Believe it or not, I was in a college sorority. I was a Delta Zeta, and some of my fondest memories came from that chapter in my life. As luck would have it, Delta Zeta was founded 121 years ago this week in October 1902 – what better way to celebrate that anniversary than to take a trip down memory lane and give you a quick look at the promo world of sororities and fraternities!
What does promo have to do with Greek organizations, you ask? Well, for starters, I’ve got so many t-shirts tucked away in my closet that I could make three or four t-shirt quilts and I refuse to get rid of them because of the memories they hold. Not to mention my paddle, ornaments, rain jacket, lavalier, and most importantly, my pin!
Now, let me break down some numbers for you.
If you attended a college or university, you’re probably familiar with the fraternities and sororities from your own alma mater, but even I didn’t realize how many people participate in those organizations each year. Here are some numbers from just three of the largest Greek umbrella councils nationally:
According to the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the world’s largest trade association specifically charged with advancing the sorority experience, there are 26 women-only inter/national member organizations with chapters across the U.S. and Canada. NPC also supports a national network of collegiate and alumnae Panhellenic associations. The most recent annual survey of NPC sororities from 2021 reports just under 6 million women initiated into supported member organizations, with 368k undergraduate members, and 137k new members.
The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) is a trade association representing 57 inter/national men’s fraternities. NIC member organizations also represent fraternities founded for leadership and business interests, faith-based, multicultural, historically black, and new or emerging fraternities throughout the U.S. and Canada. As of 2021, the NIC reports affiliation with 4,000 chapters on over 800 campuses including over 350k undergraduate members.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), the coordinating body of nine member historically African American Greek letter organizations, promotes the well-being of its affiliate fraternities and sororities, facilitates the establishment and development of local councils of the NPHC, and provides leadership training for its constituents. The nine organizations comprise nearly 4 million members including undergraduate, new members, and alumni.
That’s a lot of promo!
So, you can see how massive the Greek market is, but what else do you need to know?
First things first…
Licensing – All Greek organizations (letters, names, crests, etc.) are trademarked, and you must have an official license to create/sell Greek merchandise. Read everything you need to know about Greek licensing here.
Recruitment rules – Each national council has specific recruitment rules that must be followed, in addition to the code of ethics/code of conduct of the college or university. Here are a few examples of the types of restrictions you might need to navigate as a promotional products distributor (these can vary by school/organization):
- Greek organizations cannot give out specific sorority or fraternity merchandise to prospective members. All merchandise given to prospective members must only promote membership in general, not a particular organization.
- Gifts or favors cannot be given promoting a specific sorority or fraternity during recruitment.
- Decorations must be kept to a minimum or confined to the interior space used for recruitment.
- New members and pledged members for specific organizations cannot be given separate apparel.
Audience –When it comes to Greek life, your audience isn’t just fraternity or sorority members!
- Potential members – this is where you will need to ask about any special recruitment rules.
- Parents, grandparents, siblings, and pets – How many ‘Delta Zeta Mom’ bumper stickers have you seen? What about a Delta Zeta doggie hoodie?? The possibilities are endless.
- Campus and local community – Support from the campus and local community is a great way for businesses to promote their services as well as the positive experience of sorority or fraternity life. This can look like co-branded signs, banners, calendars, and more.
And finally, you’ve seen the shirts, caps, and keychains, but what other promo items can you pitch to your local sorority or fraternity? Take a look at these trendy ideas to get your creative juices flowing.