way into the Oval Office

T-Shirts Help Entice MLB Team to Stay in Town

For almost a decade, the Tampa Bay Rays have called Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, home. However, in recent years, attendance at the stadium has steadily gone down. The stadium needs renovations, and, though they show tremendous support for their home team, the majority of Rays fans live more than 30 minutes away from Tropicana Field, making it difficult for them to attend games regularly.

The Rays asked St. Petersburg’s city council to allow the Major League Baseball team to search for a new location within the Tampa/St. Petersburg region to entice fans to return to the games. However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Chris Steinocher, president of St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, wanted to persuade the Rays to stay at Tropicana Field; so, in addition to offering renovation aid, the summer-long “Baseball Forever” campaign was born.

Kriseman and Steinocher wanted to focus the campaign – which incorporated more than 700 imprinted “Baseball Forever St. Pete” T-shirts – on the St. Petersburg community, offering opportunities for local businesses to grow.

Through word of mouth, city council members connected with a local apparel decorator to design and imprint the baseball- and St. Pete-themed tees. The designer of the shirt says he was thrilled to help promote his hometown. “The mayor used this campaign to get the community behind him and showcase the excellent market in St. Petersburg,” he says.

The screen-printed “Baseball Forever” unisex short-sleeve T-shirts were given out at Sports Bar and Fan Fest, where the mayor spoke about the campaign and its benefits to the community. Fans also garnered the tees before and during baseball games.

The shirts became so popular that St. Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce ordered more and started selling them at its St. Pete Store & Visitor Center and best of all, it looks like the “Baseball Forever” campaign has been working – the Rays have yet to leave the city of St. Petersburg.

ASPCA Promotes APP With Branded Items

Pet owners have to be extra careful during the summer months as their furry friends are more prone to go missing, drown in backyard pools or suffer from heat exhaustion after being left in parked vehicles.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) urges pet owners to prepare for such situations by downloading the Pet Safety App, which tracks lost pets and issues emergency alerts.

To entice downloads, the ASPCA, in conjunction with fashion and lifestyle blog, is giving away a summer prize package full of promotional products. The package includes a tote bag, Frisbee, beach ball and towel – all emblazoned with the ASPCA logo – and a Subaru yoga mat.

The app provides a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances. You can also build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on social media channels. Additionally, you can store and manage your pet’s critical health records and access advice on what to do with your pet before, during and after a major storm, even if there’s no WiFi or data connectivity.

In order to enter the giveaway, pet owners (18 years or older) had to download the ASPCA mobile app and then submit their information through the Rafflecopter widget.

Harry Potter Fans Load Up On Cursed Child Giveaways

The release of the latest Harry Potter book once again cast a spell on thousands of the wizard’s biggest fans, who congregated in midnight parties across the country while dressing up in costume and angling for giveaways.

They all eagerly awaited the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which (long after the series was thought to be concluded) returns to the Potter universe to follow Harry as an adult and father of three children. The book is a printed script from the London play penned by Potter author J.K. Rowling and other collaborators. With anticipation sky high – it was the most pre-ordered book in Barnes & Noble history – publisher Scholastic chose to release the book at midnight on Sunday, July 31, as was traditionally done with Rowling’s other Potter titles.

Bookstores throughout the U.S. celebrated with midnight release parties that included costume and trivia contests, readings from the series and latest book, a Hogwartsian “Sorting Ceremony” and all manners of games and activities.

Included among them was a whole host of giveaways. New York-based Books of Wonder offered a bevy of free premiums, including a set of full-color prints of each book cover, a full-color holographic Harry Potter bookmark, a lightning bolt temporary tattoo and decals for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a side book in the Potter universe penned by Rowling that is being made into a movie. Any patron that purchased two or more Harry Potter hardcover titles that night also received a free full-color mug with images of Harry from the seven book covers. More Potter prizes – including bookmarks, keychains, posters and even a signed first U.S. printing of The Prisoner of Azkaban­ – were won by customers who bought the book and then drew from the “Books of Wonder Sorting Hat.”

Others joined in with the giveaways. Skylight Books in Los Angeles offered Harry Potter tattoos and pins. Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, was transformed into “Hogwart’s Square,” with a movie screening, Harry Potter selfie stand and giveaways that included tattoos, decals and Wizard Glasses. Target even offered an exclusive poster for people who purchased the book.

“The announcement was that it was a play in script form, [and] we weren’t sure how it was going to be received,” Bryan Samsone, manager of Austin, TX-based BooPeople, told Entertainment Weekly. “But it became pretty apparent quickly after word came out that people still wanted to congregate together to celebrate Harry Potter, dress up, and relive all these memories that formed their childhood.”

Promo Items Help Boost Employee Health

With group health-care rates spiking – some soaring by double digits in 2015 – companies are promoting healthier workplaces to help cut down on health-care claims. A Harvard University study, in fact, found that for every $1 invested in a corporate wellness program, companies could receive a $6 return on investment, a direct result of reduced medical costs and a drop in absenteeism.

Indeed, corporate wellness – which has evolved into an $8 billion industry according to IBISWorld – is clearly an important business strategy, impacting firms’ bottom lines, as well as employee productivity and culture. Promoting these initiatives, and enticing employees to participate is critical to their success.

The approach is proactive versus reactive, encouraging employees to take charge of their health and make positive changes, rather than waiting until they develop serious health problems, which are much more expensive and harder to correct. Promotional products are important tools that companies can use as perks, as well as effective items that will energize and motivate their workforces.

One large firm that features a wellness program for its employees is Aetna. Of Aetna’s 50,000 current employees, some 34,000 currently participate in its wellness programs, says communications director Ethan Slavin. About 40% of participants use a wearable device to log their healthy activities.

In addition to its year-round Healthy Lifestyles program, which uses cash incentives, Aetna also offers a “Get Active Aetna” initiative in the fall which is a team-based wellness challenge for employees. If they meet certain healthy activity requirements during this period, they have the opportunity to earn Aetna gear, like gym bags, yoga mats, water bottles and other apparel, or they can donate an equivalent to charity, Slavin says.

Incentives, no doubt, are key. “If there’s no incentive, the engagement level is low,” says Frank J. Grimm, a senior benefits adviser at LHD. “The most successful programs have multiple designs, which might be gift card programs, challenges that allow participants to enter drawings for gift cards or rewards, Web stores and promotional items. Sometimes something as simple as a water bottle gets employees excited.”

If you’re planning an employee wellness program, be sure to contact your distributor partner for expert service and the perfect promotional products to fit your needs.

DNC Donkey Scavenger Hunt Includes T-shirt Prize

A city-wide scavenger hunt planned this summer, to correspond with the Democratic National Convention (DNC) being held July 25-28 in Philadelphia, has proved a perfect opportunity for a promotional product tie-in. Some winners of the “Donkeys Around Town” hunt will win custom T-shirts to commemorate their participation in the event.

On July 1, 57 fiberglass donkeys were installed throughout the city, each painted by a local artist to represent one of the Democratic delegations coming to the convention at the end of the month. Artist Lynette Shelley, who painted the Missouri and Oklahoma donkeys, says she participated in the project because of its uniqueness and the challenge of selecting the most compelling state elements in her design.

“This project is a fun way to engage delegates coming to Philadelphia and will enable them to connect with Philadelphians and the local arts community,” said Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and chairman of the 2016 DNC host committee.

To build excitement for the “Donkeys Around Town” public art installation, the committee is planning a scavenger hunt from July 21 to 28. After downloading the free app Scavify, available here, participants will be able to complete challenges at each of the donkeys they find across the city. According to the host committee, each donkey will have a corresponding interactive challenge that can be completed with the app. Participants will be asked to answer questions, check in via GPS or take fun photos to accumulate points toward prizes. They are also encouraged to share the experience via social media using the hashtag phrase #DonkeysAroundTown.

Each donkey will be worth 10 points, and prizes will be awarded based on a tiered system. Participants who find 15 donkeys, accumulating 150 points, will receive a commemorative Visit Philadelphia magnetic photo frame or an official T-shirt. In anticipation of the event, the host committee has printed 500 of the promotional tees, using a local custom screen-printing business, according to a spokesman for the DNC host committee. Other prizes include tickets to popular museums, complimentary cheesesteaks and a raffle ticket for a grand prize of either a two-night hotel stay and restaurant gift cards or a package of tickets to Philadelphia sporting events.

The grand prize drawing will take place July 29, and all prizes can be redeemed at the Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market streets. The donkeys themselves will remain in the city until Sept. 9.

WrestleMania Promos Take Over Texas

A week of BBQ and bodyslams has wrapped up as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) presented WrestleMania 32 – professional wrestling's annual promo-filled Super Bowl inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

An all-time WWE attendance record of 101,763 people from 50 states and 35 countries made the pilgrimage to witness their favorite athletes clash at the nearly seven-hour event. "On behalf of the Dallas Cowboys organization, we congratulate WWE on their historic achievement," said Dallas Cowboys Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson in a press release. "WrestleMania was an incredible spectacle like none other, and we look forward to hosting it again at AT&T Stadium."

WrestleMania 32 also became the highest-grossing live event in WWE history, grossing $17.3 million. The record was set last year, as WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, CA, grossed $12.6 million. It also generated $139 million in economic impact for the Santa Clara/San Jose area; $22 million of which was spent on hotels and accommodations. That's why cities bid on hosting the pop culture extravaganza each year – Orlando has been chosen over Philadelphia and Minneapolis to hold WrestleMania 33 next year.

"We are thrilled that we made history tonight at WrestleMania, further cementing its place as one of the top sports and entertainment events in the world," said WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon.

As soon as fans arrived at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, they were greeted by WrestleMania signs and life-size WWE Superstar cutouts at baggage claim and rental car stations. Even the streets of downtown Dallas were plastered in WrestleMania banners showcasing top stars such as The Rock and John Cena. StubHub handed out free lanyards with plastic pouches to securely hold tickets to the event while fans scooped up hats, shirts, wristbands and posters emblazoned with the WrestleMania and WWE logos.

Throughout the week, fans mobbed the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas for WrestleMania Axxess, an annual fan fest with autograph signings, exhibits and merchandise. Snickers sponsored the event, giving out free candy bars and sharing clips through social media and YouTube. During the WrestleMania broadcast, an ad featured WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair and WWE Superstars Charlotte and Zack Ryder as part of the "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign.

Hand Sanitizers, Stress Balls & More a Hit at Book Fair

Few bibliophiles could resist delving into cafeteria tables laden with more than 16,000 books, all sorted and sold for a fraction of the original sticker price. Sweetening the prospect of a used book sale, however, is the promise of ample free food and other giveaways.

The Emmaus Public Library, a community library in eastern Pennsylvania, teamed up recently with The Nutrition Group, a full-service food and utilities management company, to hold a used book sale and a Nutrition, Health and Safety Fair at Lower Macungie Middle School, one of the institutions serviced by The Nutrition Group. The school’s cafeteria was transformed into a mecca for readers of all ages, and the halls outside the book sale were stocked with booths providing free screenings and sharing information on healthy eating, the dangers of smoking and the importance of good oral hygiene.

Booth workers gave away bags of popcorn, packets of flavored raisins, and samples of fruit smoothies. But there were also a slew of promotional products at the fair. A local hospital had a basket of spray hand sanitizers set up next to a display about germs. An orthodontist gave out logoed water bottles. Other swag on site included stress balls, erasers, stickers, bumper stickers, keychains, can coolers and crayon packets with nutrition-themed coloring pages.

Plan on having your own public event or fair? Make sure you have an ample supply of fun and functional promotional items to hand out. Contact your distributor partner for great ideas and products.

Promos Help Increase Awareness for Charity

In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month, national charity Jaden’s Voice recently held the grand opening of its West Philadelphia office. The open house included supportive politicians, educational seminars and plenty of promotional products.

UnitedHealthcare gave away bags full of logoed items tailored for children with autism. Inside the bags were a giant placemat plastered with a balanced diet diagram, a plastic plate version of the diagram with a Spanish translation, a colorful informational booklet, a car charger, crayons and a cute stuffed animal named Dr. Health E. Hound.

“They say it takes a village, I say it takes the world,” said Jaden’s Voice founder Terri Matthews, whose 9-year-old son Jaden was diagnosed at age 2. “He lost his voice, so I became his voice.”

About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Jaden’s Voice advocates for children with autism in underserved communities, providing financial assistance to families and teaching parents how to live with the disorder. “We need to train people so they’re accommodating and understand how our families are impacted,” Matthews said.

Pennsylvania State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown and Philadelphia City Councilman Derek Green were also in attendance, both of whom have children on the autism spectrum. Brown’s son suffers from learning differences and wasn’t properly diagnosed until he was an adult. Green’s 15-year-old son Julian was diagnosed around the same age as Jaden. He was able to get through kindergarten, Green said, but first grade was more challenging, so the councilman and his wife developed an autism support class at Julian’s elementary school, which has now grown to three classes.

“You really can’t dwell,” Green said. “You have to be an active advocate and get intervention as early as possible so it will help your child in the future.”

In addition to educating and assisting families, Jaden’s Voice hosts a Web-based business membership program listing vendors whose products, services and locations have been certified as making life with autism easier and more dignified. For more information, visit

Raising Awareness for Newborns

When is a T-shirt more than a T-shirt? When it builds awareness for a special cause. That's the role specially designed T-shirts play each year at an annual softball game to raise awareness for The Asher James Heart Disease & Thrombosis Foundation.

Jennifer DeBouver founded the foundation, which raises awareness about blood clots in small children, after losing a baby girl before childbirth, and then losing a boy, Asher, six weeks after he was born due to a congenital heart disease called Aortic Stenosis. "After he passed away, the doctor told us there weren't any foundations or much research to support blood clots in children," DeBouver says.

Since Asher passed away in October of 2012, DeBouver has partnered with Mended Little Hearts, an organization that supports families with children with congenital heart defects, and has held an annual softball game between the two organizations on Asher's birthday.

Prior to his birth, Asher had had a baseball-themed baby shower which inspired DeBouver to hold the softball game in his honor. Working with a distributor partner, DeBouver created the theme, "Lions, Giraffes, Softballs, Oh My!" and tested three different designs for the event's T-shirts on Facebook. All three designs included two little birds to represent the children DeBouver had lost. The Mended Hearts' T-shirt featured a lion, and the Asher James Foundation shirts featured a giraffe, which DeBouver has always associated with her son.

The winning design was featured on the T-shirt at the softball game (held in October at a park in Schaumburg, IL), and DeBouver said they were a big hit. The event raised hundreds of dollars for DeBouver's foundation, and, most importantly, continues to raise awareness for the cause. "If this little T-shirt can make one person aware of our foundation, I've done my job," DeBouver says.

The Psychology of Rewarding VIPs

Who are the real VIPs in your organization? The answer is simple: Your highest performing salespeople and those loyal customers who consistently buy your products. It makes sense to reward these contributors, but typical gifts aren't enough. To find what really works, you need to use VIP psychology. Take the advice featured here from two experts.

Rewarding Sales VIPs: Dr. Steven Hunt, a trained psychologist and VP of customer research at Success Factors, says that when rewarding top reps, it's important to make a distinction. "Your top salespeople sell up to 400% more product than anyone else, and they can make or break a quarter," says Hunt. "Think of it in sports terms: LeBron James isn't just a little bit better than other basketball players, he's a whole lot better."

Hunt advises dividing salespeople into three groups before forming reward systems: Group 1 consists of those salespeople to whom monetary rewards are the main motivators, though Hunt says that money isn't the only motivating factor. "Reward them by removing distractions that slow their output," Hunt says. For example, offer to have an assistant help them with paperwork, and allow them to team with other high performers.

Group 2 reps care deeply about customer success. "You've got to watch it with Group 2," Hunt says, "because they're so customer oriented, they may decide to follow an account by leaving your company." He suggests keeping them happy by rewarding them with more leeway in developing and maintaining customer relationships and breaking up existing sales structures to allow them more customer involvement and more autonomy.

Group 3 consists of salespeople who are product motivated. Reward this group by asking for their opinions and input on products and services, advises Hunt. You can provide them with additional high-level product information to help them sell.

Incentive product ideas for top reps:
Group 1 – Consider high tech incentives that make this group's life easier such as electronic planners or miniature video projectors that can be used to amplify sales demos.
Group 2 – Offer this group items branded with company logos that they can pass on to their best customers such as pen sets and desk accessories.
Group 3 – Product-related incentives, such as miniature product mockups or USB drives loaded with product info that they can pass on to customers, work for this group.

Rewarding Customer VIPs:  Julie Cottineau, founder and CEO of BrandTwist, says when it comes to the psychology of rewarding your most loyal customers, you need to use rewards that will make them want to come back to you again and again. "Today's customers are interested in more than just discount points," she says. "We're dealing with millennials now. To reward them, you need to shift the focus away from transactional rewards that can be easily duplicated by your competitors and move to a reward relationship that offers both access and recognition." 

One way to do this is to use social media to encourage top customers to tell the story of their relationship with you and your brand. That step alone is enough to promote good interactions with your most loyal customers. "You can deepen these relationships by offering special access rewards such as VIP treatment at a top restaurant or admission to an anticipated event," Cottineau says. "A big part of the customer reward process is acknowledgment. Rewards should tell the customer, 'I hear you, I appreciate you and I thank you.'"

Cottineau cites the following reward programs as examples: Urban Outfitters' loyal customers received reward points when they utilized an Urban Outfitters app to upload photos of their use of the store's merchandise. This program synced with users' social media networks, and customers were able to exchange points for unique rewards such as designing their own Urban Outfitters' outfit or holding their own fashion show at a local Urban Outfitters' store.

Foggy Bottom Grocery (FoBoGro) rewarded loyal customers by allowing them to invent their own sandwich and put it on the FoBoGro menu for a week. Cottineau notes that this program reached millennials by using Twitter as a key social media channel.

A Nike campaign encouraged customers to complete "Missions" such as running, skateboarding or attending a dance class.  They then shared their event photos on Facebook to earn points for each completed Mission. Points could be exchanged for access to sporting events or for Nike merchandise. Cottineau says the program did a good job of integrating the product into the customer loyalty experience.

Incentive product ideas for loyal customers:

  • Imprinted calendars with monthly coupons that can be used for unique customer rewards
  • Handy LED flashlights, umbrellas and first-aid kits emblazoned with company logos
  • Logoed power banks that can be used to power customers' cellphones

A Very Special Reunion Tee

Captain Michael Lee from the U.S. Army was trying to locate a company to produce a small order of T-shirts for the unit’s first-ever reunion. “When someone comes to us and requests a custom T-shirt, we seldom wonder about the story behind the shirt or the weight of the memory it reflects,” says Jamie Barrus, a co-owner of a promotional products firm.

But when Barrus came across Lee’s request for shirts for a military unit that served in Afghanistan, she became intrigued. Barrus asked some questions as to the backstory of the T-shirt, and decided she had to help.

