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Promotional Mug a Hit at Preakness Infield Concert

During the 139th Preakness Stakes in May, the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore not only featured some of the most renowned race horses, but also a mini festival known as the InField Fest – a venue that bills itself as "the people's race; the people's party."

InField Fest allowed for something more than betting on horses. Attendees to this multi-entertainment event could visit food and beverage vendors, and shop at the Preakness store for branded apparel, caps, cups, bags and other logoed items. Plus, there were two stages with music performances by top entertainers such as Nas, Switchfoot, Eli Young Band, Sundy Best, Go Go Gadjet, Glenn Morrison and a headliner by double Grammy-award winner Lorde.

One highlight of the festival was the Mug Club. Participants were able to prepay for their tickets online for exclusive privileges to the Mug Club, open to adults 21 and over. Privileges included access to all InField Festival party areas and Mug Club areas, and all beer was included at the Mug Club stations. Upon entering, Mug Club tickets were exchanged for a collectible, neon orange mug. The mugs were valuable commodities, since they could be refilled with beer at the filling stations; however, they could not be replaced if lost or stolen. Although the refill stations often had long lines, the keg volunteers always filled the mugs over the brim.

The mugs were imprinted with the Preakness logo on one side and the InField Fest logo on the other side. In addition to the logoed mugs, one of the concert stages was colorfully branded with the Jägermeister logo. Nearby, a giant orange Jägermeister tent offered attendees a free photo at their booth, as well as shots of Jäger for a small price.

The mugs, however, proved to be a star attraction. They were so popular in fact, that even the festival's star headliner, Lorde, wanted to be a part of the Mug Club – in the middle of her mid-day set, she yelled, "Hey, someone throw me one of those orange mugs." A friendly front-row fan quickly obliged. And, according to The Baltimore Sun's review, rap star Nas, the concert's other headliner, is quoted as saying: "Thank you, orange cups!" after performing "It Ain't Hard to Tell," another reference to the logoed mug, which attendees "kept raising to the sky in approval throughout his hour-long set."

When planning your next event, consider a commemorative item to give attendees. Depending on the venue, it can be practical, like a logoed plastic cup, or something more high-end like etched wine bottles. Your best bet is to contact your promotional products distributor for ideas and products that fit the bill. 

NFL Turns to Promo Product to Influence Advertisers

The most popular sports league in the U.S., the National Football League (NFL), has not been coy about its pursuit of the Hispanic market, the country's fastest-growing demographic. The NFL's plan was to get the game in front of the Hispanic community, and they expedited this plan by being the only major sport in the U.S. to televise all of its games in Spanish. It worked. A 2012 ESPN Sports Poll found that 25 million Hispanics in the U.S. identify themselves as NFL fans. The popularity of the league among Hispanics allowed Super Bowls XLVI and XLVII to become the most-watched TV programs (English or Spanish) on record among U.S. Hispanics. 

The NFL was also tasked with convincing advertisers and corporations to invest in the newly impassioned demographic. Many marketers have always associated the Hispanic community as soccer fans first and foremost. The NFL knew this and sought to change that perception with a direct mail piece. To prove that Hispanics are avid fans of football, the NFL tapped The Vidal Partnership to create the "Trojan Ball."

The Trojan Ball box contained what appeared to be a soccer ball, but when the recipient opened the package, it contained a limited edition NFL football with the accompanying message, "Here's the ball 28.5 million Hispanics really identify with," as well as a message with the statistics that 73% of U.S. Hispanics are NFL fans.

"The numbers were always there, but cultural perception seemed to be a much stronger factor. We were tasked with reversing that trend," said project art director, Oleg Sarkissov. "Early on we understood that to be successful, whatever the form of the communication would be, it had to be memorable. Hence, the idea of a Trojan Ball was born."

The NFL sent the Trojan Ball to 50 key decision-makers and potential partners with authority to invest their companies' marketing budgets. Eight of the mailings yielded follow-up responses in the form of a conversation or meeting with the NFL. 

