Nonprofit Branding: Cost, Impact and Use of Logo T-Shirts

If it has appropriate quality and carries an attractive imprint, a shirt with your logo is a walking billboard for your nonprofit.  Here are your key questions you should ask when considering T-shirts.

          Do T-shirts make economic sense for our marketing program? 

          Do they have as much impact as print or broadcast advertising?

           Which shirt brands give the best value?


Start with the Bottom Line.  Its important. So we repeat it at the end….

Bottom Line: The right T-shirt will be prized by your supporter. It will be used more often and survive longer than others. This results in massive exposure for your logo at a ridiculously low price. By contrast – the wrong shirt, or the wrong imprint, means the shirt will soon be used to wash the car or to wax the dining room table.

Economics & Impact:  Research shows the average logo-shirt is seen by 2208 people during its 6-month life. That’s a cost of $00.005 (half of one hundredth of a penny) for each set of eyes that sees your logo and branding message. This is about ¼ the cost per impression of a prime time TV commercial.

Something else to remember: industry research covers all T-shirts with all logos. Few commercial brands command pride of association equal to what supporters feel for their favorite public service organization. Thus – a high quality T-shirt with a nonprofit logo will be used longer and more often than a shirt from most commercial enterprises. So, compared to the national average – the shirt of a favored nonprofit will have even more impressions and lower cost than its commercial counterpart.

iStock_000016717381SmallBuying Tips: T-Shirts vary widely. Here are some factors to consider….

  • Best Styles  unless your constituency is primarily female, select unisex or men’s styles. Most women happily can wear them. The reverse does not work; men cannot wear women’s styles.
  • Current Logic – conventional thinking for the last decade or so has been to buy 100% cotton heavyweight styles. (Weight is measured in ounces per yard.) With 100% cotton you want to put your logo on a shirt with a 5.5 weight or above. DO NOT put your logo on a 50/50 blend. It won’t be used. It will be remembered. The recollection will reflect badly on your brand.
  • Emerging Logic – new blends are entering the market. Woven with a bit of synthetic fiber,many of them are TERRIFIC! These stay fresh longer, hold their shape and color especially well and can have a softer texture and longer lifespan than straight cotton. Some of the best blended T-shirts perform splendidly at lighter weights, even as low as 4.0 ounces. Unlike the crappy old 50-50 shirts, these are superior products.
  • Best Brands – For years the T-shirt gold standard was the remarkable Hanes Beefy-T. It is still a fine product. But in recent years quality has been inconsistent. The Beefy-T is no longer the only game in town. Gildan Ultra has become its equal and is usually a few pennies cheaper per shirt.
  • Keep your eye on a brand named Bella+ Canvas. (Bella is the woman’s division; Canvas is the man’s.) We think these shirts are winners – upscale and beautifully made. They feature extremely soft fabric, superior fit at the collar and some high fashion colors. This brand is also a bit more expensive, but the extra cost will assure you that the end-user will reach for it when the time comes to wear a T-shirt.
  • Sizes – do not buy small. If you must ignore this advice, buy just a handful.
  • Colors be careful of those wonderful fringe fashion colors if you think you might need to reorder. They disappear quickly, especially as seasons change.
  • Warning – Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Shirts, made from hemp, bamboo, and recycled fibers, have great appeal. Someday theygiphy will become an important addition to the product line of companies like ours. But not in 2015 or 2016. We research this category constantly and continue to be dissatisfied. The supply line remains unreliable, sizing is often inexact, fabrics vary in weight and durability and because there are no standard definitions, some low-end product flies under the banners of of “eco-friendly and sustainable.”
  • Imprints Don’t waste a good shirt with a bad imprint.

There are two kinds of bad imprints. One features a lame logo. You can enhance that by adding an appropriate phrase or positioning statement to convey your message. The second bad imprint is the wrong size or in the wrong location. Unless you are making a keepsake for a big public event, a smaller logo usually is classier and more likely to be favored by the end user.

The primary way to imprint your logo on a T-shirt is through a process called screen-printing. If you are, or expect to be, involved with selecting and purchasing branding products, you need to learn about this process here. 

Bottom Line:

A dynamic exists between your nonprofit and its supporters. That’s why The Lord of Logos Rules the Nonprofit Marketplace.  Because the Lord Rules, the right T-shirt will be prized by your supporter and will be used more often and survive longer than the average. Thus massive exposure for your logo at a ridiculously low price. As indicated above – the wrong shirt, or the wrong imprint, means the garment will soon be used to wash the car or to wax the dining room table.


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