SONIC State Swag: How Promotions Go Viral


In late March, beloved fast food chain SONIC partnered with Detroit-based sign painter Kelly Golden to release a new merch collection called Local SONIC Swag that’s got a little something for everyone (or everyone who lives in one of the 46 U.S. states where SONIC operates!). The tees have been a hit with fans of the burger chain and generated hundreds of social media posts on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and more.

A video spot from SONIC showing off the new tees.

You don’t have to be a seasoned promotional products whiz kid to know that it takes more than a fantastic product to have a successful promotion. So, what makes this clever promotion so popular?


Instagram post with the #MySONICSwag hashtag from user @alegriajimeniz.

Good promos invite people to connect and engage with your brand, and that’s just what these tees from SONIC do. With a custom-designed tee for every one of the 46 U.S. states where SONIC serves customers, this promotion offers fans a unique way to connect with the brand on a personal level. By combining local pride with fun designs and classic SONIC drive-in imagery, these tees invite patrons to show off their home state and their favorite fast food restaurant with a unique and quirky fashion statement.


Just a few of the 46 unique tees available at

What makes these tees so unique is the carefully considered individual designs for each state. From Alabama to Wyoming, these tees combine the things that make each state special with SONIC menu items to create whimsical graphics. The classic, vintage-style sign painting art of Kelly Golden fits perfectly with the 1950’s nostalgia of a drive-in restaurant like SONIC.

The Tennessee tee features a country-music playing raccoon whose drum set is a tater tot and onion ring, a clear homage to Nashville’s rich country music history. There’s a cowboy riding rodeo-style on a chili cheese coney for Texas, another classic SONIC menu item. Rhode Island gets its quintessential clam with a cute peppermint in place of a pearl, a wink to the state’s culinary and economic icon, and to the sweet post-meal treat that comes with every meal ordered at the drive-in snack stop. And that’s just a few of them! Every single SONIC State Swag tee has clever reminders of each state’s specialties mashed together with tasty treats, all wrapped up in cohesive designs that are fun to wear.

Social Media Push

When you add your favorite tee to your cart on, there’s a note to share your state swag look on social media with #MySONICSwag, and this is included in their own social media posts about the shirts as well. Social media is a crucial component of every successful promotion, and this one is no different. Flipping through the hashtag on Instagram will greet you with cute family and couples’ photos set to the background of the iconic yellow and red drive-in, but that’s not the only social media success this campaign has had.

Viral TikTok from @nixswede on the SONIC state tees.

For many people (teens especially!), the news of this cute promotion broke on popular social media app TikTok in a viral video with over 1.1 million views from user @nixswede. In this video, @nixswede shares her favorite SONIC state tees, which no doubt inspired plenty of people to check out the tees and order their own. The success of her first video inspired @nixswede to make a whole series rating all of the SONIC state tees, each to the tune of 15 to 115 thousand views and likes a-plenty.

Giving Back

Screenshot from featuring info on their give-back program.

Not only are the SONIC tees adorable and a great way to flaunt some state pride, but they also give back to a good cause. For this promotion, SONIC is giving $1 from every t-shirt sale to help fight childhood hunger through the SONIC Foundation. The SONIC Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit division of the Inspire Brand Foundation and works to spark brighter futures for America’s youth by supporting education, community, and the ending of childhood hunger. By partnering their promotion with a good cause, SONIC’s fans can feel good about their purchases knowing that they’re helping their communities.

Innovative promotions are multi-faceted and exciting, and that’s just what the #MySONICSwag campaign accomplishes. Depending on what state you want to rep, there are still tees available in many sizes on their site (sorry, Texas, you’re so popular that all your tees are out of stock right now). The SONIC state swag promotion is an excellent inspiration for your future campaigns!

Want to learn about other pop culture promos? Check out our writeups on Animal Crossing merch, Tiger King products, Star Wars promos, and more here on the #SAGEBlog.

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(Marketing Coordinator)

Caitlin is a Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. When she's not writing, she enjoys baking and spending time with her beagle puppy, Piper.

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