How the Chicago Rush Tackles Promotional Products

Click this image to make it bigger, study it carefully for 30 seconds, and then scroll down.

Billboard Advertising Chicago Rush

Click to make it bigger. (That’s what she said.)

How many brand names do you remember? There were at least six legible and/or recognizable company names and logos in the arena, and it’s unlikely that even after 30 seconds of concentrated attention that you came away with any of them.

(But you guys can’t be bothered to wash your hands for 20 seconds, so why am I not surprised?)


The bottom line is that billboards along the sides of highways and large signs at sporting events are such expected sights that our brain has a tendency to filter them out the same way you just stop noticing that your furnace makes a weird humming sound or your husband is a mouth-breather.

A tiny billboard that’s placed in your hand in the form of a high-retention, decorative promotional product?

That draws attention.

At the Chicago Rush’s home game against the New Orleans Voodoo this past April, there were promotions a-plenty. You might say I know a little bit about promotional products, having worked in the industry for five years and written approximately three-hundred-and-eleventy bajllion descriptions of golf tees. But even with all of my jaded know-how, I still find myself getting wowed by promotional products every now and then.

Now study this image carefully for 30 seconds and then scroll down.

Chicago Rush Bobble Head 1

What brand was advertised here? Dodge! More specifically, Dodge Ram. This car company was present at the Chicago Rush game, trying to give me a free car (and I was shocked to discover there were strings attached). But the promotion that really stuck with me was the distribution of customized Bobble Head dolls.

The night of the game included a ceremony to retire the number of Bob McMillen, the coach of the Rush and former player on the team. All fans who attended the game that night were given a Bob McMillen Bobble Head doll.

Bobble Head Promotional Product

Ready for game time!

This was successful for three main reasons:

1) Decorative items like customized bobble head dolls are unique enough to draw attention, high-retention gifts, and frequently commented on by non-owners.
2) They are appealing to all levels of fandom: from the season ticket owner who paints her face to the guy who was invited because there was an extra ticket in his group of friends.
3) Look at that face! Who doesn’t love a custom bobble head doll?

The Bob McMillen Bobble Head doll (and his visible yet not overwhelming Dodge Ram placard at the bottom) made its way home with me and now holds a place of honor on my desk. Most people who’ve seen it have said something about it, and every last one has leaned in closer to see the Dodge Ram logo at the bottom. For the investment of giving me a bobble head, Dodge Ram and the Chicago Rush have gotten their brands out to at least a dozen other people so far.

I can see why, too. He’s a cute little guy! He’s even making friends.

Bobble Head Promotional Product

I like to imagine they run plays at night with Bubba blocking.

The Rush promotional team is also such huge believer in the power of the promotional product that the Rush website even features a promotional schedule that shows which freebies are being given out at each game. The Rush as gone beyond simply using promotional products to reinforce brand awareness AFTER a game to using the temptation of a freebie to draw people INTO a game. Those are conversions BEFORE the promotional product is even distributed!

What do you think about Dodge’s promotion? How do you think the Chicago Rush and Dodge both benefit from distributing the bobble heads? What else could they have done?

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Peemo

    Promotional items given out by sports teams go a long way in usability, wearability and long lasting awesomeness! I still have the replica ring given away at the ring ceremony after the first Bulls championship.

    I swear if it fit over my sausage fingers I would be rocking it!

    • Jana Quinn

      Plus, sports fans are generally loyal/dedicated personality types. They’re the perfect targets for brand loyalty promotions!

  2. Scooby DOO!

    How are the rush doing?

    • Jana Quinn

      We’re 8-3, handily leading the Central Division.

      GO RUSH!!

  3. Amy

    I love bobbleheads! I’m jealous of Jill’s Dwight bobblehead 😉 I think Dodge’s promotion worked well enough, but the sign at McCillen’s feet seems a little random. However, I really can’t think of anything else they could have done, so I guess it works.

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, I actually didn’t notice it at first, but even now that I have, it’s not distracting from the rest of the bobblehead at all, but I’m sure it’s sending out all sorts of subliminal brand impressions. 🙂

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    You’re right about bobble heads being an amazing idea for a promotional giveaway. They’re ideal, really. Who wouldn’t want to display a fun little figure like that in their workspace for all to see?! Pretty slick placard too!

    Great post, Jana!

    By the way, that helmet looks WAY too small for that Bob McMillen bobble head! 😉

  5. ASneed

    I had to go over and check out that bobble head for myself. It’s a really nice one–not cheap feeling at all! Well done Chicago Rush!

    I’m going to have to check out a game sometime–football is the only sport I enjoy watching.

    Great post Jana!

    • Jana Quinn

      Yeah, I was surprised by the quality. It’s almost seven inches tall and it seems to be made from ceramic (definitely not plastic).

      He’s a sturdy little fella!

  6. Jill Tooley

    I love reading posts like this! Your bobblehead kicks ass and I’m impressed that they had the foresight to give away such a memorable gift. It’s not just a promotional item, it’s a collector’s item! 🙂

    Billboards don’t do much for me, I’m afraid. They’re distracting and there isn’t much time to study them to glean some sort of message. But giveaways put the advertiser’s logo right there in my hands, which is why they are so effective. I probably would have fiddled with that bobblehead the entire game AND the entire ride home! At that rate, the Dodge logo would probably burn its way into my brain…mission accomplished for the advertiser.

    Just out of curiosity, is there a lot of merchandise for sale at Rush games? You know, the usual hats, jerseys, keychains, etc.?

    • Jana Quinn

      There’s definitely a few stands, but because the Rush shares the All-State Arena with other teams, there are no dedicated shops like in Wrigley. They have shirts, footballs, hats, visors, keychains, jerseys, those little pads that go under your eyes when you play football, and lanyards. Probably more stuff, too, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

  7. JPorretto

    I giggled for a solid few minutes thinking of an offensive line comprised of Bubbas.

    I’ve got to make it to a Rush game Dammit! Get me some free stuff!

  8. LK

    I’ve definitely looked at sports teams’ promotional schedules before going to games. I’m always curious what cool stuff I can get if I arrive early enough.. sometimes depending how cool the giveaway is, I’ll even make sure I arrive in time. But if I don’t get there early enough, some careless, non promotional product lovers, probably left theirs behind for me to take. And even though some people may leave their giveaway behind, if people (like me) pick it up it’s still earning brand awareness!!

    P.S. I’m totally going tp bring in my Bulls bobblehead to be friends with your Rush bobblehead.

    P.P.S. I wish we had Bubba bobbleheads…

  9. Fred Leo


    Very interesting article. I think usable promotional products are great marketing tools. One that comes to mind for me is the Philadelphia Eagles schedule magnet that my realtor sends me every year. I look at that magnet every week on my refrigerator. And, when I look at it, I also see the face and name of my realtor. That is great bang for the buck!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Fred!

      You’re not only getting the face and name of your realtor, but you’re also getting an extra dose of Eagles. 🙂

      Do you know if the Eagles helped chip in for the cost of the magnet or if your realtor did it on his/her own? We’ve gotten great feedback from companies who co-sponsor products, and it looks like the trend has made it to the East coast.

      Magnets and calendars are pretty popular items on their own, but together, they get – as you say – a major bang for the buck!

      Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you again soon!

  10. Bret Bonnet

    To bad the Arena Football League has gone down the toilet since they shut down and filed for bankruptcy two seasons back! 🙁

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