10 Creative Summer Event Themes and Swag Ideas

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Planning a summertime corporate or social event? Here are 10 creative summer event themes and sensational swag giveaway ideas to make your event even more engaging and memorable.

Summer is the fun season, right? Even now that we are adulting with those 9-5 jobs year-round, just thinking about summer conjures up reminders of the giddiness we felt as kids looking forward to three months of no school. And not only that, summer still beckons with more fun outdoor activities—swimming, carnivals, sports, vacations, camping, and plenty of backyard get-togethers—making it the perfect theme for any event.

As you consider unique special event ideas with a summer theme for a corporate or social gathering, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

1. Event objectives

Is there something beyond fun that you want to facilitate? You might have a whole list of objectives for a corporate event.

2. Attendee expectations

What event theme ideas and swag would attendees most enjoy based on their lifestyles and expectations? What sort of activities would appeal to them and support your objective(s)?

3. Venue

Does weather in your area allow you to entertain outdoor summer party ideas? How will the summer theme party decorations look in your venue and how much will it cost to make the decor impactful and still stay within your budget. (Lighting can have a huge impact without a huge investment.)

4. Summer swag ideas

Delight your attendees and keep the party going with summer themed promotional items they will actually use and appreciate. Summer promo items you can use for swag come in all price ranges to fit every budget. Just remember that an investment here is an investment in goodwill.

Types of Events

Corporate Events

Any of the following summer party themes for adults can be adapted for your company picnic or an associate team-building event. Of course, team-building events include activities that require attendees to work or play together, so you will want to stock up on competition-worthy summer party gifts to reward the winning team members. Nothing like cool gifts to heat up participation levels.

Social Events

Whether you’re planning a get-together for friends, a reunion, or a thank-you party for a group of non-profit volunteers, it’s important to specify whether or not children are to be included and plan accordingly. Including children basically requires more menu and swag considerations plus extra safety precautions when it comes to decorations and activities.

Summer Swag Pointers

Keep the good-time vibes of your event going long after the party with carefully selected summer party gifts attendees will use all season long. In addition to choosing fun gifts for summer, opt for those that are also long-lasting and practical, and if the budget allows, customized. Details like this delight recipients and make them feel appreciated.

Investing a little more in your gifts for summer events makes it more likely the items will bolster the event esprit de corps for some time to come. This is especially important for summer corporate gifts. Show employees you really care by choosing high-quality gifts you know they’ll appreciate. Cheap theme-related trinkets might look cute, but they are much more likely to get trashed or end up gathering dust in some forgotten corner.

Summer Party Themes That Sizzle!

1. Pantone® Colors of the Year

Anything goes here and it’s a perfect theme for anyone in the fashion, graphic design, furnishings or packaging industry. Pantone actually announced two colors of the year for 2021—Illuminating (yellow) 13-0647 and Ultimate Gray 17-5104. In keeping with a summery theme, you can go crazy with yellow for your decorations as well as for your food and beverages! It’s pretty easy to create giant Pantone color chips for decorations. You can even give a nod to past year’s colors like Classic Blue, Living Coral and Ultra Violet. And, of course, you’ll want to color-coordinate your swag, too:

  • Custom Pantone Cap with Gray Imprint
  • White Tee with Pantone & Gray Imprint
  • Custom Pantone Towel
  • Custom Pantone or Gray Sports Bottle

2. Summer Olympics 

Hopefully, the COVID pandemic will have waned enough for Tokyo to go ahead this summer with the Olympic games that were cancelled in 2020. If so, everyone will be delirious with Olympic fever, right? If the games are cancelled again, we’ll be disappointed and desperately in need of something Olympic. Either way, this is the perfect summer event theme if your attendees are athletic and you want to get them moving and interacting.Think team building and networking. Some “olympic” contests to consider:

  • Relay race
  • Tug of war
  • Long jump
  • Volleyball tourney
  • Basketball dunk
  • Sack race

Decorate with colorful pennant banners, sports equipment, olympic rings, and flags. A red, white and blue balloon arch makes a nice entry or photo op. You could even find podium photos of past Olympics stars and make giant posters to include in your decor. And don’t forget to provide sports drinks and protein bars for the “athletes” along with your catering of choice.Oversize medals or sports-related summer promo items would be in order to recognize competition winners. Athletic summer swag is also in order here:

  • Custom Tank Top
  • Custom Nalgene Bottle
  • Custom Sweatband
  • Custom Sweat Towel
  • Custom Athletic Socks

3. Glow For It

Haven’t we all loved glow-in-the-dark items since our very first glow stick as a kid? The hottest trend in nighttime event lighting currently is large inflatable, lighted arches and spheres that have the soft light of those mesmerizing glow sticks. It’s an easy way to add a huge (literally) impact and define your outdoor space(s), as you impart an other-worldly, magical feeling. Perfect for wedding receptions or dance parties.

Glow-in-the-dark gifts tend to be more of the trinket variety, but you can make that work by filling a super cool tote bag with a bunch of those goodies. Another idea would be anything that lights up the night, including:

  • Custom T-Shirt printed with neon colors
  • Custom Glow Bracelets
  • Custom Glow Glasses
  • Custom Jar Candles

4. Summer (Re)cycling Party

This is another great event for networking and team building. Your party activity can be a group act of community service like picking up trash at the park or volunteering at a food pantry. Or you can break into teams to do a  random acts of kindness scavenger hunt activity.

