Presidential Campaigns Put Promotional Products in the Spotlight
Promotional products have come under the media spotlight once again, but this time for a good reason. CNN has reported that all of the official promotional products for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are made in the United States.
From the ubiquitous bumper sticker to the popular yard sign, promotional products are always a common sight in an election year and are also significant component of any presidential campaign. This year, it seems the importance and prominence of the marketing pieces is greater than ever, and that has attracted the attention of major media outlets.
In what is expected to be the most expensive presidential contest ever, both candidates have started to rely heavily on promotional merchandise to raise money. Bloomberg Businessweek recently profiled Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, discussing why the campaign has started to sell higher-priced and more fashion-focused promotional items like $75 bags and $95 scarves. Messina explained that Vogue editor Anna Wintour convinced him that high-priced apparel could generate high campaign funds.
"What is the one thing everyone has from '08?" Messina asked. "A T-shirt."
The Romney campaign also realizes the value of promotional products. While the former Massachusetts governor has not enlisted the help of popular names in fashion, his campaign store has recently added a new line of retro-styled apparel. The candidate's "Vintage Collection" features more fashion-focused styles like heather T-shirts and henleys, along with a more stylized logo.
The sales generated by the presidential stores is important to both candidates, as the revenue for all merchandise is contributed directly to the campaigns. Obama for America reported that, in 2008, it made $37 million off the sale of products with its Rising Sun "O" logo, and this year the campaign has filed an injunction against distributor Washington Promotions & Printing. Obama for America seeks to ensure that only officially licensed items are sold bearing the logo, so that revenue goes back to the president's campaign. Current financial figures for both candidates are not currently available, but can be tracked up to March 2012 on The New York Times' website.
CNN's Friday article comes as a result of the U.S. Olympic Committee's (USOC) latest fumble, when it was discovered that the official Team USA uniforms for the 2012 Olympics in London had been manufactured in China. American fashion label Ralph Lauren had designed and provided the opening and closing ceremony uniforms as part of its USOC sponsorship.
This isn't the first time that the source of presidential promotions has come into question. Last August, ABC News ran an investigation on all of the then-current presidential candidates to see where they sourced their merchandise. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were all revealed to use T-shirts produced overseas. Even then, the Obama and Romeny campaigns were selling T-shirts bearing tags saying "Made in America."