Premiums - 10 Stars for 2008

Simon Clarke heads in search of the latest premium gifts that are likely to shine in the year ahead.

Each year throws up a new series of trends in the premiums marketplace. The market for environmentally-friendly premiums exploded last year, with suppliers offering everything from desk accessories and electronics made from renewable materials, to ethically sourced food and clothing. "A couple of years ago, the recycled merchandise category was still growing slowly," says BPMA director-general Gordon Glenister. "Now the range of products available is extensive. We envisage that before long every premium will have a recycled option."

The desire to be fashionable is another major driver, with high-profile clothing brands starting to enter the promotional arena. Clothing supplier Corporate Merchandise Company has just signed a deal with North Face to supply a range of winter clothing, and such arrangements will mean promotional clothing can compete ever more fiercely with the high street.

Fast-changing fashions in high-end consumer electronics means that yesterday's must-have gadget is tomorrow's has-been. Electronics supplier AV Promotions says the essential high-tech toy for 2007 was the Nintendo Wii, a quirky and interactive innovation in gaming that appealed to all generations and was so hot it flew off the shelves in the run-up to Christmas 2006 - and it's still proving to be popular.

The challenge for buyers of corporate premiums, gifts and experiences is how to keep their offerings fresh and exciting. Here is a rundown of what's likely to be big in the 10 main product sectors in 2008.

- Fashionability is a must these days in promotional clothing, and the trend has now reached workwear. The Tuffcap from the Corporate Merchandise Company aims to blend street style with workplace protection. An industry-approved ABS hard shell protects the wearer, while high-density internal foam padding adds comfort and absorbs shocks. Metal mesh eyes ensure improved airflow and cooling, while a velcro strap ensures the cap fits all sizes. The hat is made from heavy-duty cotton twill.

Supplier: Corporate Merchandise Company

Price: From £3.95

- One way to personalise a wine gift is to stick a corporate label on it. Much more impressive is to supply a fully printed bottle in corporate colours with a logo printed directly on the glass. Better still, it's a cold process print on filled bottles, allowing small runs of a case of 12 to the corporate market. All you need do is supply a Pantone reference or colour swatch, plus digital artwork or letterhead. The wine range has been specially chosen from regional producers and the company is also moving into magnums of champagne and miniatures.

Supplier: Abstract Bottles

Price: From £10 per bottle fully branded

- Even in the relentlessly innovative, seen-it-all-before world of mobile phones, the Apple iPhone has set many a tech-head's heart aflutter with its bold looks and advanced features. Not only does it act as a widescreen iPod with a 3.5-inch display, it also offers email and internet access through the Safari browser and has a two-megapixel cameraphone, as well as a multitouch user interface. Oh, and you can make phone calls with it, too. The iPhone will be made available to the promotions channel later in the year.

Supplier: AV Promotions

Price: Around £269

- The Galileo Space Pen was released at the end of last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the space race with the launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957. The premium has been designed to work in zero gravity, although other features make the pen an asset on Earth too. As well as being able to write upside down it also will work in the rain. The pen comes in its own aluminium presentation tube and can be laser-engraved.

Supplier: The Pen Warehouse

Price: £506 (minimum order 50)

- Everyone's phone might be a digital camera now, but it's not much fun looking at the pictures on a handset. This digital photoclock is a clever answer. It comes in two versions - a pocket-sized 1.5-inch screen that can display 51 snaps - or promotional product shots - in a rolling sequence at variable speed, and a desktop model with a seven-inch screen that shows five images or a video and can play MP3 music files too. Images are downloaded using a USB connection via a PC or camera.

Supplier: Firebrand Promotions

Price: £14.95 (mini); £64.99 (7-inch)

- Every year sees the release of a fresh limited edition of the Space NK Bath & Body Collection in designer packaging. The patterns and motifs of this year's collection have been inspired by Japan - with packaging designs based on traditional Japanese yakuta washcloths and kimonos. Gifts in the latest collection range from the Tub Treats assortment of eight individually wrapped bath tablets to the Luxury Collection of eau de toilette, body cream, body wash, hand wash, hand lotion, bath oil and a romantic candle.

Supplier: Space NK

Price: £12.50-£120

- Games supplier CraZee ThingZ hopes to shake up the corporate novelty market with a range of new items. They all use the same basic puzzle mechanism of eight sections that twist, turn and rotate, but the colour, branding and shape can be tailored to different promotional uses and sectors. Standard forms available are a drinks can, world globe, golf ball, tennis ball or football, but bespoke shapes can be anything from sugar cubes to batteries, or cars to human organs.

Supplier: CraZee Things

Price: £1.75 to £6.50

- Inspired by Die Hard 4.0, the latest episode in the Bruce Willis action film franchise, Red Letter Days has teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to create the Yippee Ki Yay Action Day. Participants get to learn Die Hard action skills in the form of evasive driving, weapons training, unarmed combat and cyber-terrorism code-breaking. After training, they join a SWAT team and conduct a raid on a terrorist hideout, before taking part in a helicopter rescue mission to save some handy hostages.

Supplier: Red Letter Days

Price: £250

- Fans of digital radio have been denied the pleasure of its generally much clearer reception and wider range of digital stations when they most need them - in the car. This Pure Highway Digital DAB car radio is the long-awaited answer. It is installed using an adaptor and allows you to listen to digital radio on the car's existing FM audio system. You can also connect an MP3 player to the radio allowing you to play your favourite music tracks through the car stereo.

Supplier: The Electric Incentive Company

Price: £48.50

Plastic bags have come under fire for their impact on the environment and London's councils are even pushing for a ban on them - so it makes sense to come up with eco-friendly alternatives. Jute bags look set to enjoy wider exposure this year, but sometimes you just need a simple carrier. These plastic bags made from cornstarch will biodegrade in just two weeks and like their petroleum-based counterparts have all the space you need for printed branding - with vegetable-based inks, naturally.

Supplier: Eco Incentives

Price: 8p. Minimum order: 10,000.

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