In 2014, myself and a group of neighborhood friends planned a BBQ cookoff. Several guys in that neighborhood group had recently become meat-smoking aficionados, so we thought a competition was a great excuse to throw a party and put their skills to the test. We had so much fun with the idea, we even came up with a name for our group – White Rock Que (WRQ). However, after hosting two of these parties/competitions, a string of sexual assaults rocked our neighborhood community and forever changed our little WRQ group. Seeing firsthand the significant impact that sexual violence has on both survivors and the surrounding community, we started thinking about ways to make a difference. During this time, one group came to light as a pivotal and life-changing organization – the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center (DARCC). DARCC is committed to the prevention of sexual violence in North Texas and compassionately serving those impacted by it. Given their mission and how they were supporting the survivors in our community, it was a natural fit for us to use our little BBQ event as a way to raise awareness and money for DARCC. But how would we do that? Well… t-shirts. Given the easy access our group had to branded merchandise (i.e. me – it helps to have friends in the promo industry), we quickly landed on the idea of giving away WRQ branded t-shirts to those who made a donation to DARCC at our event. Our little group of 10 and those first WRQ shirts raised over $2,500 on our neighborhood cul-de-sac. After that, the fire was ignited, and the annual WRQ event was born.
Fast forward ten years and branded merchandise still plays an equally important role in our annual event. We’ve grown a little (over 1,200 people raising $125,000 last Fall), and so have our merchandise offerings. At our event, we use swag in a few different ways:
Annual Event Shirt – These t-shirts could almost be considered a collectible item and are often spotted being worn around Lake Highlands. We use t-shirts in two ways:
Cooks Gifts – We couldn’t do this event without the 70+ cooks who participate every year for the competition and to feed the public. From retail brand hats to insulated can coolers, we use branded merchandise as a way to show our appreciation (bonus – with the WRQ branding, it also create an additional advertising opportunity)!
Koozies and Cups – Koozies and cups are one of the easiest and least expensive ways to provide useful giveaways to the public (did I mention that our event is at a brewery and all can/draft beer is served in these cups and koozies). These items can also double as a billboard for multiple logos, making them a unique sponsorship opportunity.
The Fun Stuff- In addition to these items mentioned above, we also have done hats, stickers, wristbands and lanyards. These are used in a variety of ways from VIP section giveaways to items left on the tables at our post-event check presentation.
So what’s the morale of this story? Don’t underestimate the power of promo! In addition to being an effective and engaging marketing tool, promo is also one of the best ways to create a tangible, memorable connection with people.