Sarah Whitaker
Owner & Client Success Manager
Williams Advertising Company

Sarah Whitaker
Owner & Client Success Manager
Williams Advertising Company
PPAI 779854, Standard-Base
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Whitaker faithfully uses apparel for back-to-school promos. “New kids at school (or new sizes of kids as they grow!) need new clothes for the school year, and it makes a great fundraiser for the school,” she says. “We’ve worked with PTOs and sports groups within the schools to make suggestions, design and produce apparel the kids love to wear – even getting student input in the designs and styles to make it the most successful.”

teen model wearing a red T-shirt

This silky smooth Unisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt provides comfortable stretch and a relaxed drape in a classic fit. Available in 24 colors and sizes XS-3X.

Next Level Apparel / PPAI 272027, Standard-Plus

teen model wearing a dusty blue pigment-dyed hoodie

Bring a modern color palette to school apparel with this Midweight Pigment-Dyed Hooded Sweatshirt. The classic-fitting hoodie is made of a ring-spun cotton/polyester blend in a facility that is WRAP certified and meets OEKO-Tex Standard 100. Available in 17 colors and sizes XS-3X.

S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, Platinum

Whitaker wants to try a fun pencil pouch for a back-to-school campaign. “We did the LVL pencil pouch from Pop! Promos for a kid-focused campaign but not a back-to-school campaign. I love that item for a back-to-school campaign because it’s going to hold up tossed around in a backpack or desk all year, certainly, but also because it’s full color PMS-matching capability for the LVL. Pair it maybe with some Shepenco pencils and make it all cohesive, and it’s a nice little gift.”

Pop! Promos custom-printed LVL pencil pouches

Made from vegan leather and customized with your client’s full-color design, the LVL Pencil Pouch is ideal for storing school supplies and more. The bottom gusset enables it to stand on its own. Choose from 10 stock zipper colors.

Pop! Promos / PPAI 564497, Standard-Base

5 color-changing "mood" pencils with school imprint

The Monk Color Changing Pencil is a made-in-the-USA No. 2 pencil that changes color when warmed by the user’s hand. Color combos include green to yellow, blue to light blue, coral to melon, orange to yellow and purple to pink. Includes black ferrule and eraser.

Shepenco / PPAI 114083, Silver

Whitaker also likes the idea of hydration-related promo, whether it’s a new water bottle or stickers to customize the ones kids and teachers already have. She thinks it would be fun to get students involved in a water-saving campaign. “If you got a whole school or school system to do that, imagine the impact,” she says.

Fill It Forward custom decorated tritan Cupanion bottles and stickers

Bring school spirit to life with two dozen lid colors and full-color digital printing on a Cupanion Bottle. Manufactured sustainably in the USA of durable BPA-free Tritan, each bottle is dishwasher-safe, leak-proof and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Add dishwasher-safe stickers for extra customization.

Fill It Forward / PPAI 792815, Standard-Base

Above all, Whitaker recommends getting to know your client and what they’re trying to achieve. “If it’s the school itself, I’d go one direction on school spirit, teacher appreciation, new student welcomes, etc.,” she says, “but for those gifting to the back-to-school audience, I’d recommend quality over quantity and to know your age group and their habits when you choose your items.”

She also says it’s important to consider both what’s trending and what the school allows and adds, “Don’t forget us parents when you’re gifting this time of year!”

Katherine Smith
VP of Operations
Bullpen Marketing

Katherine Smith
VP of Operations
Bullpen Marketing
PPAI 201546, Silver
Houston, Texas

Smith faithfully uses T-shirts for back-to-school promo at the collegiate level. “Students love free T-shirts! A successful campaign we do each year is first lecture t-shirts,” she says. “A cute design helps ensure this is a T-shirt students will want to wear around campus.”

model wearing aqua Gildan 64000 Softstyle Adult T-shirt

Available in 64 colors and sizes XS-5X, the Gildan 64000 Softstyle Adult T-shirt offers a smooth printing surface and a modern classic fit. Most colors are 100% ring-spun cotton and made with OEKO-TEX certified low-impact dyes. No polybags, except for white shirts.

Gildan / PPAI 250187, Platinum

Smith wants to try items with NFC technology. “At the start of a new school year, students often refer to the same digital assets – a campus map, class schedule, bus route, etc.,” she says.

NFC Scribe metal pens with embedded NFC chips

The NFC Scribe is a sleek executive metal pen with an embedded NFC chip ready to program with your client’s URL for seamless wireless data transfer to smartphones or tablets. The oval-shaped barrel, available in deep jewel tones or matte black with gunmetal trim, offers generous space for laser engraving or full-color imprinting. “This pen would make a great gift for master’s students,” says Smith. “The sleek design makes it feel more executive.”

HPG / PPAI 110772, Platinum

custom-printed Oodleband wristband with choice of programmable RFID or NFC chip

Add vibrant, full-color graphics on the inside and the outside of Oodlebands, which include your choice of programmable RFID or NFC chip. Hand them out to use as entrance passes, dorm room keys, tap-to-pay and more. “I love the design opportunities for this item,” says Smith. “With a school spirit design, this item can be trendy and useful.”

Clothpromotions Plus / PPAI 359202, Standard-Plus

Smith recommends a branded must-have for lockers or dorm rooms.

logoed Command Brand Custom Printed Hooks

Holmes says Command Brand Custom Printed Hooks, which can be applied to a variety of smooth, finished surfaces, are great for students moving into a dorm room or apartment. They hold 3-5 lbs., depending on hook size, and they remove cleanly without sticky residue or damage. “It is a low-cost item that is useful,” she says. “The brand visibility on this item is great, too – students might use the Command hook to hang up items they use daily, such as keys, jacket or a towel.”

3M Promotional Markets / PPAI 113638, Platinum