Using the Shock Value of School Shootings to Sell Clothes, Solicit Donations

Sandy Hook Promise school shooting video

Sandy Hook Promise school shooting video

By Jeff McMillan and Mae Anderson – Associated Press

In a breezy back-to-school video spot, angelic children describe their beloved new headphones, sneakers, skateboard. Soon, though, a disturbing reality dawns on the viewer: Those cherished new belongings are merely tools to foil a school shooter stalking the children.

And in a fashion show last week, the fashion brand Bstroy offered a sort of back-to-school vision of its own, with models showing off hoodies emblazoned with the names of four schools touched by mass shootings, rent by what appeared to be bullet holes.


Both used shock value to make a point about gun violence — and both are dealing with different levels of reaction, some positive and, in the case of the fashion show, a lot of it negative.

“They knew exactly what they were doing in both cases and purposefully wanted to provoke it,” said Paul Argenti, a communication professor at Dartmouth College.

The backlash to the hoodies — which carried the words Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas, Columbine and Virginia Tech, sites of some of the deadliest school shootings — was swift and unforgiving after the fashion photos were posted last week on Instagram.

Sandy Hook Promise, the nonprofit that is led by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and that released the “Back-to-School Essentials” campaign ad Wednesday, was particularly vocal.

“The fact that a designer would seek to profit by glamorizing the school violence that killed our children, Dylan and Daniel, and the deaths of so many more, is repugnant and deeply upsetting,” said Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, managing directors of Sandy Hook Promise, in a news release.

“Nicole still has the bullet-ridden shirt Dylan was wearing the day he died,” Aimee Thunberg, spokesperson for Sandy Hook Promise, said in an email. “It is sacred, and for someone to pretend to create something like it — for their own bank balance — is indecent.”

Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, who died in the Parkland shooting, tweeted : “Under what scenario could somebody think this was a good idea? This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”

But as in most fashion shows, there was no intention to make the hoodies available for retail sale, said Bstroy co-founder Dieter Grams.

Moreover, he said, he sees commonalities between the Sandy Hook ad and what he described as his own company’s artistic attempt to bring attention to gun violence and honor its victims.

Sandy Hook Promise school shooting video

Sandy Hook Promise

“I thought it was really well done,” Grams said of the Sandy Hook ad. “I’m in support of it, and I think anyone who supports that video should see what we were trying to do with our art.”

In 1994, Benetton caused an outcry with an ad showing the blood-soaked uniform of a Croat soldier killed in Bosnia, Argenti recalled. Urban Outfitters in 2014 sold a seemingly bloodstained Kent State University sweatshirt; it later pulled the item and apologized.

Argenti advised creators to “have some common sense even if you want to be disruptive” and not choose examples that are too sensitive.

He said he found the Sandy Hook ad troubling for that reason, saying he wouldn’t want his child to see it.

“It starts out so lighthearted and then you get sucked in,” Argenti said. The Sandy Hook ad is unlikely to stop any violence in schools, he said, “just freak out kids in school.”

It is also worth questioning whether a lavishly produced video spot was the best way to deliver Sandy Hook Promise’s message, said Pace University marketing professor Larry Chiagouris, pointing out the nonprofit sells clothing, too.


“That gets right back to entire aura of nonprofit marketing: What is the most efficient way to make a change in the world?” he said.

Sandy Hook Promise’s tweet of the ad leads to a website where users can make donations. Thunberg draws a distinction between its financial motives and Bstroy’s, saying her group seeks to prevent violence by empowering children — not increase awareness of a clothing line in an oversaturated market.

“That is exploitation and serves no good to anyone except Bstroy,” Thunberg said. “Profiting from the tragedy of others is not acceptable.”

Some experts agreed. Robert Passikoff, president of the New York-based customer research firm Brand Keys, said the difference is in execution. The Sandy Hook commercial was well executed and emotionally engaging, he said, while the hoodies make a blunter point.

“One was done so well and has people crying at the end,” he said, “The other one was, well, OK, I got your point. One did it with a scalpel and one did it with an AK-47.”