"It was targeted at key deal makers and potential partners, so the volume of mail was small, but one conversion would represent a significant amount of revenue for the client," said Alberto Ferrer, Vidal's managing partner, director of direct and digital marketing.

In the end, the mailer surpassed the projected response rate, and generated a great amount of potential business partnership opportunities between the NFL and key brands within the Hispanic audience. The entire project was considered a huge success in the hotly contested battle over viewership and sponsorship between soccer and football leagues.

Enrollment Boosters

Recruiters from Northwestern College wanted something that would capture a potential applicant's attention and bring them to a decision point during the college fair. That item turned out to be free ringtones. 

To kick off the program, Northwestern offered visitors to their booth a branded digital reward card redeemable for a free ringtone. When prospective students accessed the online site printed on the back of their ringtone card, they were asked to provide information about their future education and career interests. This enabled Northwestern to gain future contacts while promoting the educational opportunities the school provides. The student info was then given to a staff member for follow-up.

The ringtone gift could only be redeemed if the prospective student answered the questionnaire. Northwestern found out students were happy to trade personal information for the ringtones. For not much more than the price of a pen, the opportunity to use branded cards to get qualified people to visit the Northwestern website and leave personal information turned out to be a great investment. What's more, the gift made Northwestern stand out from the crowd.

Use innovative techniques to connect prospects to a school's offerings to boost school enrollment. The best methods to do this use promotional products and a strong partnership with your distributor, who can show you great ways to incorporate branded items into your campaign. 

NFL Extends Warm Welcome With Promo Products

Fans at Super Bowl XLVIII scored way more than the Denver Broncos did with the “Warm Welcome” kits they received at the big game. The kits, provided by the NFL, warmed up, and lit up, the 84,000 fans in attendance, offering an array of ultra-cool gifts that were intended to keep fans comfortable in chilly Northeastern temperatures. The gift packages were housed within Super Bowl-themed seat cushions and placed on every seat in MetLife Stadium before the gates opened. 

NFL's distributor partner coordinated with League officials on ideas for upgrading the commemorative seat cushions that are typically given out to fans most years. Since this year's Super Bowl was the first to be played outdoors in a cold-weather city, the NFL wanted to guarantee fans would be comfortable even if conditions turned chilly. 

The cushions and contents got a lot of media playtime. NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman showcased the kits during a January 22 press conference, which was covered by several major media outlets. The kits got additional buzz when hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, a former player for the New York Giants, devoted a 4 ½-minute segment to the Warm Welcome kits on their morning talk show. 

The kits contained a slew of products to combat the cold: a “video ski hat,” branded ear muffs, texting gloves, a hand warmer pouch just like the quarterbacks wear, a Gator Dana neck wrap, lip balm, drink sleeves, hand-warmer packets, a small radio with earbuds and tissues. In addition to the 84,000 kits distributed at the game, 30 kits were sent to select TV, radio and print media.

The ski hats, which were beanie style and bore sponsor Pepsi's logo, took on a starring role in the halftime show. The caps contained LED lights and an infrared receiver that, when activated remotely, turned the entire stadium into a backdrop of flashing lights. A Montreal-based multimedia company called PixMob created the technology that allowed fans to become a human light display during performances by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Brainstorming for Super Bowl XLVIII began well before the previous Super Bowl. The products that ultimately made the cut were chosen because they could be used by fans long after the game, or be displayed alongside other keepsakes.

Besides coordinating the Warm Welcome kits, the NFL's distributor partner also operated the official onsite NFL Super Bowl League Store. The store, which was inside NFL headquarters, was fully stocked with a combination of Super Bowl XLVIII and NFL Shield products. This League store was open exclusively to league employees and family members, NFL officials, NFL alumni and sponsors. There's also a client gifting program for NFL buyers and partners. Gift bags are sold, and kitted with a variety of merchandise from the Super Bowl catalog and distributed to owners, players, sponsors and network affiliates.

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