Step Right Up To Promotional Opportunities

Promotional products make fairs and festivals more memorable for everyone.

The smell of corndogs, the sound of calliope music and the sight of colorful booths conjure up happy childhood memories. Free-spirited music lovers and thoughtful film buffs make the most of festival season. Fairs and festivals are a rite of passage, and a tradition, for so many, that promoting these events to those who populate them shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

Of course not, especially if you follow a few simple guidelines. Whether you’re working on behalf of the event organizer or to help on-site sellers get the word out about their wares, promotional marketing strategies should focus on attendees and, of course, the vendors themselves.

Music and film festivals are among the most popular events in the U.S.—roughly 32 million Americans, mostly Millennials, attend music festivals each year, according to Billboard magazine. Food vendors are among the biggest draws at fairs and festivals, as well as artisans selling handcrafted items and businesses looking to build a client base.

Crystal Wiebe is the founder of Kansas City, Missouri-based Beer Paws, a company whose target audience is beer drinkers who also love dogs. Beer Paws sells treats, candles, apparel and even “doggy beer” among other unique items. The company has connected with audiences at events such as the Westport Roots Festival in Kansas City, and Benson Beer Fest in Omaha, Nebraska. The Beer Paws team provides giveaways and opportunities to purchase its items at booths on-site.

“Whether offered as giveaways or items for purchase, customized products are the best way to draw attention to your brand,” says Wiebe. “Providing your customer with something they can take home makes their experience engaging with your brand more memorable and meaningful.”

Wiebe says products need to be relevant to a vendor’s offerings and brand culture. “For example, Beer Paws gives away logoed coasters, and we sell branded Koozies, bottle openers and other merchandise that our customers—dog lovers and beer connoisseurs—can appreciate and use.

“One of the biggest compliments we can receive from our customers is for them to show up at our next event wearing something they purchased or received from us in the past. We make all of our products available at every event. When we set up at beer festivals, we also make sure to have some co-branded dog treats available that were made in partnership with breweries pouring at the event.”

So what can you do to help clients make the most of their festival or fair presence? Help them choose promotional items that will make a lasting impact long after the event is over. “Understand your client's brand and make sure you’re pitching ideas that are relevant to what that brand stands for,” says Wiebe.

Tips For Marketing At Fairs And Festivals

From the U.S. Small Business Administration

DO research events in the area where target audiences live and work. Build a content marketing calendar if you want to reach out to multiple audiences.

DO get the event details from event organizers; ask about sponsorships, booth space and selling opportunities

DON’T skimp on planning. Send out advance promotions to select audience members to encourage attendance. If you know an event’s average attendance, keep that number in mind when stocking giveaways or saleable promotional items such as branded souvenirs.

DON’T forget to track results. Record visits to the booth, the number of items handed out or sold, and the number of contacts who requested a follow-up.

County Fairs Help Consumers Learn More About Agriculture

It’s almost a given that the county fair will feature prize steers alongside pie-eating contests. But the parade of chickens, rabbits and other farm and ranch residents is more than just a showcase. Since less than two percent of the population in the U.S. provides food for the remaining 98 percent, fairs are an opportunity for the agriculture industry to help city slickers learn where much of their food, fuel and textiles come from.

Ag producers who want to make the most of on-site education should begin by getting event organizers involved, according to Nancy Thelen, the Agricultural Literacy Extension Educator at Michigan State University. Additionally, volunteers from local groups such as 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) can assist with demonstrations, interactive exhibits and information booths. Printed handouts, ag-themed giveaways and other memorable items help visitors recall the message and education provided at fairs and festivals.

Products Like These Win A Blue Ribbon Every Time

Scully club bag web

Donors will appreciate a stylish thank-you gift like this hair-on-calfskin stadium handbag. The bag features a removable cross body shoulder strap, an interior zip pocket and three credit card slots.

Scully Leather UPIC: S174962

Heritage Sportswear tote web

Fairgoers can carry their goodies in a canvas tote like this six-ounce number from the Liberty Bags collection. It comes in black, natural, navy, red and royal, and it’s washable and reusable.

Heritage Sportswear/Virginia T’s UPIC: HERI0002


Get attendees to your event faster with a full-color pole banner that stands out in a crowd. Customize it by size and design, and see how its durable material withstands days of festival fun.

Tru Art Advertising Calendars UPIC: TRUART

Starline fitness pouch web

Keep keys, coupons and money close at hand without bulky wallets or keyrings, by using the Tempo sports fitness pouch. Featuring two neon yellow expandable zipper pockets, it sits securely against your body to eliminate bouncing and shifting. The pouch features reflective striping, waterproof material and an adjustable elastic belt with clip closure to ensure a comfortable fit.

