Over the course of the pandemic, your organization has undoubtedly become familiar with virtual events. From online happy hours to educational summits and conferences, corporations and nonprofits alike have done a remarkable job of hosting entertaining and informative virtual events that engage and empower supporters.
If your organization has been around for a while, you’ve likely held plenty of incredible events that give attendees a new outlook on your field and a renewed drive to support your mission. But let’s not beat around the bush. We all know why people really get involved in organizational events and causes: for the dope merchandise!
Ok, while we’re (mostly) kidding, there’s no reason you can’t offer participants an engaging, rewarding virtual experience this year that features event swag, similar to what would be offered at an in-person event. This guide offers a rundown of the best options for virtual event merchandise ideas that will excite your supporters and promote your cause to a wider audience.
We’ll first discuss the purpose and importance of virtual events and event swag, then share our favorite merchandise options. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Why Virtual Event Swag?
Importance of Virtual Events
Virtual events are a necessity now as coronavirus restrictions shut down in-person interactions, but there’s good reason to believe they will stick around long after the pandemic ends.
As technology and online communication platforms rapidly developed over the past few years, virtual events have become increasingly accessible and feasible for all levels of organizations. This type of event offers several advantages to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, according to Pathable’s guide to virtual events, including:
- Budget-friendliness: To plan a virtual event, you only need a computer and an internet connection, meaning these opportunities allow organizations to save money on overhead costs. Whereas in-person events might have required staff, a dedicated venue or event space rental, equipment rentals, and other miscellaneous expenses, their virtual counterparts don’t require these accoutrements.
- Wide accessibility: Again, your virtual events can be accessed by anyone on the web. This feature has the potential to introduce your organization’s message to people all over the world, expanding your supporter base.
- Content availability: Video recording tools allow your virtual event and any accompanying educational materials to remain available to supporters long after the live stream has concluded. Additionally, your organization can use a smartphone app to continue the conversation and engagement with event materials after the main event is finished.
- Networking opportunities: Virtual events can foster connections among like-minded individuals even if they’re physically separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. They’re also highly convenient for participants, allowing people to tune in from the comfort of their homes to meet new people and hear your organization’s ideas.
These advantages mean virtual events are likely here to stay (either in entirely online formats or a hybrid approach), even when in-person activities resume. It’s important for your organization to solidify a strategy for virtual events to achieve success with these events, both now and in the future.
Benefits of Merchandise
Branded merchandise is one of the greatest tools that for-profit and nonprofit organizations have to capitalize on the wide reach of virtual events. Merch helps to not only increase awareness of your event itself, but also increase your brand recognition in the community. The process of expanding your brand awareness through selling event merchandise looks like this:
- A virtual event attendee, Justin, purchases an item of merchandise you’re offering— perhaps it’s a T-shirt with the event logo on it.
- Justin wears the T-shirt around his house, and his roommates notice and ask what it’s for. Justin explains your organization’s mission and goals, and the purpose of your virtual event. Now, his roommates’ interest in your organization is piqued, and maybe one of them looks up your website, or buys a T-shirt, too.
- Justin also wears the T-shirt out to the grocery store, where other shoppers see your organization’s logo.
- Other supporters like Justin buy the T-shirt and wear it around town too, increasing your brand recognition in the community through repeated exposure.
Therefore, branded event merchandise can be a highly efficient way to increase your organization’s brand recognition within the community and beyond. Your org not only receives the funds from merchandise purchases, but the benefits of peer-to-peer advertising.
Distributing Virtual Event Swag
While in-person events allow you to set up booths and sell merchandise on the spot, the distribution process for virtual event swag looks a little different.
To get merchandise into the hands of supporters, you’ll need to include an option to purchase items during the registration process for your virtual event, or an online store where you can sell event goodies. Ensure you have quality virtual registration software that allows you to customize form options to input merchandise orders.
Also, for any type of merchandise you decide to promote your event, choose a provider that uses top-quality materials. This attention to detail makes a difference for supporters who are deciding to spend their hard-earned money to support your organization through purchasing event swag.
Once you’ve solidified your merchandise system, it’s time to decide what type of awesome swag you want to offer event participants. Luckily, we’ve got a ton of ideas to help you choose!
