There's good news and bad news for camps searching for products to put their logos on as giveaways or for the camp store. There are about half a million products to choose from, and the ability to imprint a simple, single-color logo to a photographic rendition. There's the good news and bad news all wrapped up into one statement.
Fortunately, there are a lot of companies out there to help. Sure, most want to sell camps products, and lots of it, but if you find the right source you'll find a valuable marketing partner.
For starters, make contacts and request information from the companies offering promotional products and apparel that advertise right here in this magazine. There are also some general Web sites that can give you an idea of what's out there -- www.asicentral.com, www.promomart.com and www.ppai.org.
These searches and contacts will help you at least scratch the surface of all the unique and fun items camps can utilize for promotion.
The key is not necessarily in finding the right products, but understanding the process. Promotional products and apparel professionals say that promotional imprinting should be more than an afterthought.
Sure, it's hard to make a priority of promotional products when there are facilities to maintain, backgrounds to check and staff to hire. However, it will save headaches and lost time in the long run to carve out some time.
Promotion… All the Time
"Camps need to start using product to promote their camp as a whole, as opposed to the items they need to sell in their stores," says Peter Maccarrone, vice president of sales and marketing for Market Identity, a division of It's All Greek to Me, Simi Valley, Calif. "During the pre-season camps should hook the parent by giving away a product that shows what their camp is all about, like a CD that shows all the camp facilities, or some kind of coupon book to give the kids when they shop at the camp as part of their sign-up -- some kind of continuity to bring them back. The presentation should be geared both ways -- with subtlety toward the child but telling the parent what the child will get at the camp."
CDs can be easily copied and imprinted; you should be able to find these services through your promotional product supplier or in the Yellow Pages. Coupons are even simpler; run them out on your copier, or get them done at Kinko's. Again, your promotional product supplier may be able to print any and everything your need as part of your order. They'll at least offer advice.
Maccarrone adds that camps should try to gear their product selection to things they do at camp, instead of doing a broad stroke, especially at the camp store. For camps that provide a broad stroke of programming, a broad stroke works. But a camp that's horse-oriented, for example, you'll want to use a lot of horse-oriented product.
The point is to not only think targeted, but to think differently. Giveaways can be hum-drum, or they can memorable keepsakes.
"Camp is supposed to be a fun thing, and there are a lot of different products that are great giveaways -- yo-yos, flyers (Frisbees), battery-operated fans and Slinkees are just a few," says Scott Rubin, president of Great Ideas, Highland Park, Ill. "You can also print sun block bottles and sun tan lotion with the camp's name on them. There's a lot of great copy you can use, too. They can give sun block away to prospective parents at camp fairs and the copy might say, 'Have a hot time in the summer with XYZ Camp.'"
Rubin also mentions pieces of identification, like luggage tags, that are useful promotional items. On the softer side, flannel sleepers, sweatbands and bandannas get the nod. Again, there are hundreds of thousands of products, so use your imagination, while keeping fun and targeted in mind.
"On the retail side camps sell a lot of product in a general store -- t-shirts, bags, hat, mugs, water bottles, and so on… Anything that a child can use," says Maccarrone. "How much expendable income does a child go to camp with? Anything over $10 gets a little difficult. You have to be reasonable with the price points and it has to be small, like neck wallets and wrist bands.
"A lot of kids forget towels, so swimming towels are a good idea. Swimming aids are also important, like goggles, nose clips, ear plugs, water-safes and sunglasses, and most of these can be imprinted."
The New Tradition
Traditional apparel is also seeing a Renaissance of sorts, as technology and variety meld to offer more and better options.
"Manufacturers are coming out with better colors, on t-shirts especially; they're doing many different shades, creating a really nice variety of colors," says Tom Brzizinski, vice president of sales, PGS Custom Products, Schaumburg, Ill. "You don't just have to buy a white, blue, red, green t-shirt."
Retro-type t-shirts are seeing a surge -- ringer tees (a white t-shirt with a blue ring around the collar and sleeve), three-quarter sleeves and two tones.
On the technology side, digital imaging has opened the doors for easily reproducing photographic images on any number of things -- from t-shirts to clocks.
"We just sent a sample to a church called Living Cross and they have a tree outside that's probably 150 feet high and looks like a cross," says Brzizinski. "They took a picture of it with someone standing next to it, e-mailed us the picture, then we sent them that image on a shirt. If you tried to screen print it you couldn't duplicate it. The more colors added to a screen-printed garment, the more expensive it becomes."
Brzizinski adds that he worked with a camp last year that took a picture of everyone wearing their shirts, sent in the photo and had that photo printed on another shirt.
However, digital imaging is usually most cost-effective at shorter runs, though Brzizinski says he's fulfilled an order for more than 1,000. But the technology raises the bar, and the possibilities.
Artwork is King
Whichever process is chosen, good artwork is paramount. For screen printing a good idea is to separate the colors into separate files, along with a master file that shows how all the colors go together.
But even to get this far, good, reproducible artwork makes everything easier.
"I've had to take logos off of shorts. They had to make a photocopy of the shorts and we had to recreate their logo," says Great Ideas' Rubin. "That certainly complicates things."
The best advice here is to have a professional designer create clean artwork for you, and keep it on file ready to be sent to the printer.
If you do it yourself, don't use an Office product like Word or PowerPoint to design it. Use CorelDRAW, Illustrator, or some program specifically designed for design.
Great Ideas' Rubin also suggests getting a product proof, or at least a paper proof, of the design from your provider. You'll not only want to see what it's going to look like once produced, you'll also get another chance to proof the copy so that when it comes back with the tagline, "A grate place for kids," you can nip it in the bud.
And don't forget about time; it tends to tick away, especially when you're planning for a camp fair or the upcoming season. Make a list and check it twice. It's not fun to realize you forgot to place that promised t-shirt order as you watch the kids file off the bus.