It’s likely you’ve encountered branded merch at some point. You know – t-shirts, water bottles, pens… all that stuff that’s swagged out with a logo and company name. It’s everywhere, from courtside at an NBA game to all over the tables at college job fairs.

As an advertising medium, it’s not enough to just order this stuff, put it somewhere for people to find, and call it a day. You have to do some leg work and get creative in how you’re using it to really get the most ROI out of the deal.

These companies used promotional products in downright genius ways!

#1:  Timesuck’s Custom Stickers

Source: Twitter

How the promos were used:  Dan Cummins, the host of the true crime podcast Timesuck, asked his fans to stick custom stickers in random areas around their neighborhood. They could then take a pic for social media and share it with #spreadthesuck. The more times you posted, the more times you were entered to receive $100 in free “Timesuck” merch.

Why it’s genius:  The fans are doing all the work, but they want to be part of the action and putting stickers in random places is a fun challenge. It also doesn’t hurt that the prize they win reaffirms their fandom and also goes back to marketing the show.

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#2:  LG’s Laundry Mat


How the promos were used:  LG showed the power of their appliances with a complimentary laundry mat at Bonnaroo in 2018. The crew wore a uniform of branded t-shirts and hats, supplied the concert goers with 25 washers and dryers, and even hosted a vintage clothing swap.

Why it’s genius:  Music festivals are known for getting dirty. LG found a way to build a reputation and show off their products to the young demographic in attendance. Their promotional swag only reinforced their cool factor and made the experience more memorable. 

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#3:  Google’s Sweet Treats


How the promos were used:  Google took things offline by opening pop-up donut shops in Los Angeles and New York. People could go to the counter and receive a custom box that contained either a delicious donut or Google’s new Google Home Mini.

Why it’s genius:  Perhaps no company is more well-known than Google. However, the computer screen is often situated between them and their customers. This pop-up shop, and the sweet treats inside, gave them a way to interact directly with their fans.

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#4:  Ford’s Promotional Toys


How the promos were used: Almost every year at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford comes with exclusive Hot Wheels they give away to the crowd. The catch? You can only get your hands on one every hour for a limited time, so you have to get there quickly! 

Why it’s genius:  There’s both a sense of urgency here and an excuse to seek out Ford every year. Many people come to the auto show with their kids who love a free toy and may just have a special place in their hearts for Ford when they’re driving in the future.

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#5:  Tony Hawk’s Scavenger Hunt Merch


How the promos were used:  Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has been all over Twitter for years with the “Twitter Hunt.” Fans can find boxes in major cities all over the world that are filled with branded merch from a variety of sponsors.

Why it’s genius:  Many brands, like Jones Soda and Pirate’s Booty potato chips, are promoted in one swoop with this campaign. Finding the promos in a scavenger hunt makes them more special and exciting. Not to mention, an interactive experience is more likely to spark a conversation.

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#6:  Poler’s Holiday Gift Boxes


How the promos were used:  People on social media could tag two friends to be entered for the chance to win a box of free swag from Poler, a company that specializes in outdoor equipment and apparel.

Why it’s genius:  Who doesn’t like the chance to win some cool stuff for free? Poler was able to increase their social engagement and win over the crowd with their branded gear. In fact, a social media contest like this one can attract an average of 17,500 new fans.

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#7:  Evian’s T-Shirts


How the promos were used:  Evian launched their “Live Young” campaign in 1998, but in recent years, revisited the slogan with custom tees featuring their baby mascots. You could order a shirt to match your specific skin tone and interests, whether you’re a motorcycle rider, secretary, or musician. 

Why it’s genius:  Evian was able to put the power of customization in the fan’s hands and turn their slogan into tangible merchandise. It makes for a conversation piece that does a lot of brand building for Evian.

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#8:  Cia Athletica’s Calendars


How the promos were used:  Cia Athletica noticed dwindling memberships at their gym every month. To counter this, they gave new members these clever calendars, which show the process of losing weight over time.

Why it’s genius:  The promotional calendars are not only creative, but are also used in a way to drive more business to the gym. A free gift with a membership is one thing, but this one does double duty by keeping people on track with their fitness goals.

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How You Can Use Your Branded Merch

You deserve cool swag that people will love. Aside from just selling it or giving it away at random, there are many ways to make merch part of your marketing.

Here’s a recap from the examples above:

Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing allows your fans to be part of the brand-building efforts in a creative, unexpected way.

Timesuck made the most of their fandom with a few custom stickers and cool prizes that all went back to marketing the podcast.

Pop Up Shops

A pop up shop puts a face to your brand name, but it’s all the merrier if you also bring cool swag to the event.

LG capitalized on Bonnaroo’s popularity in custom tees and hats, while Google made their new product known with delicious donuts in branded boxes.   

Trade Show Incentives

You can drive interest to your brand with a clever giveaway that’s an interactive part of your display.

Every year, people are going to come back to the Chicago Auto Show and look for Ford’s Hot Wheels cars. It’s an experience that can be shared every year and across generations. 

Social Media Contests

Your brand will get more followers if you offer cool promo items as a prize in a contest. 

Poler and Tony Hawk both created hype around their products on social media with the promise of free branded stuff.

Personal Giveaways

Your swag should be appealing to all walks of life and hit people right in the feels.

Cia Athletica targeted people who often fall off their fitness plans with creative calendars. Evian, on the other hand, embodied a “one size doesn’t fit all” mentality with fan-specific tees.

No matter what, you want the promos you use to be thoughtful and creative. It’s what makes your giveaways, and your brand as a whole, more memorable in the long run.   

Final Thoughts

You have plenty of ways you can use branded merch to promote your company. People love free things, but these items do so much more if you think outside-of-the-box on how to use them.

It may be a digital world of marketing, but offline initiatives are what go viral and get attention. Be creative and advertising brilliance can come out of the deal!


Newcomb, M. (2018, June 5). Bonnaroo Will Have a Fully Functional Laundromat, Because of Course They Would. Retrieved from,

Tee Spy. (2019). 16 Awesomely Creative T-Shirt Marketing Campaigns to Learn From. Retrieved, from

iPartner Media. (2019). 4 Creative Marketing Campaigns that Will Make You Jealous. Retrieved, from

Carter, R. (2018). Social Media Contests in 2018: Do They Still Work? Retrieved, from

Vaughan, P. (2019). 15+ Stats to Know Before Running Your Next Social Media Contest. Retrieved from,

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.