What To Do With Leftover Trade Show Swag??

January 31, 2019

What To Do With Leftover Trade Show Swag??

Updated 2024

Here we are, knee-deep in tradeshow season, which probably means your company’s logo is branded on everything you can think of, from pens to USBs to t-shirts to notepads. It’s what smart marketers do; however, these custom giveaways add up and you can find yourself with an abundance of leftover tradeshow swag.

  • Maybe there was an order minimum on the t-shirts you chose for your custom swag (you only needed 50, but the minimum order was 250).
  • Maybe you were trying to be budget-savvy and ordered the maximum quantity of custom pens in order to get a price break.
  • Maybe you have back stock of USBs from last year’s tradeshow giveaways and you wanted a refresh this year, so you purchased the newest trending swag or maybe you did a rebrand of your logo - that, too, would mean all new swag.

Have you ever wondered how the Super Bowl teams have their swag ready to go, no matter who wins the game? You guessed it, swag is printed for BOTH teams prior to the game's outcome. It's the only way. But did you know there's a company that handles redirecting the losing team's swag to those in need?

So, what do you and I do to be good environmental citizens?


It may seem obvious that repurposing unwanted tradeshow giveaways is the first step in dealing with your overflow swag. It’s a great idea. Many companies continue to use these branded giveaways as a sales and marketing tools, some even use the extra swag as a smooth customer service move.

Nothing says “we’re sorry” like a hat with your company logo on it or “Thank you for being an awesome customer. Here is a swag bag full of goodies.” People do like free stuff, after all.


One option that the PROMOrx team is fully behind: recycling. With the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans, we are strongly for recycling anything and everything that can be recycled. If your tradeshow giveaways no longer have value for your company’s marketing goals, don’t just throw them in the trash.

Find useful ways to recycle the custom swag via your local recycling center. There are even organizations that will recycle extra t-shirts you have (among other articles of clothing - ahem!). Check out the details at Marine Layer.


You purchase cool tradeshow giveaways as part of a larger marketing plan. Behind every promotional swag item there is usually a sales goal in mind. You want your brand to be seen and, more importantly, remembered. Why not consider keeping your custom logo around a little longer by donating surplus tradeshow giveaways to those in need?

It ensures the swag gets used, keeping it out of the landfill. It also shows your company is a  company that cares, and your brand will be remembered - not only for cool swag, but also for the generosity of the donation.  

Here are a few awesome ideas for donating leftover tradeshow swag:

      1. Partner with Local Schools: Schools are a big recipient of donated swag. Think about all those pens, pencils, post-it notes, USB drives, backpacks, and more that teachers often have to pay for out of their own pockets.

      Wouldn’t it be great to alleviate the financial burden by donating all those extra pens from last year’s tradeshow? Plus, journals and notebooks are often used for employee onboarding or as booth giveaways, and both make fabulous donations to schools.

          PROMOrx owner, Vickie MacFadden, recently donated  journal samples to a Tampa, Florida, inner city school. The teachers gave each student a journal as well as sharpies and stickers so the kids could make the journals their own. It was a small donation worthy of big praise, from both the teachers and students alike. Look at how precious these thank you notes she received are! 

            2. Partner with Local Shelters and Food Banks: There is at least one company at every trade show who has a reusable tote bag included as part of their giveaways. It’s company swag that makes sense on many levels, including being earth-aware, and giving trade show attendees a place to store all their swag.

              Well, just as people are using these totes to put their pens and notepads in, why not fill your surplus bags with water, food, soap, small bottles of shampoo (hotel toiletries would work here too!), socks, gloves, and other necessities for the homeless. In fact, a company did just this at SXSW several years ago, setting the stage for several companies to donate their unwanted swag to a local homeless shelter. 

                3. Partner with a Local Reading Program: While you may not see a ton of books used as tradeshow giveaways, there are a lot of companies who use books as client thank you's or as part of their employee swag. There are a lot of reasons to consider branded books as part of your company swag, but again, what happens when you have too many books or when a new book comes out that you want to use instead?

                  Book donations are accepted readily by reading programs across the country, and help with adult literacy programs, prisoner re-entry, and of course, children’s reading development. It’s a win-win and ensures your swag goes to a good cause: education.   


                  There are so many non-profits out there that could use the excess tradeshow giveaways, so we encourage you to consider researching which one is best for you and reaching out to them. It may also be wise to research organizations that align with your brand, which will make the connection with marketing and giving all that more powerful.

                  It’s a great way to get your company involved with the community, and who knows where that could lead!

                  If that doesn’t work, think about reusing the custom swag for your business needs or recycling the tradeshow giveaways. There’s always a good way to get rid of your no longer needed swag!