As Captain Lee tells it, he was called back to active duty in 2006, reporting to Fort Bragg, where the Army quickly assembled a team of other recalled Army troops to serve an assignment in Afghanistan. “There was a lot of drama at the time, since many folks did not want to be there,” Lee remembers. “At the first muster formation, they did a roll call of everyone who had orders to report for mobilization, and less than half of the people showed up.”

After training, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was assigned to Farrah in West Afghanistan. The PRT’s main mission was to man a one-gun truck to assess nearby villages and schools and act as a liaison between local police. Because there was a severe manpower shortage at the time, Lee says, the Army had to borrow personnel from other branches of the military. “Our base was like a fort in the old Wild West,” Lee says of the small contingent of soldiers. As a result of their work together in such an isolated area, the crew bonded tightly.

Toward the end of deployment, Lee and his fellow troops were transported to an airfield in Afghanistan, where they received a team T-shirt for their efforts. The tees however proved to be a bit disappointing. “Unfortunately, the selection of designs was very limited,” Lee says.

For the unit’s reunion, he says, “we wanted to have an updated shirt that better reflects and improves heraldry.” The new shirts that Barrus’ company produced featured a bold logo that included a steely skull with swords and a rugged bandanna, along with the tagline “secure the victory.”

Finally, Captain Lee and his troops got the shirt that they really wanted for their reunion. “We were so happy to help,” says Barrus. “Sometimes a T-shirt is just a T-shirt. Other times, you realize it helps preserve a memory for the rest of people’s lives. That’s pretty neat.”

Africa Brings the Bling

Orchestrating a sales incentive program for more than 45 offices around the world is no easy task. “We’re in 22 countries, so whenever you’re trying to come up with an incentive item, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘OK, this will work here in the United States, but how will it play in Africa?’” says Crystal Oakes, director of branding for Trévo, a nutritional supplement company that has 200,000 sales reps worldwide.

Not only are cultural tastes and preferences different in each country, Oakes says, but many of the company’s reps work out of their homes, so logoed items like desk accessories aren’t always appropriate.

Oakes often works with a distributor to come up with unique logoed apparel items to add to Trévo’s sales incentive program and the many incentive trips it offers throughout the world. Until recently, Oakes says, the company stuck to the tried-and-true apparel basics, like black polo shirts with embroidered logos. “We decided we needed to do something different to shake things up a little,” Oakes says.

Oakes and her distributor partner teamed up and created T-shirts screen printed with the company’s brand message in metallic ink on both the front and back. The company offered the shirts to reps who paid in full for their orders by a certain date. “In many countries, our reps have to stand in line for hours and pay cash in advance for their products, so it’s important to offer an attractive incentive,” Oakes says.

Luckily, reps found the incentive very attractive. Oakes says Trévo saw a large spike in orders as a result of the incentive. But the best part? “Our sales force was so funked up about the shirts, particularly our reps in Africa. I’ve never seen any like it before,” Oakes says. Just a day or two after the company started giving out the shirts, Oakes says, reps all over the country were sending pictures of themselves wearing it, and posting photos on social media as well.

In addition, the company recently hosted an incentive trip in Turks & Caicos for 30 sales reps throughout the world, and most of the recipients came off the plane wearing their new metallic shirts. “That’s when I knew this was the best promotion we’d ever done,” Oakes says. “Not only did we get lots of our salespeople super excited, but now they’re getting our name out there wherever they go. That’s pretty exciting.”

Eat Your Greens

Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of where their food comes from, whether they eat it at the dinner table or on a picnic blanket. To set their minds at ease, many people decide to join food cooperatives, which sell fresh food that’s locally made or grown.

Recently, one co-op wanted to spread the word in their community about healthy eating and the importance of supporting the local economy. They teamed up with a neighboring company that had recently implemented an employee health and wellness program, and distributed imprinted foodware to encourage the employees to bring healthy foods for their day-time meals. The co-op is located down the street from the company, and they encouraged their employees to shop at the co-op for fresh food before and after work.

One of the items employees received was the Salad/Snack Bowl Set which was decorated with the co-op’s logo. More than 275 bowls were distributed, and other decorated items were also given out as part of the campaign. The co-op’s distributor partner was able to tie the promotion to a specific health initiative, based on Affordable Care Act guidelines. 

3 Tips For A Healthier Workplace

Johnson & Johnson has one. So does Chick Fil-A. Indeed, practically every company in America has an employee wellness program in place, but how many actually measure the program’s effectiveness? Fewer than one quarter, according to a recent study by Buck Consultants. According to the study, 77% of employers in the U.S. offer at least one program to keep employees healthy (think free gym memberships and incentives to stop smoking), but only 23% actually measure the outcomes of those programs.

That’s a mistake, say health-care consultants. “By knowing what types of programs work best, you’ll be able to see how to move the needle in terms of health-care premiums and other benefits of corporate wellness, like reduced absenteeism and increased productivity,” says David Atkinson, vice president of corporate wellness for Cooper Corporate Solutions, a firm which helps companies design programs to keep employees healthy. Make no mistake: There are real benefits to be had by setting up an employee wellness program, and appropriately rewarding employees for their participation. Here are some tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of yours, and rewarding employees appropriately for participating.

Tip 1: Design a Program
Companies that are looking to wellness programs to reduce insurance premiums and absenteeism need to design programs that can be more specifically tied to those goals, Atkinson says.

As an example, when Redstone Presbyterian Care, a health-care facility with more than 400 employees, was hit with a 44% increase in health-insurance premiums, it realized it needed to do something – fast. “We weren’t paying attention to what was going on around us,” says Jim Hodge, vice president of human resources. Specifically, employee obesity, tobacco use, high blood pressure and other health risks were causing the company’s premiums to skyrocket.

Redstone initially responded with a variety of free fitness activities, like yoga and kickboxing classes, that employees could participate in. “We even offered ballroom dancing,” Hodge says. 

Employees received points for completing every activity, and those points were redeemable for cash or merchandise, like fitness equipment. “What we learned was that people didn’t necessarily equate the fact that they were doing these programs for wellness,” Hodge says. 

So Redstone adjusted its program; now, instead of simply participating in exercise classes, they also have to overcome several hurdles in order to participate in the company’s insurance program. Now, employees who want to be insured by Redstone must undergo a health-risk assessment, biometric screening and meet with a wellness coach three times annually. The result? “More of our employees are really paying attention to their wellness,” Hodge says. “Three employees have given up tobacco this year, and countless others have lost weight.” 

The upshot? The company has saved more than $440,000 in insurance premiums, and has managed to hold annual insurance-premium increases to single digits. “We found that really educating people about their health works much better than simply throwing a bunch of programs at them,” Hodge adds.

Tip 2: Offer Incentives
Most employees won’t be eager to stop smoking or lose weight without a little nudge, say wellness experts. Indeed, 56% of companies in the U.S. offer incentives like gifts, merchandise, or reduced insurance costs, for participating in wellness programs. How to find the right incentives for your group?

That depends on how big of a change you’re asking employees to make, says Rich Allen, vice president of group benefits and risk analysis for Cooper Corporate Solutions. “If you’re looking at wellness as a fun thing for employees to do, small incentives such as logoed pedometers, yoga mats, T-shirts and athletic gear will do the trick,” Allen says. “If your objective is to change costs and risk factors for employees, you have to be much more aggressive in the incentives you offer.” 

For example, companies covered by Cigna’s health plan can opt into a program that pays out bigger rewards, such as jewelry and electronics, for completing a series of health screenings or participating in a program to control their diabetes. Other companies reward employees for major lifestyle changes, such as a sustained drop in blood pressure, by reducing the amount they have to contribute to their health-care premiums. In a program Cooper created for NEI, a server company, employees who showed progress in health screenings would pay a discount on their health-care contributions. After participating in the program for four years, NEI had “almost completely eradicated high-risk blood pressure among its employees, and had a 50% reduction in employees with high-risk cholesterol,” Allen says. “That’s a pretty impressive result.”

Tip 3: Measure Results
Companies creating wellness programs to improve the work environment should be able to measure results by simply surveying the population. “Are employees having fun? Do they like what’s happening? Then good, you’re on the right track,” says Smytha Haley, a wellness consultant.

Those who want to track the effectiveness of the program on the bottom line should be prepared to wait about 18 months for a result, Haley says. For many firms, 18 months is the point at which workers’ bettering health begins to cancel out the cost of sponsoring and administering the corporate wellness program.

As a rule of thumb, the average cost to a business is about $3 to $5 per participating staff member per month. “Within three years of the launch you ought to be seeing meaningful savings,” Haley says.

Promo Items Help Raise Funds For Guide Dogs

Most charity runs and walks have a ‘no dogs allowed’ policy. Not so at the Southwestern Guide Dogs walkathons, a series of walking events in Florida that raise money for the organization.

“It’s wonderful to see people bringing their dogs to these events,” says Andy Kramer, the development director of the Palmetto, FL-based nonprofit that has trained hundreds of guide dogs. “You can’t help but see families with their dogs and not smile.”

At each of the nine events held during the summer, Kramer says, the organization’s guide dog trainers are also invited to bring their puppies and current trainee dogs to the event. The puppies, which Kramer calls “Goldadorables,” are a special cross breed of Labradors and Golden Retrievers. “This breed produces wonderful guide dogs that are able to form and nurture partnership with visually impaired individuals, facilitating their life’s journeys with mobility, independence and integrity,” he says.

Promotional items play a major part in the Southeastern Guide Dogs Walkathons, starting with fundraising awards. “For example, if someone raises $100 for an event, they get a monogrammed T-shirt,” Kramer says, “$250 gets you a branded tumbler. In addition, every attending dog gets a logoed bandana and we also bring lots of branded promotional items from our gift shop, including hats, shirts and leashes, for sale at our events.”

This year’s events raised a whopping $835,000 for the charity – a new record.

The Guide Dog Walkathons are expanding to two new locations next year. “We’ve been able to grow new events in markets where we are not as well-known via grass roots fundraising campaigns that net us more friends and sponsors and help us provide more dogs to the visually impaired,” Kramer says. “Recently, Publix and Subaru came on board, which shows that success breeds success.”

Also on tap for the 2016 season: Participants will be invited to design the logoed T-shirts that will be used as event giveaways. “We work really hard to build excitement for these events each year, and the promotional products we incorporate really help do that,” Kramer says.

Picturesque Promos

These picturesque events run through the sacred homeland of the Lakota Sioux, starting at Rochford, South Dakota and ending in the historic town of Deadwood. "Great scenery and an opportunity to tie in the runs with a vacation in the beautiful Black Hills make it a family-friendly venue," says race director Emily Wheeler of Rapid City-based Wheeler Events Management. "We had a fantastic turnout for this year's runs with over 3,400 registrations from 44 states, Canada and as far away as New Zealand."

A wide selection of branded products including hats, hoodies, shirts, badges and jackets helped make the marathons a success. "Our most popular promotional items were quarter-zip jackets emblazoned with the race logos," says Wheeler. "These are something for the racers to take back home with them and wear as a memory of the event. Participating moms and dads also bought jackets and shirts for their children."

According to Wheeler, the Half Marathon garnered the most entries, "because it's obviously shorter and mostly downhill which makes it attractive for folks who want to compete but aren't able to put in as much training time."  Wheeler also sponsors the Run Crazy Horse event in October where runners end their journey at the giant hand of the fabled Crazy Horse Monument.  This event features unique promotional items such as branded horse tank and shooter shirts. 

Gear-Up for Gift-Giving Season

Gifting clients and employees around the holidays isn't just a nice way to spread some cheer – it's a smart business tactic, according to a recent study by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). About three-quarters of U.S. companies give holiday gifts to employees and clients, spending an average of $64 per employee and $38 per client, the study reports.

Why the generosity? Nearly 70% of the respondents said that business gifts are an important tool in developing relationships with clients and prospects. With that in mind, here are five corporate gift-giving tips to help you prep for the upcoming holiday season.

Start Early.
According to the study, 68% of businesspeople give gifts branded with the company's logo on them. But personalization takes time. Experts recommend clients start talking to their promotional products distributors about holiday gifts in August and September, and "place all of their orders by early fall," says promotional expert Marcia Gasca. "That way, there's plenty of time to be creative with personalization and packaging."

Be On-Trend.
Useful items that take up real estate on a recipient's desk or wall (think logoed pen sets and calendars) are always popular, but electronics remain the hot ticket on everyone's list, says Gasca. Think branded power banks, tablet covers and logoed microfiber screen cleaners. One hot item for this year: a portable charger leash, which has an alarm in it that sounds when you remove your device from it (great for globetrotters who are constantly leaving their travel chargers behind in hotel rooms). Other fun ideas include smart watches, apparel that monitors your heart rate and fitness-tracking wristbands. 

Think Beyond the Gift Card. 
While gift cards remain one of the most popular gifts for employees, get creative and present the card with something the recipient will hold onto much longer, suggests Gasca. For instance, put the card inside of a branded tumbler mug or water bottle, or zip it into the pocket of an embroidered fleece jacket. Another idea: Place the card inside a branded picture frame that will sit on the recipient's desk after the card is used.

Wrap It Up.
Forget plain holiday wrap for your gifts. Use packaging as another branding opportunity. As an example, you might roll up an imprinted T-shirt and slip on a logoed band that recipients can later use as a trendy accessory. Create gift tags as well. For instance, instead of a traditional paper gift tag, handwrite your recipients' names on a paper luggage tag insert; they can enjoy the branded luggage tag long after the gift is opened. Also, ask your promotional products distributor about customized gift wrap that will further showcase your company's branding.

Consider Cards.
Don't have the budget to send a gift to every client or prospect? Customized gift cards with personalized, handwritten notes are a nice touch. A growing trend is to send a "thanks for your business" in late November (just before Thanksgiving) so that your card can be the first holiday card to arrive in a recipient's mailbox. Sending cards early is "a great and affordable way to stand out from the pack," Gasca says. 

T-Shirts Highlight Fundraiser

It was a sea of white in late May for the Yonkers, NY-based Paideia School 15 annual charity event – a 1.5-mile walk followed by a spring carnival. With more than 500 elementary school students – and quite a few parents – decked out in crisp white T-shirts, the day-long event was designed to raise money to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. And that it did, in spades.

From sales of T-shirts, food and tickets to carnival games spread across the school’s playground following the walk – as well as donations and sponsorships of students for the walk – the school raised nearly $16,000 for its chosen charity of the year.

“It was really a great day that brought out the best in our school and in our community,” said Michael Shapiro, principal of Paideia School 15. “The purpose of the shirts was to demonstrate unity for the entire learning community.”

In fact, for some of the students the T-shirts even became a yearbook of sorts, as they had their friends sign the fronts, backs and sleeves. It was all-over imprinting at its most basic. The T-shirts also served a purpose to raise money, as the school sold about 100 additional shirts at $12-$15 apiece (advance sales got a discount) for a total of more than $1,000. Plus, the school gave its teachers and staff red shirts with the same imprints to help them stand out during the event.

“The fundraising aspect of the event really went great, and the T-shirts certainly helped to give the whole thing a celebratory feel,” Shapiro said. “Our impression of everything was very positive. It was a continuation of creating a culture based on the importance of civics and responsibilities.”

Raising Pints & Funds For Firefighters

Guinness USA and Diageo continued its partnership with The Leary Firefighters Foundation (LFF) this past St. Patrick’s Day to raise money in support of firefighters across the country. The Guinness brand increased the fundraising initiative by releasing a series of limited-edition, firefighter-inspired T-shirts, one of which is designed in collaboration with country music superstar Brad Paisley, as a tribute to firefighters everywhere.

The Guinness St. Patrick’s Day initiative was used to celebrate those of great character and heroism who want to be and do more – qualities firefighters showcase every day. Throughout this year’s initiative, Guinness has also been raising a pint responsibly with local community events in honor of those who make great contributions to their communities – such as community leaders, military personnel, EMS workers and, of course, firefighters.

Patrons of legal drinking age were invited to celebrate National Raise Your Glass Day on February 26, by sharing a photo of their Guinness pint on Twitter, tagging @GuinnessUS, or posting it on the Guinness US Facebook page. For each photo posted, Guinness donated $1 (up to $100,000) toward its fundraising effort in support of firefighters.

“Last year, we raised more than half a million dollars for The Leary Firefighters Foundation, and we’re looking to raise even more money this year,” said Guinness Brand Director Emma Giles. “Firefighters personify the Made of More spirit through their selfless and heroic actions and do so without the expectation of anything in return. These brave men and women carry on the same enduring character that Arthur Guinness instilled in our brand more than 250 years ago.”

This year, the Guinness brand teamed up with Paisley to add his own spin to one of the firefighter-inspired T-shirts available for purchase, with all net proceeds benefiting The LFF. Paisley comes from a family of firefighters. “My father was a volunteer firefighter and showed me at an early age the sacrifices made every day by firefighters and how important what they do is to their communities,” said Paisley, who offered artistic input on one T-shirt’s design. “I’m so excited to be a part of the Guinness initiative, knowing their work with The LFF has such an impact on the safety, effectiveness and overall lives of firefighters.

The T-shirts were available through St. Patrick’s Day for a $20 donation through more than 1,700 in-bar events held across the country and at – the online hub for all philanthropic efforts surrounding the Guinness brand’s commitment to firefighters. All net proceeds raised went toward The LFF to provide the much needed funding for fire departments nationwide to receive equipment, technology and training necessary for the continued well-being of firefighters.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Guinness for the third consecutive year to support local firefighters across the country,” said Denis Leary, actor and founder of The Leary Firefighters Foundation. (See Leary’s video on the T-shirt here: “The Guinness brand’s commitment to honoring these men and women who go above and beyond to help their communities has been fantastic. With the help of partners like Guinness, the LFF has been able to implement initiatives such as a First Responder leadership development program for fire departments in Boston, New York and Worcester, MA, as well as donating more than $260,000 worth of fire and safety equipment to the Detroit Fire Department. We look forward to accomplishing even more this year.”

Turtle Pins Popular With Resort's Guests

La Playa Beach and Golf Resort, a boutique beachfront resort in Naples, FL, celebrates the endangered native Loggerhead Turtles. They encourage families to go green on a family philanthropic vacation aimed at discovering and conserving the delicate ecosystems and endangered wildlife of the region.

"Sea turtle preservation is the ultimate goal in our area, and we do our part by providing guests with the knowledge to help protect the turtles," says David Martorana, director of sales and marketing at the resort.

La Playa partnered with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Sea Turtle Monitoring and Protection Project to educate guests on the sea turtles, which use the hotel's beaches as a nesting area, and involve guests in efforts to protect the species. Guests at La Playa receive sea turtle pins at check-in, together with an information card about the Conservancy and what can be done to protect the turtles. Last year, about 17,000 pins were distributed. 

"The sea turtle pins have been very popular with guests," says Martorana. "It's something that surprises and excites those who are staying with us for the first time, and is an added touch that returning guests look forward to receiving." In addition, it's a great souvenir that doesn't require any packing.

La Playa also provides sea turtle coloring books for children at the resort's restaurant, Baleen. Stuffed sea turtles are available for purchase in the resort boutique and in each guest room.

