You read that right. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville raised just shy of $1 million for an anti-bullying nonprofit through sales of a screenprinted t-shirt. The tee was based on the homemade design of a Florida 4th grader who was a Tennessee fan and wanted to show his support at his school’s college colors day. While he didn’t have any Tennessee gear, he made a hand drawn “UT” sign and attached it to an orange t-shirt. When he arrived at school, excited to show off his tee, some kids made fun of him and his teacher noted it in a Facebook post. The post went viral and once the University of Tennessee caught wind of it they stepped up big time. The VolShop turned the boys homemade design into the print for the official Tennessee t-shirt that was sold to benefit STOMP Out Bullying, and the University offered the boy a scholarship for when he comes of college age. Beyond the feel-good factor and other important lessons, the story demonstrates the ability of thoughtfully conceived branded merchandise/promotional products to raise money to support worthy causes and to create solidarity, support and powerful emotional connections with target audiences.

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