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Swag the deck: Ferry system markets itself with souvenirs

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By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer
  • The "Seas the Day" T-shirt is a popular item.

    MAC Arts + Design

    The "Seas the Day" T-shirt is a popular item.

  • T-shirts, caps, mugs, lapel pins and water bottles are some of the ferry souvenirs available.

    MAC Arts + Design

    T-shirts, caps, mugs, lapel pins and water bottles are some of the ferry souvenirs available.

  • A mug commemorates the 60 years of state ferry service.

    MAC Arts + Design

    A mug commemorates the 60 years of state ferry service.

If you're feeling pretty chipper, if you like the water and like riding the ferries, a "Seas the Day" T-shirt might be just for you.
The shirt, which has a stylized drawing of a state ferry, is one of several items of "ferry gear" now available online, on several ferry boats and at a couple of terminals.
You also can celebrate the 60th birthday of the state ferry system with a commemorative mug, or you can show your love of ferry boats with a hat, water bottle or lapel pin. Another shirt has drawings of the vessels in the ferry system's fleet on the back.
You can even get a spice rub created by famous Seattle chef Tom Douglas, with the state ferry logo on the can.
It's part of a larger effort by the ferry system to diversify income by increasing visibility, said Marta Coursey, a spokeswoman for the ferry system.
The ferry system, like much of the rest of society, has fallen on difficult times financially and is looking for creative ways to raise money. Fares cover only about 70 percent of the Washington State Ferries operating costs, system chief David Moseley has said, and other state sources of revenue are dwindling.
"We want to do whatever we can to raise the profile of the ferry system," Coursey said.
Ferry officials began working with Trans4Media, a Seattle marketing firm, in 2007 to sell advertising space on the ferries, in on-board videos and online.
So far, the state has grossed more than $2 million from the ventures, she said.
The ferry gear has been in the idea hopper for several years, Coursey said.
The ferries are a ubiquitous symbol of the Puget Sound area, and people who ride the boats, especially tourists, have been asking for something along the lines of ferry gear, she said.
"They want something they can take back and show that they rode a ferry," Coursey said.
It took the ferry system's 60th anniversary this year to finally make it happen. Trans4Media was looking for ways to market the milestone.
The company works with a graphic design firm, Tip Top Creative, and members of both companies discussed the details of how to design, make, market and sell the ferry gear, said Jayne Russell, director of administration and business development for Trans4Media.
The state Department of Transportation came up with three different versions of a 60th anniversary logo, and ferry employees were given the chance to choose the final version with a vote, Coursey said.
The mugs with the "Celebrate 60!" logo, which includes a stylized ferry and a semi-circle of stars overhead, is the top seller since the gear became available in early October, Coursey said.
Next in volume are the lapel pins, the water bottle and the "Seas the Day" T-shirts. Prices range from $7 for the spice rub to $20 for the T-shirts.
"It's doing really well for being pretty new," Coursey said.
The spice rub became part of the mix because Tip Top Creative does marketing for Tom Douglas, Russell said.
The ferry system put up nothing for the initial investment -- it was all done by Trans4Media, Coursey said.
According to the agreement between the two, Trans4Media will get the profits until it has recouped its investment, then the proceeds will be shared. That point is still a few months away, Russell said.
Other plans are in the works, such as publishing a magazine with stories highlighting communities served by the ferries, Coursey said. It's expected to be distributed aboard vessels beginning in early 2012.
The ferry system also plans to hold events around the Sound to market the gear, Coursey said.
"Every single time somebody wears a T-shirt, or a hat, or buys a mug, that's a promotional opportunity we've never had before, on a scale we've never had before," Coursey said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439;
Get your ferry gear
Ferry gear is available online at http://; aboard vessels on the Mukilteo-Clinton, Port Townsend-Coupeville, Seattle-Bainbridge and Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth routes; at Colman Dock in Seattle; and at a gift shop at the terminal in Anacortes.

Story tags » Ferries

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