The resort also recently offered a package for one sea turtle season called the "Love Nesting" package. Guests who select this package when reserving will get luxury beachfront accommodations, a stuffed sea turtle and educational materials on arrival, and tickets to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center.

Plan the Perfect Golf Event

Producing a golf event takes careful organization and planning, as well as the right promotional products that will enhance the event. Check out these tips from experts Roger Caldwell, owner and founder of Kansas-based Great Golf Events; Larry Battaglia, owner of New York-based Golf Event Planning; and Kevin Ludke, PGA professional with Miami-based Professional Golf Events South Florida.

Start with a plan. Caldwell advises to plan a minimum of 120 days out. "Focus on what you're trying to accomplish and plan ways to promote both your purpose and the event," he says. "If this is a customer appreciation event, spoil them with branded gifts and awards to keep your brand in front of them."

Product Suggestions: Build interest by sending sets of branded golf balls to potential participants. Use four-color printing to enhance your logo.

Locate the best course. "Proximity is a factor, but I look at the overall facility and how the course sets up for a particular tournament, including the cart staging area, lunch and dinner arrangements, overall player room and activity setup room," Ludke says. He also advises making sure the course and greens are in good shape and that the staff can accommodate the needs of the event including competitive pricing for golf, lunches, dinners, etc.
Product Suggestions: Once you've picked a golf course, order T-shirts emblazoned with the course name and your logo. Add branded hats if the budget allows.

Design an event website. Battaglia says, "We start out by educating ourselves about the overall mission and purpose of the event. We then create custom imagery that is tailored to individual clients." He notes that capability for event marketing, accessibility to online registration and linking clients' homepages also make for great websites, as well as options for tee time reservations and social media integration.
Product Suggestions: Make participants want to register via your website by offering logoed boxes of tees to those who sign up online.

Choose fun games. "Traditional on-course contests are a must, including hole-in-one, longest drive and closest to pin," says Caldwell, "But implement some unique games as well." He suggests placing five pins on the green and making all of them hole-in-one prize holes or providing prizes for natural birdies to any flag. "In order to make this work, the jackpots must look easy to earn," Caldwell says.
Product Suggestions: Branded contest prizes range from the expensive (custom tournament jackets) to the economical (ditty bags loaded with accessories). Choose based on difficulty of winning the prize.

Present the right trophy. "It's a mistake to choose cheap trophies or something donated that most people could care less about," says Ludke. "The key is that you want your players to remember the event and you want to impress them with that wow factor from start to finish."
Product Suggestions: Pick from a vast selection of top-drawer logoed golf trophies for team prizes. For individual prizes, choose branded items that participants can use on a day-to-day basis so they will be constantly reminded of the event.

Bobbleheads Dominate MLB Promo Calendars

Garden gnomes, soap dispensers, fedoras and replica championship rings are just a few of the new promotional items MLB teams will give away at ballparks this season. Still, the promo product that remains the most collectible and universally popular in stadiums is the bobblehead. In fact, there are more than 130 bobblehead promotional nights scheduled at MLB parks in 2015, featuring replicas of current players, broadcasters and movie characters. 

"We give away a bobblehead, it automatically becomes a sellout," Rick Schlesinger, COO of the Milwaukee Brewers, recently told ESPN. "Every year we think we might have exhausted the bobblehead craze here in Wisconsin, and it doesn't happen."

For 2015, the Brewers have sold out multiple packages of promotional tickets – entitling fans to a bobblehead of Bob Uecker's character from the film Major League and a bobblehead of catcher Jonathan Lucroy with a green light saber in his hand for Star Wars night. The Cincinnati Reds, meanwhile, have nine promotional bobblehead dates planned, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals each have eight. The Yankees are giving away four bobbleheads this year in the images of Masahiro Tanaka, Thurman Munson, Jacoby Ellsbury and Babe Ruth.

Bobblehead technology will also improve for 2015. The Brewers' Uecker figurine has a chip in it that will belt out three phrases from Major League and the Cardinals' Harry Caray bobblehead will also talk – a giveaway meant to honor the legendary voice of the rival Chicago Cubs. 

The popularity of bobbleheads is far from a fad – plans were recently announced to open a National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee. The museum will host bobblehead events, autograph signings and mascot appearances, and it will include a bobblehead-themed restaurant. Alternatively, as an ongoing display, the Miami Marlins have a collection of about 600 baseball bobbleheads inside Marlins Park.

If bobbleheads aren't what you're looking for, though, MLB teams are offering quite a list of distinctive giveaways this year. A few top picks: Hisashi Iwakuma bear hats (Mariners) on April 25; BBQ branding irons (Twins) on May 25; and Star Wars-themed Death Star balls (Red Sox) on May 4 and R2D2 can coolers (Nationals) on July 19

Football Team Scores Equipment Through Golf

Mission Viejo High School's Diablo football team needed to raise money for new training and safety equipment and facilities, and they had a small timeframe to work with. Traditional fundraising efforts taking weeks or months weren't the answer. The solution was to pump up the previous year's fundraiser – the high school's annual Diablo Classic Golf Tournament.

California-based Mission Viejo chose one of South Orange County's finest golf courses to host the event, and used the Diablo Classic website and a variety of online and personal communication efforts to advertise it. The tourney featured a round of golf plus lunch, dinner and opportunities to win Diablo-branded promotional gifts via hole-in-one contests and other on-course events. Prizes included branded golfers' gift-packs featuring shoe bags, divot fixers and tee pouches. Diablo-branded thank-you gifts were also given to golfers to encourage them to donate to the football team.

Tournament participants and donors enjoyed the promotional gifts, and the branding helped keep the Diablos in mind well after the football season ended. The tournament itself was a success as the effort exceeded expectations, raising more than enough money to cover the season's football needs.

Are you looking to raise money for your school or sports team? Make sure to use innovative techniques to connect prospects to a school's offerings to boost school enrollment or raise funds for teams. The best methods to do this use promotional products and a strong partnership with your distributor who can show you great ways to incorporate branded items into your campaign. 

Branded Apparel Aids School In Fundraiser

When the students at South Glens Falls High School reach their 28th straight hour of dancing for charity, one could imagine their energy drained and exhaustion setting in. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The South High Marathon Dance builds to a crescendo of anticipation in its final hour. Announcements are made for how much money was raised, who raised the most and who won the event's multiple raffles. The 800 students who danced all day and night create one final flourish with the Strut Your Stuff performance as their families cheer them on in the school's packed gym. 

For 38 years, the marathon dance has helped those in need, from paying for medical expenses to sending terminally-ill patients on dream vacations. On March 6-7 the students and supporting community raised $621,680, bringing their grand total to more than $4.82 million. It helps people like Nolan Jacox, a five-year-old with an autoimmune disease that causes him to produce too many white blood cells. As a result, he is allergic to most foods and must eat through a feeding tube. 

The school works with a screen printer/embroiderer that prints multiple garments for the recipients, families, production crew, alumni, students and more, as well as a fundraiser design that, last year, rose over $7,000 through sales of hoodies and short- and long-sleeve tees. The back of the shirts feature the name of every person that benefited from the money raised through the dance. "The dance and these shirts have helped with the lives of so many people," says Rob Chadwick, a father of two South High students. 

Over 90% of the student population participates in the dance. A student committee chooses the causes to support and determines the costumes that will be worn at the dance. "The kids prepare for the dance throughout the year," says Chadwick, who also works security for the dance. "They even practice special dances in their gym classes." In this case, the power of dance is more than just a phrase.

Wearables Have Star Power

Ellen DeGeneres knows the power of promotional products. The reigning queen of afternoon talk shows is known for gifting her celebrity guests with wacky, memorable, specially designed promotional items, such as a baby carrier bearing huge angel wings for Victoria's Secret Model Miranda Kerr, complete with makeup and hair accessories.

But one of Ellen's most popular giveaways is her branded male underwear, which she presents to male celebrity guests, sometimes on air, but more often in a gift bag for appearing on the show. A number of recipients, including country singer Tim McGraw and R&B singer/songwriter Jason Derulo have been caught wearing the skivvies in candid photos, the Ellen waistband visible above their low-slung jeans. She's so well-known for the underwear giveaways that OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder turned the tables on Ellen and gifted her on the show with a pair of undies bearing his band's name on the waistband.

DeGeneres offers a wide variety of promotional items for sale on her website, too, including hoodies, socks, T-shirts, bags and many others. Smart marketers like Ellen know that branded apparel is a favorite with consumers across all segments. One promotional expert says that a reason for this is that when someone is wearing such a visible branded item, "it implies a deep level of acceptance and support for that brand."

Celebrities aren't the only ones who make use of branded apparel. Colleges and universities are one of the top markets for apparel today, says The Scarlet Marketeer's Mary Ellen Sokalsi, citing admissions, bookstores, athletic wear, fraternities and sororities as prospective niches. "They either want hip, soft comfortable fashions, hardcore workout wear or spirit-boosting pride wear with a collegiate tone," she says. "The fabrics, styling and imprint are all important. The synergy of the three can make or break a promotion."

For example, Portland State University (PSU) wanted to build branding around a program, "Portland State of Mind" that celebrated events around the Portland community and on campus. So they contacted their promotional products partner who provided the school with T-shirts. The tees had a Portlandia style and feel, and were designed by PSU student artists, which included images of a campus food cart and the "Victor Viking" school mascot. The tees were sold online and on campus, and were advertised in the school's alumni newsletter, that goes out to some 100,000 people.

The success of the first year's program led to a new program called "Fearless" in which PSU students are encouraged to be fearless in their choice of academic pursuit and lifestyle. The new Fearless e-store gives the students the ability to customize their apparel to proclaim their choice. They could be a "Fearless Architect," or a "Fearless Teacher" or "Fearless Fireman." The Fearless program is supported online by YouTube videos produced by students that explain the programs and how to order the merchandise. Both programs have been very popular in terms of orders and visibility on campus. For example, Portland State University (PSU) wanted to build branding around a program, "Portland State of Mind" that celebrated events around the Portland community and on campus. So they contacted their promotional products partner who provided the school with T-shirts. The tees had a Portlandia style and feel, and were designed by PSU student artists, which included images of a campus food cart and the "Victor Viking" school mascot. The tees were sold online and on campus, and were advertised in the school's alumni newsletter, that goes out to some 100,000 people.

The success of the first year's program led to a new program called "Fearless" in which PSU students are encouraged to be fearless in their choice of academic pursuit and lifestyle. The new Fearless e-store gives the students the ability to customize their apparel to proclaim their choice. They could be a "Fearless Architect," or a "Fearless Teacher" or "Fearless Fireman." The Fearless program is supported online by YouTube videos produced by students that explain the programs and how to order the merchandise. Both programs have been very popular in terms of orders and visibility on campus. 

Red Dress Pin Works As Powerful Reminder

The Heart Truth hosts its annual Red Dress Collection Fashion Show during New York’s Fashion Week each February to warn women of their number-one killer. The show is always a huge success with thousands of attendees, many notable celebrities, media personalities and fashion designers, and the event gets a boost with the effective use of branding elements.

The Heart Truth created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002, and each year at the fashion show, the hype and enthusiasm is tangible.

Diet Coke sponsored the show, and its national promotional partner provided the branding. Banners and signs displaying the brand’s support of the Heart Truth could be seen throughout the venue, complete with spokespeople and reporters, all donning their brightest red garments. 

Brochures, pamphlets and other educational materials were handed out to attendees as well as the iconic Red Dress pin. According to Mariana Eberle-Blaylock, account director of social marketing at Ogilvy Washington, the Red Dress pin has become the organization’s staple promotional product throughout the years. 

“We give away pins at different campaigns year-round, but the fashion show is a big night for us,” Eberle-Blaylock says. “Each attendee gets a Red Dress pin and we always secure it to a postcard that lists facts and messages about heart disease. We change the messages to fit our audiences because every race faces different risks.”

Eberle-Blaylock notes that they translate all the materials into Spanish (heart disease hits Hispanic women especially hard). “The message is always customized to the audience, but the colors and symbols are the same in order to keep our Heart Truth brand consistent,” she says.

Show attendees also received goodie bags of Diet Coke-branded products including a notebook, a straw and a bottle of the famous carbonated soft drink designed specifically for its partnership with the Heart Truth.

Although February is donned Heart Health Month, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute outreach continues throughout the year with social marketing campaigns and events. Red Dress pins, DVDs, cookbooks, fact sheets, posters and other marketing materials are distributed to communities worldwide and the organization grows every year with new partnerships and campaigns.

Promo Items Pump Up Album Sales

Making money through album sales is more difficult than ever, and strong radio play is no longer a guarantee of high earnings for artists. As it has gotten easier than ever to download a band’s new album, promotional products offer a way to encourage fans to buy the physical CD (or, increasingly, the vinyl record). 

In December, some major music acts used custom Christmas cards, including the card as a freebie for those who placed an order around the holidays. For DJ/rapper Diplo, those who bought his album received a custom T-shirt and pennant. For hip-hop group Three Loco, fans got a sticker and T-shirt.

Singer/songwriter Josh Ritter worked with his distributor partner who designed lapel pins with a twist. Working off Ritter’s album art, which features a vintage aesthetic, the company created silver and bronze pins with an antique feel. Rock band Atom Strange went a more unconventional route, creating figurines of “Marv the Alien” – the band’s mascot – as well as alien stress balls to give out at shows.

Promotional products can help to enhance concerts and music festivals and attract more people to the event. Plus, a tour T-shirt or tote is kept as a memento, and for diehard fans, branded merchandise can turn into collectible items. 

During Rihanna’s 777 Tour, 150 journalists and guests who were invited on the tour plane received a swag bag packed with goodies including Skull Candy headphones, No Label watches and Rihanna’s own Nude perfume. The tote bag featured the tour’s logo, reading “7 countries 7 days 7 shows.”

The tour itself received mixed responses from the journalists onboard, with reporters from Rolling Stone to New York Magazine complaining about lack of access to the singer and flight delays. The bags, however, got only rave reviews, with a number of journalists publishing photos of the prized promo totes.

Engage Employees With Team-Building Activities

A recent report by Gallup Inc. says that only 30% of full-time employed Americans are actively engaged and inspired at work. And yet, it’s the 30 million engaged employees in the U.S. that come up with “most of the innovative ideas, create most of a company’s new customers, and have the most entrepreneurial energy,” Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton writes in the report.

Keeping a team of employees happy, motivated and inspired can only be good for a firm’s relationships with its clients, and ultimately, its bottom line. Gallup’s survey indicates companies have a lot of room to grow in terms of engaging and inspiring their employees, and that’s where team-building activities and promotional products can play an important role.

As the economy continues to improve, the objectives of team building are evolving. In a better economy, “companies are more concerned about losing good people and the cost of replacing and training them,” says TeamBonding COO David Goldstein. “The goals of team building in this scenario are more about building balance and having fun at work. Companies want employees to like what they’re doing and feel like they have a purpose.” 

For example, Goldstein’s company works with a lot of technology-oriented events. The firm partnered with their ad specialty distributor and created a high-tech scavenger hunt using GPS technology for attendees at the Corporate Event Marketing Association Summit 2014 conference. 

The hunt consisted of 10 teams of 10, and each team leader used an iPad, iPhone or Android to get maps, messages and instructions about activities they needed to perform and upload. Activities included forming a letter of the alphabet with the team, jumping into a pool, and singing a song for points. The winning team received TeamBonding logoed Bluetooth speakers. Each team wore different neon-colored Malibu sunglasses to separate themselves and set their team apart.

Another of TeamBonding’s favorite team-building activities is charitable events. “This originated during the recession when some companies couldn’t necessarily justify team building, but could justify the concept of giving back,” says Goldstein. “Activities like assembling school supply backpacks or military care packages were good for the community as well as good for employees.”

Care Wear Provides Local Support

“Pink Heals” is a self-described “community-based health-care program” that brings its grassroots fundraising message to the door of local communities aboard bright pink fire trucks manned by firefighters in bright pink uniforms. The nonprofit outreach organization was founded in 2007 by retired fireman Dave Graybill in order to keep fundraising dollars within local communities to aid local citizens who take ill and need financial help. 

The group’s mission statement reads: “We have created a brand with our clothing line and merchandise that is sold locally and nationally to help our nonprofit. Only the sale of our merchandise sustains us.”

Pink Heals targets all cancer and other health issues that affect women and their families within their own hometowns. It encourages raising funds that benefit immediate local needs rather than sending donations to large corporate charities that have high overhead costs and whose impact is not felt where it’s needed most.

The words “Pink Heals” can be used to create fundraisers year round for different causes tailored to local needs, such as Pink Heals Diabetes, Pink Heals At-Risk Kids and Pink Heals Communities, says Graybill. “My idea was to create the world’s largest brand, which is actually a charity that can sustain itself,” he says. “We are the only nonprofit in the U.S. that doesn’t solicit donations.” Pink Heals doesn’t take any portion of local fundraising dollars or donations, but rather shows up in communities to demonstrate support and empower and encourage local businesses and organizations to raise money that will stay local and be used by its own people. 

It will provide its logo and artwork free of charge to local organizations and government agencies if they want to create their own apparel for sale in order to maintain the group’s unique symbol and tagline: “Pink Heals, ‘Cares Enough to Wear Pink.’” Pink Heals also sells merchandise on its website.

There are currently over 500 Pink Heals fire trucks carrying its message nationwide, and a new pink truck is built every three weeks, says Graybill. The trucks show up at community events, encouraging cancer patients to sign the fire engine, and selling branded apparel to raise money for local causes.

T-shirts are the best seller, particularly black and heather gray, and a new raspberry shade is becoming more popular than the traditional pink color, says Graybill. Additional apparel offerings include yoga pants, hats, beanie caps, tank tops and baby onesies. Graybill eventually plans to expand the line to include such items as sandals and towels. “We need to sell what we know they’ll wear to help promote our message,” he says.

Fans Flock To Baltimore Orioles' Promotions

When the Baltimore Orioles released their 2014 promotion schedule for its 60th anniversary season, they noted it was one of the ball club’s “most robust promotional calendars in club history, filled with many new items, as well as several returning fan favorites” slated for giveaways throughout the season.  It can’t just be coincidence that the team finished first in the America League East Division, claiming their first division championship since 1997.

“Apparel is an extremely popular giveaway, not just in Baltimore, but throughout Major League Baseball,” says Greg Bader, Orioles’ vice president of marketing and communications. He says that T-shirts, caps and other apparel have a high value for fans, as they can get multiple uses out of the giveaway items.

“Additionally, it’s good for a brand to provide apparel for fans to wear throughout the marketplace as it helps promote the brand image and identity,” he adds. Indeed, Oriole-branded apparel was distributed at 15 of the 24 home games, when merchandise was given to fans during its anniversary season.

The Orioles’ promotional schedule in 2014 featured six separate T-shirts that were provided to all fans in attendance. “We even allowed our fans to choose their sizes (medium or XL) for the first time in club history,” Bader points out.

There were six hat giveaways this year, including the Orioles’ classic floppy hat (similar to Gilligan’s hat on the famed 1960s TV series), a Father’s Day Fedora and, for the first time, a Wild Bill cowboy hat.

