Market To Market: Rally Around Promotional Products

Walk-outs and sit-ins. Pickets and protests. Demonstrations and rallies. Throughout history, people have come together in all sorts of ways to make unified statements and drive change.

We’re living in an age where more citizens have joined demonstrations than ever before. In the past four years, tens of millions of people have shown up for marches, rallies, vigils and other events, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. One in five Americans has participated in a rally since the beginning of 2016, and among them, 19 percent had never joined a march or political gathering before.

Unlike the tumultuous Vietnam War era, when most demonstrators were college students, nearly half (44 percent) of today’s rallygoers are age 50 or older. More than a third (36 percent) earn more than $100,000 per year and most live in the suburbs.

Today’s marches and rallies come in all forms and sizes. People don’t just join forces to march in mega-rallies; they often unite at smaller, intimate events, from local town halls to backyard ice cream socials.

However they choose to participate, men and women of all ages and backgrounds are especially passionate about their views in an election year. A record 71 percent of Americans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president in 2020, according to CNN. Politico reports that seven in 10 Americans say they are absolutely certain to vote in 2020.

Leading up to the election, you’re sure to see a red-white-and-blue tsunami of branded merchandise. Forecasts show that advertising spending could approach $10 billion this year, up from $6.3 billion in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Promotional products aren’t just powerful on the campaign trail. Voters and activists alike can turn to logoed items to promote their candidate and champion their cause. Branded items elevate messages, connect crowds and bring people together. There’s no debate that promotional products work. Nearly seven in 10 brands consider promotional products mostly or always effective in achieving marketing goals, according to PPAI Research.

Read on to learn how to make a strong showing this year with leaders, voters, supporters and activists.

Social media has morphed the way people express their political views and speak out on the issues that matter to them. Most Americans (69 percent) believe social media sites are very or somewhat important in getting politicians’ attention on certain issues, according to Pew Research. Nearly three out of four people (67 percent) say social media is critical in creating social change.

Whether brands take a stand on issues on social media or participate in local rallies, now is the time to be vocal. More than half (53 percent) of consumers expect brands to get involved in at least one social issue that is not directly related to their business, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Consumers are watching and deciding where to buy. If they don’t like what a brand stands for, many will pull their dollars. In fact, 90 percent of Millennials say they would switch brand allegiance to support an issue they care about, according to the Haas School of Business at Berkeley.

When it comes to political and social issues, consumers want to trust the brands they support. The Edelman survey reveals that 81 percent of people say they must be able to trust a brand to do what is right. Through promotional campaigns focused around marches, rallies and social movements, brands can make significant strides in building authenticity and connecting with their target audience.


  • 1 in 3 Americans feel compelled to protest
  • The rate is highest among Democrats, self-described liberals, college graduates and women.

Source: Gallup


Consumers mostly want to hear from brands on these topics:

  • Natural disasters or crises: 76%
  • Education: 74%
  • Environmental issues: 71%
  • Human rights: 70%
  • Poverty/homelessness: 69%
  • Military/veterans’ issues: 68%

Source: Sprout Social


  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Florida
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Texas
  6. Michigan
  7. Washington
  8. Massachusetts
  9. North Carolina
  10. Ohio

Source: Stacker


  • 20% of Americans say they have attended a rally or march in the past two years.
  • 26% say they have participated in other ways.
  • 55% are less engaged.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post


These marches drew the biggest crowds in Washington, D.C.:

  • The March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom (1963) – 250,000
  • Demonstration Against The Vietnam War (1969) – 500,000 to 600,000
  • The Million Man March (1995) – 450,000 to 1.1 million
  • Inaugural Women’s March (2017) – 500,000
  • March For Our Lives (2018) – 800,000

Source: USA Today


In 2018, lobbying spending topped $3.8 billion—the highest in eight years. These industries spent the most:

  1. Pharmaceuticals/health products: $280 million
  2. Insurance: $157 million
  3. Electronics manufacturing/ equipment: $145 million
  4. Business associations: $142 million
  5. Oil and gas: $124 million
  6. Electric utilities: $121 million
  7. Real estate: $117 million
  8. Hospitals/nursing homes: $100 million
  9. Securities and investment: $99 million
  10. Manufacturing and distributing: $95 million

Source: The Center for Responsive Politics


Americans say these issues matter most at the ballot box this year:

  • The economy: 24%
  • Health care: 21%
  • Immigration: 15%
  • The environment: 13%

Source: CNBC and Acorns


  • Millennials (ages 23 to 38) and Generation X (ages 39 to 54) say the economy is the most important issue when voting this year.
  • Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73) and the Silent Generation (74 and older) are most concerned about health care.

Source: Bankrate


Print this drawstring backpack in full color or one color for a functional giveaway at rallies and marches. It’s made from polyester and features reinforced corners for added strength.

Chocolate Inn/Taylor & Grant/Lanco  /  PPAI 111662, S7  /


Available with a stars-and-stripes design, the Koozie britePix Holiday Can Kooler is perfect for patriotic messages. Add a full-color brand message to show your support of a candidate or cause.

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /


Voters and supporters can proudly display their choices with a classic lapel sticker. Choose from a variety of sizes and shapes for a cost-effective way to spread the word.

Label Works  /  PPAI 111141, S3  /


The 4-in-1 Pixie multi-function tool comes in handy when marchers take to the streets and when they’re back home. It features a flashing safety light, a safety reflective surface and a convenient water bottle holder.

Logomark, Inc.  /  PPAI 110898, S12  /


Where there’s a crowd, there’s an opportunity for large-scale engagement. Turn to the mega hand clapper to make their hands clap for your cause. This iconic plastic noisemaker is available in red, white, blue and black.

Leed’s  /  PPAI 112361, S13  /


Help rallygoers say it with softer lips with the rubber lip balm ball. This all-natural, American-made lip balm is offered in multiple flavors and comes with a logoed silicone carabiner.

Webb Company  /  PPAI 143213, S7  /


Designed with a slightly contoured barrel, chrome accents and an ombre treatment, the La Jolla Ombre ballpoint pen is an eye-catcher at rallies and events. Customize this plastic pen with a one-color silkscreen imprint.

Goldstar  /  PPAI 114031, S7  /


Getting In On The Ground Floor

Many brands want to get involved in social movements, but to be successful, they must be genuine. If brands take the wrong approach, they risk alienating their target audience and tarnishing their brand image. Promotional products distributors can help their clients win on the social justice front by following these guidelines:

Champion the right cause. Help your clients identify a cause that aligns with their values. Do they want to help mentor underprivileged youth? Feed the hungry? Supply clean water? Look to big brands such as Gillette, which champions men’s-related issues, or Patagonia, which pledges a portion of its revenue to environmental causes. Think about the social issue that makes sense for your clients to stand behind.

Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Lots of issues garner worldwide attention, but that doesn’t mean a brand should chime in on it. When brands align with an issue just because it’s trending, the brand can appear inauthentic and drive customers away. Instead of the hot-button issues, help your client look for causes that clearly align with their company culture and values.

Stay visible with promotional products. It’s not enough to make an occasional comment on social media to support or protest a movement. Brands can show their commitment to a cause by getting promotional products into the hands of rallygoers and voters. When consumers touch and feel a branded product in their hands, it furthers that brand’s reach and impact. Get on the ground with activists and supporters. Show them you care as much as they do about the cause—and help them select useful branded merchandise as a reminder.


Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-area based writer and former associate editor of PPB.

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