Grams, of Bstroy, said he has gotten positive feedback, including from people touched by the shootings at the schools named on the hoodies.

One Parkland student whose brother died asked for a hoodie, he said. And a person from Newtown, where 20 children and six educators died at Sandy Hook Elementary, suggested casting models from the area for Bstroy’s next show.

Grams declined to divulge the identities of those who reached out, saying he did not want to violate their privacy.

Had Bstroy expected such publicity, Grams said, he might have reached out beforehand to relatives of shooting victims. But because a fashion show presents ideas that aren’t going to be circulated for a long time, he said, “in our mind, we had six months to reach out.”

“We make very niche art shows; we had no idea this was going to be publicized the way it was,” Grams said. “We had no idea we were going to get this kind of attention.”


  1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    Before long the Leftards will be doing their version of Jerry Lewis old MD telethon.

  2. avatar Casey says:

    This reads to me more like Sandy Hook Promise is upset that they got upstaged on what they consider to be THEIR sacred cash-cow.

  3. avatar Rick the Bear says:


  4. avatar Ironhead says:

    Wow that is disturbing.

  5. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Never let a good tragedy go to waste…guaranteed that peoples pockets are getting filled…

  6. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Goebbels would be proud.

    1. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

      Glad they have not found their Paul Joseph Goebbels (yet). If and when they do, we are doomed. Keep throwing Beta at us, please.

  7. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Gadsden Flag, I’ve read your comments elsewhere and I do BELIEVE you are right!!!!!

  8. avatar LifeSavor says:

    It does not always bring out the best in us.
    It’s not tidy, it’s not always kind, it can be a muss.
    Its excesses get corrected; the market’s a thresher.
    Be efficient, effective, have product that’s wanted; no pressure.
    These hoodies are nothing but a flash;
    Selling notoriety for the gullible’s piles of cash.
    They’ll be gone in a streak;
    Their future is bleak;
    The market will quickly thresh their ash.

  9. avatar Chuck says:

    Disturbing still, I was approached by a young couple with school age children and asked, simply because they’ve both been to the range as my guests, which ballistic backpacks they should purchase for their “tween” girls. I was flabbergasted, needless to say, and took the time to explain that this really is “Scare Tactic Marketing,” and how disgusted I was by it. They listened because quite frankly, the girls have a higher risk crossing the street from the bus stop than they do of experiencing a school shooting. They listened because they were once Anti-gun, until I took the time to introduce them to the sport as well as personal protection/home protection aspect and the personal responsibility most gun owners have. Sure, if it gives you a sense of being proactive, buy body armor. But look at the realities of taking that path. School shootings aren’t a daily occurence. Statistically, in spite of the recent shootings, it’s still a rare event. Most commercial paneled back packs aren’t up to the task. If you really feel you need to go that route, buy a NIJ certified Level IV plate to throw in Junior’s Backpack. Anything less may not be up to the task, but I guarantee, your little darling is going to ditch it ASAP simply because of the weight. You’re better off teaching your child to talk to you or another responsible adult if they’ve a schoolmate acting/talking in a concerning manner. If we can intervene before escalation, it’ll do more to prevent future occurences than all the Knee Jerk Legislation that’s been passed. Laws prevent nothing!

    1. avatar LifeSavor says:

      You gave good guidance. The expense, the weight, the limited coverage, the ineffectiveness; all reasons products like this will fail.

    2. avatar Texican says:

      If that family can afford it and wants to make the purchase why isn’t it a wise choice? More protection is better and good soft armor is getting cheaper and lighter. The best option is to remove children from the public leftist indoctrination centers and home school them. They’ll get a better education and won’t have to worry or prepare for a school shooting. I’ve never heard of a home school getting shot up. Plus all the staff can arm up and maybe even some of the students!

      1. avatar LifeSavor says:

        Agree on the homeschooling. We did it K-12. Kid turned out OK. Doing well in college.

  10. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    It’s amazing just how quickly (exponentially) this topic is sifting the American populace to one side or the other in recent years. Guns, abortion, taxes, government size…there’s really no more middle ground on issues. People are increasingly identifying with one camp or the other. This is a precursor (think the 1850s) of a spark that will ignite a larger conflict.