“All of our hats ended up being popular in 2014, but the Wild Bill hat was perhaps the most popular,” says Bader. “It was the first time we had ever given away this style hat, and since it was in honor of ‘Wild Bill’ Hagy, one of the most famous Orioles’ fans of all time, and in celebration of our 60th anniversary, the promotion was extremely well-received.” The Wild Bill hat was distributed on August 9 to the first 20,000 fans ages 15 and older.

In July, Baltimore sports reporters Zach Wilt and Jabby Burns debated the merits of the floppy hat vs. the fedora on Baltimore Sports Report. Burns called the Orioles’ fedora the “new, hip way of the future” while Wilt praised the classic floppy hat.

“When the Orioles’ promotional schedule comes out, the first thing you look for is Floppy Hat Night,” Wilt said. “When you think Orioles’ promotions, you think floppy hat!” The floppy hat promotion has been going on since at least the days of Memorial Stadium (pre-Camden Yards) – more than 25 years, says the Orioles’ Bader. He adds that Miller Lite has sponsored nearly all of the floppy hat giveaways, which are distributed to fans ages 21 and over.

Promo Postcard Scares Up Interest

A Florida-based marketing company with a soft spot for direct mail carried out a two-part Halloween campaign that consisted of a postcard, a YouTube video and a bit of mystery.

First, the company mailed a personalized postcard with their website and these five words: "They are coming for you, (Name)". They also added a "creepy" YouTube video on the landing page. "We wanted to come up with a cool Halloween campaign," says the firm's marketing director. "It's important that we come up with something innovative rather than just offer a money-off discount to drive sales. We want to impress the pants off of our customers."

Over 5,900 personalized postcards were sent to top current clients who had ordered from the company within the last six weeks, and over 97,000 e-mails were sent to their entire client database promoting the campaign. Ultimately, they received over 2,570 visits to the landing page, and new order numbers from the campaign totaled $137,748. "With this campaign, we really wanted to leave the impression with current clients that we're a fun and creative marketing company," says the marketing director. "This plays an important part in improving the affinity they feel for us, and that will hopefully translate into long-lasting client relationships for us."

If you want to scare up your own business this Halloween, follow these tips from this campaign's marketing director: "Have fun and connect with your clients. Write a fun e-mail and send out pictures of your staff dressed up, or hold a themed contest for your clients with a great prize."

Unique Teambuilding Programs

Want to take your teambuilding programs up a notch? Here are six unique programs along with sample destinations and promotional products to enhance your teambuilding experiences.

Go Underground: Groups can enjoy the spelunker experience by navigating through cave complexes using maps to reach designated destinations. In typical exploration sessions, each team member is assigned a role. Leaders are responsible for group well-being. Learning sessions promote communication skills and show how strategies can be improved as participants gain insights that can be integrated into work environments. Participants assist each other in unfamiliar situations that challenge comfort zones and bring cohesiveness into play to overcome fears. While the guides' main roles are to ensure safety, they're also on hand to interpret the cave's natural history.

Promotional Gifts: logoed headlamps and flashlights, glow sticks, gloves and whistles.

Sample Destination: Moaning Cavern Park, Vallecito, CA,


Fly Through The Air: Flying trapeze teambuilding programs engender feelings of involvement and team spirit as your group reaches for the heights. Programs start with safety training before anyone sets foot on the trapeze. These activities produce aerial dynamics that bolster cooperation, efficiency and courage. The objective is to build team spirit and create new bonds to face the challenges of demanding business environments. Sessions usually rotate through challenge stations with increasing levels of difficulty and can be tailored to the groups' time and budget.

Promotional Gifts: trapeze-shaped belt buckles, workout monitors, exercise clothes and headbands.

Sample Destination: Trapeze School New York, six U.S. locations,


Climb A Mountain: Rock climbing and rappelling programs are fantastic ways to create strong bonds and improve communication skills while setting and achieving goals. Courses teach the simplest forms of outdoor rock climbing and rappelling, emphasizing the skills of climbing knots, belaying, anchors and movement. These programs present teamwork as a natural solution to overcoming intense mental and physical challenges.

Promotional Gifts: carabineers, binoculars, climbing vests and hats.

Sample Destination: Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School, multiple Southeast locations,


Race A Yacht: These waterborne regattas are designed for sailors and non-sailors alike and physical condition is never an issue; it's about fostering teamwork through a desire to win. Team members begin by practicing crew positions and learn to work together as a cohesive team; skills that will later prove valuable in business environments. Rating systems allow for handicapping so that all boats are judged equal at the finish. There's plenty of action, tacking upwind, rounding the marks and running downwind. Before returning to the dock for the awards celebration, each team will have the duration of the regatta to pleasure sail and explore the waterway.

Promotional Gifts: boat bags, compasses, binoculars and nautical jewelry.

Sample Destination: Schooner Woodwind, Annapolis, MD,


Build A House: Your team will learn building skills that improve communications and develop cooperation and camaraderie through interacting with coworkers from all levels of your corporate hierarchy. These efforts work to build morale and team spirit and forge bonds by working toward a common goal. In addition, the program fees provided to Habitat For Humanity are fully tax deductible. Habitat For Humanity can also provide access to their branding so that your company logo can be combined with Habitat's to use as a powerful marketing tool. Best of all, it's for a great cause.

Promotional Gifts: tape measures, calculators, tool kits, gloves, T-shirts and hats.

Sample Destination: Contact Habitat For Humanity to locate programs


Join A Cattle Drive: Your group will learn cowboy management techniques when you send them on a cattle drive. Most cattle ranches are located in areas of natural beauty that offer scenic cattle work accompanied by spectacular vistas, including pine forests, alpine meadows and mountain lakes. Your teambuilding group will learn the organizational skills required to trail cattle and move herds across water and up and down hills; skills that will come in handy when it's time for your staff to round up new customers.

Promotional Gifts: Western gear including logoed cowboy hats, jewelry and belt buckles.

Sample Destination: The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch, Shell, WY,

Jefferson PTA Builds With Bricks

Newton, Iowa’s Thomas Jefferson Grade School faced a big back-to-school dilemma. The school had just undergone a reorganization that tripled the number of young, lower grade students. Because of that, Jefferson was badly in need of a new playground, but the question was where to get the money to fund it. 

In the past, the Jefferson PTA had taken the lead in efforts of this type and they again stepped up to the plate, organizing a joint fundraising effort in partnership with the teachers, the students and the school district. With $25,000 being the fundraising goal, the effort kicked off with a highly publicized commemorative brick sale.

The commemorative bricks were engraved with the name of the donors, offering community contributors a chance for school immortality. The bricks sold for $75 each, with the idea that they would eventually be integrated into the project. After a successful brick sale combined with a "Pennies for the Playground" fundraiser, two fun runs and assistance from TJ teachers who donated funds from the annual school carnival, the bulk of the $25,000 goal had been reached, so the playground equipment was put on order. The school district added the finishing touches by tiling the playground area and prepping the areas where the equipment was to be installed.

Now the question was where to put the commemorative bricks. It was felt that if they were placed in the playground soil, ground shift might occur. The PTA came up with a better solution – use the bricks to build playground benches. This solution proved to be a win-win for Jefferson by adding an additional playground component while providing a lasting memorial for the donors. 

Do you have a need for funds? Want a special commemorative gift to give donors? Contact your distributor partner for the best items to fulfill all your promotional needs. 

Its No Mystery: Promo Products Pump-Up Sales

Mysteryland, the longest running electronic dance music (EDM) festival in the world, made its U.S. debut over the Memorial Day weekend at the iconic Woodstock grounds in Bethel Woods, NY, by telling attendees to "take a trip down the rabbit hole." Unlike the original Woodstock concert, attendance was strictly enforced and limited to 20,000, with ticket prices starting at $179, and VIP passes going for $299. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, the EDM market is estimated to be close to $20 billion and is growing by over 10% every year.

ID&T, the festival powerhouse behind Mysteryland, hosted top acts like Kaskade, Dillon Francis, Moby, Steve Aoki, Nervo, Showtek and Fedde Le Grand on the main stage. The Boat Stage, which catered to bass-hungry fans, featured Zomboy, Flosstradamus, Big Gigantic and Bro Safari. "Sunday School," a mini festival within Mysteryland, offered three stages of the sounds of techno, tech-house and vinyl-only DJs. Hardstyle fans could throw their bodies to Coone, Noisecontrollers and Brennan Heart in the Q-Dance tent. If fans needed time to rest their feet (and ears), they could venture to the "Healing Garden" for yoga, meditation or aromatherapy. Among this eclectic mix of music, dance and art, there was also an abundance of fun branded promotional products.

One of the main sponsors of Mysteryland USA was Rekorderlig Cider from Sweden. Friendly Rekorderlig vendors decked out in red logoed polos happily offered free samples of their Strawberry-Lime, Berry or Pear flavored hard cider. They also gave soaked dancers Rekorderlig branded ponchos for the intermittent downpours throughout that Saturday afternoon. One of the promoters explained that the plastic pouch the ponchos came in could act as a waterproof case for cell phones.

A popular meeting place for separated friends was the prominent Rekorderlig hot-air balloon. One of the perks to visiting the hard cider vendor was the chance to win a balloon ride over the lush fields where, 45 years earlier, concertgoers danced to Hendrix, Santana, Joplin and other top acts.


On the trail to the main stage, attendees were greeted by another Rekorderlig booth that sold garland crowns for $20. Many of the female guests got in touch with their inner flower child and chose from a variety of colorful blossoms to be custom-fit around their heads, staying true to the Rekorderlig slogan, "Beautifully Swedish."

Aside from Rekorderlig, there was a plethora of Mysteryland merchandise, which featured the Mysteryland and/or Woodstock ’69 logos on apparel, hats and headbands. Rookie campers were also able to buy blankets, sleeping bags and other outdoor necessities. Mysteryland offered "Holy Ground" campers their own camping survival kit, with a two-person tent, airbed and sleeping bags. Festival-goers were able to purchase unique meals and snacks from Smorgasburg Food Fest. Smorgasburg is a food market held every Saturday in the hipster Brooklyn town of Williamsburg, who partnered with Mysteryland to offer organic, vegan and other food options.  

Mysteryland was one of the first "cashless" U.S. music festivals. Attendees were able to put money onto their logoed wristbands either online or at stations throughout the festival grounds. Their credit changed into "birdie bucks" to pay for food, beverages, merchandise or showers throughout the weekend. The leftover money was then refunded back onto the provided credit card. The birdie bucks wristbands allowed for quicker service in the long lines for showers and food.


With the help of sponsors such as Rekorderlig and many others, Mysteryland was able to successfully offer a mecca for fans of all EDM genres to come together to explore and dance in the historical grounds that inspired a revolution of music, fashion and a state of mind back in 1969. And with logoed keepsakes, the memories from Mysteryland are guaranteed to live on.

Promotional Mug a Hit at Preakness Infield Concert

During the 139th Preakness Stakes in May, the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore not only featured some of the most renowned race horses, but also a mini festival known as the InField Fest – a venue that bills itself as "the people's race; the people's party."

InField Fest allowed for something more than betting on horses. Attendees to this multi-entertainment event could visit food and beverage vendors, and shop at the Preakness store for branded apparel, caps, cups, bags and other logoed items. Plus, there were two stages with music performances by top entertainers such as Nas, Switchfoot, Eli Young Band, Sundy Best, Go Go Gadjet, Glenn Morrison and a headliner by double Grammy-award winner Lorde.

One highlight of the festival was the Mug Club. Participants were able to prepay for their tickets online for exclusive privileges to the Mug Club, open to adults 21 and over. Privileges included access to all InField Festival party areas and Mug Club areas, and all beer was included at the Mug Club stations. Upon entering, Mug Club tickets were exchanged for a collectible, neon orange mug. The mugs were valuable commodities, since they could be refilled with beer at the filling stations; however, they could not be replaced if lost or stolen. Although the refill stations often had long lines, the keg volunteers always filled the mugs over the brim.

The mugs were imprinted with the Preakness logo on one side and the InField Fest logo on the other side. In addition to the logoed mugs, one of the concert stages was colorfully branded with the Jägermeister logo. Nearby, a giant orange Jägermeister tent offered attendees a free photo at their booth, as well as shots of Jäger for a small price.

The mugs, however, proved to be a star attraction. They were so popular in fact, that even the festival's star headliner, Lorde, wanted to be a part of the Mug Club – in the middle of her mid-day set, she yelled, "Hey, someone throw me one of those orange mugs." A friendly front-row fan quickly obliged. And, according to The Baltimore Sun's review, rap star Nas, the concert's other headliner, is quoted as saying: "Thank you, orange cups!" after performing "It Ain't Hard to Tell," another reference to the logoed mug, which attendees "kept raising to the sky in approval throughout his hour-long set."

When planning your next event, consider a commemorative item to give attendees. Depending on the venue, it can be practical, like a logoed plastic cup, or something more high-end like etched wine bottles. Your best bet is to contact your promotional products distributor for ideas and products that fit the bill. 

NFL Turns to Promo Product to Influence Advertisers

The most popular sports league in the U.S., the National Football League (NFL), has not been coy about its pursuit of the Hispanic market, the country's fastest-growing demographic. The NFL's plan was to get the game in front of the Hispanic community, and they expedited this plan by being the only major sport in the U.S. to televise all of its games in Spanish. It worked. A 2012 ESPN Sports Poll found that 25 million Hispanics in the U.S. identify themselves as NFL fans. The popularity of the league among Hispanics allowed Super Bowls XLVI and XLVII to become the most-watched TV programs (English or Spanish) on record among U.S. Hispanics. 

The NFL was also tasked with convincing advertisers and corporations to invest in the newly impassioned demographic. Many marketers have always associated the Hispanic community as soccer fans first and foremost. The NFL knew this and sought to change that perception with a direct mail piece. To prove that Hispanics are avid fans of football, the NFL tapped The Vidal Partnership to create the "Trojan Ball."

The Trojan Ball box contained what appeared to be a soccer ball, but when the recipient opened the package, it contained a limited edition NFL football with the accompanying message, "Here's the ball 28.5 million Hispanics really identify with," as well as a message with the statistics that 73% of U.S. Hispanics are NFL fans.

"The numbers were always there, but cultural perception seemed to be a much stronger factor. We were tasked with reversing that trend," said project art director, Oleg Sarkissov. "Early on we understood that to be successful, whatever the form of the communication would be, it had to be memorable. Hence, the idea of a Trojan Ball was born."

The NFL sent the Trojan Ball to 50 key decision-makers and potential partners with authority to invest their companies' marketing budgets. Eight of the mailings yielded follow-up responses in the form of a conversation or meeting with the NFL. 

"It was targeted at key deal makers and potential partners, so the volume of mail was small, but one conversion would represent a significant amount of revenue for the client," said Alberto Ferrer, Vidal's managing partner, director of direct and digital marketing.

In the end, the mailer surpassed the projected response rate, and generated a great amount of potential business partnership opportunities between the NFL and key brands within the Hispanic audience. The entire project was considered a huge success in the hotly contested battle over viewership and sponsorship between soccer and football leagues.

Enrollment Boosters

Recruiters from Northwestern College wanted something that would capture a potential applicant's attention and bring them to a decision point during the college fair. That item turned out to be free ringtones. 

To kick off the program, Northwestern offered visitors to their booth a branded digital reward card redeemable for a free ringtone. When prospective students accessed the online site printed on the back of their ringtone card, they were asked to provide information about their future education and career interests. This enabled Northwestern to gain future contacts while promoting the educational opportunities the school provides. The student info was then given to a staff member for follow-up.

The ringtone gift could only be redeemed if the prospective student answered the questionnaire. Northwestern found out students were happy to trade personal information for the ringtones. For not much more than the price of a pen, the opportunity to use branded cards to get qualified people to visit the Northwestern website and leave personal information turned out to be a great investment. What's more, the gift made Northwestern stand out from the crowd.

Use innovative techniques to connect prospects to a school's offerings to boost school enrollment. The best methods to do this use promotional products and a strong partnership with your distributor, who can show you great ways to incorporate branded items into your campaign. 

NFL Extends Warm Welcome With Promo Products

Fans at Super Bowl XLVIII scored way more than the Denver Broncos did with the “Warm Welcome” kits they received at the big game. The kits, provided by the NFL, warmed up, and lit up, the 84,000 fans in attendance, offering an array of ultra-cool gifts that were intended to keep fans comfortable in chilly Northeastern temperatures. The gift packages were housed within Super Bowl-themed seat cushions and placed on every seat in MetLife Stadium before the gates opened. 

NFL's distributor partner coordinated with League officials on ideas for upgrading the commemorative seat cushions that are typically given out to fans most years. Since this year's Super Bowl was the first to be played outdoors in a cold-weather city, the NFL wanted to guarantee fans would be comfortable even if conditions turned chilly. 

The cushions and contents got a lot of media playtime. NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman showcased the kits during a January 22 press conference, which was covered by several major media outlets. The kits got additional buzz when hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, a former player for the New York Giants, devoted a 4 ½-minute segment to the Warm Welcome kits on their morning talk show. 

The kits contained a slew of products to combat the cold: a “video ski hat,” branded ear muffs, texting gloves, a hand warmer pouch just like the quarterbacks wear, a Gator Dana neck wrap, lip balm, drink sleeves, hand-warmer packets, a small radio with earbuds and tissues. In addition to the 84,000 kits distributed at the game, 30 kits were sent to select TV, radio and print media.

The ski hats, which were beanie style and bore sponsor Pepsi's logo, took on a starring role in the halftime show. The caps contained LED lights and an infrared receiver that, when activated remotely, turned the entire stadium into a backdrop of flashing lights. A Montreal-based multimedia company called PixMob created the technology that allowed fans to become a human light display during performances by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Brainstorming for Super Bowl XLVIII began well before the previous Super Bowl. The products that ultimately made the cut were chosen because they could be used by fans long after the game, or be displayed alongside other keepsakes.

Besides coordinating the Warm Welcome kits, the NFL's distributor partner also operated the official onsite NFL Super Bowl League Store. The store, which was inside NFL headquarters, was fully stocked with a combination of Super Bowl XLVIII and NFL Shield products. This League store was open exclusively to league employees and family members, NFL officials, NFL alumni and sponsors. There's also a client gifting program for NFL buyers and partners. Gift bags are sold, and kitted with a variety of merchandise from the Super Bowl catalog and distributed to owners, players, sponsors and network affiliates.

Logoed Scissors Highlight Ribbon Cutting

Last September, Zappos, the online clothes and accessories retailer known for its top-notch customer service and energetic company culture, moved its headquarters to Las Vegas. The transfer to glitzy Vegas was two years in the making, and it was the perfect step to indicate its relevance in a big way.

To celebrate, Zappos held a ribbon-cutting event at their new location, the refurbished former city hall in downtown Las Vegas. CEO Tony Hsieh and Mayor Carolyn Goodman spoke to the packed audience of 1,600, many of whom were Zappos employees taking a look at their new offices for the first time.

