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Outdoor Promotional Possibilities

By Danielle Suritis

Company picnics. Product launches. Seasonal Promotions. What do they all have in common? Logoed merchandise can make them Hot! Hot! Hot!

When you think company picnic, what comes to mind? The volleyball tournament your team won last year? Frank falling into the lake with his clothes on? What made you think of it? Maybe it was the photograph sitting on your desk. Or maybe, just maybe, you glanced over at the embroidered leather gloves you received for last year's tug-of-war contest or the backpack cooler with the company logo.

As you plan for your next company picnic or outdoor event, keep in mind that promotional products are vital elements. Not only do they help people recall memories of a fun event, they show appreciation and help build job satisfaction and loyalty – two things companies need more of in today's tight labor market.

Example: Alcoa Building Products, following a lengthy labor dispute, wanted to ease tensions between employees and management, so it held a company picnic at an amusement park. Imprinted products were given out throughout the day. Planning committee volunteers were given imprinted caps and T-shirts to wear, noting their participation. Upon arrival, all employees received flying discs, lunch coolers, bottles of bubble soap, Sky Props and tickets to the park – all displaying the Alcoa logo, picnic theme, date and location.

During the day, highlights of the event were videotaped and later given to all attendees as a memento. Everyone who went described the day as a "major success," and many of the workers continue to use their coolers daily to carry their lunch. In this case, providing employees with such gifts not only expressed Alcoa's appreciation, but left a lasting, positive impression as well.

Picnic Prep
Since your first priority is getting people to attend the event, promoting it properly is vital. Everyone should be clear on exactly why you're having a company picnic or other gathering – set an objective. According to counselor Paul Joseph, the most common reason for having a picnic is that it's great for morale and brings employees together. Announce the outing with a banner, Joseph suggests. Then emphasize the picnic's purpose, letting employees know how much fun it will be in the company newsletter or a flyer. Entice the guests with games and prizes. The key to promoting a picnic, Joseph believes, is to keep the message simple. On imprinted products, for instance, slogans like "Getting to know you" or "Uniting together" will encourage employee interaction. They not only personalize the event, but catch employees' attention as well.

Distributed before an event, promotional products can help build excitement. For instance, one company introduced a new logo and built employees' anticipation for its picnic by distributing an imprinted item every day for 10 days prior to the event. A fortune cookie with a fortune reading "10 Days and Countin' Down" began the campaign. Following the cookie was an adhesive notepad imprinted with the new logo and "Can you hear it comin?"; a heart-shaped button; a logoed coaster; a bandanna – a whole batch of useful attention-getters. Then, the day before the picnic, a keytag imprinted with an "Invitation to the Stampede" (better known, of course, as the picnic) was given to all employees. And on the day of the picnic, employees and guests got a T-shirt featuring the firm's new corporate slogan, "Taming the power of technology." Due in large part to the promotion, every employee at the company attended.

Product Options
Imprinted coolers, sports bottles, can insulators, jugs – all products that are great at picnics, right? But what they really offer is multiple use and lasting value. They'll be used by recipients on family vacations and at sporting events long after the company picnic is over. That means your logo (and the message that you care about your people) is with them wherever they go. Of course, if your funds are limited, coolers and water bottles could get expensive to give to all your workers. How can you still show your appreciation, appeal to all who attend and keep to your budget under control?

How about bandannas? If the picnic incorporates an athletic event, colored ones can be used to denote different teams. The bonus is that they're one of the least expensive products you can use, notes promotional consultant Patrick Walsh. Additionally, a bandanna can be imprinted to promote an event, using a slogan like "Company Picnic 2000 ... Come Feast With Us!" You can also hand out different colored bandannas to departments to promote healthy competition.

Another affordable product that can create lasting memories at a picnic is the single-use camera, says promotional consultant Jack Counihan. Though it can only be used once, the pictures will be around for years. "[The camera] produces something that will stay around and make people remember," he says. Some versions are even available where each print contains a promotional message or company logo along the bottom.

Develop Your Theme
Themes make for memorable picnics. To this end, flying discs are a good choice. "We've used them successfully for several company picnics," says counselor Paul Jackson. "It makes a nice gift for the kids to play with after [it's used for] holding a paper plate." A little unconventional, perhaps, but an interesting way to have a product serve two important purposes. Imprinted kites are also great kid-friendly products that have a life beyond the event itself, Joseph says.

Bubble pens (ballpoints containing bubble-producing suds) and spring toys have become popular kid-pleasing products at a number of company picnics, says counselor Cindy Spong. Still, all products don't have to be aimed at children; many popular items can be appreciated by all ages. "One advantage of sports bottles and beverage insulators is that everyone in the family can use [them]," notes promotional consultant Jerry Hatter.

Counihan adds that the insulators are inexpensive and highly durable. But don't overlook the more unusual stuff, either. "You try to categorize your products in a certain area, but when somebody orders a particular item for an event that's kind of out of the norm, you take notice," says counselor Scott Thackston, adding that one of the most unique items he's seen for corporate outings is a disposable cover for a folding chair. It fits the back of any standard folding chair and is a great way to announce an outdoor event. A Last Suggestion However you promote your company picnic – and whatever products you use – it's vital to ensure, as much as possible, that guests have a good time. Plan games or athletic tournaments and offer an incentive to get everyone involved. Colored T-shirts imprinted with the company logo can distinguish team members. And reward winners with something special, like imprinted stopwatches, sports equipment or wearables like jackets or sweatshirts.

Beyond athletics, have a cook-off or eating contest. You can distribute logoed cooking utensils, oven mitts, grill covers, aprons or bibs to participants or winners. Be sure to imprint the event's name, place and date, whenever possible. With summer right around the corner, it's never too early to begin planning your firm's hot weather events. By allowing enough time to brainstorm a theme and some creative product tie-ins, you can come up with something everyone will remember and talk about for years to come. And that's pretty much what it's all about, isn't it?

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Danielle Suritis is an assistant editor of IMPRINT.

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