A Bag Full of Tips to Build the Perfect Swag Bag for Any Occasion

Nearly every person polled by the Promotional Products Association International said they would go out of their way to grab free promotional products. Couple that with the fact that 80% of people say they keep promo items for at least a year, and it’s clear that swag has both the power to attract attention and keep it for a long time.

But if you really want to generate excitement, consider creating a curated collection of several giveaways in a swag bag.

A swag bag is a gift bag or box filled with branded promotional products, free samples, and other giveaways. Swag bags are used to engage employees, thank volunteers, delight customers, and gain awareness for a brand or product.

The perfect swag bag fits the theme of your event and is filled with goodies people are proud to own and excited to show off—making the receiver happy and gaining valuable impressions for your brand.

What to put in a swag bag

A swag bag can help you generate brand awareness, introduce products, or show appreciation. The items that go into your swag bag will depend on which of these goals you hope to achieve.

Logo swag for brand awareness

On average, ad specialties (aka logo swag or branded promotional products) deliver marketing impressions of your brand at the same or lower cost than any other form of advertising.

When you’re building a swag bag for brand awareness, the only rule is that the swag shows off your logo or message.

T-shirts, hats, and keychains are timeless classics. Personal tech accessories like portable chargers are now very popular. And quirky gifts like charm bracelets or even socks featuring your logo are common swag bag fillers.

Swag socks with the Lyft logo
Socks featuring your logo make for a fun, unexpected addition to a swag bag. Source

When building this type of bag, consider mixing the tried-and-true classics with something fun and unexpected.

Free samples to introduce products

Free samples encourage purchases through reciprocity, social pressure, and placing your product at the top of a buyer's mind.

A swag bag for this purpose will be filled with trial-sized versions of a product, coupons, or gift cards for large items or experiences that can’t be placed in a bag.

Lotions and cosmetics, as well as snack-sized food items and drinks, are common examples. But really, any product you want your followers to try will work.
swag bag contents
Free sample swag bags are the perfect way to introduce new customers to your products. Source

You can also use product samples from other companies to fill out your bag. For example, you can reach out to businesses that would like to have exposure to the people going to your event and see if they’ll offer some samples or coupons. It’s free advertising for them and free swag bag items for your attendees.

unbranded swag to show appreciation

When surveyed, millennial workers said that gifts, like prepaid cards, are highly motivational ways for their employer to show appreciation.

That’s a good clue that “thank you” swag bags don’t need to be filled with products covered in your logo. Instead, create a mix of items that include gift cards, snacks, and one or two thoughtfully produced logo items like a custom enamel pin.

That’s how Shopify thanked their employees for attending a recent training event. [Note for WizardPins: Shopify case study link].

Shopify's employee appreciation pin

Shopify thanked their employees with a swag bag that included this beautiful enamel pin.

By creating something unique for their employees, Shopify was able to thank them without being overly promotional.

When are swag bags used?

Swag bags are useful when you want to get attention, show appreciation, or make people feel like part of the team. Here are some of the most common situations where they get used.

Swag bags for events

Swag bags have become a ubiquitous sight on trade show floors, but there are several other events that are made better with the right goodie bags.

Races like 5Ks and marathons
Races often have packet pickup events where runners register and gather their race bibs. Swag bags are a great way to make these otherwise transactional occasions fun.

Since races bring many like-minded people together, they’re a perfect place for brands to share their free samples and coupons. Think food powder and energy gels, for example.

Corporate events like training sessions and team-building
Swag bags can help lighten the mood and break the ice at corporate events.

Fill the bags with tools the attendees might need for the event, like notebooks and pens for training classes.

Swag bags are a good way to add value when selling tickets to craft beer or music festivals.

Add T-shirts so people can show off their attendance and other items like beer tasting classes or lanyards to hold credentials as appropriate.

Grand openings and product launches
The promotional products in your grand opening swag bags will help make the buzz of your event last longer.

Include a collection of swag branded with the event and date, like a custom-designed challenge coin.

Virtual conferences and online trade shows
Generating a sense of connection is tough at virtual events. A swag bag can be the physical component of a shared experience during the event. [note to WizardPins: link to virtual event post].

For example, consider including wine glasses for a virtual happy hour.

Swag bags are a nice way to thank donors at a fundraiser. They can also be a way to help supporters become ambassadors for your organization.

Hand out bags with swag that attendees will wear after the event, like sweatshirts, so everyone they meet can see what your work is all about.

Swag bags for employee recognition

Eighty-one percent of people say they felt appreciated when they got a gift from their employer. Give a thoughtfully curated gift bag at key milestones of your employees’ tenure, so they’re never left wondering how much you value their work.

For instance, give a swag bag:
  • As a recruitment tool
  • To welcome new employees on board
  • To recognize years of service
  • As an award for hitting a goal
  • To celebrate retirement

What attributes should swag bag items have?

The nature of the swag in your bag will have a big impact on how people perceive your brand and how much marketing value you get.


An item’s usefulness is one of the top determining factors people consider when deciding whether to keep a promo item or throw it away.

That’s why drinkware, like a coffee tumbler or Nalgene bottle, are safe bets for many swag bags since everybody drinks some type of beverage.