To make a splash at the grand opening, Zappos enlisted the expertise of their distributor partner for creative ideas to promote the brand. "This was a historic move, and a very big deal for both Zappos and the city," said the account manager. "Because of the importance of the occasion, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was definitely in order."

Zappos worked with their distributor to design a branded ceremonial ribbon that wound its way through the building's plaza and up several balcony levels. They also distributed 1,600 logoed scissors, one for each attendee. "Zappos has an incredible company culture," said the account manager, "so they wanted each and every employee to share that special moment of cutting the ribbon all together."

Have a company milestone, anniversary or other special ceremony on the horizon? Be sure to contact your ad specialty distributor for one-of-a-kind ideas and branded products to make the occasion especially memorable.

Fields of Green

Every March, baseball fans cheer on their favorite leprechauns in the infield and outfield, as a number of Major League Baseball (MLB) teams embrace the traditional "wearing o' the green" for St. Patrick's Day. This game has become a great niche marketing opportunity as the sports franchises sell a wide array of green T-shirts, jerseys and caps at the game, as well as at retail stores and online.

In 1978, the idea to wear specially designed green uniforms appeared to come out of the blue to Cincinnati Reds' general manager Dick Wagner. He surprised everyone, including management and players on the team, when he ordered custom emerald green uniforms, caps and catcher's gear for a spring training game on March 17. No one had any idea he had done this until game day, when green uniforms were hung on each of the player's lockers. From head to toe, any part of the uniform that was traditionally red was green in that game.

It was a publicity stunt that caught on; for the past 35 years, a number of other teams have gone green for St. Patrick's Day. According to a spokesman for the MLB, 10 teams wore green this year. Some kept it simple with green caps or batting gloves. Some, like the Mets, wore green jerseys and hats, and even used shamrock bases on the field. The Cincinnati Reds debuted this year's jersey at a fan event in December.

The Boston Red Sox, home of the Green Monster, have been wearing green hats since 1990 on St. Patrick's Day. They started wearing green jerseys in 2004, when they hosted the Cleveland Indians at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, FL. Majestic Athletic designed the green jerseys, which have become a popular St. Patrick's Day tradition for fans of Boston, well known for its strong Irish heritage.

The Detroit Tigers, hailing from another city steeped in Irish tradition, had the team bat boy dress as a leprechaun in its 2012 game. And the Philadelphia Phillies team mascot, the Philly Phanatic, has dressed up like a leprechaun and danced the Irish jig for the fans in Clearwater, FL. Some teams auction off their players' green uniforms and donate the proceeds to charity. The Boston Red Sox auctioned some of the players' jerseys after this year's game and donated the proceeds to the Red Sox Foundation.

Over the years, these uniforms have brought in plenty of green – the holiday has become a golden merchandising opportunity for fans to snap-up an array of team spirit wear. There was an assortment of green Reds' products to support St. Patrick's Day, when the Reds took on the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Field in Arizona, said Reds' vice president of event services and merchandising, Lauren Werner. "We had headwear, T-shirts and the Reds' St. Patrick's Day authentic batting practice jerseys – just like what the players wore on the field – available for sale," she said.

The Red Sox had green jerseys and hats for sale at their spring training facility in Fort Myers and in stores. "Green St. Paddy's Day items always sell," said a spokesman. Dick Wagner's St. Patrick's Day surprise has spread beyond baseball, spilling over into the NBA and NHL.

Desktop Item Promotes Company Store

Earthlink, an IT services, network and communications provider, wanted to promote a new service within the company. The provider has offices around the country as well as three subsidiaries with their own brand and management, and had launched an internal store offering branded merchandise at all three companies. A promotion was necessary to announce the store launch, encourage people to use the service and build a sense of family by incorporating all three logos.

Earthlink brainstormed with their promotional products partner to find a product that met several key criteria: It had to be a useful desk item, it had to be cost-effective and it had to have a large enough imprint area for all the logos and messaging.

The firm decided on 1,000 handy desktop books filled with sticky notes. The book cover was imprinted with the e-store's Web address and logo, as well as the logos of the three subsidiaries. A postcard tucked inside the book welcomed employees to the new store.

To drive sales immediately, a limited-time free shipping offer on all orders was offered. The sticky books were sent to users across all of Earthlink's brands and locations.

Make sure your company store is successful by using it to its fullest potential. Contact your distributor for ideas and the best promotional products to market your store, build awareness and goodwill, and get a better return on your store investment.

Marathon Runs on Dunkin and Logoed Hats

Dunkin' Donuts proved America really does run on Dunkin', as it served up coffee, comfort and cheer to runners and spectators at November's New York City Marathon. For the seventh year, Dunkin' served as an official, and highly visible, sponsor, setting up cheering hubs and "refuel" stations at Dunkin' Donut locations along the parade route.

Beginning at 1 a.m., Dunkin' started brewing 12,000 gallons of hot coffee in the Marathon's Start Village to energize the runners. In addition to the coffee, a key component of Dunkin's presence was the branded fleece beanies distributed to runners at the start of the race, a much prized and sought after souvenir of the Marathon. Some 17,000 runners received and wore the hats in the 26.2-mile race. The colors of the hat – pink and orange – left no doubt who the sponsoring brand was.

"This is the fifth year we've distributed our fleece hats at the ING New York City Marathon," says Cathy Chavenet, Dunkin' Brands senior field marketing manager, Metro New York. While the design has varied slightly over the years, the brand's signature colors never change.

Given November's chilly temperatures, the hats proved to be practical and stylish accessories.  "It's a wonderful takeaway for those attending the event, and you see people during the winter months wearing the hats all throughout the New York tri-state area," she says.

Dunkin' Donuts considers the coffee and hats it distributes to be a significant part of the Marathon. "Our presence at the starting line with the complimentary coffee for runners and volunteers, as well as the fleece hats, drives brand awareness among a key audience," she says.  The hats are exclusive to the New York City marathon and only available on race day.

Some race spectators were also able to receive free fleece caps to keep them warm on the sidelines at 14 Dunkin' "refuel" stations along the route, while supplies lasted. Team Dunkin, a running team consisting of several franchisees and employees, participated in the race for a seventh year. The team represented "everyday, hardworking people doing something extraordinary," Chavenet says.

Dunkin' also set up a station where tens of thousands of fans could create special signs to cheer on runners as they crossed into Manhattan. In addition, they partnered with the New York Mets to bring their brand mascots to this location to join in the festivities.  A long line of fans waited to have pictures taken with the mascots. It was a fun way to engage with guests as they created signs for family and friends. "I can't think of a more appropriate slogan for the New York City Marathon than 'America Runs on Dunkin'," says Chavenet. "Dunkin' coffee and baked goods keep our guests running every day, and the Marathon is the premier running event in the United States."

Hotel Celebrates With Party & Promo Products

Marriott Hotels recently hosted an interactive cocktail party to celebrate their global marketing campaign, Travel Brilliantly.

The party was designed to reflect the Travel Brilliantly manifesto, where map patterns were placed on a variety of items including cocktail glasses, coasters, napkins, servers’ aprons and gift bags.

Marriott Hotels decided to use branded material to communicate its new verbal and visual identity, which was rolled out globally in July. To signal industry change, Marriott Hotels worked with their distributor partner to develop a new look featuring a series of maps and travel-inspired patterns.

The canvas gift tote bags for the San Francisco Travel Brilliantly launch were filled with a travel charger for mobile devices, a branded USB, press materials and photos. Other branded items produced for the campaign included on-property elements such as key cards, flags, "do not disturb" hangers and in-room directories.

Want to celebrate a company milestone or other festive event? Contact your promo

Eight Earthy Marketing Ideas

Earth Day is April 22, which begs the question: Do you have what’s needed to field an eco-friendly marketing effort?  Here are eight ideas to help you develop your company’s environmental awareness into an effective Earth Day marketing campaign.

  1. Plant a Message – Say "Come Grow With Us" to customers by labeling seeded promotional products to get your Earth Day message across. Choose from a wide variety of plantable products that can be mailed or hand-delivered, including seeded postcards that customers tear off and plant to grow colorful wildflowers. Calendars printed on seeded paper can be planted at the end of each month. A business card can be produced on full color seeded paper. All of these items have the capacity to display your message in vibrant hues, and once they’re planted, the colorful results linger on.

  2. Tee Off for Earth Day – At your next golf tournament, hand out biodegradable golf tees packaged with a customized wraparound imprint that can be illustrated to "tee-off" current sales campaigns or to introduce new products. The promotional tees are made from corn which biodegrades three times faster than wooden tees, and when the tees get left behind, they won't splinter and cause blade damage when chopped up by golf-course mowers.  If you’re playing around water, add another eco-dimension by offering biodegradable golf balls that can be left in place if they land in water hazards.

  3. Bag New Customers – Experts estimate that if used once a week, four or five reusable grocery bags can replace 520 plastic bags a year. Many reusable bags are biodegradable, including ones made from woven hemp which is also resistant to mold. Add your logo and a "Shop With Us" message before handing out these reusable promotional greenies at your trade show booth.

  4. Write-Up Sales – Biodegradable pens with vividly colored barrels and striking trim will add Earth Day excitement to sales calls.  Eco-conscious customers will be anxious to accept these promotional pens from your sales team when they find out they can toss them in the trash can with impunity once they’ve outlived their usefulness. They’ll biodegrade anywhere, and their carbon imprint is 22% lower than conventional pens.

  5. Keep It Healthy – Offer health-conscious customers a recycled mouse pad with an antimicrobial surface with a sublimated "Let’s Build A Healthy Relationship" Earth Day message.  This mouse pad will attract interest by using its antimicrobial properties to keep computer areas germ-free. Health organizations, medical facilities and doctors’ offices are just a few of the health-related customers who will appreciate your campaign efforts when accompanied by this promotional gift. 

  6. Dress-Up Retention – Develop an Earth Day customer retention program by awarding recycled promotional clothing to repeat customers. Add a "We Appreciate What You Do For Us" message that lets repeat customers know you’re rewarding them with eco-friendly clothing that’s produced with less fossil fuels, creating less waste and fewer carcinogens.

  7. Grow A Customer – Try something different with a beautiful desktop terrarium that’s guaranteed to garner prime space on your client’s desk. The terrarium provides a perfect home for plants that thrive in indirect light and grow with little effort.

  8. Light the Way – Let your sales team impress potential clients with a "We’ll Light The Way For You" Earth Day message by handing out eco-friendly light-crank LED flashlights that will keep your customers safe during power outages. For extra impact, choose promotional brands that include AM/FM radios, headphone outlets, emergency sirens and cellphone chargers.  

Promo Products Help Firm Expand

When Cargotec, a cargo handling solutions provider, wanted to expand its business into Latin America, they turned to their promotional products distributor to help them focus on prospecting and targeting more business below the border. The target audience was high-level management for corporate distributions and operations companies in Argentina, Brazil and Chili, specifically the automotive, steel, paper and beverage industries.

The objective of the campaign was to reach out to prospects who were not currently using the tractors for distribution, introduce the terminal tractor and add prospects to a sales funnel for the company’s sales reps to follow up with. Since this particular type of tractor is the Mercedes Benz of heavy lifting machinery, prospects had to be shown how much time and money the tractor would save them. The motto became, “Time is money – make the most of yours,” and they utilized an existing time-lapse video to compare it to the competition.

A custom USB in the shape of the terminal tractor was created. When the recipient plugged in the flash drive, they were taken to a custom landing page and shown the time-lapse video. Registered viewers were then entered for a chance to win a Swiss Army watch, and the website was able to collect the data that the sales team needed to follow up.

The USB was packaged in a U-line box with custom stickers to display the client’s messaging and branding. Over 130 mailings were sent to key contacts in Latin America via FedEx International. During the time of the program there were 253 unique page views and 97% of the traffic came as a direct result of the campaign with only 15.85% bounce rate (average bounce rate is 40%-50%). A translator and a webpage designer that had an international lawyer were consulted to insure accuracy and efficiency.

Shirts & Selfies Spark Interest In CRM Firm

Customer relationship management firm SugarCRM produced a fun "disruptive" campaign for Dreamforce, the biggest cloud computing event of the year, which took place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in November. The program, named Escape Dreamforce, promoted its CRM tool for businesses, and an Escape from Dreamforce sweepstakes offered a chance to win a $5,000 Hawaiian vacation.

In addition to taxi-top ads and mobile banners, SugarCRM street teams engaged with Dreamforce attendees, distributing SugarCRM T-shirts and encouraging everyone to tweet a “selfie” with #SugarSelfie and #DF13 while wearing the shirt. Those without a SugarCRM shirt could create their own shirt or sign. Dreamforce participants could win additional on-the-spot prizes if seen wearing their SugarCRM shirt during the conference.

“Escape from Dreamforce is a great opportunity for attendees to take a break from the convention’s packed schedule and share a selfie with their friends,” says Jennifer Stagnaro, senior vice president of marketing with SugarCRM. “We’re focused on the individual. This fun campaign provokes individuals to think about CRM from their perspective: ‘This is How I CRM.’”

There were 4,000 T-shirts, 14 street team members and one SugarCRM branded truck as part of the event. The street team handed out fliers with the shirts explaining the program. Participants had a chance to win additional on-the-spot prizes if seen wearing their SugarCRM shirt during Dreamforce.

Have an event coming up in which you’d like to make an impression? Experts suggest you use bold colors to stand out at a conference or trade show. “The bright red T-shirts stood out from the blue of Dreamforce,” says Stagnaro. Make sure you contact your distributor partner to give you great ideas and help you find the best products to make a splash.

Promo Products Go 10 Rounds for Boxing Event

Tecate beer, a prominent sponsor of the sport of boxing recently had the opportunity to sponsor a special match in Macau, China.

The highly anticipated Pacquiao vs. Rio match featured two great boxing stars facing each other and also provided the Tecate brand a way to be active as a sponsor and “make the consumer feel completely engaged in creative ways,” says Tecate’s brand manager Gustavo Guerra. “This fight had been generating buzz since it was first announced, so we jumped at the chance to provide legendary moments for the fans.”

To engage fans, Tecate focused on boxing fans and utilized both Hispanic and general market outlets to spread the message. The brand sent special mailers for the media contacts that were travelling to China to see the fight live. It also created a Tecate Hombre Travel Kit to be received as they picked up their credentials in China. The kit included red a T-shirt with Tecate’s signature hashtag #ConCaracter, personalized wooden chopsticks, a logoed boxing keychain, sleep mask, and customized fortune cookies that contained Tecate taglines inside. “We wanted the contacts to have the Tecate swag with them on their journey,” says Guerra.

For media that were unable to attend, Tecate sent the Tecate Hombre Fight Night Kit to arrive at their homes one week before the fight. This kit included a Tecate branded cap, beer bucket, T-shirt, beer banner, beer opener, beer pitcher and a full-size Tecate girl cut out. “This same kit was given out to several fans who participated in media giveaways that we coordinated with top-tier outlets,” says Guerra. “We worked with a third-party company to provide the items to make sure the recipients had everything they needed for hosting their own viewing party.”

In addition to the media kits and targeted promotions, Tecate hosted a watch party in Las Vegas and asked fans to join them to get in on the action of the fight. “The watch party gave us another opportunity to engage with media by providing VIP access and orchestrating media giveaways for fans,” Guerra says. “The promotions garnered 29 media placements with over 5 million gross impressions; 10 Tecate Hombre Fight Night Kits and 10 Tecate Hombre Travel Kits were sent out to key media and fans.”

Caped Crusade at Comic-Con

Warner Bros. Entertainment was flying high at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) last summer, when it gave away branded backpacks with a detachable cape that allowed every attendee at the convention to be a superhero. It was the “must-have” accessory of the show, and fans with capes bearing titles from the media monolith’s TV, motion picture and animated movie offerings could be spotted throughout the convention center.

"Con is a huge showcase for us. It's the one time where Warner Bros. TV is front and center with the fans and with our brands," says Lisa Gregorian, chief marketing officer of Warner Bros. Television Group.  "At Comic- Con, we all stand together and the entire company is represented – the power of the shield."

SDCC is the world's largest gathering of pop culture fans under one roof, a four-day event that draws some 150,000 passionate fans of a wide variety of pop culture mediums. Many of the attendees show their enthusiasm for the event by wearing costumes honoring their favorite characters of comic books, movies and TV series.

Warner Bros. has been making the official Comic-Con bag since 2008, and its booth at the convention sparks a frenzy of fans. "We give away the bags as a thank you to our fans," says Gregorian. "There is always complete insanity at our booth." Fans use the Warner Bros. bags to tote all the swag and licensed merchandise they pick up at the convention. Over 130,000 bags were distributed at last year's convention.

Each year, Warner Bros. offers something unique. Last year, it changed its bag style to a backpack, to make it easier to carry. Gregorian has been lobbying for a cape for years, and finally, at the 2013 SDCC she got her wish. The capes, which were easily detached from the backpacks, were a big hit.

Each of the backpacks featured double-sided artwork:  One side carried the official Comic-Con design, and the other showcased titles from the Warner Bros. entertainment stable. Warner Bros. usually offers 10 designs per convention, and incorporates all of the company's divisions, including DC Comics, WB Gaming, Theatrical and Television, says Gregorian. The planning process for the artwork and the bag starts about 8 months ahead of SDCC, held annually in June.

Gregorian estimates some 40% of convention goers of all ages were wearing the capes. "We know it's a hit when our stuff ends up on eBay," she says. There is also an active aftermarket for the bags, as fans trade among themselves to get the show or movie they follow. Attendees were tweeting each other, seeking to trade bags. Some of the stars of the Warner Bros. shows were tweeting links to the bags. When Warner Bros. posted the cape backpacks on its "Media To Go" press site, they got so much traffic the site went down for a half hour.     

The company also distributed a host of other products at Comic Con, including T-shirts, hats, books, masks, figurines, iPhone covers and medallions, as well as nearly 40,000 branded hotel key cards that provided Warner Bros. TV points of interest to the top hotels in the area.

Promo Products Rock at Trade Show

Boost Rewards hit the top of the charts with its “Recognize Your Rock Star” program, which it showcased at the Society for Human Resources and Management Conference and Exposition (SHRM) in Chicago this summer. Boost debuted the campaign at SHRM a year earlier, and it was so successful that the company continued and built upon its rock star theme at the 2013 show.

Boost’s goal at SHRM, which typically draws about 12,000 people, was to engage new customers by encouraging companies to adopt employee recognition programs. The company hired look-alike talent to resemble rockers, but kept the identity of the rocker a mystery until the day of the event. This year’s talent was “Bono,” and he so closely resembled and acted like the U2 front man that some attendees actually thought it was him.

In addition to Bono, the booth featured umbrella-style photography lights and visitors could get their picture taken with the faux rocker. They were then given a “Bono” star business card which directed them to the company’s Facebook page. By posting their pictures and liking Boost on Facebook, visitors could enter a Red Carpet Rollout giveaway that featured chances to win a Yamaha guitar, SpaFinder gift card, home accessories from Whispers Home and beauty products from Preen Apothecary.