15+ Ideas for Virtual Event Swag
From T-shirts to tote bags and everything in between, here are our top ideas for virtual event swag. Before you choose the type of merchandise you want to sell for your virtual event, be sure to consider your audience’s interests as well as your event type. For example, if you’re hosting a tech conference showcasing your latest software options, you can offer your audience tech-related swag such as headphones or a portable charger. With that in mind, let’s dive in!
T-shirts are a classic event merchandise offering that pique the interest of many supporters. They’re a popular choice for nonprofits and for-profits alike because the organization can prominently display their own logo and brand colors as people wear the merchandise out and about.
Offer to sell t-shirts (or provide them for free if you’re charging a sign-up fee) during the registration process so supporters can get their shirts before the event begins. This generates more anticipation for the event and boosts your marketing efforts when your registrants become walking billboards for your virtual event.
Bonfire’s merchandise platform gives organizations a free and easy way to design and distribute custom t-shirts for virtual events. Instead of ordering them in bulk and distributing them yourself, you can choose to sell your shirts through a campaign and Bonfire will ship all the shirts to your supporters for you. All you have to do is choose your t-shirt style and upload or create your design. Once your shirts are ready, promote your product on your website, social media, and online event pages.
2. Face Masks
Face masks are a part of the new normal for most of us as they’ve been integrated into daily life within the past year. 37 states plus DC and Puerto Rico mandate the use of masks in public spaces.
This necessity for the product makes branded masks a great merch idea right now. Just like T-shirts, hats, or other garments, people use their face coverings to express themselves and their interests. Offer face masks with your logo to allow virtual event participants to demonstrate their commitment to your organization.
3. Digital Badges or Points
While supporters might have to wait a while to gain access to physical merchandise as it’s shipped to them, you can appeal to humanity’s desire for instant gratification if you’re able to offer event participants a prize or memento online.
Digital badges or stickers are the perfect way to instantly show someone that you appreciate their active participation in your event activities. For example, you might offer a badge when a participant first engages on a discussion board, or when they first log into the virtual event.
Adding gamification elements to your virtual event further engages supporters with your event activities and offers a free token to give to participants in exchange for their activities. Driven individuals will work to gain access to all of the possible digital badges they can lay their hands on. You may even offer a physical gift as a prize to those who collect the most badges or points.
4. Mugs and Thermoses
Design personalized mugs or thermoses with your logo, brand colors, and other distinguishable characteristics that clearly show that your organization distributed them. Supporters can warm up a cup of hot chocolate or coffee in your custom mugs and thermoses, giving them a memento of your virtual event that will last for years to come.
If you need inspiration, designs like minimalist line art, neutral colors, and large logos are all popular design ideas for mugs that you can consider using. Plus, you can create matching sets with t-shirts or other branded merchandise like hats or socks to go with your mugs.
5. Hand Sanitizer
As we all know, hand sanitizer is all the rage right now. Giving out hand sanitizer is a great way to encourage people to stay healthy while creating additional brand recognition.
Put your organization’s logo on your hand sanitizers so supporters are reminded of your incredible event every time they clean their hands (which hopefully happens pretty often).You can even create a bundle with a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a stress ball to offer a health-focused merch kit.
6. Hats and Visors
Hats and visors are perfect for sunny days, especially if your event is over the summer. Further, hats can easily become very identifiable if a design gets popular enough— think of instantly-recognizable designs like MLB team hats or musician Chance the Rapper’s iconic “3” hat.
To make the most of your virtual event hat, keep the design simple but eye-catching with bold lines or prominent lettering. You can also take a more subtle route and use a minimalist design with more muted colors. Either way, choose a visually-compelling design that communicates your brand so your hat-wearers can share your image with the world.
7. Online Courses
If you’re hosting a conference, professional development course, or webinar, you can offer access to online courses as a merchandise option for your organization.
Nonprofit courses in particular give supporters the tools and abilities to become more informed advocates for different causes or even take on greater leadership roles within organizations.
For example, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance offers a breakdown of various nonprofit courses offered on a subscription-basis. These include courses on ethical leadership, crisis communications, designing mission-focused programs and more.
Find a course that complements your virtual event topic to give attendees a deeper understanding of the issues.
