Please, no more fridge magnets! Why companies spend all that money on useless corporate swag

I’ve picked up lots of corporate swag at conferences and trade shows during my PR days, but free ballpoint pens or cheap fridge magnets can hardly compete with the really good swag that other people seem to get.  Consider for example what was handed out to sports photographers covering the February Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver/Whistler this year: an eye-catching coffee travel mug shaped exactly like a 70-200mm Canon L-series lens. Now that’s a very cool and potentially useful Olympics souvenir to bring home.

Or how about the American Society of Clinical Oncology? The drug company Genentech gave out to each annual meeting attendee in Chicago a beautiful black leather case filled with a wireless mouse, a 1 GB thumb drive, a combination laser-pointer/infrared remote control PowerPoint slide advancer, and a four-outlet USB hub – each one engraved, of course, with the Genentech corporate logo.

Other drug companies use even more creative and arguably more sinister swag strategies: in the waiting rooms of child psychiatrists, for example, children play with giant Lego blocks prominently stamped with the word Risperdal, courtesy of the drug company Johnson & Johnson – who have now lost the patent on the antipsychotic drug and have stopped handing out these toys.

But few promotional gifts can compare with the $91,000 swag bags distributed to celebrities at the Academy Awards ceremonies in Hollywood this past March.   Continue reading

After the party’s over: five myths about hosting the Olympics

Dr. Stefan Szymanski is a professor of economics at City University London, and the author of Playbooks and Checkbooks: An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports. As such, he knows far more than you and I do on the subject of whether hosting Olympic Games is a good or bad deal for host cities. And now that the deliriously happy crowds have departed Vancouver, like all party hosts in the cold hard light of the morning after, we British Columbia taxpayers can re-assess our own 17-day party.   Continue reading

Why the Olympics are bad business

I am outnumbered. I am one of the few people I know who are anti-Olympics.  I say this with a wee pang of sadness because I used to be a bit of a Games junkie, having spent years working with the organizing committee when my own city of Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games here in 1994. But the world has changed since then. Doping scandals, corporate sponsorship bullying, pervasive commercialism, anti-terrorist security, political interference, questionable IOC integrity, and obscene taxpayer-funded pricetags combine to make me shake my head and ask:

“Why are we doing this?”

The event is no longer even about athletic achievement.  We already hold world championships in each sport for that.  Continue reading