Boost distributed an array of branded promotional merchandise that struck solid gold with trade show attendees. Among the giveaways were guitar-shaped sunglasses, Bono-style sunglasses, custom tattoo sleeves and guitar-shaped carabiners to hang from attendees’ trade show bags.

At the show, Boost showcased its Boost on Demand Cogz Rewards, an employee incentive and recognition program that allows for on-the-spot employee recognition, allowing companies to reward exceptional performance as it happens. The company also highlighted its Boost Wellness Program, which encourages employees to participate in specific wellness initiatives and features its Wellness Cogz Rewards.

“We had people from competing booths tell us, ‘your booth is fantastic,’” said a company spokesman. “Some competitors even came and asked if they could have a tattoo sleeve – logoed with our company’s name – and they wore them home on the plane.”

Commemorative Ticket Builds Buzz for Movie

To increase advertising visibility and build buzz around the release of Man of Steel, Warner Bros. teamed up with Walmart before the release of the film and formed a first-ever studio/retailer partnership.

Out of this came a campaign unlike any other, in which Walmart stores nationwide would sell a limited supply of tickets to the exclusive pre-release screening of the film.

Warner Bros. worked with their promotional products partner to design and manufacture the tickets for sale in the Walmart stores. The confidential campaign included the work of seven design artists who created the final product: a color-printed commemorative ticket.

The oversized tickets were imprinted with the film’s cover photo and logo, and cut to mimic VIP or backstage passes. In the end, one million tickets had been sold nationwide to the exclusive event. The commemorative promotional ticket campaign worked as it advertised the film, which did well at the box office.

Need a creative spin on your next campaign? Why not tie it into a new film or some other entertainment industry-related event? Contact your ad specialties partner to guide you on the best promotional products and ideas to make your campaign a success.

Art and Ad Specialties Connects Tequila Brand with Consumers

The U.S. is the largest tequila market in the world, and for a premium tequila brand like Tequila Herradura, successfully positioning itself for continuous long-term growth is paramount in the battle for shelf space. Consumers are becoming more educated and beginning to choose 100% agave brands and ultra-premium offerings.

In an effort to increase brand awareness, the company held the “Tequila Herradura Barrel Art Collection” contest, challenging artists from eight U.S. cities – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Austin, Miami and Santa Fe – to transform a Tequila Herradura barrel into a work of art. “Since handcrafted oak barrels play a key role in the process of creating what many consider to be the finest tequila in the world, Tequila Herradura decided to share its heritage and passion for crafting the tequila with artists,” says Valdemar Cantu, brand manager at Herradura.

The brand team distributed a press release and followed up with a unique mailer to top-tier media contacts. Each mailer included a two-liter barrel of American oak engraved with the program logo, an art supplies kit in a wooden box, a sample of Herradura Silver 750 ml. in a branded black gift box, a barrel-shaped, logoed USB which featured program and brand information, and a postcard with barrel artwork imagery and a description of the program including social media information.

Nearly 1,000 artists submitted to the open call, and 80 were chosen to compete. In each city, art critics, gallery owners, notable collectors and media editors served on the judging panels to select the regional winner that would compete in the grand finale event, says Cantu. “All works of art were judged on originality, creativity, overall quality, and the inclusion of elements that represented Tequila Herradura,” he says. “Art fans also had the opportunity to vote for their favorites online to crown the Fan Choice Award winner in each city, all of whom will be guaranteed a spot in a Creative Capital professional development workshop.”

Herradura donated $70,000 to arts organization Creative Capital, which supports artists nationwide through funding and career development services. Creative Capital will use these funds to bring its Professional Development Program workshops to artists in the participating cities free of charge.

“Tequila Herradura awarded a $100,000 cash prize to Micah and Whitney Stansell from Atlanta,” says Cantu. “Art lovers in the eight cities will have the opportunity to see the winning piece and all the participating pieces firsthand as they will be showcased at select venues in each city in early 2014.”

Promo Items Add Buzz to Conference

When Inner Circle Labs hired Kennedy Events Circle to manage its first social discovery conference, Glimpse 2012, the event management company faced the daunting task of taking a standard hotel conference room and infusing it with a vibrant spirit to match that of its entrepreneurial and forward-thinking audience.

"The audience was a ‘who's who' of the media and technology communities," says Kennedy Events' partner Paige Buck. Companies and products in the social discovery space seek to connect people with new places, people and products based on their social interactions and interests.

"The Glimpse stage is meant to bring to life conversations that would happen over drinks – casual, unique, unrehearsed and valuable," according to the Glimpse conference website. Glimpse 2012 covered a wide array of subjects, including social discovery in lifestyle and entertainment, dating, and building of new social discovery products.

The conference brought together company founders, executives and industry experts at the forefront of creating new technologies for social networking and mobile apps. The speakers and panel discussions revolved around "anything and everything online," says Buck. "Speeches and panel discussions were insightful, making for an engaging conference."

The result was a one-day event that generated a huge social media buzz. "Glimpse trended nationally on Twitter, among top national headlines," says Buck.

Despite the digital focus, many of the companies that presented turned to promotional products to help convey or reinforce their brand message to the approximately 250 people who attended. Attendees received a conference cross-body bag which contained the Glimpse logo on one side, and the San Francisco cityscape silkscreened in red on the other. "The bag was just a simple, canvas tote, gender-neutral and useful," says Buck, adding, "I use it all the time." One conference attendee said people came up to him on the street to ask where he got the bag and what the event was, notes Buck.

Other top sponsors at the conference offered clever giveaways. "Sometimes it wasn't just the items themselves, but their placement," says Buck. MeetMe, a social platform, collaborated with the conference venue to have branded MeetMe coffee mugs stacked by the coffee machine all day, and to wash and return the clean mugs to attendees' place settings so they could reuse them and take them home. The stacks of mugs repeated the MeetMe logo over and over, reinforcing the brand name.

TripIt, a social and mobile app for keeping travel plans together and accessible, gave branded passport holders to conference guests who visited their booth. And Waze, a traffic and navigation app, gave attendees a branded iPhone stand that mounts to the car window a safe, visible distance from the driver, so the phone can function as a GPS device. Schemer, a Google spinoff that helps users share and discover things to do (like exploring a new city), offered cookies glazed with the Schemer logo at the dessert table.

Attendees were encouraged to pose in front of a "step and repeat" backdrop bearing the conference and sponsors' logos. "At the end of the day, after cocktails, people grouped together and took fun photos, which resulted in great images of people connected with the brand, and great publicity for the conference," says Buck.

As people posted their photos to their own networking sites, the images showed people who hadn't been there what they missed. "Also, creating inexpensive vinyl wall decals with the client's logo is a great way to make your mark on an event space without busting the budget," Buck adds.

Promotional products added to the buzz and energy of the conference, says Buck, adding, "The sponsors at this conference hit the nail on the head in their selection of promotional items."

Logoed Golf Cap Generates Support

KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory services firm, worked with their ad specialty distributor to develop a brand-boosting marketing campaign. Together, they created a tagline – “The Right Team” – and recognized that it was a natural segue to a sports marketing effort.


They decided to link it with golf to create impact and brand awareness through the game. Through the collaboration, they produced a navy blue imprinted cap and established a website at A charitable aspect with a link to their Family for Literacy program (KFFL) was also added. They connected the marketing effort with both KFFL and First Book, a nonprofit that supports childhood literacy through book donations, and named it Blue for Books.

As the program developed, pro golfer Phil Mickelson lent his support to the effort and began to wear the hat, which was dubbed "Phil's Blue Hat" at tournaments and media events. It quickly became a popular item among fans.

Now, for every piece sold, Blue for Books donates three brand-new books to kids in need. In the past two years, they've sold over 10,000 hats and donated 30,000 books. KPMG has also signed golfer Stacy Lewis, who wears her own cap style that's now for sale on the website.

Sponsorships & Ad Specialties Bring Big Names to Georgia Film Festival

To ensure that Hispanic filmmakers have a platform to network and promote their work, Jose Marquez, CEO of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LIST), and Lance Robertson, CMO of the Black Latino Council, created the Georgia Latino Film Festival during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2012.

“In just one year our footprint has expanded exponentially,” says Robertson. “We have film submissions from Los Angeles, New York City, Mexico, Columbia, Puerto Rico, and we see attendees from all over.”

To kick off the festival, Hispanicize HX, the regional Latino events platform of the annual Hispanicize event, held a special edition red carpet event, gathering the city’s top Latino influencers in journalism, blogging, marketing, technology and entertainment with “TED Talks”-type presentations, networking and a musical performance.

With the help of sponsors such as Coca Cola, Hispanicize Wire, OVN Latino, Being Latino and Sofrito for Your Soul, the festival provides an opportunity for corporations to target the fastest growing movie-going audience and promote their products and services. Companies and organizations were equipped with branded signage and banners, giveaways such as T-shirts, stickers and other marketing items to help consumers keep their brand front of mind.

Other sponsors for this year’s Georgia Latino Film Festival were PMPublicidad, Georgia Pacific, AeroMexico, Mundo Hispanico, SBC, Mi Amiga Magazine, InTouch Financials, Pase La Voz and Verizon. “We make 15, 30 and 60 second PSA audio, video and script in English and Spanish and provide local main stream, urban and Latino Media with content they can use,” says Robertson. “Plus we form media partnerships so the event will have great coverage and continue to grow.”

This year, several television channels, radio stations and newspapers picked up the story, including CBS News, Telemundo, OVNLatino, La Mega and Univision. GaLFF also set up a blogger lounge and promoted sponsors through social media channels Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more. “Our HX events will bring greater media, social media and marketing recognition to talented presenters and Latino music artists that deserve to be better known,” said Manny Ruiz, founder of the Hispanicize platforms, in a press release. “Through the HX events and our Hispanicize Wire press release distribution platform we will change the game for influential thought leaders and Latin music artists.”

Umbrellas Reign at Cannes Film Festival

The stars were out, despite a torrential downpour, at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The Great Gatsby opened the festival, and all eyes were on Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and the rest of the cast as they navigated the rain-soaked red carpet in tuxedos and evening gowns. But as luck would have it, the real stars of the evening proved to be the logoed umbrellas that each of the cast members carried to protect their designer clothing.

The humble umbrella typically is a low-profile accessory. But at Cannes, it took center stage, appearing in every picture the paparazzi took of Hollywood’s most glamorous and beautiful matinee idols. The Great Gatsby umbrellas carried by the film’s stars were provided by an international promotional products distributor, who works with communication agencies all over the world. Typically the agency orders promotional products as part of a full marketing package for the movie companies.

Though umbrellas typically don’t play a leading role in a brand’s marketing budget, all bets were off when the Gatsby umbrellas ended up in the hands of the film’s leading man.

“When someone like Leonardo Di Caprio touches a promotional product, it turns into gold at once because the item will be seen on TV and in many magazines,” a distributor spokesperson said. And indeed, nearly every photo of every star that walked the red carpet at Cannes features celebrities carrying large black umbrellas with their branded logo prominently displayed.

As for the umbrellas, one word of caution: Carey Mulligan reportedly got hit on the head by one of the umbrellas as she got out of her car – although that also got press coverage and was recorded by TV cameras, garnering additional attention for the umbrellas.

Raising Awareness With Thumb Socks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to causes that affect young people across the nation. Among these issues is texting and driving: a fatal habit that led to 1.3 million crashes in 2011 alone. recognized a need for enhanced youth awareness and developed a campaign – a call to action for its members to address the problem of texting and driving. “We were thinking: How do you stop people from texting? Well, you use your thumbs,” says Naomi Hirabayashi, chief marketing officer at “Then the idea came: thumb socks. We realized they could be a lot of fun and were also really visual, so they would serve an awareness purpose.”

The socks function as a reminder of the dangers of texting while driving. “We’re giving young people the tools to start a conversation around safe driving with their friends in a fun and unique way,” says Hirabayashi.

Dubbed “Thumb Wars,” the idea behind the campaign was simple: Give away “thumb socks” to interested participants and encourage them to share their photos. The socks are given to young people, ages 13-25, who sign up to participate in the campaign through the nonprofit's website. Participants who share their photos are entered into a drawing for the chance to qualify for a college scholarship.

So far, the campaign has received an unexpectedly large public response. Last year, over 223,000 people participated in “Thumb Wars,” and over 127,000 pairs of socks were given away. The success of the Thumb Wars campaign is largely due to the simplicity of the giveaway. “It makes the story clear, simple and impactful,” says Hirabayashi. “Make sure you’re offering something of clear value to your target market.”

Contact your ad specialty distributor to help with your next campaign, and for all your promotional needs.

Promo Products Are a Hit at Latin American Festival

For 22 years, Latinos of all ages have traveled across the region to attend the area’s largest Latino event, the Charlotte Latin American Festival. Organized by the Latin American Coalition, the festival is held at Symphony Park, an outdoor venue with ample space for music, vendors, sponsors, and the growing number of attendees. It’s the coalition’s biggest annual fundraiser, and allows the organization to continue offering free and affordable services such as ESL classes, advocacy programs, and immigration clinics to the city’s Hispanic population.

“We see about 20,000 people come through the day of the festival,” says Tony Arreaza, cultural events director at the Latin American Coalition. “We have a lot of space in the park and also utilize the parking lot for the growing crowds.”

The coalition strives to preserve the authenticity of the event, bringing in popular musicians from Spain, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay, this year with pop star Julieta Venegas and rock sensation No Te Va Gustar. In addition to musical performances, the festival offers authentic Latin American cuisine, a marketplace of local artisans, art demonstrations, dance performances children’s activities.

Every year, more corporations get involved with the festival, capitalizing on the popularity by setting up booths and selling their products and services. Representatives bring giveaways for the attendees, as they know people need a way to recall the sponsors. “Companies do a lot of promotions, throwing T-shirts from the stage into the crowd or handing them out as people walk by,” Arreaza says. “Tech items like iPads and iPhones are also big.”

The Latin American coalition also uses imprinted apparel, and designs an event shirt for the staff and volunteers so people can identify them if they have questions or need assistance.

“We use different forms of Hispanic media to get the word out to sponsors and attendees, and since we don’t have a budget for marketing, we do a lot of trading,” Arreaza says. “We’ll give the Hispanic newspaper the sponsorship benefits of setting up a booth and handing out promotional items at the event, and in turn, they give us ads.”

Now in its 23rd year, Arreaza is proud of the event’s growth and hopes it continues to gain momentum as people of other cultures and backgrounds learn more about their Latin community members. “I started out as a musician, trying to get a spot playing at this festival because I knew it’d lead to exposure,” he says. “Then one day I found myself helping with the music organization and band choices. Now, seven years after joining the coalition, here I am helping to organize the entire event. I would have never guessed.”

T-Shirts Help Promote Healthy Message

Akron General Health System wants to be known for its listening skills and recently launched a marketing and consumer-engagement campaign titled, “My Health. My Life.”

“Because Akron General’s goal is to understand the health-care needs of each member of the community, the campaign was launched to communicate this,” says Gina Page, senior account manager/PR with Hitchcock Fleming & Associates (hfa).

Research conducted by Akron General and hfa showed that individuals in the community want a health-care system that listens closely to what they have to say and works collaboratively with them to share important information about their health. The campaign is helping start conversations to achieve the health-care system’s goal. “Our new campaign revolves around education, empathy, collaboration and meeting the wellness needs of everyone at any age,” says Thomas Stover, M.D., president and CEO of the Akron General Health System.

Akron General has thousands of employees and T-shirts were given to them to leverage the staff as brand advocates and to promote the new tagline. “It’s been a huge momentum builder as the positioning is something that every Akron General associate truly believes in,” says Page.

Marketing teams at Akron General and hfa designed the multi-tier campaign that included print, local and cable TV, social media, radio, online, outdoor, paid search and sponsorships. The initial TV spot debuted in April, but some elements of the campaign began in late March.

Be sure to contact your distributor partner to develop your own effective campaign that will lead to successful results.

Thinking Outside the Lunchbox

Wholly Guacamole, America ’s top-selling brand of pre-made guacamole, was looking to spice things up like a jalapeno pepper.

Last summer they sent “Boring Lunch Survival Kits” to promote the brand’s 100-calorie snack packs as a back-to-school lunch idea. “This was the first big event we’ve done highlighting the snack packs,” which have been on the market for a couple of years, says Jennifer Sawyer, Wholly Guacamole marketing manager. “We wanted to refresh brand awareness for moms looking for alternatives for their kids’ lunches as an option for sneaking good food into kids’ bellies.”

The survival kits were meant to highlight the versatility of the guacamole snack packs, which encourage consumers to “Dip It, Top It, Spread It, Love It.” The packs freeze well, defrost easily and are great as a spread on sandwiches or a dip with veggies and chips, Sawyer explains.

Wholly Guacamole overnighted about 500 metal retro lunchbox kits with cold packs to trade and consumer media and bloggers. The back of the lunchbox was a dry-erase board, which contained the message, “Out To Lunch, Be Back at _____________.” The lunchbox contained a dry-erase marker, two varieties of 100-calorie snack packs, an avocado shaped squeeze ball, branded chip clip and coupons.

The lunchbox theme was a natural fit with lunch, says Sawyer. “We’re big believers in making an immediate impact,” she says. “We have people that still talk about the avocado-shaped coolers we sent out three years ago.”

An editor recently told Sawyer that she keeps the cooler on her desk and decorates it with the seasons and for holidays. “We wanted that kind of impact with the lunchbox. We hope people will display it on a long-term basis,” she says.

Wholly Guacamole got great feedback from the promotion. Some requested additional samples, and suggested additional media and bloggers to send kits to. Bloggers posted pictures of the lunchboxes on their sites, and Wholly Guacamole gave some away on Facebook. “Bloggers are important in getting across our brand messages to moms,” says Sawyer. “Prizes are important in delivering a brand message, and we take it seriously. Promotional goods are way more strategic than some people give them credit for. It’s about impact.

“We have been a leader in our category for the past 10 years, and promotional products are tools that help generate interest and create intrigue about our brand,” she adds. “It’s a way to interrupt people in their day, and gives us 5, 10, 15 more minutes than we’d get with conventional ads.”


Bakery Brand Gains Exposure With Logoed Jerseys

Bimbo Bakeries USA, the U.S. Division of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, is one of the world’s largest baking companies, with over 126,000 associates and operations in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe. Well-known brands such as Sara Lee, Entemann’s, Boboli and Thomas’ are just a few under the Bimbo umbrella.

Grupo Bimbo is heavily involved with the Mexican Soccer League, sponsoring teams like Chivas de Guadalajara, the most successful team in Mexico, and Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica. The corporation’s logo has donned the jerseys of their sponsored teams for years, and international fans have come to expect the iconic red, white and blue Bimbo across the chest of their favorite players.

Now, Bimbo is bringing the exposure to the states, starting with its title sponsorship of the 2013 Copa Univision, the fastest growing amateur soccer tournament in the U.S. This year, 12 cities will host the tournament: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Antonio, Sacramento, Austin and Fresno. Strategically, Bimbo will be front and center on the soccer jerseys all the way.