8. Event Summaries or Recordings
During your virtual events, you probably cover many different items and your participants learn plenty of valuable information in the process. By offering summaries of important information or recordings from the event itself, you make it easier for supporters to remember what they learned and provide a helpful take-home memory.
Event recordings are perfect for conferences, trade shows, and other educational events so attendees can digest the information and return to anything that stuck out or puzzled them. Investigate event recording offerings to see if this technology will suit your virtual event.
Large events with more flexibility in the budget have the ability to go big with swag options. For instance, headphones sold before your event can ensure registrants have privacy when they engage with the various event activities.
Design wireless headphone cases with your company or nonprofit logo to maximize this musical branding opportunity.
10. Stress Ball
All professionals know we can get a little stressed out sometimes. Relieving some of that stress by squeezing a stress ball can be a healthy use of our time. While this is a small token, it can be combined with other ideas such as a face mask or t-shirt to make a significant impression.
Plus, you can choose different shapes for your custom stress ball to better match your organization type. For instance, healthcare organizations can offer heart-shaped stress balls while zoos might choose ones in the shape of a zebra or lion. This merch option is best offered as part of a merch kit for your virtual event.
11. Mouse Pads
Mouse pads are perfect if you’re hosting a tech conference or other occasion for people who are often online or work from their laptops.
With this merch option, you can actually offer to personalize a mouse pad for participants. They can submit a picture to go on their mouse pad to match their own interests or personal photos. Be sure to keep your logo in the corner of each pad!
12. Power Bank
This is another great option for techies. Practically everyone has a smartphone they just can’t keep charged long enough, and offering a power bank helps solve that problem.
Also, if virtual attendees are tuning into your event on their mobile devices, they can keep their phones charged up for the duration of the session. Check out options for customizable portable phone chargers here.
13. Event Socks
While you may look and dress professionally the majority of the time, socks are where you can have some fun!
Show supporters how they can also let loose by offering crazy socks they can sport under their professional pants, adding some creativity to their wardrobe. Every time they kick up their feet, they’ll think of the good time they had attending your virtual event.
14. Tote Bag
Bags to carry supporters’ computers, groceries, or other daily items are incredibly useful to keep around the house. Offer attractive branded bags that follow the same design elements that a T-shirt or face mask design would include, like creative images and high-quality typography.
You can fill these bags with other merchandise and sell bundles of virtual event swag to supporters. Consider combining a few of the other ideas in this list to fill the bag and offer a discounted rate to purchase the bundle. For instance, you might put a t-shirt, mask, and socks in a tote to create a “wearable merch” kit or you might include a power bank, headphones, and mouse pad in another for a “tech merch” kit.
Notepads make it easy for supporters to take notes during your event, providing the opportunity to learn more and stay connected with the information. Notepads also allow attendees to have a convenient place to make notes for themselves around the house.
Add your logo to the top or bottom of the notes in these notepads, ensuring event attendees still have room to write in the middle of each page. Then, encourage them to take notes during the event itself! Plus, after the event ends, they’ll be reminded of your event every time they write a grocery list.
Those are our top event merchandise ideas to get your creative juices flowing as you think about incorporating event swag into your own virtual event this year.
After reviewing your virtual event swag options, consider which item or items will be best suited for your event type. Then, invest in quality options that provide value to supporters while spreading the word about your brand in the community.
Incorporating merchandise systems into your event planning now will set you up for future success as virtual events are likely here to stay. And remember to have fun with it! Be as creative and bold as you wish with your event swag to generate excitement and engagement for your virtual events.
For additional information on virtual event planning, check out these resources:
- Virtual Events: The Ultimate Guide for Planning or Pivoting. This guide provides everything your organization needs to know about virtual event planning, from creating a task team to choosing an event platform. Bookmark this page to reference as you plan your virtual events this year.
- Virtual Event Platform. If you’re searching for an easy-to-use, cross-device platform to host your virtual events, learn more about Pathable’s virtual event platform offering here.
- Mobile Event Apps: The Top 21+ Providers for Your Conference. Plenty of organizations are using mobile apps alongside virtual conference platforms to further engage supporters in their events. If you’re interested in a mobile app for your event, find top providers here.