Spiritware is merchandise which has been emblazoned with the logo and/or colors of an organization such as a sports team or educational institution. The idea is that by purchasing such goods, people are expressing solidarity with the organization, or “showing spirit,” in the terms of pep rallies. Spiritware is a big industry, and many organizations generate a great deal of profit by selling spiritware and by licensing production of items with their branding.
Essentially, spiritware can consist of anything which could be printed with a logo or branded colors, from shot glasses to t-shirts. Most organizations which make spiritware sell a wide variety of items of clothing with their branding, from underwear to jackets, along with things like pennants, mouse pads, flags, tablecloths, binders and so forth. These items are typically fairly cheap to produce, allowing for a markup which will still keep prices reasonable.
The right to produce spiritware is controlled by the parent organization, as logos and distinctive colors are usually protected by copyright law. Organizations can choose to contract companies to make spiritware, or to license out the right to produce certain items to other countries. Knock-offs and other attempts to capitalize on a popular brand can meet with legal threats from zealous organizations which want to protect their image and profits; for example, some universities will not allow alcohol glasses to be branded with their logos.
College spiritware is often sold on campus, either in the bookstore or in a separate spirit store. Students may purchase spiritware to fit in on campus or to send home to their families, while other people buy such products to express affiliation with the school, whether or not this affiliation is genuine. Colleges with successful sports teams also tend to produce a range of branded sports merchandise for people to bring to games or show off around town, from giant foam fingers to bumper stickers.
Sports teams also benefit from spiritware sales, selling goods at stadiums and through licensed dealers. Many sports fans like to express solidarity with their teams by wearing their colors or sporting their mascots and logos, and sometimes they will pay a premium for such products, especially on game nights.
In some regions, activists have raised concern about the ethical issues surrounding spiritware, especially at liberal colleges and universities. Some people would prefer to see spiritware made with ethical labor sources, rather than low-cost garments which may have been made with the use of child labor or other unscrupulous tactics. In response, some companies have come out with ethical spiritware lines, with an accompanying increased price tag to match.