Nate Silver has great numbers and shiny graphs. But if presidential pollsters start monitoring t-shirt sales they might find predicting presidential elections a lot easier. Since the 2008 election, t-shirt sales have been an accurate indicator on who will become the next president.
During the current race for president, t-shirt sales have been a much better indicator than the polls of where the nation’s voters stand on the candidates. Prior to the start of the primaries polling data painted a much different picture on how Democratic and Republican voters would cast their ballots.
Well over a year ago, early polling data suggested that it was a forgone conclusion that Hillary Clinton would run away with the Democratic nomination. However, it was t-shirt sales that first predicted Bernie Sanders would enjoy some success during the primary process. While many polls last fall showed Clinton with close to a 20 percent lead over Sanders, t-shirt sales indicated otherwise.
Had pollsters contacted SunFrog Shirts CEO and Founder, Josh Kent, they might have picked up on both Sanders' and Trump’s rise long before the polling data suggested those candidates would be successful.
“While Hillary Clinton was enjoying a substantial lead in the polls last fall, Bernie Sanders was outselling Clinton in t-shirts,” said Kent. “We saw this same trend back in the spring of 2015 when Jeb Bush was ahead in the polls. In fact, (Mike) Huckabee, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were all ahead of Trump (in the polls). But Trump was crushing all of them in t-shirt sales.”
SunFrog Shirts is the nation’s largest seller of t-shirts. Through an innovative system utilizing over 55,000 affiliates and the ability to produce shirts on demand, SunFrog offers more than five million designs. Political shirts are among the hottest sellers these days; especially those supporting or even poking fun at the presidential candidates.
“Certainly t-shirts supporting either Clinton or Trump are out selling those that poke fun at the candidates,” said Kent. “But people do have a sense of humor and a lot of ‘NOPE’ shirts, a play on ‘HOPE,’ are selling real well. And certainly there are a few that attack Trump that are selling really well too, like 'Dump Trump'.”
So should the Clinton and Trump campaigns be monitoring t-shirt sales more closely and worrying less about what the polls say? According to history this might be the best indicator on the success of their respective campaigns.
So have t-shirt sales really predicated the next President in past elections?
The answer is “Yes!". But it’s the mechanism that was used to sell those shirts that appears to be the reason for success in both sales and election results.
When President Barack Obama decided to run for the 2008 presidency, he was a virtual unknown as a national candidate. Again early polling data showed Hillary Clinton to be the odds on favorite to win the Democratic nomination. According to Kent it was Obama’s use of social media platforms that led to his success in the primary and general elections, as well as in t-shirt sales.
“The emergence of social media in the mid-2000s paved the way for President Obama’s sudden rise in prominence on the national political scene,” said Kent. “Both Facebook and Twitter were gaining in popularity and the Obama campaign effectively used those platforms. In addition the campaign created an ‘app’ that more than a million supporters signed up for with 85% giving Facebook permission to access their friends list. This resulted in the Obama campaign developing the first viral presidential campaign.”
That first viral presidential campaign also led to success in Obama outselling his opponents in t-shirt sales.
“Essentially President Obama’s success in using various social media platforms led to his ability to access millions of voters that wouldn’t have happened as quickly using traditional campaign techniques,” said Kent. “It also resulted in his campaign and supporters to quickly share t-shirt designs and slogans leading to Obama outselling Clinton and John McCain in t-shirt sales.”
While both Trump and Clinton enjoyed polling surges during their respected convention nomination, they may want to monitor t-shirt sales between now and November 8 to determine where they stand with the voters.
“Coming off both party conventions we have seen a major influx in sales of shirts supporting one or the other candidate,” said Kent. “We expect this trend to continue right through the election.”
Monitoring specific sales numbers by candidate is not an exact science admits Kent. SunFrog has an innovative system that allows anyone to create a shirt design, become an affiliate and within a matter of minutes start selling shirts.
“We have over 55,000 affiliates and close to six million shirt designs,” said Kent. “New designs are being added almost every minute and they don’t always appear within the political section of our site. Affiliates use their own social media platforms to drive shirt sales, marketing direct links to their shirt designs within the SunFrog system.”
Kent points out that they often get a sense of which candidate is selling more shirts simply by monitoring their production facility. The SunFrog facility operates three shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, printing shirts as one off orders but often the production team will see a specific design take off suddenly.
“Typically a candidate might say something or do something that will inspire a shirt design. An affiliate will capture that and start the social media marketing process and we will see a run on those shirts,” said Kent. “For example ‘Make America Great Again’ shirts have been selling well, as are shirts of a humorous nature."
Next week’s debate will provide plenty of t-shirt material.
Without even having to hear or see it on the news, SunFrog gets a sense of which candidate has said something or done something within the last 24 hours that has inspired t-shirt design and sales.
So based on their observations does Kent and his team at SunFrog Shirts have a sense on who might become the next President?
Kent simply smiles and laughs, “Let me say this, I invite both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump to stop by our facility and take a tour. We will give them a first-hand look at how well they are doing according to t-shirt sales.”