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Promotional Giveaways

Minimum Measure: Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts

Subcategory: Stormwater Outreach Materials

Photo of some examples of stormwater promotional give-aways


Once developed, a stormwater education and outreach program can be marketed though promotional giveaways. Promotional giveaways are small tokens bearing educational slogans and graphics, given free to the public to help raise awareness of environmental issues.


Promotional giveaways effectively promote stormwater organizations, simple actions, and general awareness. Appropriate promotional items include posters, calendars, Frisbees, magnets, key chains, tote bags, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and baseball caps. When choosing giveaway items, it is important to consider not only the cost (T-shirts and hats are relatively expensive) but also the message it might send. For example, a Frisbee might conflict with a campaign to reduce plastic waste.


When designing promotional items, a professional printer can be consulted to determine if the design can be reproduced effectively, inexpensively and from different materials. Consideration should be given to what types of products to use. For example, mugs should be designed from strong, clear plastic that is dishwasher-safe. Packaging, mailing and distribution costs must be considered. Ask advertising-specialty companies if they give discounts for large orders. Finally, sufficient time should be allowed for design, production, painting, and distribution of promotional items. The design theme or logo should be included in all printed materials and accessory items.

The products should be publicized. A program can be developed to market and distribute them. Promotional items can be distributed at watershed festivals, conferences, seminars, outdoor events, schools and other venues. They can also accompany displays and act as rewards and incentives for participation in stormwater pollution activities, such as storm drain stenciling projects. The following are some promotional items that can be used:

Posters. Posters can be an excellent delivery vehicle, and they can be displayed for months or even years. Posters can effectively present text, photos, slogans and graphs. They are most often used to raise awareness ("Save the Bay") or deliver simple messages ("You Drink What You Dump"). Production and distribution costs can be costly, however. Mailing tubes and postage can cost as much as the poster itself. However, if the poster design is striking, a larger or more elaborate version can be sold, which will help cover production costs.

When designing a poster, focus on the objective, the target audience, and the message. Large, bold graphics (photos, artwork, etc.) will attract attention, but ensure that graphic elements immediately convey the poster's message. Color can greatly enhance a poster, but it can also increase production costs. A one or two-color poster is cheaper, and it can be just as attractive and just as effective. In general, use a catchy slogan or theme. A slogan, photo, or design contest is a good way to obtain original artwork. Using local artists to create graphics will give the poster local credibility, and it will help support the local arts community. The desired size should fit into a mailer tube. Posters folded and mailed in envelopes retain unsightly creases. It is best to use a standard poster size - it is cheaper to print and easier to frame.

Posters can be displayed in libraries, union halls, businesses, schools, recreation centers, community colleges and other public places. They should be displayed in protected and visible areas. If the program is planning a special watershed event, they can use a poster to promote it. Businesses can display them to encourage attendance. At the event, they can be given away as a prize or memento. See USEPA's stormwater poster [PDF - 743 KB - 2 pp] for an example poster.

Bumper Stickers. Bumper stickers are highly individualized traveling billboards. Since Americans spend so much time on the road, bumper stickers offer an excellent opportunity to publicize a message. A bumper sticker message should be brief, positive, and focused on the objective (e.g. "Save Our Lake"). Composition is easy--just combine a catchy message with a piece of art. Remember to use large, bold type and simple graphics. Check popular sizes before finalizing the design and attach a mock-up to a bumper to ensure readability. Make sure the design can be seen from a distance and the color is attractive without hindering readability.

T-Shirts and Caps. T-shirts and caps are popular, high visibility items that help spread the message. Simple patterns, such as a slogan or a logo that includes the watershed or region name, work best. Since dated materials are hard to sell after the fact, the design should be "timeless." Most people prefer 100-percent cotton shirts over blends, and the most popular sizes are large and extra-large. Long-sleeve varieties are popular in cooler climates. To avoid overstocking, quantities of merchandise should be carefully estimated before ordering. Several suppliers should be contacted for quotes before choosing a manufacturer. Although they can be highly effective, T-shirts and caps can be relatively costly. Sales rarely cover the costs of production. Production options include contracting a print shop, silk screening, and stenciling.

Calendars. Calendars can be colorful, year-long reminders to protect water quality and prevent pollution. The message on each page stays in front of the target audience for a month at a time, and everyone uses them. Other environmental or community messages can be integrated into the calendar for wider audience appeal. If students are the target audience, a calendar based on the school year might be preferable. Some groups tailor their calendar and turn it into a log of watershed, lake, or stream activities. People can keep track of the year's observable water events, ice-outs and freeze-ups, flood events, waterfowl migrations and nestings, mammal sightings, insect hatchings, and the like.

Color calendars can be expensive to produce, however. They are also time-sensitive and cannot be used in future years (except for decoration). It is wise to plan for distribution to hit the market around November (when everyone is shopping for next year's calendar).

Other Items. Any number of items can be customized with a stormwater pollution logo and message, including magnets, frisbees, stickers, and bags. When choosing which items to purchase, keep in mind the objectives to be accomplished. For example, magnets can be excellent for conveying stormwater pollution hotlines. They can be kept handy on the refrigerator near a kitchen phone, and they are relatively inexpensive to manufacture. Key chains are also good for hotline numbers or other brief messages. Prices naturally go down with quantity, but the supply should be distributed within a reasonable amount of time. The EPA has the following resources available to download, reproduce, and distribute:

  • stormwater stickers [PDF - 583 KB - 2 pp]
  • customizable placemat [PDF - 1 MB - 1 pp]
  • bookmark [PDF - 368 KB - 2 pp]


    Most people will take anything that is free. The key to making promotion items effective is to make them something people can use. For example, key chains bearing a slogan can be used everyday. They are easily identifiable and might be seen by others.


    People appreciate promotional items, especially at voluntary activities. Not only do freebies help promote an issue, but they also serve as a "thank you" to the volunteers. In addition, there is a lot of room for creativity and fun when making these items.


    The limitations of promotional items are the costs and time associated with making them. Also, there is no assurance that a free T-shirt will result in another volunteer or supporter of stormwater issues.


    The cost of promotional items will depend on what item is being produced and in what numbers. Generally, larger orders result in lower per-unit costs. However, it is unwise to buy more items than can be resold or even given away. The campaign's objectives, as well as the target audience, should be considered before ordering. Some costs for various outreach materials are provided in Table 1, but these are only estimates. Individual vendors should be contacted when preparing the budget.

    Table 1. Estimated costs for promotional items (Source: COSG, no date)





    $0.23 each for a quantity of 1,000

    two-color, business card size

    Canvas tote bags

    $2.20 each for a quantity of 1,000

    one-color, two-sided


    $0.07 each for a quantity of 1,000

    one-color, 3-inch circle


    $0.68 each for a quantity of 1,000



    $2.50 each for a quantity of 5,000

    4-color, 11 inch X 17 inch folded


    $0.59 each for a quantity of 5,000

    ballpoint, one-color, capped


    $1.00 each for a quantity of 1,000

    one color on solid standard mug


    $5.00 each for a quantity of 6,000

    or less embroidery on cotton twill


    $2.50 each for a quantity of 1,000

    500 large and 500 extra large, single color on white, silk screen

    Lapel pins

    $1.38 each for a quantity of 1,000


    Environmental Health Coalition. 1992. How to Create a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Campaign. Environmental Health Coalition, San Diego, CA.

    The Council of State Governments. No date. Getting in Step A Guide to Effective Outreach in Your Watershed. The Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY.


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    Last updated on May 24, 2006