Every time a player is photographed, videotaped or televised, the name of the company appears, too, carried in newspapers, magazines, websites and broadcasts. Every purchase of a team jersey pushes the company into the public consciousness. And every fan who dons a jersey becomes a walking billboard.

“The tournament supports the youth in the Los Angeles area,” said Rafael Velez, marketing manager at Bimbo Bakeries USA in an interview with PR Newswire. “We support initiatives that get youth exercising, teach important skills such as teamwork and help our local community.”

During Copa Univision attendees can participate in interactive soccer activities and have access to entertainment stage areas as well as client and community organization booths. Soccer teams can compete using a five-on-five, six-on-six or eight-on-eight format on smaller fields that create exciting competition.

Winners of each category will receive great prizes, trophies and medals and are recognized on the radio for their achievement. “Of all the community events organized by Univision 34, Copa Univision L.A. is one of the most entertaining and exciting,” said Esther Mendoza Brown, promotions manager at KMEX-TV says of the event. “Our community looks forward to this soccer tournament year after year, and the day is filled with fun for our clients, partners, volunteers, players and their families.”

Wristbands Improve Fan Experience

The Dallas Mavericks scored big when they partnered with Big PlayAR to offer Mavs fans a new augmented reality (AR) experience on 11 collectible player slap bands.

"In 2011, the year we won the NBA championship, we tied in with Big PlayAR and introduced AR on the front side of our playoff tickets (all four rounds)," says Gina Calvert, corporate communications/community relations director for the Dallas Mavericks. "It was a big success, and fans enjoyed the interactive game tied into their game day ticket. We decided to use it in a collector series of slap bands."

Each Mavs AR slap band was designed with a different Mavs player and was handed out at select home games. All told, the Mavericks gave away 40,000 slap bands to the first 5,000 fans at eight home games. "The Mavs ‘Tip-Off' program has staying power because fans are competing throughout the season," says John Robison, CEO of Big PlayAR.

Fans could download the Mavs Tip-Off app and use a smartphone or tablet device to scan the logo located on the front of the slap band. This allowed fans to watch interviews, highlights and previews of the player on their particular slap band. Fans were also able to compete in virtual games with others wearing the slap band to win prizes including home game tickets and autographed player jerseys.

Interested in items that you can use with smartphone apps and other mobile marketing efforts? Contact your ad specialty distributor to help with ideas and the perfect promo products that will make your campaign a success.

Promo Products Help Beer Brand Kick Off Campaign

Memorial Day isn’t always about heading to the beach. For popular beer brand, Indio, and its fans, May 24 kicked off the first weekend of CASA Indio, a new multi-city event series where art, music and culture live under the same roof, encouraging consumers to “Do Their Thing” and interact with talented artists from Mexico and the U.S.

Indio, the dark lager Mexican beer, joined forces with VICE Media for the events, which began in Los Angeles and will continue into Chicago, Austin and San Francisco through November. The events are private and help to raise funds for the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA).

“We worked with all of our agencies to bring CASA Indio to life, including the event producers VICE Media, our PR agency FORMULATIN, creative agencies iNSPIRE and Olabuenaga Chemistri, and our media agency MediaVest,” says Gustavo Guerra, brand director for Indio. “Together, we’ve developed a strong, multi-prong promotional campaign in support of CASA Indio and the brand.”

The brand engaged with independent bloggers who are relevant to the target consumer – Hispanic millennials 21 and older. To encourage these media contacts to spread the word about the events, Indio gave them the “key” to CASA Indio: key-shaped, branded USBs that were loaded with everything they needed to promote, including press materials, artist lineups, flyers, photos and videos.

“We distributed the USBs in several ways, including a pre-event mailer to key bloggers as well as to contacts who attended the events,” says Guerra. “We leveraged VICE’s media networks and other digital networks like Townsquare Media, YouTube, Facebook, etc. to share artist lineups, while targeted PR efforts helped us secure editorial coverage and media attendance to the events.”

Each city will leave its CASA Indio doors open for up to two weeks, allowing guests to RSVP and make the most of the unique event. At each happening, guests are treated to live music from bands like I Can Chase Dragons!, Elis Paprika and Los Macuanos, as well as art workshops and Indio beer samples.

Also as part of the PR strategy, the team outreached to blogs like L.A. Taco and Galería Alternativa to give their readers the opportunity to have a VIP experience at CASA Indio and win screen-printed posters autographed by participating artists.  

L.A. Taco offered two winners (plus one guest each) VIP access to a special happy hour on May 24, where they could meet the artists who were performing that night. Once the events began, the winners had access to a VIP area where they received free Indio beer and food, and they were guaranteed spots on the guest list to all the events listed on the flyers.

“We are very pleased with how CASA Indio turned out in LA, and are looking forward to connecting with our consumers in Chicago, Austin and San Francisco in the next few months,” says Guerra. “The essence of CASA Indio will remain the same in each market; however, we’re taking great pride in tailoring as much as we can to the host city, from the artists that we showcase, to the type of workshops, and even the type of venue we select.”

No Request Too Looney

The State University of New York's (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) had its work cut out when it took ownership of the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC), an outdoor science and educational center, two years ago. "The AIC had no budget or staff. We had to incorporate it into our own educational outreach, using existing budget," says Paul Hai, program coordinator at ESF's Newcomb campus, where AIC is located. He knew some sort of creative fundraising was needed to support this newest addition to SUNY's environmental education and outreach efforts.

"I wanted to do something different and creative," says Hai. He came up with the idea of a duck race, given the facility's location on a stretch of Rich Lake, which formed a natural racecourse. Two bridges comprised a perfect start and finish line for the race, which would also help commemorate the Adirondacks' history of spring log drives on the lake, which took place annually in the early 1800s to mid-1900s.

Rather than using typical rubber ducks, Hai wanted to float rubber loons, aquatic birds that are a beloved symbol of the Adirondacks. Also, he wanted the loons to be USA-made to further connect the event to the local environment. "Many people come to the Adirondacks just to see the loons," Hai says. He never expected that it would be so difficult to find rubber versions. He was finally able to locate a promotional products company that could supply him with custom-made ducks.

The company delivered 1,000 rubber loons in time for the AIC's maiden "Loon Drive," held last year on Memorial Day. The AIC's second loon drive kicked off summer again this past Memorial Day. "We were extremely happy with the finished product," Hai says. "The loons helped us garner attention as a unique entity and helped to highlight that the AIC has a special mission of education and research. We are a nature center, tied to the local environment, and the loons fit in nicely and added to the uniqueness of the race."

Startup Gets the Party Started

SpareFoot brought the crowd to its feet at its "Spare Beats" dance party, held in Austin last year at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW), an annual event widely considered to be the ultimate breeding ground for new music, independent films and emerging technologies. SpareFoot, based in Austin, is an online marketplace for self-storage facilities, founded in 2008 by two UCLA students. It now employs 74 people.

"People at SXSW are looking for a good time. We decided the best way for us to get our name out there was to throw a party," says Jenny Zhang, junior editor at SpareFoot. Spare Beats was an all-day party that went into the evening hours. It featured a variety of local and nationally known DJs, as well as dinner and drinks for the packed audience, which included SpareFoot employees and friends, investors and journalists.

"One of our main goals was to show we are a fun, dynamic and wacky company, despite the fact that we're in an industry that may be perceived as boring," says Zhang. This was SpareFoot's first appearance at the festival, which Zhang calls a "mecca for startups." The company marketed the event as a crazy, day-to-night party, and encouraged people to hydrate before they arrived. The event drew a capacity crowd and generated 42 PR mentions with links, 261 Twitter mentions, 46 Facebook mentions and 9,290 RSVPs, according to a blog post by Rachel Greenfield, SpareFoot marketing manager and editor of The Storage Facilitator.

They distributed logoed T-shirts and mini SpareFoot tape-measure keychains to Spare Beats party guests. "Branded items are a perk of being our customer," says Zhang, who says the company typically offers branded items at trade shows and other promotional and networking events.

SpareFoot T-shirts and towels are popular giveaways at self-storage trade shows, which number 10 or more a year. Zhang says these shows are great networking opportunities. "We're about to enter trade show season again, so we're preparing to distribute even more swag this time around," she says. The company is currently distributing logoed can coolers at shows including ISS World Expo and other trade shows around the country.

Earlier this year, SpareFoot sponsored a "Declutter SpareFoot's Swag Closet" on its Facebook page. The company gave away its signature tee and towels to anyone who asked, and if recipients tweeted a picture of themselves wearing the swag, they were entered in a contest to win a $100 Visa gift card.

The company is not afraid to toe, or perhaps even cross the line when selecting promotional merchandise. In January they sent out a calendar featuring employees to about 300 customers. "It was a scandalous storage pin-up calendar. It was definitely weird and completely inappropriate, and we love the reactions – from horrified to gleeful – that we've gotten so far," says Zhang. The calendar was so popular, the company had to order more copies.

The takeaway, according to Zhang, is that the industry of self-storage doesn't immediately seem exciting or fun. "But the truth is we have a blast doing what we do, and we try to make the rest of the industry, as well as the public, see that. We're a tech startup in Austin, after all – it's in our blood!"

Promo Products Spice Up Agency's Anniversary

Hollywood’s first Hispanic marketing agency celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year, and with it, a huge sense of accomplishment, having grown from a one-man show to the leading agency for marketing Hollywood entertainment to U.S. Latinos.

Santiago Pozo, CEO and founder, believed in the power of marketing to Latinos, and used this vision to create the company. “Marketing specifically to Latinos is very important these days,” says Ana Matonte, publicity manager at Arenas. “If you’re not focusing on them directly, you at least need to include them in your thought process ofhow to run a campaign. Furthermore, if you’re not giving anything out in the way of promotional items or collateral, you’re really missing out on a lot of potential consumers.”

Hollywood has embraced the Latino market, which makes up 17% of the U.S. population but accounts for an impressive 25% of all movie tickets sold. Arenas Entertainment has been able to increase this average on film releases such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Apocalypto and Empire.

For many film releases, the agency works with the studio to determine the best promotional items for each campaign and has used a multitude of imprinted specialties such as tote bags, T-shirts and key chains. “You can’t go wrong with commodity items like thisbecause in the end, it’s free for the end-user,” says Matonte. “I think giveaways are the best way to engage consumers; you have to execute it the right way and that means being organized on all other channels,” she says.

Arenas Marketing, located in Los Angeles and Madrid, Spain, specializes in publicity, promotions, media, creative services as well as film production and distribution. With all its success, Arenas has used its 25th birthday to thank clients for their business. “We are planning a celebration for the end of the year. Right now, we’re creating goodie bags for our clients that have our Arenas logo and the 25th Anniversary logo on them,” says Matonte. “We’ve given current clients tote bags and some other items to say ‘thank you,’ and we always do our Christmas card campaign, so it’s just something tangible that they can enjoy.”

Use Promo Products to Pump Up Your Picnic

Company picnics are great for employee participation; forgo the same old hot dogs and potato chips, and add pizzazz to your picnic with the help of a theme that will increase excitement and encourage participants to get involved. Check out these popular theme ideas, and be sure to ask your ad specialty distributor about obtaining the best products for your picnic and all your promotional events.

County Fair
Have employees bring their favorite dessert, garden produce and homemade crafts for judging and award ribbons to all. Sponsor pie eating, egg juggling, apple bobbing and watermelon seed-spitting contests. Make sure to decorate your picnic tables in country prints. Arrange games such as three-legged races and tug of wars; have team members wear logoed bandannas in their team’s color. Finally, set up hay rides around the picnic area. Keep plenty of logoed water bottles and sunscreen on hand for the long day outside.

Mexican Fiesta
Provide a set of Mexican hats and serapes and photograph your guests wearing them. String colored lights from poles or trees and add colorful streamers. Decorate picnic tables with colorful Mexican blankets and cacti centerpieces. Engage a mariachi band or use recorded music, and give employees logoed maracas to shake. Hang piñatas filled with candy and treats and let attendees take their best shot.

Hawaiian Luau
Encourage guests to arrive in costume and have hula girls and hula boys greet them with leis to the accompaniment of Hawaiian music. Have a pig roast and put accompanying food items in large seashells or logoed beach pails. Arrange for hula lessons and sponsor hula contests. Whip up a tasteful floral combo that mixes island blooms, fruits and foliage. Provide temporary Hawaiian warrior tattoos and hold coconut passing contests.

Way Out West
Provide vests and Stetsons for your guests and encourage them to add to the ensemble. Serve Western party foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, pork, beans, chips and peanuts. Arrange for a steady supply of country music for your cowgirls and cowboys to dance to and enjoy. Take digital photos of your costumed guests and Photoshop them with sepia tones and faded edges to give them an old-timey look. In addition to Western gear, provide guests with branded boot-shape drinking glasses, take-home cactus centerpieces, flashing marshals’ badges, miniature horseshoes, belt buckles, bolo ties and stuffed-animal horses for the children.

Resorts Five-Star Swag Bag a Hit With Guests

When the legendary Greenbriar resort hosted its inaugural Women in Leadership conference last year, there was significant attention paid to detail, as the speakers included a star-studded array of high-profile women in business, media and government. The event was organized by media power player Cathie Black, former president and chair of Hearst magazines, and a regular on the list of the 50 most powerful women in business.

"To say Cathie is particular is quite an understatement," says Greenbriar director of digital media and branding Chelsea Hover, noting that Black's exacting standards were evident in every aspect of the conference, including the gift bags that were handed out to speakers and attendees. Martha Stewart was the keynote speaker, and presenters included such luminaries as ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton and Mikki Taylor, Essence magazine editor-at-large and stylist to First Lady Michelle Obama.

"Cathie had very specific guidelines. The bags needed weight and had to include high-quality products with a focus on beauty," says Hover. The bags also needed to have a particular fit over the arm and be able to hold a laptop or an iPad. Many of the speakers were close friends of Black and traveled great distances to participate, making it even more important to Black that these women really enjoy the gift bags.

Hover began researching items for the bags six months before the conference took place, and the feedback from recipients suggests the end-result was five-star. The 300 stylish bags were made of reusable burlap. Greenbriar hotel-branded items in the bags included bedroom slippers, lip balm and wooden serving spoons. Birchbox, a beauty subscription service, supplied Hover with samples of high-end beauty products to try out for possible inclusion. "In one week I sent out 100 requests for donations to the gift bags – and 75% said yes," she notes.

The swag bag was so full that Vera Bradley's donation of 300 purses had to be distributed separately. Attendees received the purses at dinner, as a second gift bag. Imprinted silver business-card cases were included in all of the Vera Bradley bags. Plus, black leather boxes containing three Napa champagnes were given as VIP gifts to 25 of the speakers. "Everyone loved the bags; we got great feedback," Hover says. "If swag is done right, it's a jewel."

Promo Products Power-Up Yogurt Launch

Yogurt has always been advertised toward females with its feminine-colored packaging and commercials featuring thin women. Remember the itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini Yoplait ad? It summed up the message: yogurt helps women lose weight. Carlos Ramirez, CEO and founder of Powerful Yogurt, recognized the need for a yogurt for men in the food industry, and developed a high-protein, all-natural Greek yogurt in a larger package for the active male.

Expo West, the world's largest natural foods trade show, was the perfect place to launch the new product, and Powerful Yogurt's team made sure it would stand out from the crowd.  The team, which consists of employees from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina, created an ab-o-gram, an ultrasound machine that allowed attendees to "find your inner" abs when they stopped by the booth. "We hired a model to play a nurse and speak about the product while she showed men their inner abs on the ab-o-gram screen," says Sarah Goldthwait Shoemaker, marketing and communications manager at Powerful Yogurt. "We gave branded hats, T-shirts and rubber USB drives to attendees who stayed at the booth and showed a deep interest in the yogurt. Plus, we gave out thousands of samples throughout the show and people went wild."

The booth also featured a media reel, where visitors could see the attention that Powerful Yogurt had earned in such a short amount of time, adding credibility to the brand. "We pitched proactively, but most happened organically as word of the product got around," says Shoemaker. "Once it was picked up by one outlet, others caught on and soon we were getting mentions on Anderson Cooper, Conan O'Brien, CNN, Today Show, etc."

The protein-packed product was awarded one of the top five most creative U.S. Hispanic ideas by Circulo Creativo, a nonprofit association that promotes creative excellence and communication between professionals working in the U.S. Latino market. And, although the idea caters to all cultures – it's just another sign of how integrated Hispanics have become in what marketing executives are calling the new mainstream. "Our goal is to target men who lead active lifestyles and are conscious about what they're putting into their bodies, and we've had a tremendous response from a diverse group of consumers," says Shoemaker.

Shoemaker credits much of the initial success to a strong online presence. "We had our website set up and it included a coupon, background info about the company, store finder app and high resolution images available to the media, plus we had Facebook and Twitter presence," she says. "When people searched Powerful Yogurt and found all this, they knew it was legitimate. We're now in 350 stores and counting."

Star Power

When Sandra Alexander, a marketing rep for cosmetic firm darci by Di Caprio, sent out a press release announcing the firm's new makeup brush cleaner in September 2011, she never dreamed that the product would find itself in the Oscar gift bags of Hollywood's elite at last year's Oscar ceremony.

Upon reading the press release, a representative from an agency that specializes in the entertainment industry reached out to Darci Henry and Lisa Di Caprio, to see if they would be interested in contributing their new brush cleaner to the gift bags for Oscar nominees in the top five categories of the 2012 Oscars.

At first the pair ignored the call, but after receiving a second call telling them their product would be great for the celebrity swag bag, they decided to get involved. "Make it as unique as you can," was the only request the agency made. The women brainstormed about how best to build around this opportunity, and ultimately won raves and press coverage, including mentions in Lucky magazine and Philadelphia Business Journal for the cleverly designed gift packaging, which centered on the founders' mission statement, "The Beauty of Believing in Yourself." Henry and Di Caprio, divorced mothers who overcame personal adversity, became best friends and started darci by Di Caprio to support themselves, become independent and inspire others to do the same.

The women chose boxes that looked like hollowed-out books bearing the tagline, "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover." The box contained the brand's signature brush cleaner, with limited-edition Kabuki brushes (no animal hair was used and the product was cruelty free-certified by PETA) as well as a towel with the brand's logo to dry off the brushes.

A card insert read,  "You can't summarize your career with one performance, define a character with a single facial expression or take one look at someone and understand who they are or how far they've come. On the surface, your makeup brushes may seem clean. But look a little closer and you may find a different story." The gift box also contained a mini movie script and a short video on a USB drive telling the story behind the brand.

Appearances on talk shows and morning shows to discuss the Oscar gift bags reached almost 3 million viewers. The press that darci by Di Caprio received resulted in increased traffic in their PA-based store, plus the addition of four new wholesale accounts, including Beauty Cirque, New Beauty at Fred Segal, and two major online retailers, and

Logoed Cutting Board Is A Brand Booster

Alberta Pork wanted chefs to share their passion for pork, as well as their recipes on how to prepare this meat. The Passion for Pork campaign, which began in April 2012, included a website and over 900 television spots. This created major awareness for the website with 300-400 visits a day. However, as soon as the television campaign stopped, the daily hits dropped to 50-70 visits a day.

