Political Campaign Swag

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Political Campaign Swag

While quantitative information about political campaign swag was limited, we were able to find that, usually, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and, most recently, hats have been a few of the most-sold items throughout the political campaigns.

Useful Findings:

  • In the 2016 political campaign for the race of president, following insights could be found relating to the sales of campaign swag:
--Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders' campaign sold 800,000 individual items between the year 2015 and 2016. Out of these 800,000 items, there were 207,000 t-shirts and 44,000 coffee mugs.
--However, it was found that during the 2016 presidential campaign “not as many people wanted to wear a Clinton t-shirt.”
  • During the presidential race of 2016, the following was found by Ted Jackson who ran an unofficial online Trump store.
--"Republican candidate Trump's campaign swag included t-shirts, hats and yard signs."
--"With these campaign swags, Trump outsold the other Republican candidates 20 to one."
  • As seen during Barack Obama's campaign, the most popular campaign swag was the red, white and blue Hope poster.
  • According to Cafepress, during the campaign of 2016 swag sales were up 20 percent over the preceding presidential election, owing to a new category of merchandise saying ‘anybody, but these two.
  • During the 2016 campaign, the popularity of Donald Trump's hat was clearly visible as his campaign spent about a $1 million more on hats than it did on polling.
  • For the republican candidate Donald Trump, a red ballcap, featuring “Make America Great Again” was the most visible item in Trump's arsenal, as noted by Advertising Specialty Institute.
  • It was also noted that during the 2016 presidential campaign, democrat candidate Hillary Clinton's supporters ordered 2.3 million bumper stickers as opposed to the 800,000 ordered by the Trump supporters.
  • According to a poll by the Google Consumer Survey Network, which asked the respondents “If you received a bumper sticker from Trump and Clinton, which one would you be most willing to put on your car?” 52% of people voted for the Clinton stickers compared to the 48% gathered for Trump.
  • In a recent bid to bring out a new campaign swag, Libertarians introduced the “Guns Save Lives” t-shirts in their campaign.

Research Strategy:

We began our research by looking into sources that provide data and analysis relating to election spending, income, and modes of contribution such as Opensecrets, PewResearch, Ballotopedia. Although Opensecrets contained detailed break-up of contribution received, expenses made, it was not broken down by items or merchandise items that were used to raise contributions. We also looked into campaign-wise case studies and how campaign swags were used to attract voters. Unfortunately, case studies on election campaigns from sites such as HBR and Brrokings were only focused on the overall marketing strategy and its broad-level executions and no granular insights were presented about the popularity of campaign swags.

As such, we decided to visit the websites of each of the parties, namely the Democratic Party, the Republican party, and the Libertarian party. We mainly looked through their online shops to see if there were any mention of trending items or items purchased frequently. We also looked into the sites of individual candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders to verify if there were any popular items in their campaign merchandise section. We also tried to verify if different age groups such as Millennials or GenX had any preferred campaign merchandise but information on the subject was very limited.

As a final resort, we went through interviews of Kenneth Pennington, Bernie Sanders' campaign digital director, and through manufacturers' and retailers' website such as Tigereye Promotions and CafePress. Although these companies often provided insights as to what items were doing good overall, they were mostly not backed by numbers nor were they specific to different age-groups.


