In Our Opinion

Reviewing the Swag at CADBA

By December 16, 2021 No Comments

After a nearly two-year hiatus, I attended my first in-person event – CABDA East, one of four shows/conferences/gatherings for bike shops and retailers hosted by the Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers Association (thus, CABDA).

While many things have changed about in-person events, including more masks, fewer handshakes, and the addition of Social Bands to help attendees share their comfort level with physical contact, one thing has remained the same – the use of goodies and giveaways by vendors to attract visitors and cut through the conference noise.

As I emptied my bags and pockets of the swag collected while wandering the aisles of the Meadowlands Expo Center, I considered which were keepers, and which were bound for the trash can.

Thule, the Swedish company known for its roof racks and carriers, gave us a choice of giveaways including a stainless steel water bottle and travel mug from Mizu. The quality ensures it will be used by someone in our family (there promise to be a few arguments about who gets the bottle), while the clean Thule design begs for customization with decals and stickers.

Garneau brought a commercial-grade heat press to the conference, which they used to press a patch of the attendee’s choice to a snapback trucker hat. The interactive element made the giveaway a bit more memorable, while also opening up an opportunity for conversation with the sales rep as the trucker was being made. Having seen custom heat-pressed t-shirts used at events, I liked how the one-size-fits-most trucker ensured the reps didn’t have to worry about running out of a specific size.

Garneau’s heat press let them apply the patch of an attendee’s choice.

From an attendee perspective, I appreciate high-quality giveaways that will get used, or in the case of the hats, put in our kids’ stockings this Christmas. I have to imagine from a vendor perspective coordinating the packing, shipping, and delivery of all of these items is not without complications. In both cases, I think it was worth the effort.

Speaking of coordination and packing, samples from Muc-Off were Steve the Bike Guy’s favorite. As a dealer, he is very familiar with the products but liked the sample-size bottles which are perfect for stashing in a toolbox, saddlebag, or back pocket. (When I told him I wouldn’t share, he made sure to visit the booth to pick up his own sample bag, which was also big enough to use for other materials collected at the conference).

A giveaway that perhaps unsurprisingly has found new popularity is hand sanitizer. Bottles provided by Abus included a carabiner which made clipping the bottles to my backpack or belt loop easy, making it another favorite for me (I may have grabbed more than one).

Again, as an attendee, I appreciated these promotional items for their usefulness, while understanding the significant logistical challenges for the sales team.

The most popular promotional item found at CABDA is also my personal favorite – stickers, and decals.

Stickers and decals are at the top of my list for swag as both attendee and marketer because:

  • The cost to produce is significantly less than most other items
  • They are easy to transport to conference (as a marketer)
  • They take up very little room in my bag (as a conference attendee)
  • They serve as a good reminder of what booths we visited
  • The larger decals can be used at the Shop to promote products
  • The smaller decals make the perfect decoration for aluminum waterbottles and computer cases
  • You can never have too many stickers (okay, so maybe that’s just my opinion)

A thumb drive handed to me as I passed one of the booths was the only real miss of the conference. I believe a catalog is contained within but given the risk of viruses, I’m unlikely to ever find out if that is true. I also don’t remember who gave me it, something easily solved with a branded drive, meaning the time and effort spent to load the drives was completely wasted. Instead, a sticker with a QR code to an online catalog would have done the trick at a much lower cost.

With most Americans “more annoyed with clutter than dirt,” it was encouraging to see giveaways at the CABDA event focused on items that were useful and/or re-usable.