To reinvigorate the interest in pork at the consumer level, Alberta Pork reps contacted their distributor partner, who suggested an embroidered chef coat and flexible cutting boards imprinted with the Passion for Pork logo to be given away at various events. As distribution of the cutting boards was underway, a few people provided feedback that they planned to use the cutting boards as place mats.

One event was a high-profile dinner in Edmonton that attracted more than 1,400 diners where chefs clad in their logoed chef coats prepared favorite dishes from the region. The Passion for Pork cutting boards were set out as place mats so people could take them home afterward. The promotion went over extremely well.

The campaign also went viral. Alberta Pork started receiving fun and crazy photographs of people posing with the pig cutting boards in a variety of costumes and locations. Alberta Pork is using the photos on its websites and promoting them through social media to increase demand for the boards. Website visits have again increased and at a much lower cost than buying television spots.

Do you have a campaign that needs a boost? Your distributor partner can help you utilize products that may have more than one application, like the cutting boards doubling as place mats. This will give your company logo greater exposure.

Beer Brand Uses Promo Products To Reach Hot Market

Most major beer corporations know if they want to rule the market, it’s about time they begin catering to Hispanic consumers. After all, the buying power of Hispanics has reached $1.2 trillion, which in 2012, was larger than the entire economies of all but 13 countries in the world, according to the UGA Selig Center Multicultural Economy study.

So, employees in Miller’s Hispanic marketing department reached out to Dean Schwartz, owner of Miami-based SOBO Concepts to create authentic tangible campaign elements. Schwartz, who has worked in the Latin American sector his entire career, also runs a popular Latino fashion merchandise store. “They came to us and said that we seemed to have our finger on the pulse of this Hispanic market, so they wanted our help,” Schwartz says.

Miller needed a design for a soccer jersey in honor of the World Cup, so SOBO’s team of artists went to work. They created an Aztec-like emblem for the front of the jersey and a playful name for the back: Ben Frias. “We’re all about figuring out ways to relate to the target audience,” says Schwartz. “One of the most important things is being relevant to consumers.”

After the jersey was a success, Miller came back for more. This time, they wanted a product that celebrated the Hispanics’ love for wrestling. Since soccer is a large part of the Hispanic culture as well, Miller planned to give the item out at soccer games in West Coast cities with heavy Hispanic populations.

SOBO created a “luchalibre” Mexican wrestling mask in the form of a “chivas” to promote Miller’s sponsorship of the Chivas Guadalajara soccer club, whose mascot is a goat. Luchalibre, a term used in Mexico for professional wrestling, is characterized by colorful masks, so the product had to be authentic. “The key was understanding the roles wrestling and soccer play in the community,” says Schwartz. “They wanted to target males, ages 21-35, so we created a recognizable, but creative product. In the Hispanic market, you can talk the talk, but you also have to walk the walk when it comes to knowing what consumers want.”

Miller also supports education in the Latino community, contributing a portion of its Texas and Oklahoma sales to Adelante, a national nonprofit organization committed to providing resources to Latinos seeking to achieve a higher education.

Promotional Items Help Drive Multicultural Growth

NASCAR is expanding its outreach by building the star power of individual drivers, attracting a multicultural fan base, executing more social-media strategies and improving the racetrack experience for fans. Its new Diversity Program is going strong and is set to continue this mission with Hispanic-themed events and advertising campaigns this year.

Alejandra Diaz-Labrecque, manager of NASCAR Multicultural Development, is a driving force behind the initiative, and she believes that education and awareness are equally important in the quest to gain more Hispanic fans and drivers. “There are two main components of the Hispanic push,” Diaz-Labrecque says. “The first is raising awareness and the second is making the race experience welcoming to fans.”

The diversity program, Bienvenidos a NASCAR, formed partnerships with tracks and race series across the country to promote the movement. The program offered bilingual ambassadors, a bilingual broadcast, Spanish-language signage, concerts including Los Lobos in Phoenix and Chino and Nacho in Miami, branded merchandise, discounted tickets and more.

“In conjunction with each track, we set up branded tents and booths and handed out T-shirts, cups, keychains, lanyards, all with the Bienvenidos a NASCAR logo on them,” Diaz-Labrecque says. “We had sweepstakes going on in each of the markets, in which the track donated items with its logo, and we offered VIP tickets as well as ran TV and radio ads.”

Bienvenidos a NASCAR also developed a Spanish-language landing page for its site and a Spanish call center for ticket purchases. Hispanic fans were offered ticket packages that included bilingual brochures, track maps and advice for race day. “If you’ve never been to a race before, it can be very overwhelming,” says Diaz-Labrecque. “We wanted every attendee to feel comfortable and welcome, so the literature included tips such as where and when to see fireworks, flyovers and driver introductions.”

Handbooks featuring QR codes linked to NASCAR garage videos were distributed, so fans could learn what goes on under the hood of a racecar and familiarize themselves even more with the sport. Headsets were also included in the ticket package, which allowed onlookers to hear the drivers and crews, and listen to broadcasts in Spanish.

Helping to promote the ongoing cause are a handful of well-known Hispanic drivers, including Juan Pablo Montoya of Columbia, Aric Almirola from Cuba, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Miguel Paludo of Brazil, Victor Gonzalez of Puerto Rico and Jorge Arteaga of Mexico.

Bienvenidos a NASCAR has continued to grow and become involved with more events and races such as NASCAR Championship Drive in South Beach, Miami. “We know it’s going to be an investment before we see huge results,” says Diaz-Labrecque, “but it’s all about raising awareness and educating Hispanics on the sport.”

With momentum gaining from its efforts toward the Hispanic community, NASCAR is excited for 2013, when the NASCAR Toyota Series will compete for the first time ever in the U.S. in Phoenix on March 1. “We will be there in full force,” says Diaz-Labrecque. “It will be an over-the-top, blowout event.”

Gifts are the Icing on the Wedding Cake

Engaging Concepts, strategic consultants to the wedding industry, gather the top tastemakers in wedding planning twice a year at the Engage! luxury wedding business summits. The events are famous for beautifully wrapped gift bags and branded merchandise, which incorporate function, fashion and fun. Attendees receive gifts before and during the three-day affair, including pre-arrival gifts that build buzz.

Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce are the masterminds behind Engaging Concepts. "There are lots of wedding and event conferences, but most are targeted to specific groups like caterers, photographers or florists," says Grinnals, company founder and president. "At Engage! we bring together everyone who touches the luxury wedding market."

Wedding and event planners mingle and network with high-end wedding personalities, including party planner Colin Cowie, bridal fashion designer Monique Lhuillier and cake maker Sylvia Weinstock. Gift planning begins five to six months out, since many products are custom designed. "We are willing to invest in our gift bags to keep the brand, event and story consistent," says Grinnals.

Alison Howard, a San Diego-based wedding planner, was so impressed by the gift bags that she devoted a 10-minute videoblog to the bag she received at Engage! Las Vegas last summer. "This was the first time I'd done a swag bag blog," she says. It was one of her most popular posts.

Each Engage! event has its own color story and logo, coordinated with the location. Engage!12 Palm Beach took place in December at The Breakers hotel. Its signature colors were "Tangerine Tango," silver and white. Two months before the event, Engaging Concepts sent out "countdown cubes" (photo cubes) to generate enthusiasm and mark the days until the conference. Three weeks before, guests received shoe bags and packing tags with suggested items to pack.

The "bling ball," a signature giveaway at Engage! events, is a name tag bearing a silver chain with Swarovski crystal balls that indicate how many of the Engage! events you've attended. Orange Lucite clipboards, pens and notepads were given out at the opening session. Male and female guests received separate gift totes with gender-specific items. For example, men received shaving items, while women got makeup, nail polish, accessories and orange pashminas. Everyone's bag contained other items too, including a Tango Trio cocktail kit in a branded suitcase, snack tins and an assortment of cleverly labeled products such as a clear vinyl luggage tag with shoe shine wipes for men, makeup remover for women, sunscreen and stain-remover wipes.

On day two, guests got a "Vitamin E!12" meeting kit in a customized orange juice box, with a custom USB drive, logo journal, eboost packet, logo microfiber screen cloth, and lip balm and striped pencil as a straw for the carton and more.

The events generate lots of social media feedback, as guests blog, tweet and post photos that may be relevant and useful to their clients. Grinnals notes a boost in attendees' use of Instagram, with over 700 Instagram photos transmitted from the Las Vegas Engage!.

Stuffed Dragon Drives Consumers to Enter Sweepstakes

Valpak, a leader in print and digital coupons, targeted families and savings in a national campaign, which aired in September nationwide. Valpak's traditional Blue Envelope, andValpak savings app all took center stage in the new Valpak consumer commercial, Coming Home. The commercial showed the story of a dad-daughter duo that used Valpak to find savings in unexpected places. The commercial was featured on digital and social messaging through October 31 and ran on Valpak-partnered television stations TNT and TBS in October.

The commercial also drove viewers to where they could watch "The Dragon Balthazar," a video that completed the commercial's story. Consumers could enter a sweepstakes to win the five-foot stuffed Balthazar dragon that appeared in the commercial. "There was a chance to win the mini Balthazar dragon and a $25 gift card each week, along with the grand prize of a life-sized dragon," says Marsha Strickhouser, public relations manager for Valpak. A total of 15 first-prize winners received the mini dragon and gift card.

Valpak also sent out a direct-mail piece to media, which included a press release and mini Balthazar dragon. "The smaller versions of the dragons were produced for the sweepstakes," says Strickhouser. "We also shared them with our employees and about 1,000 franchise owners and sales reps from around the U.S. and Canada at our national convention."

When done correctly, direct mail can be a highly effective resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Make sure to provide real incentives. Direct mail works by getting your prospect to respond to an offer. Whether that is a coupon, a sweepstakes entry or a special deal, make sure you're including an incentive. Contact your distributor for help.

Reality Show Ramp-Up

Mun2, a Hispanic youth-focused cable channel owned by NBC Universal, was looking for items to promote the launching of a new reality TV show called “Larrymania,” based on the life of Mexican singer Larry Hernandez.

They needed two products, one geared toward advertisers and the second toward consumers. Ideas were presented for both the ad agencies and Mun2 viewers. They settled on a bobble head and a leather wristband. Mun2 sent their distributor partner a photo of Larry Hernandez for the bobble head design. He made sure everything matched, even Hernandez’s goatee, which was very important for the artist.

For the wristband, Mun2 wanted to include the show logo and the Mun2 name, but they didn’t just want to do a straight logo. They decided on a custom leather bracelet with the show's logo and a custom-debossed pattern.

They produced 250 bobble heads and 2,000 wristbands. Both items were a huge success. Sarah Castellvi, marketing coordinator at Mun2, was pleased with the results.

Need some unique items to promote a special event or product? Speak to your distributor partner for cool ideas and creative designs that can help you launch a successful ad campaign or product launch.

Boo Boo the Bear Boosts Awareness

When children become ill or injured, one of the first things they reach for while they're on the mend is a favorite stuffed animal. Leaders at The Canadian Association for Wound Care (CAWC) decided to capitalize on patients' need for comfort toys, and together with their distributor partner, designed a custom teddy bear mascot named Boo Boo to raise awareness of the organization's mission and elements of the core brand: caregiving, comfort and security.

The main undertaking of CAWC, a nonprofit organization of health-care professionals, researchers, corporate supporters, patients and caregivers, is to advance wound care in Canada. "The teddy bears were created to aid in CAWC's efforts to improve the health of Canadians living with wounds or at high risk of preventable wounds," says a company spokesperson. The plush mascot featured a paw in a sling and a leg in a cast with a CAWC logo and a matching red ribbon.

The initial target audience was young children and the elderly, both prone to injury, and over 1,000 bears were given to patients and attendees at trade shows and conferences. Because of Boo Boo's popularity, he was eventually used to enhance professional education, support investments in wound management, inform and educate the public and empower patients to speak effectively about the importance of wound prevention and care. Plans are also in the works for distribution at the retail level, and they are currently for sale at CAWC gift shops.

According to a distributor spokesperson, it's important not to limit what one product can do to increase brand awareness for your company. "Boo Boo expanded from what he was made for originally, which was as a distribution item for wounded patients," she explains. "He became an ambassador for education and investment in CAWC."

Be sure to contact your distributor partner to help you find the right product to raise awareness, launch a new campaign or for any special event.

Cookie Jar Is Centerpiece for Iconic Brand's Anniversary Promo

This year, the food industry celebrated a significant milestone – the 100th birthday of the famous Oreo cookie. Since 1912, Oreos, originally a knockoff of Hydrox biscuits, have become the best-selling cookie in the United States; over 362 billion have been sold since they were first released. Over the past century, the detail on the chocolate disks has changed slightly, but the Oreo has remained unaltered since it was introduced to the public.

To commemorate its centennial anniversary, Kraft Foods, the distributor of the Oreo, launched a major nationwide promotional campaign which involved a consumer on-pack offer. A limited-edition, custom Oreo 100th Birthday Cookie Jar was chosen as the premium item to be distributed. According to a company spokesperson who worked on the campaign, the cookie jar made sense from a promotional standpoint, and the lid design also reinforced the core equity of the brand.

The offer was placed on 16 million packages across the country and, as of this writing, actual redemptions were still being calculated. By mid-October, 69,000 jars had been distributed.

Have a milestone you’d like to promote? Contact your distributor partner for ideas and products that will make the celebration last longer than a one-day event. Like the Oreo cookie jar, your logo on a special promo item will be a pleasant reminder to customers who will want to hold onto it as a keepsake for years.

Bag That Hangover

San Francisco-based wine producer Cameron Hughes recently sponsored a booth at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival, a not-to-be-missed annual event for foodies, wine and culinary celebrities and industry leaders, held high up in the Rockies.

“It was the first time we attended the festival,” says Jessica Hughes, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Cameron Hughes. This year marked the company’s 10th anniversary as well as the 30th anniversary of the Aspen festival.

“We offered festival guests 12 different wines from around the world. Since we source wines globally, the wines hailed from Bordeaux to Napa, all under the Cameron Hughes label,” she says. “We are little people, and we wanted to have the greatest presence possible there.”

Wine trade tasting events are very intense; sometimes there can be 1,000 wines under one tent, Hughes notes, adding, “If we didn’t spit, we wouldn’t be able to get through the first hour.” Also, it’s easy to get inebriated more quickly in a location like Aspen due to its high elevation and lower oxygen levels. “You can get a ferocious hangover if you’re not careful,” says Hughes.

To combat the perils of tasting at high elevation, Cameron Hughes created a “wine-tasting survival kit” to promote its brand to event VIPs. The reusable red pouch, bearing the name of the winery and its website address, included such essentials as Aleve, teeth whitening strips, Emergen-C vitamins, breath mints, Blistex and Wet Ones.

The items were carefully thought out. For example, Blistex soothes the inevitable chapped lips that result from tasting red wine. Alka Seltzer helps tackle the acidity of wine tannins that can cause an upset stomach, and Emergen-C provides a vitamin infusion. “In the wine industry, we all take Aleve with Emergen-C in the evening, combined with a big glass of water. This guarantees no hangover,” Hughes says.

The versatile pouch had a hook and eye to attach to belt loops, and was small enough to fit into a back pocket. It also had a zipper piece that allowed it to be hung from a lanyard, worn by many attendees at the festival for identification. The pouch also contained a slit for credit cards and a license, and could be used as a wallet.

It was the first time the wine merchant had ever done a giveaway like this, and Hughes wanted the kit to be “smart, innovative and well thought out.” Cameron Hughes distributed 450 pouches to industry VIPs, and an additional 4,500 Chapsticks were distributed in the event’s registration bags, as well as at its booth. “People loved the pouches,” Hughes says. “Some said it was ‘genius,’ and the Chapsticks were also hugely popular.”

Get Students' Attention

Each year, SandRidge Energy visits college campuses across Oklahoma and neighboring states in search of talent to keep their company competitive.

In the spring and fall, SandRidge recruiters attend career fairs to talk with students majoring in engineering, IT, accounting and other business specialties about internships at the company. To stand out amid a crowded auditorium, SandRidge knew that they needed to have something special to give attendees. “The students swarm to the cool items,” says Ashley McDaniel, a recruiter for SandRidge. “We’ve used water bottles the last couple of years, so I wanted to do something different this year ... something we haven’t seen before.”

The SandRidge Communications Department worked with its distributor partner to design a new, double-walled tumbler that works for both hot and cold beverages. They selected a Triton 16-oz. tumbler. What really sets it apart, though, is the custom-woven patch with the SandRidge logo encapsulated inside the tumbler. A rep for the distributor firm says they used a woven patch to make a really sharp logo. It was the company’s first order of this particular product and with over 1,000 tumblers already sent, the rep says SandRidge is extremely pleased with the product and is planning to order more in the fall when they start attending career fairs again.


Promotional Products

The most significant findings of the impressions study show advertising specialties are less expensive per impression than most other media and are very affordable and effective when compared to other forms of media.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Cost per Impression. In the U.S., the cost per impression of a promotional product stayed virtually the same from 2008 to 2010, at .005 cents.
  • Identifying the Advertiser. Eighty-three percent in the U.S. say they can identify the advertiser on a promotional item they own.
  • Product Usage. Bags have the highest number of impressions in a month, over 1,000, and over one-third (36%) of those with incomes under $50,000 own bags.
  • Gender Preferences. Males are more likely than females to own shirts and caps, while females are more likely to have bags, writing instruments, calendars and health and safety products.
  • Ethnic Preferences. African Americans have more promotional products on average (11.3) than any other group.
  • Positive Reinforcement. Seventy-five percent of independent voters prefer consumer-branded products; nearly 1.5 times more than Democrats or Republicans.
  • Influencing User Opinions. Forty-one percent of U.S. respondents say their opinion of the advertiser is more favorable after receiving a promotional product.
  • Global Reach. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents from Great Britain have received and kept a pen in the last 12 months. In the U.S., writing instruments are used the most often, an average of 18.2 times per month.
  • Superior Pass Along. After receiving a promotional product they don’t plan to keep, nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents in the U.S. say they give the item to someone else.
  • Popular Products. The most commonly owned promotional products among U.S. respondents are writing instruments (46%), followed by shirts (38%) and calendars (24%).

At $0.005, the average cost-per-impression (CPI) of an advertising specialty item is less than nearly any other media. According to data obtained by ASI the CPI for a national magazine ad is $0.045; for a newspaper ad, $0.029; for a prime-time TV ad, $0.018; for a cable prime-time TV ad, $0.005; for a syndicated daytime TV ad, $0.005; and for a spot radio ad, $0.058.

To complete its research, ASI conducted a total of 3,332 online and in-person surveys, including interviews with businesspeople in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, London, Sydney, Toronto and Montreal metro areas.

The 2.0 study, a follow-up to the definitive 2008 survey, includes new demographic information on politics, ethnicity, gender and age, since knowing the likely recipient of products is paramount for an advertiser. This year, the comprehensive report also adds global markets and includes more products, such as automotive accessories and food.

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