  • "Fans of the Republican billionaire Trump and of Democrat Sanders have bought nearly $20 million worth of campaign hats, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other merchandise so far, according to campaign officials, a level that political brand experts reckon is a record for a presidential election."
  • "Among offerings from Trump, now the only candidate left in the Republican race, are T-shirts featuring slogans like “Team Trump” and “New York Values”, trucker hats emblazed with “Make America Great Again” and a “presidential dog raglan” sweater designed to be worn by dogs."
  • "The campaign shop for Sanders, who describes himself as a Democratic socialist and who has promised to go after Wall Street and redress social inequalities, features “Feel the Bern” mugs, T-shirts with slogans like “Join the political revolution NOW”, and a “Babies for Bernie” baby bib."
  • "Hillary Clinton, who is expected to fend off the challenge from Sanders to become the Democratic nominee for the Nov. 8 election, has run a much smaller campaign merchandise business. “Hillary is a huge front-runner in the polls, but in terms of passion, she’s lagging,” Ries said. “Not as many people want to wear a Clinton T-shirt.”"
  • "The Sanders campaign has raised about $12.8 million in gross revenue from campaign merchandise sales, accounting for some 7 percent of total individual contributions so far, according to Kenneth Pennington, the campaign’s digital director. He said the campaign had sold more than 800,000 individual items since launching last year, including 207,000 t-shirts and 44,000 coffee mugs. That gear cost the campaign $8.5 million to manufacture, representing about 5 percent of the campaign’s total expenditures to date, according to federal disclosures, meaning the campaign’s net revenue on merchandise is about $4.3 million. The primary manufacturer of the goods was Tigereye Promotions of Ohio."
  • "Trump’s merchandise business is smaller than Sanders’, but still historically huge. The real estate developer has mainly used his own funds to finance his White House bid so far, but his campaign has raised more than $6 million in gross revenue by selling Trump trademark gifts and apparel, representing “a majority” of the campaign’s individual contributions, according to spokeswoman Hope Hicks."
  • "Ted Jackson runs an unofficial online Trump store stocked with shirts and hats with phrases like “Let’s Make America Great Again” (he added the ‘Let’s’ to avoid legal problems). From the start, sales of Trump merchandise were strong, Jackson said. During the primaries, Trump outsold the other Republican candidates, 20 to one."
  • "So far, Trump’s official campaign swag has been pretty standard: t-shirts, hats and yard signs. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton got volunteer help from some big-name fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch. But there hasn’t been anything as iconic as the red, white and blue Hope poster that helped define Obama’s run, said Marlene Morris Towns, a teaching professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. "
  • "Well, there’s definitely passion, but of a different kind. Trump and Clinton are easily among the most disliked presidential candidates in history. “And the case I think that each candidate effectively is making is ‘Well, if you hate the opponent so much, help me defeat that person. So, spend a little bit of money,’” said Bruce Newman, a marketing professor at DePaul University. That negativity is driving Amy Doughty’s business. The nurse from St. Louis has made and sold thousands of campaign-related buttons and shirts on her site. The meaner the message, the more she makes."
  • "Nice ones don’t sell,” she said. Much of her Trump merchandise goes after his hair and politics, while the Clinton swag typically features degrading, sexist language. “I hate to be like that. I’m really not a mean person,” Doughty said. “I’m supporting her. I’m voting for her.”"
  • "CafePress, a big online retailer, said its swag sales are up 20 percent over the last presidential election. One reason why? Brisk business in a new category: merchandise that says ‘anybody, but these two.’ "
  • "A lot of people aren’t willing to pay $5 or $10 in a donation. But they will pay $25 for a yard sign.”"
  • "Sanders sold more than $15 million in merchandise during his failed attempt at the Democratic nomination in 2016, according to Revolution Messaging, the progressive digital agency that managed the operation — half of the total funding the firm initially projected Sanders to raise through the Iowa caucuses. Hillary Clinton, who defeated Sanders in 2016, did not disclose how much funding her campaign received from merchandise sales. But those sales provided “an important source of funding,” her merchandise director told a fashion trade publication that year."
  • "Perhaps no candidate went as all-in on the merchandise strategy as Trump, though. Trump’s campaign famously spent about a $1 million more on hats than it did on polling. The Trump campaign has continued to raise funds using its famous red hat and other merchandise, pulling in more than $20 million that way between 2016 and 2018, the campaign has said."
  • "Though it is still early in the 2020 race — Iowa caucusers will not convene for a year — there is a clear front-runner in the merchandise primary already, at least in terms of available options. Warren, despite having no baseball cap on offer, has the most complete campaign e-store by far. Its five pages of options include a “Purr-sist” cat collar ($23), “persist responsibly” pint glasses ($20), and state-specific t-shirts for $25 a pop."
