Clear Defendable Territory
How to brand the perfect charity vest

With the season of marathons, half marathons and cycle challenges upon us – every street, path, lane and track is populated with sweaty, flushed, breathless people training for their own personal challenge. Sponsored sporting events are some of the biggest fundraising activities for causes in the country and entry is only possible through the charity gateway.

The prize for most people is not the winning but the taking part, and the desire to do something good for a cause they believe in, and the charity vest becomes the biggest shout out to their personal cause and community. For charities, these events and the vests worn by their supporters are a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and inspire even more support in the future.

But what makes a great charity vest?

We at The Clearing have been lucky enough to work with many wonderful charities – and their sports apparel is often one of the most important signatures of their brand.

Here’s our top 4 things to consider when designing the perfect charity vest.

1. Stand out boldly

A mass participation charity sporting event is one of the most competitive environments for any charity brand. How do you get seen in the colourful melee? Using bold shapes and colours, and keeping your vest design simple is a start.

For Leonard Cheshire we designed a vest using brightly coloured bold shapes - reflecting their tight knit community from the logo - as a highly visible and distinctive design. And for Barnardo’s we used a bright green background with the distinctive shapes - drawn by children representing how they feel – as a bold pattern. Both vests are easily recognisable and stand out in a crowd.

2. Make people look good and feel proud

If you’re competing in a large event – you want to look the part. Not many of us boast the physiques of Mo Farah, Liz McColgan or Bradley Wiggins but we’ll want to look and feel our most athletic. It may be a one-off event – but it shouldn’t be a one-off item of clothing. If a vest is made well and looks good – it can go on building awareness long after the event as it continues to be chosen as the favoured exercise kit.

When designing it’s important to remember that this is sport apparel first, so choose graphic shapes and a design that adds a sense of movement and energy. Use contrasting or neutral colours on the edges and shoulders of the garment - they’ll frame the design details and add some sophistication and flare.

Our pink polka dot design for Breast Cancer Now’s cycle jersey reappropriated the Tour de France’s famous King of the Mountains polka dot and was a great hit with cycle mad men – a new audience for what was a woman’s charity.

3. Find a way to communicate the cause

Don’t just resort to putting a logo on a vest, consider how you can use it to tell more of the charity’s story through a bold and emotive statement or strapline. And if you can link it back to the event then it’s even better. There’s never a better time to garner the support of a mass audience who are inspired by (and in awe of) the sporting feats of the runners or cyclists – so use it to your advantage.

The new Barnardo’s vest we designed uses the line ‘Changing Childhoods One Step at a Time’ – neatly capturing the vision for the charity and connecting it to the sporting event. And for the marathon materials we developed for disability charity Leonard Cheshire we used the social hashtag ‘#actuallyIcan’ to link the cause to the activity in an inspiring and motivating way.

4. Encourage people to personalise

And finally - I’m told there’s nothing better than hearing your name shouted as encouragement at mile 17, so leaving space for participants to apply their name and their competitor number on the front of a vest is an absolute must.

This means your design needs to fit around the spaces left on a vest and be bold enough that it can still stand out alongside any home decoration!