Throw Your Hat In The Ring


With political elections running every two years, the campaign trail seems to never grow cold. Helping clients get out the vote is easy with clever, useful and memorable promotional products. Jamie Dickens, CAS, vice president of sales at Austin, Texas-based distributor, PrintGlobe, Inc., shares her tips for helping clients get the message out to voters, as well as the products that help keep them in the running.

“Bumper stickers, buttons, yard signs, hand fans and door hangers are among the most traditional political promotions that campaigns request,” says Dickens. “Volunteers distribute informational door hangers to prospective voters as they canvas door to door.”

Additionally, she says, hand fans and buttons are distributed at rallies and community events, and many candidates promote their names on yard signs and bumper stickers in exchange for donations to their campaign on their website.

Direct mail is still seen as a key component of campaigns, and  six by 11-inch postcard mailings remain one of the most popular sizes. Dickens says the oversized format allows for plenty of information to be presented in an easily readable font size, alongside plenty of eye-catching graphics.

At on-site events, voter registration and education groups are seeking high-visibility items to attract visitors, she adds. Viable options include pop-up tents, table covers, flag and sail banners, and balloons. “Social media-shareable ‘selfie stations’ are also increasingly popular for raising awareness and drawing attention,” she adds. 

These stations can be built using 10-foot by 10-foot step-and-repeat backgrounds, foam core-mounted photo frame cutouts, hand fans in the shape of thought bubbles, and other selfie props. “They also look for small giveaways such as pens, can coolers, reusable tote bags, silicone cell-phone wallets, decals and key chains,” adds Dickens.

However, one important assessment to make when providing options is whether clients require or prefer union-made goods.

“For some candidates, supporting organized labor groups is an important part of their message, so making sure they’re ordering products produced by union workers is helpful to their campaign,” Dickens notes. “The inclusion of a ‘union bug’ on their items signals to their constituents that they’re a supporter of organized labor. Not asking your customer if they require union-produced products can be a missed opportunity.”

Dickens says product durability is especially important for longer campaigns, and helping candidates select outdoor items that will withstand climate extremes through several different seasons is key. 

“Also, understand who the candidates are trying to reach with each promotion. Creating a variety of promotions, from the traditional tote bag to the more contemporary PopSocket, can help appeal to a wide range of generational voters.”

Dickens says there’s no single price point that clients stick to, either. “Budgets vary, and it’s always important to balance quantity and quality. Product quality is of the utmost importance, because even with the smallest budget no candidate is going to want their name associated with a product that easily breaks, wears out or falls apart.”


Market Snapshot

It Keeps You Running

2018 is an election year for local, state and federal government positions. As of March 19, the majority of candidates filing or declaring congressional runs are Democrats (1,249). Republican candidate numbers were at 966, while 228 third-party candidates had filed or declared by that time. 

In the U.S. Senate, 23 Democratic seats, eight Republican seats and two seats held by independents are up for election. All 435 U.S. House seats are up for election this year. The Republican Party holds the majority of seats, at 238, so Democrats will need to win back 24 seats to win the chamber.

At the state level, 87 of the 99 legislative chambers are holding general elections this year to fill 6,066 seats—approximately 82 percent of the total number of state seats. Currently, the majority of state chambers are held by Republicans.

At the local level, nearly all states are holding municipal elections in 2018. Seats for city government, law enforcement, school boards and officers of the court are among those on November ballots.

Source: Ballotpedia


Getting In On  The Ground Floor

Want to know more about the candidates in your neighborhood and beyond? Check out these sites for election information and guidelines.

  • Federal Election Commission
  • VoteSmart —
  • League of Women Voters —
  • U.S. Vote Foundation


Real-World Solutions

Historical Hype

If you love all things political and promotional, the National Museum of American History has an exhibit for you.

Between George Washington’s buttons and Donald Trump’s Chia Pet bust, history buffs with a penchant for political memorabilia will find all manner of curious and clever items that have been used to promote presidential candidates. Here are just a few to be found on display in the Washington, D.C., museum’s Division of Political History.

  • A torchlight carried in support of Abraham Lincoln, who was a fan of nighttime campaign parades
  • A coloring book about ecology distributed by George McGovern’s campaign in the ’70s, as an attempt to connect with earth-conscious voters
  • Sheet music for a Richard Nixon campaign song, composed for his first presidential run
  • Hand fans emblazoned with Barry Goldwater’s face and the slogan “Goldwater Fan Club”
  • A hat in the shape of a cheese wedge from the 1996 Bill Clinton-Al Gore campaign
  • A replica log cabin, once mounted to a pole for carrying, that served as a rally piece for William Henry Harrison
  • A pot holder featuring candidate Dwight Eisenhower’s likeness


Top 10 Interest Groups Contributing To  Incumbent Members Of Congress, 2017-2018

1. Lawyers/Law Firms/Law Associations: $39 million
75 percent to Democrats
Top contributor—Akin, Gump et al ($1.2 million)
Top recipient—Claire McCaskill, D-MO

2. Retirees/Trusts: $36 million 
55 percent to Democrats
Top contributor—George W. Gibbs III Living Trust ($150,000)
Top recipient—Paul Ryan, R-WI

3. Securities And Investment Industry: $29 million 
51 percent to Democrats
Top contributor—Renaissance Technologies ($6.7 million)
Top recipient—Paul Ryan, R-WI

4. Real Estate: $24 million
51 percent to Democrats
Top contributor—Marcus & Millichap ($4.2 million)
Top recipient—Paul Ryan, R-WI

5. Leadership PACs: $20.7 million
56 percent to Republicans
Top contributor—Prosperity Action ($1.9 million)
Top recipient—Dean Heller, R-NV

6. Health Professionals/Professional Organizations: $20.2 million
51 percent to Republicans
Top contributor—American Society of Anesthesiologists ($1.06 million)
Top recipient—Doug Jones, D-AL

7. Insurance Industry: $18.9 million
62 percent to Republicans
Top contributor—Blue Cross/ Blue Shield ($1.4 million)
Top Recipient—Paul Ryan, R-WI

8. Democratic/Liberal: $16.7 million
97 percent to Democrats
Top contributor—Democratic Governors Association ($7.1 million)
Top recipient—Doug Jones, D-AL

9. Lobbyists: $12.4 million
57 percent to Republicans
Top contributor—Boyden Gray & Associates ($792,550)
Top recipient—Paul Ryan, R-WI

10. Pharmaceutical/Health Products Industry: $11.6 million
57 percent to Republicans
Top contributor—Pfizer Inc. ($916,039)
Top recipient—Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Source: Center for Responsive Politics


Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.

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