Which Industries Use the Most Promotional Products…and How Do They Use Them?

Many businesses, schools, sports teams, and government and nonprofit organizations use promotional products to promote their brands, products, and services.

Promotional products that provide a low cost per impression are usually given away for free by companies and organizations to advertise an event. They’re also frequently used to thank employees, clients, volunteers, and donors. Promotional products are also useful for brand marketing, both in raising brand awareness and increasing brand loyalty.

According to the latest research from the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), the ten largest markets for promotional products are:

10. Technology
9. Financial/Insurance
8. Government
7. Nonprofit
6. Associations/Clubs/Civic Groups
5. Retail
4. Construction
3. Manufacturing/Distribution
2. Healthcare
1. Education

Promotional products are also frequently used by businesses in the travel, hospitality, and automotive industries, along with real estate agencies and advertising agencies.

Key Uses for Promotional Products

Promotional products are utilized in trade show and event marketing, direct mail marketing, and employee onboarding and recruitment.

A large percentage of promotional products are distributed at brick-and-mortar trade shows, conferences, staff retreats, and community events. They can be used:

  • as door prizes
  • as welcome gifts
  • to attract booth traffic
  • to increase brand recognition & recall
  • as thank you gifts for event volunteers & speakers
  • to engage attendees of a virtual or hybrid event
Promotional Product Uses - Direct Mail

Promotional products are also frequently sent to consumers via direct mail to forge new relationships and strengthen existing relationships with customers and donors. Promotional products can be used in direct mail gifting:

  • as follow up gifts for sales leads & fundraising prospects
  • as prizes for giveaways & sweepstakes
  • to apologize for a mistake
  • as holiday or thank you gifts for clients & donors
  • in an employee care package
  • to congratulate a customer
  • to reach out to a social media influencer
  • to announce a brand refresh or rebranding
  • as customer loyalty program rewards

Promotional products like t-shirts and hats are also sold by well-known consumer brands like Dunkin’, Tesla, and Coca-Cola to:

  • engage brand fans
  • increase brand prestige
  • generate additional revenue

Educational institutions and nonprofit organizations also sell promotional products to raise funds and increase student, alumni, and donor engagement.

Promotional Product Uses by Industry

The top five markets for promotional products are education, healthcare, manufacturing/distribution, construction, and retail. According to ASI’s annual survey of promotional product distributors and suppliers across North America, nearly half (46.1%) of all promotional products sales in 2021 were made to companies and organizations in these industries!

So how (and why) are these five industries using promotional products?


Promotional freebies including free samples and branded gifts like logo t-shirts and stickers are used by brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce companies to drive sales and improve repeat purchase rate. Promotional products are also used by retailers to increase brand perception and reward customer loyalty.


Promotional Product Uses - Construction

Companies in the construction industry – from contractors to material suppliers – use promotional products to nurture sales leads and acquire repeat business. Construction promotional products are frequently distributed at building and construction trade shows. They’re also used in direct mail campaigns to follow up with sales leads and raise brand awareness among a target audience.


Promotional products like hats and pens are widely used by manufacturing and distribution companies throughout the sales funnel. Promotional products are used by manufacturers to generate more sales leads and to follow up with strong leads. They’re also distributed as holiday gifts and thank you gifts for loyal customers. Promotional products are also frequently used by manufacturing and distribution companies to incentivize and reward employees.


Promotional Product Uses - Healthcare

Healthcare spending accounts for over 19% of the U.S. GDP! It is no surprise that more than 11% of all promotional products are purchased by companies and organizations in the healthcare industry.

Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and health insurance companies use promotional products to advertise their products and services to potential customers. Promotional products like water bottles and pill organizers are often given away at health fairs and community events to build goodwill and increase brand awareness. Many companies in the healthcare industry, such as staffing agencies, give away promotional products like logo pens and notepads to healthcare administrators and medical professionals at trade shows and industry events.

Mailable promotional items like calendars, refrigerator magnets, and face masks are also used by hospitals, clinics, and health insurance companies in direct mail campaigns.


Promotional Product Uses - Education

Private secondary schools, colleges, and universities frequently give away free promotional products such as bumper stickers and water bottles to students, parents, and alumni as part of their marketing and branding strategy.  Promotional products like lanyards and pennant flags are also widely distributed at college fairs and alumni events.

Many educational institutions like schools and libraries also sell promotional products like custom apparel to raise funds and engage their communities. School spirit swag like foam fingers and stadium cushions for sports events are especially popular with student parents and alumni. Education management companies and other businesses in the education industry also distribute promotional products at trade shows, conferences, and conventions.

As competition for new students continues to increase, higher education institutions are expected to spend even more money on advertising than ever before. We expect to see even more creative uses of promotional products by colleges and universities in the future – from school swag unboxing videos to online school spirit stores to even more elaborate alumni merch!

Make Promotional Products Work for Your Company or Organization in 2023!

Promotional products are a cost-effective advertising medium that consumers prefer to all other types of advertising. Promotional products are also a great way to advertise your brand in places and spaces that other advertising mediums can’t reach.

To learn more about the promotional products industry, check out these guides:

Why Promotional Products Work – and How to Use Them

2022 Promotional Products Trends

Then contact Metron Branding today for assistance with selecting the best promotional products for your business or organization’s needs and requirements.