by EMILY KALLMYER
It’s almost impossible to walk around campus without seeing at least one student sporting a free t-shirt they received at an athletic event.
But the shirts do more than just look good, they often drive student attendance at sporting events. And the distribution of thousands of t-shirts is not an easy feat.
At a typical football game, the athletic department anticipates a turnout of about 10,000 students.
“When you multiply the numbers, handing out a $2.50 to $3.50 t-shirt to the student section can cost between $20,000 and $30,000,” said Carrie Blankenship, the associate athletic director for marketing.
That’s why the first step in distributing the t-shirts is securing a sponsor – specifically a sponsor of the athletic department – to pay for the shirts.
After confirming a budget with the sponsor, the marketing unit comes up with a design. Coming up with fresh ideas can be challenging, Blankenship said.
“This is my tenth season at Maryland, and I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of t-shirts that I’ve designed or my department has designed,” she said.
Sometimes the department will hold design contests, like the Gold Rush t-shirt for basketball last year.
Once a design is finalized, the marketing department has to figure out the best way to distribute the shirts. This is primarily accomplished in one of two ways: either at the gate or on the seats.
If it’s at the gates, off-season sports teams will sometimes help hand out the shirts. For example, the gymnastics team handed out the blackout t-shirts at the last home game against Michigan.
When the shirts are set up on the seats, the marketing unit often enlists the help of student interns.
“I always think that when people show up to the game, I don’t really think someone getting the shirt stops and thinks about who maybe set out these 4,000 t-shirts,” Blankenship said. “It takes a long time.”
Senior Kevin Chiang has collected between 15 and 20 shirts from athletic events over the years.
“I think it’s a great way to show your Maryland pride,” the neurobiology and physiology and mathematics major said. “And it just looks cool to see that we have a sense of unity as a school.”
The athletic department gives out t-shirts at more than 15 athletic events each year, providing an extra push for people on the fence about going.
“For the sports other than football and basketball, I think the free shirts are just a great way to attract student crowds,” Chiang said.
It also boosts school spirit and support for athletic teams, Blankenship said.
“It’s always funny the next day that people who literally just got the shirt the night before want to wear it on campus, like ‘I was there. I got this shirt,’” she said.