Starline USA, Inc. UPIC: STAR0009

SmartFan web

Stay cool on hot days at the midway with a 2-in-1 Smart Fan plugged into your Android or iPhone. The fan creates a cool breeze with its 100-percent safe TPE blades, and offers quiet operation with low power consumption.

Global Tech Branding Group, LLC UPIC: gtbgroup

BIC sunglasses web

Clients will give off good vibes when they give away shades from the Cool Vibes collection. These sunglasses offer a full-color imprint option for bows and lenses, and feature a trendy bamboo-material earpiece with laser engraving for an upscale look.


opper fiber towel web

Keep the heat off your neck with a CoolFiber towel. Simply wet, wave and wear the 100-percent, all-natural towel, which can be decorated in full color with water-based ink.

Cloth Promotions Plus UPIC: CPP

beacon ice cream scoop web

The hot summer months are the time of year for cool ice cream. Dairy farmers will love giving out this durable plastic ice cream scoop made with FDA-safe materials. Choose from blue and lime green.

Beacon Promotions UPIC: BEACONP



Case Studies From The Industry

Heinz soup mugHeinz pickle pin web

As the sponsor of newly created Picklesburgh, food producer Heinz wanted a creative way to promote itself in its hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The event was created to celebrate the city’s roots and a resurgence in the popularity of home pickling and canning.

Distributor The Callard Company of New Albany, Ohio (UPIC: CALL0001), revisited Heinz’s longtime tradition of handing out commemorative pickle pins by curating a collection of branded t-shirts, gifts and collectibles. The merchandise proved extremely popular during Picklesburgh, and several items from the event were made available on Heinz’s online store.

Source: The Callard Company

truth campaign logo web

The Truth Campaign, an anti-smoking campaign aimed at preventing youth tobacco use, wanted to create a presence at SXSW Music Festival and The Aspen Ideas Festival. Atlanta, Georgia, distributor The IceBox, LLC (UPIC: TheIc516), constructed and delivered an on-site screen printing press, for which festival attendees lined up to print their own limited-edition t-shirts.

Source: The IceBox, LLC

An accounting firm that was sponsoring a UK folk festival sought event-related promotional items that would act as an effective marketing tool for their services. UK-based distributor The Promotion Company, a member of the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA), supplied the firm with ponchos and reusable cups to distribute to festival attendees. The attendees were seen wearing the ponchos and drinking their tea and coffee from the cups throughout the event.

Source: The Promotions Company

Highest Grossing Festivals In The World (2015)

  • Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival Indio, California --- $84.26 million
  • Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival San Francisco, California --- $24.31 million
  • Stagecoach Country Music Festival Indio, California --- $21.88 million
  • Pinkpop Festival Landgraaf, Netherlands --- $15.32 million
  • Rock am Ring Rock Festival Mendig, Germany --- $15.22 million

America’s Top 10 State Fairs


1. Minnesota State Fair (founded 1859)

Primary focus: Agriculture, art and Industry

Attendance: 1.8 million

Notable: Art Deco buildings and gardens

2. Iowa State Fair (founded 1854)

Primary focus: Agriculture and industry

Attendance: More than one million

Notable: Inspired a Broadway musical and three movies

3. Eastern States Exposition (founded 1917)

Primary focus: Agriculture, heritage and creativity

Attendance: More than one million

Notable: Home to one of the oldest horse shows in the U.S.

4. State Fair of Texas (founded 1886)

Primary focus: Agriculture, community and education

Attendance: Roughly three million

Notable: Fair Park is a National Historic Landmark

5. Great New York State Fair (founded 1832)

Primary focus: Live entertainment, consumer competitions

Attendance: More than one million

Notable: One of the Northeast’s biggest gatherings of Baby Boomers

6. California State Fair (founded 1855)

Primary focus: Agriculture, commerce, state pride

Attendance: 780,000

Notable: Home to largest food festival in Northern California

7. Indiana State Fair (founded 1852)

Primary focus: Agriculture, live entertainment

Attendance: 955,000

Notable: Glass barn where farm work is demonstrated

8. Ohio State Fair (founded 1850)

Primary focus: Food, agriculture

Attendance: Nearly one million

Notable: Home to one of the world’s longest portable sky rides

9. Arizona State Fair (founded 1885)

Primary focus: Live entertainment and fair activities

Attendance: One million

Notable: Spirit dancers and a bear show are top attractions

10. North Carolina State Fair (founded 1853)

Primary focus: Agriculture and commerce

Attendance: More than one million

Notable: Fair artists weave rugs, carve wooden bowls and form hand-coiled pottery

Source: USA Today

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