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Mittens With Meaning: How Bernie Sanders Used PR to Raise Over $1.8 Million for Vermont Charities


Bernie Sanders has recently taken the internet by storm with his “mitten meme.” This picture of Sanders looking grumpily ahead, arms crossed, mittens displayed, tweeted by Ashley Smalls, had over 1.1 million retweets. The kicker though is how he turned a meme of him at President Biden's Inauguration into a million-dollar profit for Vermont Charities.


The PR tactics on this were simply amazing and happened within a matter of days. After seeing that the meme was blowing up, Bernie and his team jumped at the opportunity to raise money for some charities of his choice. T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers have all been sold to the public for good cause.


With social media, and being able to share this meme in a matter of seconds, this effort to raise money has been made easier. Consumers had the opportunity to interact with the many posts of Sanders and send their feedback. With mostly positive comments, it was a no-brainer for Sander’s PR team to jump on the opportunity.


“Well, the money is going to go to organizations in the state of Vermont that serve seniors. And that is the Meals on Wheels program and some senior centers as well. It's going to go to organizations that are serving low-income people in terms of rental assistance and getting food to people who need it. And those are our community action centers. And it's also going to go, I think, to try to improve dental care in the state of Vermont for lower-income people,” said Sanders in an interview with NPR.


This is a great example of taking publicity and using it for a good cause. Bernie's mittens were made by Jen Ellis, an elementary school teacher in Vermont. After the Inauguration, she made a couple more pairs of mittens and auctioned them off. Some of these mittens sold for $4,000, and some of those proceeds also went to an organization in Vermont.


Without social media, this simply would not have been possible. Within days, Bernie's meme had blown up. The ability to click, view and share a piece in a matter of seconds is how this effort became so successful. Online shopping along with social media is how Bernie and his team were able to raise so much money for their charities. This is just one example of how memes and good publicity can turn into even better causes.


Sydney Rusche is a junior from Anderson University, majoring in Public Relations. Sydney is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.