A few months ago I went to a professional basketball game. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of basketball, but I went with family members who love the sport. The game was pretty exciting -- not enough to make me a lifetime basketball fan, but I can definitely see the appeal. I'm going to admit a dirty little secret. The single most exciting part of the game for me during a break when a group of promoters came out with a t-shirt cannon. I didn't know what was in the cannon, I didn't know what group they were representing, and I didn't care. All I knew was that I wanted to catch one of those shirts. The promoters used a classic strategy: they called for audience members to cheer and launched a shirt into the area that had the loudest shouts. It's a brilliant tactic -- the promoters encourage audience members to get excited about the promotional material and then reward the loudest audience members with a chance at a prize.
They launched a few shirts and then, as quickly as they came, the group was gone. I wasn't lucky enough to catch a shirt (they never even shot one my way... I guess I need to work on my cheering voice), but the event still left an impression on me. T-shirt cannons are just plain fun. Why do we love t-shirt cannons so much? I suspect that it's a combination of several factors. First of all, people love free stuff. Nothing will get people excited about your brand quite like a free t-shirt or promotional item. Second, the whole event was completely unexpected. The t-shirt cannon crew ran out from the locker room as soon as the referee blew the whistle. It was kind of like a miniature surprise party -- for the two minutes that the t-shirt cannon crew was out on the court, the crowd was absolutely thrilled.
And last but certainly not least, one of the biggest benefits of t-shirt cannons is that they appeal to that same part of the brain that adores explosions, catapults, and high-powered weaponry. There's just something viscerally appealing about a handheld machine that launches bundled-up t-shirts with an oh-so-satisfying phoont! Plus, if you roll out one of these bad boys, the crowd will go absolutely bonkers. Image source: News.cnet.com
If you're thinking about promoting your business or organization at a major event like a sports game or a music festival, then few advertising strategies can hold a candle to the crowd-pleasing t-shirt cannon. You might only launch a handful of shirts (I believe that the team I watched launched ten to fifteen shirts), but the raw excitement of the crowd helps you promote your business. All you have to do is give matching t-shirts to the cannon crew, and you can rest assured that hundreds of audience members will have their eyes locked on your promotional crew.
The other great thing about t-shirt cannons is that it makes winners much more likely to keep and wear the free shirt. Getting a free promotional item at a booth is one thing, but catching a shirt after it's flung 100 feet into the air by a handheld cannon is way more exciting. There's an absurdly high chance that your t-shirts will become the new favorite shirt of the lucky audience members who manage to catch the projectiles. Just imagine consumers proudly strutting around with your logo on their chests bragging to their friends about their t-shirt cannon shirt.