Election Buoys Advertising Spending, Industry Businesses
With the election season drawing to its conclusion on November 8, the season of branded political merchandise is also coming to a close. For almost two years, political campaigns have turned out hats, signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts and more, promoting their candidates and positions, and generating business and revenues for promotional products companies across the country.
While campaign merchandise has been a factor in the Clinton and Trump campaigns since their beginnings, campaign products have had a more prominent place in Trump’s spending. In July, his campaign spent $1.8 million on merchandise, compared to $921,000 on staff during that same period. However, both were outpaced during the primaries by Bernie Sander’s failed bid for the Democratic nomination. Per federal disclosures, by May 2016 the Sanders campaign had spent $8.5 million on merchandise, against $4.7 million by the Trump campaign and $1.4 million by Clinton at that point.
The election has helped spike advertising spending in the U.S. to record levels this year, and promotional products companies have benefited in a number of ways. Distributors ASW Global and Impact Dimensions, LLC, were the official merchandise providers for the Republican and Democratic Conventions, respectively, in Cleveland and Philadelphia. The companies worked with local businesses and artists to put together extensive lists of products including t-shirts, water bottles, pins and more, available either online or at brick-and-mortar retail locations.
Distributors have also found the election has given them fresh avenues into new and existing clients. Kimble Bosworth, co-owner of Proforma Printelligence in Nashville, Tennessee, reports five times the usual business because of a sales strategy in which she offered one of her local party offices a 20-percent discount on promotional products for all candidates they refer to her. She has also helped local businesses leverage their own campaigns off the election—for example, she procured “Make Beer Great Again” caps for a local brewery. Beckie Diltz, owner of Bakersfield, California’s Proforma Solutions for Printing & Promotions in Bakersfield, California, attributes about $70,000 in additional business this year to campaign merchandise, donor gifts and graphics work she’s done with political candidates at local, state and federal levels.
Despite their potential, some businesses do shy away from working with political campaigns over the fear of not receiving payment. In PPB’s May article on political campaign products, Monica Baltes, president of Greenville, Ohio-based distributor Tigereye Promotions, cautioned, “Just make sure you get the campaign to pay for the products up front so you don’t get stuck with a warehouse full of products in the event the campaign runs out of money.”