Uniforms as promotional products: Lessons from the London 2012 Olympics

Another summer Olympics is in the history books. In addition to the world records broken, it will also go down in history as one where the team uniforms took centre stage for a variety of reasons.

First there was the flap about the Ralph Lauren Team USA uniforms being made in China when they could have easily been produced in the United States. A major marketing faux pas! Then there were the garish uniforms of some countries that some athletes were not all too thrilled to wear.

Uniforms as promotional products

Uniforms are truly life-size promotional products. They reflect your brand, your values and can foster team spirit, pride and performance. But there are several caveats you need to keep in mind when selecting wearable gear for your event’s onsite team:

Comfort first. Sometimes the coolest, most brand building gear can be the most uncomfortable. When selecting, you’ll need to take several factors into consideration. Like athletes, your team will need to have uniforms that allow them to do their jobs without getting overheated or chilled. Consider what type of environments, either indoor or outdoor, in which your team will be working. As well, your choice should be physically flexible enough to move with the wearer. And don’t forget that properly sized and fitted uniforms are more comfortable and project a professional appearance.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a golf outing at the peak of summer. Selecting polo shirts that have moisture wicking properties will help keep your team members cool throughout the day. (Outfitting them with appropriate sunscreen and visors or hats would be advisable, too!)

Here’s another example. You have your heart set on a shirt that is the perfect color to match your logo. Only problem is that the largest size available is Large and your team is a bunch of taller, husky guys. Ditch this shirt and select one that has a greater range of sizes.

Buy on values, not value. Don’t let a Ralph Lauren type debacle derail your team! For example, if your conference or event deals with sustainability, don’t outfit your team with polyester. Choose a recycled fabric shirt. Sure, you can say that no one is going to be collaring your team and looking at the tags, so why not go with something that’s cheaper. But your team will know that you have a double standard. If they know you’re not committed to the values you promote, why should they be?

Be distinct, but not distasteful. Did you see some of the loud uniforms that were drawing complaints from some Olympic team members? You might need sunglasses! There is a fine line between standing out and being outlandish. On the other end of the spectrum, some team uniforms were so bland and ordinary, you would have thought they were purchased off the rack at some discount store. Select uniform styles that will not be offensive to your team or attendees, but that provide a unique detail or color that makes them stand out as the winners they are.

About the Author
Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing expert and speaker who has a background in the tradeshow and hospitality industries. She is also editor of the Promo With Purpose Today blog (www.PWPToday.com) and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business, available through major online booksellers or at www.BuySWAGBook.com.

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