Business October 17, 2019 Last updated October 17th, 2019 3,184 Reads share

10 Best T-Shirt Marketing Campaigns of All Time

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People love t-shirts. They’re comfortable, simple, and easy. So it’s no surprise that companies, organizations, and movements alike all look to t-shirt campaigns as one of the most effective forms of marketing.

Why are Tees so effective? 

Because they’re:

  • Cheap and quick to produce
  • Able to be made in bulk
  • Easily customizable
  • Able to hit every targetable market

All of this makes t-shirts an attractively versatile tool in a marketers arsenal. Below we’ll be discussing the greatest custom t-shirt marketing campaigns of all time, and what any aspiring organization can learn from them.

I <3 New York

Surely the most iconic t-shirt campaign of all time is I <3 NY. The campaign was developed by the New York State Department of Economic Development to increase tourism to the city and state of New York and, judging by the fact that you can’t walk a mile in any major city without being bombarded by imitators of the classic t-shirt slogan, one might say the campaign was a massive success.

The design was simple, so simple it was originally designed in the back of a moving taxi cab. But that was, and is, a good thing. It means that the design conveys its message in a way that the targeted audience will definitely understand.

Coca Cola’s Giveaway Machine

In London, Coca Cola ran a campaign featuring a machine which would dispense a t-shirt if the user tweeted about it using a specific hashtag. By pushing users to interact with the t-shirt campaign digitally, Coca Cola was able to see a double pronged benefit. They got the usual exposure from people wearing the shirts around town, but more importantly they got increased positive engagement online from people tweeting to get the shirts. 

It’s important to remember that t-shirt campaigns can provide more than their face value. When developing a marketing campaign based around t-shirts, why not build off of that foundation by taking a multifaceted approach?

Band Shirts

A classic example of encouraging brand recognition is the proliferation of band t-shirts. You would be hard pressed to find a music group with at least this basic merch. Typically they feature the band or album logo front and center, because that simple design is most effective at communicating the brand to anyone who looks at it. As with many of the other t-shirt campaigns here, band shirts thrive because of their simplicity.

O2’s Rugby Shirt Giveaway

In an effort to promote England’s rugby team, at the time competing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, O2 started their “Wear the Rose” campaign. The campaign centered around the organization hanging tens of thousands of their rugby shirts, which featured a red rose, on clotheslines around the UK. Through Twitter interaction and the use of related apps, fans were given a chance to win the shirts.

Though the team lost the tournament, the t-shirt campaign was wildly successful, resulting in some 5 millions acts of support for the team. Much like Coca Cola’, the O2 campaign encouraged fans to actively engage across multiple platforms, one of the two cruxes of any successful ad campaign.

Font Vella Breast Cancer Fundraiser

The Spanish water brand Font Vella serves as an example of how effective t-shirt marketing can be when promoting a good cause. The brand runs a marathon in Spain, which now boasts over 100,000 runners in its events. Here’s where the genius comes in: all of the runners wear their eye catching breast cancer awareness shirts. So while all these runners rush through the streets of the city, their message goes with them.

Single Grain’s T-Shirt Giveaway

A modest marketing agency was able to generate more than $900k in revenue with their t-shirt campaign. Single Grain did this by giving away t-shirts. It seems odd at first, but by giving away moderate numbers of t-shirts, they were given free marketing by word of mouth from the people who received the shirts, and from those that saw other people wearing the shirts. This massively increased their brand name recognition, and that meant that potential clients thought of them before other companies in the same field.

Rockstar Energy Drink in the UK

Less flashy than some of the other campaigns mentions, Rockstar’s brief cross promotion with the movie Entourage was no less effective in achieving its goal. The United Kingdom has less demand for sugary beverages than some other markets, and so Rockstar Energy often had a hard time breaking in. During their cross promotion with the film Entourage allowed Rockstar access to a market they usually couldn’t tap into. They leaped on the opportunity, and through the distribution of simple logo t-shirts, were able to increase their brand awareness in the UK.

Kony 2012

While it may have ended poorly, there’s no denying the effectiveness of the Kony 2012 campaign. The documentary and accompanying t-shirt campaign spearheaded by Invisible Children, a non-profit group operating out of California established to raise awareness of the use of child soldiers in Central Africa, was able to spread its message throughout the entirety of the United States and beyond. Despite its other failings, the group was able to spur the American government to take action in the region, and the dictator was arrested.

While it may also have ended in the arrest of its creator, the movement still serves to show the effectiveness of message based t-shirt campaigns, especially when integrated as part of a larger marketing campaign.

Nike’s Just Do It

Nike was able to go from a struggling fitness gear company to an incredibly successful shoe and clothing brand. How did they do? A simple motto, “Just Do It”, plastered across their apparel. It was simple. It was recognizable. It was effective.

When it comes down to it, that’s really the unifying point in all these successful t-shirt campaigns. Brand recognition is built through showing people these simple symbols. Remember that, and you’ll be able to spread your message through tees.

Your Campaign

Alright, maybe your campaign isn’t on this list yet, but it could be. It’s now easier than ever to begin your own t-shirt campaign by using custom t-shirt design services, which can allow your organization to print unique tees in bulk. These new services can help anyone run t-shirt campaigns at an affordable price. So, what are you waiting for? Take your design, and spread your brand across the globe, one shirt at a time.