Editor's Picks: The Race Is On


The partisan politics of the day are generating impressive opportunities for the promotional products industry to soar. Passion for supporting candidates and platforms is producing an earlier-than-usual prospect for PPAI members to capture business in anticipation of 2020 elections.

The scope of business available is prodigious. Consider that 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate are being contested, and 13 state and territorial governorships are up for election.  And on the presidential front, before a nominee is finalized as his or her party’s choice, a series of primaries and caucuses with multiple possible candidates creates a myriad of product opportunities.

What is the key to capitalizing on this ready-made market? Is it helping clients select the appropriate vehicle for promoting their cause? Is it pricing, packaging or customer service? The market is wide enough for promotional products in all categories and for businesses of all sizes to seize their share.

“Remembering that the candidate is a brand and we are there to create brand awareness can be very important when preparing a program,” says Keith Slater, CAS, account manager for distributor Specialty Incentives.

“Some pitfalls to watch for—does the item need to be USA-made or even union-made to match the candidate’s message?” asks Slater. “Great programs can backfire if the candidate is running on a ‘Buy American’ platform and giving out Made-in-China gifts.”

Slater has worked to develop quality donor gifts such as mugs, pens and edibles in addition to traditional stickers, banners and yard signs. “Rally branding, like logoed chocolates, napkins and cups, and rally takeaways, like magnets, Post-it note pads and hats, are always popular.”

Slater cites the attention that the Trump “Red Cap Campaign” has generated over the past three years. “This is a perfect example of how a promotional product can become an integral part of a campaign,” he adds.

While some Americans’ eyes glaze over at the preponderance of constant political partisan reports, supplier The Book Company has within its vast collection of book offerings two recently published books that take a gentler tone in this highly charged political environment: 1001 Things Republicans Get Right: A Complete Guide for Voters and 1001 Things Democrats Get Right: A Complete Guide for Voters. But before distributors choose which book to order for a client, The Book Company wants them to know that both books are actually blank inside.

“Since we take the approach of finding the right book for the right audience, a lighter option may be the perfect fit," says Roni Wright, MAS, vice president, The Book Company. "These blank humor books offer clients a slightly different option for the upcoming primary season."

Cindy Scardino, marketing coordinator at supplier Gill Studios, Inc., says that no matter the position, it is vital to get the voters’ attention. “The race is always on in politics and paying attention to the details can go a long way.”

Gill’s 2020 Political Product Catalog is a compilation of promo items designed to keep voters thinking about the candidate and the message. Scardino says typical promo products like yard signs and bumper stickers will continue to be crowd pleasers, but items like door hangers, magnets, stickers, banners and memo books are products that can take campaigns to new levels.

In addition to the political campaign itself, national and local candidates often have special causes they support. Promotional products are employed to heighten awareness and fundraising for projects that are close to a candidate’s heart. For instance, Specialty Incentives, located near Denver, Colorado, works with a group attempting to stop strip mining in one of the state’s tourist towns. The distributor has created hats, shirts, stickers and other items for the group to sell to raise funds and draw attention to its mission.

This low-profile style Vintage Offroad Cap features an unstructured crown made of 100-percent washed cotton twill and 100-percent super soft poly-mesh back panels with an adjustable snap-back closure. Offered in two colors, Flagtacular and Freedom, this cap is just right for political themes.

J. America   /   PPAI 351699, S1    /    www.jamericablanks.com

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Who can resist an offer of candy mints? With these candy mints, clients can forego the guilt as they can be ordered gluten-free, fat-free, nut-free and kosher. A variety of flavors and types of mints make them ideal to distribute at events, parades, campaign conventions and office lobby areas. Choose a custom wrapper or a stock flag wrapper.

Hospitality Mints  /  PPAI 113524, S6  /  www.hospitalitymints.com

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These hardcover books by “Bill O’Rights” offer a humorous and harmless way to approach the partisan divide. 1001 Things Republicans Get Right: A Complete Guide for Voters and 1001 Things Democrats Get Right: A Complete Guide for Voters provide the gravitas of a serious political book, but both books’ pages are blank. Some comic relief may be the key to enduring the political season.

The Book Company  /  PPAI 218850, S6   /   www.thebookco.com

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Door hangers and bumper stickers have helped carry the message of countless political campaigns for decades and they continue to help spread the word. But if your client is looking for something voters can carry that will keep them thinking about a candidate and his or her message, consider this Memo Book. Three handy sizes are available, all with full-color covers and 40 perforated pages for easy removal. It’s one of the many items in Gill’s 2020 Get Out The Vote! Political Product Catalog.

Gill Studios, Inc.  /  PPAI 114157, S11  /  www.gill-line.com

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Nothing beats a classic yard sign—except a Double-Sided Yard Sign that’s plastic coated on both sides to resist rain and snow, with a heavy-duty, steel wire frame that secures it safely in place. It’s also folded at the top, glued on the edges, non-transparent and easy to assemble. The sign shown is just one style, but there are many sizes and styles to choose from.

Gill Studios, Inc.  /  PPAI 114157, S11  /  www.gill-line.com

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A quality promotional pen can ink the deal for your political hopeful. The Javalina Executive will make a lasting impression with its classic style and quality feel. Choose from blue or black ink.

Hub Pen Company  /  PPAI 110772, S11  /   www.hubpen.com

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Candidates wanting to make the most of large-audience events can add a vivid impression with a logoed stadium towel. Whether a town hall meeting, spaghetti dinner or sporting event, these 100-percent cotton terry velour towels make a dramatic visual impact when draped across individual seats. Available in 12 colors, the Jewel Collection Soft Touch Sports/Stadium Towel measures 15 by 18 inches wide and a dozen towels weigh just over a pound.

Pro Towels  /  PPAI 112755, S10  /  www.protowels.com

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While some die-hard collectors contend that the first political buttons were worn by George Washington’s supporters, others say it was Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 proponents who hold this right. Wherever the truth may lie, any quick search of eBay or Amazon will display the extreme interest that political buttons and lapel pins hold for the historically inclined collector.

Danielle Arnet, author of The Smart Collector, reported the most valuable example of a campaign pin that dates back to 1920. In a Sun Sentinel syndicated column in 2016, Arnet identified that pin as the rare 1920 election campaign pin of presidential hopeful James Cox and his running mate, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The image of future president Franklin Roosevelt on Cox’s pin launched the recognition of an American leader. As for Cox, he suffered the worst defeat in presidential election history, losing to Warren G. Harding.

While not the most valuable pin, perhaps the most famous slogan found on a campaign pin in American history is the phrase, “I Like Ike,” referring to future President Dwight Eisenhower. According to CuriosityHuman, unlike many other political pins and buttons, the pin was not produced for Eisenhower’s campaign to promote his candidacy. It was created by Eisenhower’s supporters to encourage him to run.

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Enid Gail Barron is a Dallas-area business writer.

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