    This video from Sandy Hook Promise is an excellent example of how the Right sees a horrific crime and blames the person who perpetrated it, while the Left completely ignores the criminal and sees the gun.

    1. avatar LifeSavor says:

      The firearms industry needs better marketing. Not sure how, not my area of expertise.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        I think we need to start going on the offensive with public marketing that shows lawful gun owners as bulwarks against such crime. The Sutherland Springs, TX incident is an excellent example that the media will recognize. at least as a conversation starter.

        1. avatar LifeSavor says:

          Agree!! And….we also need marketing that shows how much fun shooting can be and invites people to visit their local gun ranges to learn and train. We all know it is not just about defense and hunting. Fun-building, skill-building, character-building, discipline-building, ethics-building. And fun! We are a lot more fun than those grumpy gun-grabbers and what we do is more fun!

  11. avatar Children Live who R Protected with Guns! says:

    In a country who allows open borders & illegals 2 kill people & vote without penalty & turned free they want to make it impossible 4 good citizens who built the country to protect their lives!

    Sounds like tyrants!

    Let u r Congress Person & Trump know!

  12. avatar Children Live who R Protected with Guns! says:

    Here is my Compromise & should be yours too!

    NO NFA,NO FFL,NO NICS,NO 4473,NO 1968,All guns ship to ur house or tyrants tried 4 treason!! This is the 2nd Amendment! Erase ALL gun laws!

    Back when Machine Guns were in the Sears Catalog & shipped 2 ur house there was hardly any crime!

    1. avatar Gordon in MO says:

      مشکل شما این است که شما هنوز هم در نوجوانی خود را.

    2. avatar پسر رودری says:

      چه فاک

  13. avatar Retired Chief says:

    The liberal “media” is really trying to sway the “low information/no information” sheepeople voter, those that ONLY get their news from CNN, MSNBC, ABC and other fake news “media”. This particular video from the Sandy Hook group is just disgusting and I’ve never heard of this Bstory company

  14. avatar Philip Twiss says:

    Really, are these idiots going to jail when the next mass shooter is caught wearing their fashion trend?

    In regards to protecting your children from the next mass shooter, I’m sure there’s rules and laws against kids with body armor plates in their backpacks, because you know its for the kids…

  15. avatar Gp2 says:

    Like when the media photoshops fake measles baby pictures and gets caught? As it’s business as usual? No questions asked?

    1. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

      Pg(two) = PgII = Gp2

      Same troll, different socks.

      1. avatar FlyingFish says:

        I say TTAG needs an antiTroll vaccine

  16. avatar datahut says:

    Well ok, disgusting. But I still want one to hide my concealed carry.

  17. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Just like the capitalism of the crack dealer, you can’t be judgemental about this. Libertarian philosophy.

    “In 1994, Benetton caused an outcry with an ad showing the blood-soaked uniform of a Croat soldier killed in Bosnia”

    When the Democrats are dropping bombs in an undeclared war, its ok. If its a Republican bomb, then it’s a war crime.

    1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      If it’s about holocaust art or selling images of the holocaust. Or reproductions for sale. The jews will complain and the sales will be stopped. And this is not anti semitism. But it is a fact that a group of people who have “moral outrage” have forced an end to the selling of these items in the capitalist market.

    2. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

      How’s that war on drugs working out for you?

      It’s certainly done wonders for the black community.

      1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        The war on poverty was first and far worse. Because it encouraged single motherhood. Replacing the father and his guns with government $$$ and the guns of a big city police department.

        It would be much better if we could shoot drug dealers dead as well as drug users. Shoot them dead when they rob, rape and steal. The three L’s aren’t helping when they say drug use does not cause crime.Or that drug use is not harmful.

        In a free society they can do it. But you are a liar if you say its not harmful.

  18. avatar Brewski says:

    So the sheeple are mad about this but not the anti-gun complex that wants to disarm the law abiding and prohibit them from public places and dances on the corpses of mass shooting victims. Ok….

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