Barack Obama's supporters craved a piece of the Obama brand, and for that, the campaign made them pay in all sorts of ingenious ways. Want an Obama blue T shirt with the "O" logo? All yours in return for just three things: your money, your contact information and, ultimately, your vote.
The money, of course, subsidized all those TV ads and the largest staff in political history. By selling branded water bottles, cuff links, tote bags and baby onesies, along with buttons, hats and stickers, at events and on the Internet, the campaign earned a considerable profit that it counted as contributions. It took a page from the way sports teams market their brands and players. Even more valuable than the revenue were the data; merchandising became an organizing tool when customers were required to supply their contact details before they bought. That information enabled the campaign to stay in touch with potential voters by e-mail, telephone and direct mail. Beyond that, it was used to solicit more contributions, organize volunteers, keep supporters informed about the latest campaign news and, above all, make sure they turned out to vote.