Updated Mar 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Sneakers and Bibles: What's behind Trump's growing merch trove

Former President Trump introduces a new line of signature shoes at Sneaker Con on Feb. 17 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former President Trump is promoting the sales of $59.99 Bibles, $399 sneakers and $99 "Victory47" cologne.

Why it matters: The presumptive GOP presidential nominee is facing a cash crunch as he stacks up legal fees and as his campaign finances lag well behind President Biden's.

  • "It seems like Trump is most concerned right now about non-campaign expenses," UCLA communications professor Tim Groeling said.
  • "So raising money that can be used for those is pretty urgent," he added.

Between the lines: The money garnered from sneaker and Bible sales will not go toward Trump's presidential campaign, according to the websites where they're sold.

  • While the merchandise uses his name, likeness and image through a paid license, they are not distributed or sold by Trump, The Trump Organization "or any of their respective affiliates or principals."

Yes, but he is indeed getting royalties from the Bible sales, a person familiar with the business arrangement told The New York Times.

State of play: The Trump campaign is doing what others have done, "but at a more extreme level," Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig told Axios.

  • "The particular things that are being sold are new — bibles — but the idea of merch has been central to campaigns since Howard Dean," Lawrence Lessig, professor at Harvard Law School, told Axios.

Zoom in: This week, Trump encouraged supporters to purchase the "God Bless the USA Bible," which draws inspiration from country singer Lee Greenwood's patriotic anthem "God Bless the USA."

  • Trump's high-top sneakers, called "The Never Surrender High-Top Sneaker," sold out hours after their launch last month.
  • They debuted alongside a $99 bottle of "Victory47" perfume and cologne.

Zoom out: Groeling called it a way "to monetize intensely-committed fans."

  • "Candidate-branded merchandise has a long history in the U.S., but they served more of a communicative function," he said, like yard signs, hats and bumper stickers.
  • Campaigns, however, would often give such items away for free advertising.

Go deeper: Trump's Bibles and the evolution of his messianic message

Go deeper