Upcycle items to create statement-making decor that reminds everyone to reduce, reuse and recycle. For instance, pennant banners can be made from recycled newspapers and magazines. For table decorations put recycled paper flowers into recycled cans; candles into glass jars. You get the idea. Sustainable gifts are the best swag for this kind of event.

  • Custom Baggu Reusable Bag 
  • Custom Stainless Steel Insulated Water Bottle
  • Custom T-Shirt
  • Custom Cotton Cinch Backpack

5. Beach Bash BBQ

It’s summer so naturally you want to party outdoors if you can. Planning to party at the beach, by the lake, or by the pool? Then this is the theme for you. Fire up the grill and let the guests choose burgers, brats, brisket or ribs with all the fixings. Decorate with surfboards, bright beach towels, beach balls and such. Put up volleyball nets for some friendly competition, and have plenty of beach balls available for tossing around. Summer gift ideas for a memorable beach bash are best when customized and include:

  • Custom Beach Ball
  • Custom Tank Top
  • Custom Slide Sandals
  • Custom Summer Cap
  • Custom Sunglasses
  • Custom Beach Towel

6. Outdoor Movie Night

Drive-in movies were a hallmark of summer nights back in the day. Well, warm summer nights are still perfect watching a movie outdoors with friends or colleagues, either lounging on the lawn or in and around the pool! No need to pin up a bedsheet for a screen anymore—you can rent a high-tech outdoor screen and projector affordably these days. A retro snack bar decorated with strings of lights and movie memorabilia is the perfect way to serve up drive-in movie fare for your guests—corny dogs, popcorn, candy, sodas and other libations. But, hey, this is your party and you might want to choose a whole different direction for your menu. Maybe you go for a fried chicken picnic menu or just desserts and snacks. Your choice of movie can drive your menu, decorations, and swag for the event. Movie-themed swag ideas for a happy ending include:

  • Custom Blanket 
  • Custom Popcorn bowl (filled with treats)
  • Custom Printed Movie Tickets
  • Custom  item that relates to your movie

7. Campfire Karaoke

Nothing builds camaraderie like mangling popular songs together! And, admit it, the word campfire instantly made your mouth water for the gooey deliciousness of toasted s’mores! So, once you rent the karaoke equipment, why not go ahead and rent several fire pits so everyone can make s’mores to their hearts’ content?  (Be sure to check these fire pit safety tips.) You can create a themed playlist if you want, and appoint a deejay to, um, coordinate the performers. Allow plenty of room for impromptu choreography too! Decorate with camp lanterns, tents, bandanas, and plaid or cast-iron anything. Send them home with:

  • Custom S’mores Kit
  • Custom Lightweight Hoodie
  • Custom Camping Style Mug
  • Custom Camp Blanket

8. Dessert Island 

Here’s a different take on the usual luau—a dessert party in a tropical “deserted island” setting. This could be a relaxing after-some-event-elsewhere affair with tropical, fruity desserts and drinks. Tiki hut thatched grass, tropical foliage and flowers, plus pineapples, coconuts and shells create an exotic island feel. For fun you can add some Wilson-esque volleyball “friends” ala the Tom Hanks film Cast Away! If your venue is outdoors, fire pits and tiki lights will add drama, but make sure it’s the fun kind of drama by adhering to fire safety precautions. Island-inspired swag could include:

  • Custom Tank top (Hawaiian-inspired)
  • Custom Mini Surfboards (to decorate)
  • Custom Duffel Bag
  • Custom Jars of Tropical Candy

9. Street Fair Fling 

Bring on the food trucks and rent some carnival-type games for a festive outdoor event. Turns out that food truck catering can be significantly less costly than traditional catering. As to the menu, you’ll need to find out what’s available in your area. Some trucks provide an entire meal and there are others that provide only desserts and coffee. You will want to have more than one truck for more options and for larger gatherings, especially if the meal is the central activity (like a company picnic) and if everyone is going to eat at the same time. 

For a street fair vibe, you can string lighted paper lanterns overhead, add bistro chairs and tables and lots of balloons for starters. If carnival game rentals aren’t an option in your area, there are plenty of DIY carnival games that are easy to make. Street style swag is what you need to remind them of this special fling all summer long:

  • Custom T-Shirt
  • Custom Baseball Cap
  • Custom Baggu Reusable Tote
  • Custom Insulated Water Bottle

10. Boardwalk Blast

This boardwalk is all about board games. The idea is to have a selection of board games chosen to facilitate the attendees interaction. If you’re a Monopoly lover, you naturally just thought of the most expensive property in the game—Boardwalk. Obviously, we did too. 

For a summery boardwalk decor, think Atlantic City or Santa Monica Pier. Indoors or out, you can rent umbrella tables, add strings of overhead lights plus some seaside decorations and you’re set. You could also add some oversize Monopoly game decorations to play up the game part of the theme. If you need ideas for games, check out this list of the 12 best games for an adult game night. A stash of cool summer-themed gifts to reward game winners will add to the fun and general mayhem. Swag with a laid-back summer vibe might include:

  • Custom Beachy Striped Shirt
  • Custom Bucket Hat
  • Custom Fanny Pack (they’re back!)
  • Custom Tumbler with Straw

Finally, it’s your turn.

These event and swag ideas are just a start. Gathering intel on which ideas would be best for the group you plan to entertain at your event is super important. And once you’ve settled on your summer event theme, you can let your creativity go wild so that every detail of your event delights the attendees and makes them feel appreciated.  

And when it comes to summer party gifts—whether you are looking for company picnic giveaways or pool party gift bag ideas—Gemnote has top-notch customizable swag to fit every budget.

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