There is something so… quintessentially American about the romanticization of medieval European life – and especially medieval fantasy life. With intensely popular media like Lord of the Rings, The Elder Scrolls game series, Game of Thrones, and Dungeons & Dragons, we can’t seem to get enough!
Maybe it’s because, as an established country, we’re not that old? Outside of indigenous burial mounds and locations like Mesa Verda that history erases in favor of European colonialism, America isn’t that old. The oldest buildings are from the 1600s, while European structures are far, far older.
Or maybe it’s just because swords and dragons are cool.
Whatever the case, Americans love medieval life, and it’s not just visible through our media consumption. You can also see our obsession illustrated in Rennaisance faires across the country, the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), the Excalibur Hotel in Vegas, and our favorite example: Medieval Times right here in Dallas!
In case you don’t know what this absolute trip of an experience is, it’s a highly unhistorical and completely inaccurate medieval tournament and feast. But it’s AMAZING.
As you enter the arena, you are seated in a specific color-coded section. The reason for this will be explained to you later. A server then brings you tomato soup with bread to start, both plated with heavy metal tableware made to look like it was crafted by a blacksmith – with the Medieval Times logo etched on the side of course (see where I’m going with this?).
The queen is announced, her knight-led procession begins, and there’s some witty banter as they introduce each knight who will be competing in the tournament. This is when you discover your allegiance is tied to the section where you are sitting. If you are in the blue section, your champion is the blue knight! Once this proclamation is made, spectators are given these wonderful paper crowns decorated to represent your knight. There’s a hawk demonstration, horses that prance around to fanciful music, and then begins the main event – the joust.
Jousting typically begins with a formalized sequence of events. Once the knights are announced, they will make their way to their horses. Meanwhile, your server has reappeared with a roasted half chicken and potato, corn on the cob, and some form of dessert. Once again, the plating involves heavy metal tableware sans cutlery – presumably because eating with your hands seems medieval even though cutlery did in fact exist in The Middle Ages. But given that they host lots of birthday parties, giving knives to a bunch of six-year-olds is probably ill-advised. (It’s also well known that medieval Europe didn’t have corn, potatoes, or tomatoes until they were brought over from the Americas until the late 1400-1500s, but that’s me being a nitpicky history nerd.)
Also, everything is branded!
From the plates and paper crowns to the flags they give the VIP guests. When you walk in, they take your photo with your group, and you can purchase your photo printed on a crisp – and of course branded – photo memento. Plus, they have a gift shop, which is where the promo products really shine.
The gift shop is filled with your classic branded items like shirts, pennants, and shields to cheer on your knight, light-up swords, and magnets. They also have trinkets like resin and pewter fairies and dragons in statues and cups. They have plush unicorns – and if you’re over 18, you can even buy medieval weaponry!
We all know promotional products work – a shirt or a hat is essentially a walking billboard. But promo items are also about memories and winning repeat business. A kid who brings home a banner, a stuffed dragon, and a paper crown from a birthday party might want to have their own birthday party at that same venue – especially if they sleep with that stuffed dragon every night.
Or, a kid buys a dragon statue – they will keep that memento and remember the excellent time they had ripping into historically inaccurate garlic bread while cheering on their knight in a jousting tournament every time they look at it.
The point here is that some items don’t even have to be branded in order to create a core memory for someone. In fact – SAGE has a ton of products that don’t require decoration in our database. Take, for example, the Aidan Dragon from Artistic Toys. He’d be awesome with a logoed bandana, but he’s super cute on his own, too! (They actually had these little guys at Medieval Times, and they’re absolutely precious.)
So the next time you’re looking for products to present to your customers, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be big and bold – the idea and execution behind the promo matters too.
For more ideas and industry deep dives you can check them out here!
Banner image credit to MedievalTimes.com