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The Politics of Licensing

As election season winds down, the want for candidate merchandise is ramping up.

Suffice to say; the 2020 election season has been… interesting. Weeks – or months – ahead of Election Day, people have been showing support for their candidate of choice via branded merchandise.

There is no shortage of presidential merchandise. President Donald J. Trump’s e-commerce site has been up and running since his first election run in 2016. On the other side of the aisle, President-elect Joe Biden recently launched a shop section on his website which offers vast branded merchandise for both himself and vice president-elect Kamala Harris. Items on the site include apparel, signs, pins, water flasks and pet accessories. 

But what if you want to show your support your way? Direct-to-Consumer websites like Redbubble have been the place for thousands of people inspired by the political and pop culture zeitgeist to create their own tee (or hat).

“The election was a hotbed of strong opinions and specific feelings about the candidate going back to the primaries,” says Eric Morse, senior vice president, content partnerships and general manager, global licensing, Redbubble. “I think everybody had their particular way they wanted to express that. Just wearing a logo shirt from a campaign may not have filled that need. We saw tremendous increases in search for various candidates and the various themes. It is about timeliness.”

Suppose a candidate’s response during the presidential debates inspired a person. (Think of moments like “Will you shut up, man?!” or “I’m speaking.”) In that case, they could go to a site like Redbubble to create their unique merchandise with a political slant. 

“There’s been an increase in searches, obviously as the sort of election night became election week,” says Morse. “We have seen increases in searches, and then with the media outlets calling the election [last week], all of that begins to spike interest. We anticipate happening over the next few months is there’s going to be media moments that both candidates or both politicians will make over the next few months, and you’ll see merch get created there for those moments.”

In our political landscape for 2020, there were a couple of standouts on Redbubble’s platform. 

 “Ruth Bader Ginsberg was our number one search for a while,” says Morse. “That’s a significant number of people looking for merchandise and then same thing with Amy Coney Barrett. We’re a global platform. When there’s news overseas, that also is contending with what’s happening in our searches. If you’re number one, you’re number one for a sustained period. That’s a lot, and that doesn’t even include users coming to us through a Google Search platform or one of our ads on social media. So, the volume is pretty significant from our perspective. We strongly believe that we want to be a platform for those folks to express their unique sense of the political statement."

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