11 April 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Rethinking and Refining Your Charity Event T-shirt

As I was preparing laundry yesterday, I noticed that I had barely enough whites to constitute a full load. I went scrounging around the house, searching for a errant sock or other white item to add to the pile. “Don’t I have any white t-shirts to wash?!”, I thought to myself. Nope, not a single one in the hamper. Curious. Working for a t-shirt company, you can imagine I have quite a few t-shirts in my wardrobe. I opened the chest of drawers to verify whether or not I even OWNED any white t-shirts. I haven’t seen one all winter.

After much opening and shutting of drawers, much leafing through and shifting of shirts, unfolding and refolding, the result was clear. I counted exactly eight white t-shirts in a drawer, all free giveaway t-shirts that I have been unable to part with though I rarely wear. The majority of the eight are charity walk and other free giveaway tees. I keep these shirts because they are from a cause close to my heart, but I rarely (if ever) wear them.

This prompted me to think more about charity event t-shirts. What is the purpose of the charity t-shirt? Why do they occupy the bottom of my drawer even though I support and personally identify with the cause printed on them? How can we improve the charity event t-shirts’ standing? Can they be top-drawer material? If so, how do we get them there?

We print a lot of charity t-shirts here at BlueCotton, and have already produced a few batches for various races around the country this year. The purpose of the charity tee is two-fold. Primarily, charity t-shirts are given as an incentive to participants and included in the price of the registration fee. Secondly, the t-shirt serves as a promotional tool both for the event and for the sponsors. This promotion lasts long after the event has taken place – every time the shirt is worn. Ideally, the participants continue wearing the t-shirt and serve as a walking advertisement for both the event and the businesses who paid to host it.

Are the charity t-shirts living up to their 2nd purpose? I have not been holding up my end of the bargain by wearing my charity tees, and I know I’m not the only one. I rarely see people out and about town wearing charity event t-shirts. Actually, I don’t think I’ve even seen a runner or walker out on the street in one. Why is this? I will give you my personal perspective and solutions to the “bottom of the drawer” dilemma.

Three Charity T-shirt Challenges to Rethink:

1. It’s white. It gets dirty in a flash. It stains easily. It ends up a dust rag with those less sentimental than I. I understand why charity t-shirts are commonly white. White t-shirts are cheaper than color shirts, and I certainly respect the charities’ main objective here – to retain the most proceeds possible. Every penny counts, I know. But these pennies become a lost promotional opportunity if the shirt ends up an oil dipstick wiper before it can be seen out in the community.

2. It’s dated. Do I want to be wearing a 2009 t-shirt in 2011? Two years old is not quite vintage enough to be hip. Plenty of people still wear a shirt that is 2 years old (you know you do), but we’d all prefer not to broadcast its expiration date.

3. It’s busy. It is a time-honored tradition of the charity t-shirt to thank donors by printing logos on the back of the shirt, and I recognize that rethinking this tradition it may be a hard adjustment to make. I appreciate that each of these businesses cared enough about the event to support this charity with a donation, and I’d like to be able to thank them in person by patronizing their establishment, but I don’t see an address or phone number. I don’t see a website address. How can I locate this kind-hearted business who supports my favorite charity? How will they know I’m reaching out to them solely because they sponsored the event? How will they know they’re getting my business because they cared enough to donate?

Three Easy Steps to Improve Your Charity T-shirt’s Wearability (and Value to your Sponsors)

1. Step away from the white t-shirt. Choose a color t-shirt that compliments your charity event logo. Black and charcoal are both very popular colors currently, and look great with nearly any colors of ink. To save money on the upgrade, you can reduce the ink colors to a single color print on the front and back. You can go to a less expensive, lightweight, 50/50 cotton/polyester blend like the Gildan 8000, which features moisture-wicking performance properties to boot. A few small changes will bring you around to a similarly-priced, cost-effective t-shirt.

Big Bunny Fun Run in Cupertino, CA

2. Refine your design. Model your charity shirt after the t-shirts you see in sports and retail shops. Create a shirt that people will want to wear when they aren’t running. That’s the idea, right? You want to be somebody’s favorite new shirt! Clean it up and lose the unnecessary details. Lose the day/month/year clutter and opt for a “8th annual” or “Established 1997″ instead. Create a design that clearly states the event title while maintaining a “full-retail-price” air. Let us help! We’re a creative bunch around hereā€¦feel free to give us a call if you need some ideas for a sweet new design.

Even though this one has a date, I think the design targets their demographic effectively and will be a high-profile tee:

Credit: Robert C. Reed / Record

3. Clean up the back design. Reduce the number of sponsor logos and offer other sponsorship incentives. Reserve the back of the shirt for a single title sponsor, or reduce the total number of sponsor logos to 2 or 3. Reducing the number of sponsors on the shirt gives the title sponsor exclusive exposure and increases the value both of the ad placement and the aesthetics of your t-shirt. In lieu of having a logo on your t-shirt, offer sponsors space in your printed materials to feature a coupon. You can offer a banner ad on your event website for an extended period both before and after the event. These sponsorship packages allow your sponsors to track how their sponsorship dollars translate into customers and illustrate the purchasing power of your participants. These metrics can encourage your donors to become repeat sponsors year after year.

Something You May Not Have Considered:

Runners/walkers are getting more hi-tech and more fashionable by the minute. People like to look good while they’re busy getting fit. Along with your giveaway shirts, consider offering items FOR SALE at the event. Embroidered items are a great opportunity to increasing your charity’s profits the day of the event. A simple embroidered logo can be embellished on a hat, jacket, and looks great on a high end moisture-wicking pullover. These items become part of the participant’s wardrobe and will be worn for years. Don’t leave out the participant’s families! Offer a youth hat for the kids, or a cute windbreaker for Mom or windshirt for Dad. If you offer a few embroider items for sale this year at the registration, you can offer them for advance purchase in next year’s brochure. Embroidered items also work well as donor and sponsor thank you gifts and part of sponsorship packages. Golf towels, spa and beach towels are all items that don’t require you to collect sizing information and make perfect sponsor incentives. If you’d like to give the embroidery thing a try, just give us a call at 800-536-1435 and we’ll waive the $19.95 embroidery digitizing fee for your charity event. Tell ‘em the blog sent you.

One Response to “Rethinking and Refining Your Charity Event T-shirt”

  1. Sean 11 January 2014 at 6:08 pm Permalink

    Hello Leann and friends at Blue Cotton

    We are planning to get some t-shirts printed soon, thanks for this article, very helpful! Keep up the good work.

    Twitter: @solidaritysport

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