Environmentally friendly

Forty-six percent of consumers have a more favorable impression of a brand if their swag item is environmentally friendly.

Consider products made from recycled materials or small swag [note to WizardPins: link to small swag post] that don’t create much waste in packaging or shipping.


Seventy-two percent of people equate the quality of swag with the quality of a brand—so make sure anything you add to a swag bag gives the impression of high quality.

For a custom logo gift, challenge coins are a great choice. They have a physical heft that doesn’t feel “cheap.”


Wearable products are the most popular type of swag, according to a survey by the PPIA.

Of course, T-shirts and baseball caps are an obvious choice. But for an even higher quality impression, consider a hooded sweatshirt or knit hat.

Lessons from famous (and infamous) swag bags

Swag bags have become an enduring part of our culture; they make frequent appearances on red carpets and in the news. You can learn a lot from the reactions to these high-profile swag bags.

The Oscar swag bag: why not to over-do your giveaways

Over the years, the Oscar swag bag has steadily increased in value and included some cringeworthy items. It’s caused both financial and public relations issues for the awards show and its attendees.

At its peak in 2016, the Oscar swag bag had a street value of $230K. But recipients had to pay up to 50% of that entire value whether they used all the products in the bag or not.

And those Oscar bags have contained some odd gifts like free hair transplants, sex toys, and a “vampire breast lift.” (?!) The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—the organization that produces the Oscar awards ceremony—has even sued the company responsible for putting the gift bags together, feeling that the giveaways might damage the Academy's reputation.

The takeaway? Keep your swag bag simple, cost-effective, and on-brand for your business.

The Crunchyroll swag bag: how a swag bag can become a pop culture craze

Crunchyroll, an anime fan website, gets a lot of free exposure from their swag bags.

You can get one version of a Crunchyroll swag bag by paying for the premium subscription to their website or an even better bag by visiting their booth at the annual Anime Expo.

The swag from a Crunchyroll swag bag spread out
The super-packed Crunchyroll swag bag from Anime Expo 2017 includes stickers, exclusive content, and figures you can’t easily find for purchase. Source

Their swag bags net a lot of attention. The term “Crunchyroll swag bag” gets 1,600 searches per month on Google. The bags are discussed on Reddit and sold on websites like eBay and Worthpoint.

To follow Crunchyroll’s lead, make sure your bag has some unique, limited-edition swag. That will encourage people to collect your promo products and talk about them online.

NCAA’s swag bag disparity: why your swag bags should be the same quality for all

The NCAA found out the hard way that you can’t offer two groups of people different classes of swag bags and not be called out for the disparity.

It happened during the 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Amidst a greater story of unequal treatment (like vastly different workout facilities and food options) for men’s and women’s teams, some media outlets noted the inequality in swag bags each received.

Screenshot of a tweet showing the disparity between the men's and women's NCAA Tournament swag bags

The NCAA saw celebrities, professional athletes, and the media (read: people with lots of followers) question the glaring disparity.

People are equal, and so should be the gifts you give. It’s a hard lesson learned by the NCAA, but an easy one to consider as you create swag bags for your different audiences.

5 themed swag bag ideas

A themed swag bag has a mix of products that all tie into a common motif like “a day at the movies” or “outdoor adventure.” With a little creativity, you can connect the theme of your bag to just about any event.

The perfect themed swag bag satisfies the desire for instant gratification and gives something to remember your brand by for a long time. So in each bag, include a snack people can eat now, useful items they can use right away, and a collector's piece they’ll keep for years to come.

Cocktail hour

A cocktail-themed swag bag is perfect for a concert watch party or cocktail hour session of an online conference. Make them fun and festive with margarita fixings, or add sophisticated flair with bourbon and Manhattan ingredients.


Coffee meeting

Most of the world drinks coffee or tea, so a hot beverage-themed swag bag is sure to be a hit. Send it out to your regular Zoom call participants, and everyone can connect over their shared coffee cups.

  • Logo coffee mug
  • Coffee/tea collection (or subscription to a coffee or tea delivery service)
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Coffee table book about coffee
  • Coffee grinder/measuring spoon
  • Chocolate truffles

Sports fun

Active outings are great networking opportunities that build comradery between attendees. Add some fun flair to your next golf, disc golf, or charity softball event with a swag bag of activity-theme goodies.


Welcome wagon

Make new employees instantly feel like part of the team by sending them a bag filled with items to set up their home office and that express your company’s culture.


The Spa Day

Everyone needs a little self-care, and you can help your employees or customers get it with a spa-day swag bag.

  • Hand/face lotions and scrubs
  • Loofa or towel
  • Mini handheld massager
  • Bath bombs
  • Charm bracelet/cufflinks
  • Slippers
  • Candles
  • Assorted macaroon cookies

Don’t forget to brand your swag bag

The items in your swag bag will delight and engage customers and employees, but don’t forget that the actual bag can be a marketing tool as well. In fact, a single branded tote bag will generate 3,300 impressions over its life.

Add your logo and message to a reusable tote that people will carry around, sharing your brand as they go.
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