2016 Presidential Campaign Creates Major Demand for Promotional Products

The 2016 presidential race is on, and there’s media coverage everywhere. Political advertising is forecast to hit record levels at $11.4 billion for the year, according to Borrell Associates – a 20% increase over the 2012 presidential campaigns.

Politicians Spend Big Money on Promotion

Estimates on this campaign spending show that the Presidential candidates alone may spend as much as $1 billion on promotion. In addition to the presidential race, there are plenty of other campaigns to go around, with 33 senate elections, 435 Congressional races, and 11 gubernatorial bouts planned for Election Day. This political spend will be divided between marketing efforts and stops such as rallies with promotional giveaways.

A breakdown of this ad budget shows nearly half of political ad dollars going to state and regional campaigns such as TV and radio ads. Politicians lag behind standard advertising campaigns (which typically dedicate 30-50% of their budget) on digital media, yet are still poised to top the $1 billion mark this year. Digital media accounts for about 9.5% of total campaign budgets.

This record-setting amount of promotional dollars provides a great opportunity for both local and national marketing groups.

When you have a presidential election year, there are tremendous opportunities for collateral at the national level and with local groups.” – Jeff Ballabon, Ballabon Group LLC

Wildest Presidential Promos – 2016

Traditional and digital media aren’t the only areas where the candidates are promoting themselves, however. Presidential candidates are known for catchy slogans on bumper stickers and buttons, but since candidates have been able to fundraise with e-commerce sales, there’s been a big increase in the variety of products for sale. While all candidates spend on these promotional products, they don’t all spend their budget the same. During a three-month period in spring 2015, top candidates Hillary Clinton raised $29.9 million while Donald Trump raised $3.9 million. Of these budgets, Clinton focused on expenses such as staffing, taxes and insurance – leaving $62,873 for stickers and signs. Trump focused far less on payroll and far more on promotion. His spending for hats and T-shirts alone reached $678,000.

And it’s not just how these presidential hopefuls spend their money that differs, but on what types of promotions they choose. The Advertising Specialty Institute explored the promotional products of the original 16 Republican and 5 Democratic primary candidates to find the weirdest and wackiest attention-getting devices. These are the ones that made the list:

  • Jeb Bush’s “Guaca Bowle” guacamole bowl, because “Jeb and Columba love whipping up guacamole on Sunday Funday”
  • Rand Paul’s “NSA spy cam blocker”
  • Bernie Sanders’ “Feel the Bern” mug
  • “I Got a Fever” T-shirt (and “The Only Prescription is More Carson”), from Ben Carson
  • Rand Paul’s “Hillary’s hard drive” with wiping cloth
  • Rand Paul face cut-out on a stick (set of 12)
  • Ted Cruz coloring book
  • “Grillary” Clinton apron
  • Hillary Clinton’s “everyday pantsuit” T-shirt
  • Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mini megaphone.

While these products may be wacky and grab attention, don’t let that be confused with success. Jeb Bush’s Guaca Bowle has been widely mocked for its $75 price tag and three-week delivery time.

Learn More: Download our promotional product industry research report for more insights.