2020 Wrap-Up: Our 10 Most-Read Promotional Products Stories of the Year
We’re on the tail end of what might be the most newsworthy period of many of our lives, and our little industry publication had a pretty busy year. We’ve had to, ahem, pivot our coverage just like everyone else, focusing on topics and stories that we never imagined we’d need to become experts in almost overnight.
Looking back at what we’ve covered over the year is always an interesting trip down memory lane. This year, when things moved so fast, we’ve forgotten about plenty of headlines and stories. So please enjoy this little refresher along with us as we look back on our most-read stories of 2020. (Click the titles in bold to read each article.)
And don't forget to check in over the coming days as we recap 2020 with a series of wrap-ups to wind down the year.
Patagonia is not messing around when it comes to its commitment to environmental stewardship. It’s woven into the company’s identity. So when someone whipped up a “Petrogonia” shirt that played off of the mountains motif with oil drilling imagery, Patagonia took swift legal action.
2. NFL Teams, Star Running Back Assist COVID-19 Relief Through Branded Merchandise, Face Mask Donations
Back in April, multiple NFL teams as well as Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot contributed to the fight against COVID-19. The Cleveland Browns used sales of their newly designed uniforms to raise money for the Hats Off to Our Heroes fund. The Jacksonville Jaguars and, separately, Elliot, put together face mask donations to keep people protected.
Amazon's continued to grow its decoration and branded merchandise capabilities when it bought $400 million in Kornit printing equipment, with plans to expand its housewares, sports equipment and textiles business under the Merch by Amazon umbrella.
It's easy to forget now, but over 2019 and early 2020, Australia was ravaged by the wildfires all across the continent, resulting in numerous human casualties and 1.25 billion animal deaths. To raise money for relief programs, multiple T-shirt designers and apparel companies released special products.
When House democrats signed the articles of impeachment against President Trump in January, they used specially made pens with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s signature on them. There were rumors that the pens cost $15,000, which caused a bit of partisan uproar. That turned out to be incorrect, as the owner of Garland Writing Instruments, the company that supplied the pens, extinguished those rumors. Coincidentally (and sadly), Garland permanently closed later in the year.
In February, before COVID-19 was much of an issue in the U.S., one designer jokingly put together a plan to print surgical masks with the wearer’s face printed on them. Little did we know how precious PPE would become just weeks later—and how useful a product like this would be.
If we think of one ongoing theme for the year, it’s face masks. Almost instantly, face masks became the most sought-after promotional product and a cornerstone of branding initiatives. Sports teams started selling branded masks on their sites, and they were a lifeline for a lot of decorators trying to stay afloat during the pandemic. We put together an explainer of what types of masks were on the market at the time and how well they work for different needs.
A special report in our PM Longform series, this story looked at the challenges promo businesses faced when sourcing and selling PPE early in the pandemic and explored how the market would develop over time. Months later, it's interesting to see how things have changed and how those projections have played out.
The 2021 PPAI Expo will be virtual-only, so we’ll have to find a new way to check out the latest trends and new products without getting our steps in. (Seriously, if you want to impress yourself, check your steps at the end of a day on the trade show floor—once trade shows are back, of course.)
Speaking of virtual events, the NFL had to go digital for this year’s draft. To recreate the moment a player is drafted and dons his new franchise’s hat, the NFL sent every first-round prospect a branded hat to their homes. The NBA did something similar, but sent even more to try to keep the production value high for the virtual draft.
Like we said up top, this has been possibly our busiest year of writing for Promo Marketing, so there are countless stories we still haven’t mentioned here. Hopefully, 2021 brings us a bit more silliness and happiness to write about. Don't forget to check back in tomorrow for our next wrap-up!