According to a 2012 USA Today article, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used their merchandise as a fundraising tool, counting each purchase as a campaign contribution, adding buyers to mailing lists and soliciting them for further donations. In 2008, Obama raised $37 million from merchandise, with an average order amount of $43. "You might have a lot of people who wouldn't normally give a political contribution, but might buy a pen or bumper sticker or something like that, who get swept into it that way," Kent Cooper, a former FEC official and co-founder of Political MoneyLine, which tracks money in politics, told USA Today.
Keeping It Local
While name recognition typically isn't an issue with a presidential race, it does come into play in other races. "If you think about 2012, who didn't know who Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were at least from a name standpoint? Further down the ballot on the other hand … some of those things may be much more about name recognition," Holmes said. "I can say from personal experience, my dad ran for office when I was a kid for a local judgeship and the bulk of his campaign really was name recognition. It was all about putting up yard signs and things of that nature."
Not only do local prospects need to get their name out there, but they are easier to access, Stoeck said. "Everybody always goes for the senator race, the governor race. They want to get the presidential [race]," he said. "I'll tell you what—the guy running for sheriff's office—he's going to buy some stuff. It doesn't always have to be big."
Voters could sway others if they place signs for a presidential contender—who likely already has a high level of name recognition—and their picks for local offices together in their yard, Holmes suggested. So bundling them together for clients could make for a bigger sale. "That actually does provide voters with some information, because if somebody has out an Obama sign or a Romney sign, then a bunch of local candidates that you've never thought about, that may subconsciously pair those candidates together. It might give the sense, 'Hey, if you like a certain brand of politics, this local candidate is the way to get there too.'"