Clothing as Advertisements



  • Overview
  • Benefits
  • Limitations
  • Costs
  • Reach & Frequency
  • History
  • Examples & Stories
  • References


Clothing as advertising is probably one of the easiest and most beneficial emerging media for brands to get a message out. When Screen printing on T-shirts became popular, many companies realized the great potential of T-shirts advertising. Being one of the most cost efficient ways of advertising, companies love the many benefits that clothing advertising has to offer. CNN T-shirt ads were ranked as one of the top 5 ads of the year in 2008 ( ).

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Advertising on clothing is a cheap but effective way of publicize a message. A T-shirt can last for years and there is only a one-time buying fee. T-shirts are easy to focus on a target audience simply tailoring the design of the T-shirt to the demographics’ interests. Also, sending out a crowd of people wearing promotional clothing is a walking, talking advertisement. T-shirts are something your audience will use and remember. T-shirt advertisements can be used by common people, since everyone wears them. Printed and advertised tees have become a social norm and companies know it is a win-win situation; people get a new shrit to wear, which they love, making their company remembered. When the companies shirt is worn in public, many people see the advertisement and hopefully remember it later. One last benefit: it’s easy advertising!


Though clothing advertisements are a very effective way of publicity, there are also downfalls to this method. Companies can’t put in depth copy messages on a T-shirt and expect people to read them while walking on the streets. T-shirts are seen by the entire population, not just the target audience so it may be harder to grasp the attention of those targeted. For example, a print ad for golf clubs is placed in a golf magazine and is only viewed by golfers, making the advertisement effective.


The cost of advertising on clothing is very cheap in comparison to traditional media. In addition, the more T-shirts printed, the lower the cost of each tee, making the advertising campaign larger. Shirts can be given away to consumers as a marketing technique, but each time they wear the T-shirt, the companies message gets out. Consumers even buy T-shirts to support a favorite company, team, store, school, or hobby.


Reach & Frequency:

Because people are always on-the-go, there is a high reach of initial views. Many people through out the day view and notice an T-shirt advertisement, however many don’t process as an advertisement, just as a tee.

The frequency of clothing advertisements are low, due to the fact, again, that people are always on-the-go. Not only do individuals not see the same exact people every day, but they also don’t wear the same shirt day after day.


Since clothing and T-shirts are worn daily by everyone, the audience is limitless. T-shirts are easy to focus on a target audience simply by tailoring the design of the T-shirt to the demographics’ interests. Also, sending out a crowd of people wearing promotional clothing is a walking, talking advertisement. T-shirts are something your audience will use and remember. T-shirt advertisements can be used by common people, since everyone wears them and sees them.

Advertising a team or player
Advertising a team or player

T-shirt promoting NY
T-shirt promoting NY

T-Shirt Advertising Vail Ski Resort
T-Shirt Advertising Vail Ski Resort


T-shirts and other forms of clothing tend to have an ideal scheduling system, since they can be worn over and over again. A company may produce some T-shirts for a promotional event during big selling times. For example, Honda has a prime selling schedule around the holiday season, so they may print T-shirts around that time as an easy and efficient way of advertising. However, once the T-shirt is printed and given to an individual to wear, they may continue to wear that same shirt, even after the publicity campaign has ended, still promoting the company.


The popularity of the American T-shirt began during World War I when American soldiers, wearing wool uniforms, noticed European troops wearing a lightweight and comfortable cotton undershirt. This trend quickly caught on with Americans and became know in the United States as the “T”shirt.

After the T-shirt became desirable and accepted as American underwear, it then became wore as a typical, everyday shirt. Later in 1939, one of the first T-shirt advertising campaigns was conducted when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM Studios) was advertising for their classic movie, The Wizard of Oz , and realized the great potential of the T-shirt as an advertising tool to promote one of the first color movie.

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It was not until about twenty years later that other large companies started using T-shirts as an advertising tool. With the development of silk screening technology in the 1960s, American universities and sports teams started to print T-shirts with their logos. In addition to schools and sports T-shirts, many companies, such as Xerox , Playboy, Marlboro, McDonalds , and Budweiser, started producing silk screen T-shirts also as a way to advertise. T-shirts started to be used politically in election campaigns, beginning with Thomas E. Dewey, presidential candidate in 1948, with the political slogan, “Dew it with Dewey” printed on a T-shirt, which now resides in the Smithsonian Institute.



Examples & Stories:

Many companies, from Bud Light to Apple to Washington Redskins , have T-shirts and other forms of clothing to help advertise. By wearing, say a Washington Redskins shirt, shows that you as the wearer support the team and maybe are from that area and enjoy sports. Or perhaps you have a friend on the team and have a direct connection to it. You wear the T-shirt to promote the team and by walking around, everyone you pass else sees the Redskins shirt also.



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Another way of advertising is by paying someone to wear a companies shirt. At __www.iwearyourshirt.com__ two young men, Jason Sadler and Evan White, started their own business to help companies advertise. A company will buy a “day” and the boys will wear the companies shirt for that day. Jason will be in Jacksonville, Florida and Evan will be in Los Angeles, California. Not only does this help the company as a walking advertisement, but that also comes with 2 sets of photos, 2 videos, 2 Facebook profiles, 2 Twitter accounts and 2 separate blog posts to help promote for the company. Companies taking part in this form of advertising include Re/Max Coastal Real Estate, Virginia Tech Relay For Life, and Good Life Granola.

Sadler and White joke around while promoting their company, I Wear Your Shirt.


Messner, T. (2006, April 6) Let’s Play Ball. Retrieved April 8, 2010 from (2008, Dec. 22) Top 5 Ads of the Year: Goodby’s NBA Split Screen; TBWA’s Skittles Genius; Obama’s Political machine; Fincher and Nike on Fate; CNN T-shirts. Retrieved April 8, 2010 from

Cotton, C. R. (2007, May 14) Oh, The Places Those Reed T-shirts Have Been. Mississippi Business Journal. Vol. 29 Issue 20, P1-19. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from

Story, L. (2008, Jan. 18) Politics Wrapped in a Clothing Ad. Retrieved April 7, 2010 from

Londontimestshirt. (2004, Aug. 24) T-Shirt History & What The Wizard Of Oz Had To Do With It. Retrieved April 8, 2010 from

History of the T-shirt. Retrieved on April 7, 2010 from

Sadler, J. (2009) Retrieved April 7, 2010 at