My Best Promotion
School promotions go beyond the standard notebooks and pencils. Schools need help keeping students and parents engaged—and donating. Lindsay Hixson, brand manager for Sonic Promos, Gaithersburg, Md., describes one such promotion, which used the sale of T-shirts to students and parents to raise money for PTA-hosted events.
Promo Marketing: Could you briefly describe a promotion that you consider one of your best?
Lindsay Hixson: I work with a large elementary school in Maryland that has an extremely active Parent Teacher Association. The PTA organizes several events throughout the year to raise funds for school programs, including a road race/health fair and silent auction. One of their most successful and longest-running promotions is the sale of Class Level Tees.
Class Level Tees are rainbow-colored T-shirts sold to students and parents at the start of each school year. Each class is represented by a different color: kindergarten green, first grade orange, second grade yellow, third grade purple, fourth grade red and fifth grade blue.
PM: What was the promotion's goal, and what did you do to make that goal happen?
LH: Prior to the Class Level Tee promotion, the PTA had been selling a variety of branded items and apparel (known as Gecko Gear), raising roughly $3,500 for the school annually. When Class Level Tees were introduced in 2009, that figure jumped to $10,000 in just one year.
I began working with the school in 2010, and I've helped increase the program's profitability by negotiating program pricing with our decorator. We also choose to print locally, as courier service saves the school money in shipping.
PM: What did you like about the promotion, and why?
LH: What I love most about this promotion is the larger impact it has had on the school. These rainbow tees have become so much more than a fundraiser; students really identify with their class and color. Parents comment that their children are eager and excited to start the school year, as it means joining a new class and receiving a new tee. Every month or so, the entire school participates in a Spirit Day, during which students can earn treats or class parties by wearing their class colors. Although any clothing item in the right colors will 'count' toward the goal of 100 percent spirit participation, many children specifically choose to wear their Class Level Tees. We have even applied the class color concept to other Gecko Gear sale items, like buttons and shoelaces. The kids love it!
PM: Do you have any other advice you'd like to give to distributors running a similar promotion? If so, what would it be, and why?
LH: Though this isn't original advice, I would encourage other distributors to act like a team player when working with schools. Right from the start, I was transparent with the PTA about how and where I could help them cut costs. I've gotten involved with other school programs, and I put a lot of effort into getting to know new board members each year. As a result, our relationship has become much more personal than those I have with other clients, and I'm sure that's why we continue to earn their business, year after year.
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