What is Event Swag?

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First things first, let’s lay out what event swag really is. Swag or schwag, as some say, is known as promotional items or goods given to people who attend or participate in an event. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it.

Event swag has seen some highs and lows in the event industry. In the early 2000s, people would attend a party just for the gift bag. (They were that good.) Companies would seemingly try to one up the next on which could create the better swag. Then, brands started giving away items just for the sake of giving them away…and most swag went unused — irrelevant samples, cheap tchotchkes, garishly-branded items, coupons, etc. (What are you supposed to do with a coupon at an event?) So, sadly event swag sort of disappeared.

In recent years, free promotional products are back on the rise. In a culture that is oversaturated with consumer goods, brands are trying to create experiences for the customer that will keep them coming back. So, there’s no harm in giving consumers or event attendees an awesome free gift — it’s actually a great move to build brand awareness, ignite a call to action, or simply say thank you for your loyalty.

Practical Swag

Typically, the purpose of giving away swag is for the recipient to reuse it in a way that others see it and talk about it. (Continue the discussion, if you will.) That goal is usually accomplished when the swag gifted is practical and actually reusable. Here are some examples of good swag:

  • Subtly branded umbrella — Fact: it rains everywhere and everyone always needs an umbrella
  • Notebook and pen — While a little old school, a good notebook and pen are always useful
  • The actual product you’re launching — If the goal of your launch event is to continue the conversation, attendees should most definitely walk away with that product
  • Portable charger — In the digital age, we can’t think of a better gift
  • Portable speaker — Perfect for a music-themed event

Swag Isn’t for Everybody


Ok, so we’ve been over the fact that some event swag is useful and some of it is most definitely toss-able. (When will brands learn?)

“You can never have enough free stuff. Until you do.”

In 2016, Hershey relaunched its Take 5 candy bar at SXSW and produced an activation called the Swag Exchange. Attendees swapped free swag they didn’t want for stuff they actually did, like flasks, portable iPhone projectors, dinner reservations, and gift cards. On top of that, Hershey did a little good and donated the traded-in goods to Austin-based charities. As a result, the activation saw over 18.5 million media impressions and Hershey’s gave over 5,000 products to charity. Win. Win.

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