WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Marco Rubio has “Marco Polos,” Ted Cruz has “Cruzies” and Hillary Clinton has $25 “future voter” onesies for children – all products representing 2016 presidential candidates.
Presidential candidates are looking to engage U.S. voters by putting their names on products for increased visibility in addition to creating a new outlet for bringing revenue into their campaigns, CBS News reports. The 2008 Barack Obama campaign for president revolutionized the practice of buying campaign gear to make a campaign donation.
Rand Paul is even selling a filibuster starter kit and flip-flops on his robust product website.
In 2012, the Obama campaign perfected the candidate product game into a money-making machine bringing in tens of millions of dollars.
“We want to engage people any way we can,” Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri told CBS News. She added that merchandise such as kitschy pant-suits and needlepoint pillows are both fun and a huge draw for revenue.
“We are able to make money from it, too, for the campaign, which is important, but mostly it’s a way for people to show their support, but to do it in a creative way,” Palmieri said.
Meaghan Burdick, the Obama campaign’s director of marketing and merchandising, said the sales brought in $40 million.
“It’s amazing to think about how much we made off of merchandise,” she said, adding that the purchases also brought in a lot of voter information.
“We would learn a lot of information about their shopping habits and, that way, that would kind of tell us then more about demographics and what people in that demographic and that area are like,” Burdick said.
Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said that the comparatively modest $15 million brought in by the 2012 Mitt Romney campaign informed the GOP that they needed to step up their merchandising.
“In this day and age, you have to have a robust store,” Spicer told CBS News. “You’re not just buying any shirt, you’re helping us sell a message, you’re providing data and you’re getting people hopefully more excited about the campaign.”
But some products have gone a bit too far, says Spicer. CBS News revealed that Paul Ray-Bans were made without that company’s approval, prompting a very public cease and desist order to the Paul campaign for president.
But all political sides agree that exposure is a key component of successful merchandising.
“That voter is not only going to wear that brand, they’re going to promote Ted Cruz to their friends, their family, and their co-workers,” Cruz campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said.