Promotional items in Team Fortress 2 are exclusive items made available to players through Valve's marketing partnerships with other video game companies, as well as through their own games. Players who purchase selected items from Valve or their partners, usually within a specified timeframe, will receive the item(s) advertised. If purchased during the promotional period and kept as an unsent gift, the recipient of a gifted game with an associated promotional item will receive the item regardless of whether or not the promotional period had long-since passed.
The means of obtaining promotional items vary. Typically, promotional items are awarded to players who pre-order or purchase the specified game. On other occasions, promotional items have been released to players through other means, such as earning achievements in the game itself. For example, the Earbuds were awarded to players who launched Team Fortress 2 through the Mac OS X operating system.
Promotional items released before the February 3, 2011 Patch, with the exception of those earned through gameplay, are typically no longer earnable and can only be acquired through trading or gifting. Since the introduction of the genuine quality, however, all promotional items (with the exception of the Aperture Labs Hard Hat and Resurrection Associate Pin) have been obtainable via one or more alternate methods – purchase, crafting, or item drop. Promotional items obtained via one of these non-promotional methods do not have Genuine quality.
Multiple promotional items have been glitched from their original Unique quality into Vintage quality, or even into uncraftable and untradeable quality. These items are substantial in rarity, but the processes used to obtain these rare items were mostly fixed with the introduction of the Genuine quality for most promotional items, and a few other side fixes.