  • "And he has certainly put that marketing acumen to use. What item did he wear in a battery of appearances as hundreds of media camera eyes were trained on him? A red ballcap, produced by LA-based distributor Ace Specialties (asi/103533) that reads “Make America Great Again.” By August, searches for the Trump slogan ramped up and periodically spiked throughout the fall. “The hat became an iconic thing representing him because he had it on all the time,” says Meaghan Burdick, the director of marketing and merchandise for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. And even though Trump retired the hat from public appearances from November to January and has worn it sparingly since, the message has stuck; searches for the slogan peaked by late February as Trump began winning primaries."
  • "Barack Obama became president under the banner of “Hope and Change,” and at least one thing proved indisputably true about those promises – the president’s victorious efforts in 2008 and 2012 completely redefined modern campaigning. Many of the elements were plainly visible. The visual accoutrements of the Obama campaign – the now-iconic poster by street artist Shepard Fairey, the all-encapsulating “O” logo – exponentially raised the bar on how presidential candidates incorporated graphic design and creative branding. "
  • "Judging by this year’s offerings, many candidates are singing a different tune. Hillary Clinton’s store features a healthy variety of fashionable and customized apparel, including segmented offerings (Granite Staters for Hillary, Latinos for Hillary) and a “Made for History” collection of T-shirts from big-name designers. (One such shirt reads “Love Trumps Hate.”) Rainbow-hued pride offerings are available on both Clinton and Sanders’ stores. Rand Paul’s store, run by Grubbs and Victory Store, not only features a startling amount of variety (beer steins, bag toss games, headphones, autographed Constitutions), but also edgy fare (a T-shirt to protest sex trafficking) and humorous items (a shirt that reads “Don’t Drone Me, Bro!”)."
  • "ast year during Paul’s presidential bid, his campaign conceived and sold “Hillary Hard Drives” that played off of Clinton’s email scandal. Victory Store purchased old busted hard drives, printed a funny label and sold them each for a $100 contribution."
  • "Clinton supporters ordered 2.3 million bumper stickers compared with the 800,000 ordered by Trump backers, Gilman said."
  • "The Advertising Specialty Institute conducted its own bumper-sticker poll through the Google Consumer Survey Network, asking, “If you received a bumper sticker from Trump and Clinton, which one would you be most willing to put on your car?” So far, Clinton trumps Trump, but in the most recent poll, of 1,005 people questioned Oct. 14-16, just before the third debate, her lead had narrowed, 52 to 48 percent."
  • "Whether one loves, loathes or is totally indifferent to Donald Trump and his run for the White House this year — the Trump campaign hats are recognizable to everyone. The most common iteration is the red cap with stark white writing, although the white version with black writing made a strong showing as the campaign went down the home stretch."
  • "Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats are obviously the best merchandise available so far. Part of what’s so great about the hats is that Trump wears them literally everywhere, and it has made his slogan highly visible. It’s probably the only GOP slogan most voters would recognize… and the hat is more politically effective than Jeb Bush’s entire digital operation. The Trump online shop offers an impressive 16 variations of his hat, including the ultra-chic camo orange hat (not pictured)."
  • "Hillary’s “homewear” category is where it gets really good. Campaigns have a notoriously hard time with the clever-and-authentic Millennial outreach. The Grillary Clinton Spatula and H is for Homemade Cookie Cutter actually pull it off."
  • "Despite last month’s election casualties up and down the ticket, novelty items such as bumper stickers saying “Vote GOP Nov. 6, 2018” and “Take Back Connecticut Vote Republican” are being hawked by the state party as the holiday gifts. It’s all part of a flash sale promoted Monday — one week after Cyber Monday — in an email blast from the Connecticut Republican Party."
  • "Among the items for sale in the party’s online is an official 2018 Connecticut Republicans Convention poster for $10, “showing off your Election Year Republican Pride! Great for framing or gifting!”"
  • "At an event meant to show off the Democratic presidential candidates' organizational strength in Iowa, campaign swag is king. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's campaign outfitted its tables of supporters with light-up campaign signs, which they waved in the air to show off one of the biggest crowds in the ballroom as Booker spoke."
  • "California Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign gave its attendees glowing yellow foam sticks with the word "fearless" emblazoned on the side, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign had a sugar cookie stamped with the word "persist" at each setting. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a successful beer brewer, gave his supporters koozies to insulate their beer cans, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign laid out her book for her supporters to take home. "
  • "With 1,400 people gathered in the convention center ballroom, the goodies are as much an opportunity for the candidates to show off their support as they are a gift for supporters to take home. "
  • "A pledge to uphold the Second Amendment right to bear arms has been part of the Libertarian Party platform since 1972, and a recent set of gun rights apparel and accessories added to LPstore.org reflects this longstanding commitment. The Libertarian Party’s new “Guns Save Lives” line was featured in the Washington Times on May 20:"