Strong Hold: Selling Promotional Bags and Backpacks to the Sports Crowd
Americans of all ages love sports. We spend about $68 billion annually on sporting goods, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. And based on the industry’s driving factors, which include participation, income and health awareness, sporting goods distributors can be assured that demand for promotional bags people use to haul sports equipment, workout gear and leisure-related items will continue. “There are so many sports enthusiasts in this country, it would be hard to find someone who is not a fan or participant in something,” said Grethe Castberg Adams, president of Southern Plus, Hartwell, Ga.
We spoke to Castberg Adams; Melanie Dobosh, marketing coordinator for Debco, Concord, Ontario and Ben Taylor, director of marketing at BamBams, Manassas, Va., who know a thing or two about the power of athletic bags for marketing and this year’s trends.
Be a Team Player
Not only do sports bags lug the items needed for healthy bodies, they are highly effective marketing tools. “A sports bag with your logo on it is a walking billboard, getting hundreds of impressions everywhere it goes,” Dobosh said. “The biggest differentiation is the kind of impression sports bags can make. Unlike a grocery or conventional tote, a sports bag is much more personal.”
This repeat usage and high personal regard projects a feeling of trust and loyalty that passes from one end-user to another. “We believe that if you put a logo on something that supports a person doing something they love, the brand impression is a strong one,” Castberg Adams said.
Getting It Right
Even if you know the marketing power of an athletic bag, it’s important to choose the right bag, because not all promotional bags are created equally. This lack of uniformity can pose design obstacles, said Castberg Adams. “Most manufacturers settle for backpacks or duffels that have universal appeal and function, and offer them in popular team sports or school colors,” she said.
To help, Taylor recommended that distributors ask clients three questions when deciding on the right one for their campaign:
1. How much does the client want to spend? Known as the price point, answering this question is one of the easiest ways to help the client take the smartest next step.
2. What bag style do they prefer? These typically include backpacks, tote bags or other styles.
3. Are there size and style restrictions for the bag being given out at a venue? For example, the NFL has policies on bag size and type permitted in stadiums.
Think Outside the Bag
Some users see a sports bag for fitness only, and that’s too bad. In reality, athletic bags are perfect for many other applications, Dobosh said. “If you can reimagine the practical use for a sports bag, you can market it for different uses, such as a diaper bag for day cares or nurseries, or as gear bags for electricians,” she said. “You just have to be practical and creative.”
Of course, for fundraising events, like walks, runs and fitness activities, an athletic bag is a great tie-in, but why wait for an event when your clients can reach end-users in their daily lives? Think a hospital for an annual mammogram or pediatrician’s offices for wellness visits. “Instantly, a sports bag promotes a healthy lifestyle—i.e. the sports and fitness uses, but a sports bag is perfect for patients to keep their belongings in if they have to don a hospital gown—giving the bag instant use,” Dobson said. “That sports bag then goes out into the world with the hospital’s logo on it, and can strike up conversations, and do what promotional products do best.”
Another way to maximize a client’s purchase is to combine a team brand with a useful item, like a bag. “In general, the team brand will make the item attractive to keep [for any item], so combining the team brand with a bag, will equal a highly effective promotion,” Taylor said.
Three Trending Styles
For 2017, sporty promotional bags are trending to a higher-end fashion style, Dobosh said. People are gravitating toward solid colors (the heathered look is on fire), with simple patterns that utilize quality metal hardware. (Plastic is so passé.) “[The Playa 21.5" Duffle/Sports Bag] has been sold for a variety of industries … for multiple uses and not just for sports and fitness,” said Dobosh.
Other crowd-pleasing tweaks include promotional bags custom-cut to look like a team’s jersey, those made of jersey mesh material and bags with insulation to hold bottled and canned beverages.
Bags with details that support tech “toys”—cellphones, MP3 player pockets, earbud media ports and headphone pockets or pouches—will also catch a techie’s eye. “With the continued increase in popularity of backpacks and technology, [Southern Plus has] introduced three new slingpacks this year,” Castberg Adams said. “They all integrate features that support phones, music and media.”