A virtual high five to James Atwood our graphic designer on getting published again! James, a definite behind the scenes guy, got to share his vast knowledge on how we at Impact Sign provide more than just sponsor signs to all the athletic teams we work with AND leverage our new printing technology to deliver some seriously creative products. Thanks to PrintingNews.com & Toni McQuilken for the great write up.
Read on down below to learn more and hey leave a comment here on our blog to show him how cool we think he is!
"There is one type of vertical that every shop, based in every town in the country, no matter the size, can go after: sports teams.
From little league games to high school programs to training camps to minor and major league teams, there is a lot of work out there surround sports teams. And the range of applications these teams require can be endless.
Nicholas Lowry, president of Brand Ink based in St. Paul, MN, noted that the opportunities can range from massive wall graphics to small garbage cans, and everything in between. That sentiment was echoed by James Atwood, the Graphic Artist at Hillsboro, OR-based Impact Sign Co., who noted that when it comes to sports teams and their stadiums, anything goes.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Atwood said. His list includes the concourse stadium, field banners, elevators, small interior directional signage, dugout tops, interior signage, sponsorship materials, boulevard-style banners that lead up to stadiums, etched glass or perforated vinyl treatments for the storefronts, and even dimensional logos for bull pens and batting cages. And the list goes on.
“Our first connection into the college market was wrapping megaphones for the sport teams,” said Lowry. “t’s always fun to work on projects for teams because it’s high visibility and great portfolio work.”
Up to Bat
But just because the work is out there, doesn’t mean it’s easy to win. Both shops noted that they have spent years building their reputation for high quality work. And that created the foundation for them to win the jobs, although they both went about it in different ways.
For Lowry, the quality of their work got them a referral. A local college had some graphic needs, and after doing research reached out directly. They took the job, and then used that connection to prove they were capable of living up to their reputation, which in turn allowed them to expand their scope of work.
Atwood noted that Impact Sign was a bit more proactive about actively chasing the work, however. “My General Manger, Dan Parsons. goes to a lot of local chamber events,” he noted. “Where he got started with the stadiums was when they were looking for someone to take care of their signage needs and the team — the Hillsboro Hops, a minor league baseball team — like to keep things local. So that put us in a good position; it set us up with a general manager of the team to tour their stadium to see their needs.”
From there, he noted, the relationship has only grown. The team were back-to-back champions of their division two years in a row, which only increased the pressure. They took an old softball stadium and in the last two years have transformed it into a professional minor league stadium. “Based on what condition that stadium was in and where they saw it going, they made decisions about the kinds of signage they would need,” he said. “And that relationship has been going strong.” It doesn’t hurt that their shop is in eyeshot of the stadium in question either, allowing them to be highly responsive to any questions, concerns or needs that might come up at any time.
On the flip side, noted Lowry, doing work for sports teams has its own challenges. One of those challenges is the timelines involved — and not just for actually producing the work. “Understanding the unique procurement requirements surrounding each organization is something you will have to achieve, and it’s better to learn on smaller projects where the capital you invest in performing the project is limited and therefore so is your risk,” he pointed out. “It may be six months or longer until you see payment if you don’t fully know the procurement process, and as long as you know that going in, that’s fine.”
“Timetable is one of the bigger challenges we face,” agreed Atwood. “We try to put ourselves in a position where we can take on rush projects and still have a comfortable amount of time to get everything done, but with them being a short season team with so many games in a short time, we usually have a month to a month-and-a-half to get their signage needs taken care of. That can be challenging to get that done along with all of our other clients’ work. We have a really sharp team to keep things in line and get it done.”
One point that both men stressed is that no shop is going to walk into any team office or stadium, no matter what type, and expect to win all of the work immediately. The best approach is to start slow, finding smaller local teams, high schools and complexes and find small things to pitch. Whether that’s wrapping a megaphone, putting a graphic on previously blank trashcans, or finding new ways to promote sponsors that the team hasn’t previously thought of, find an application that lets the shop get its foot in the door. And then prove that the quality, professionalism, and ability to both be flexible and always hit deadlines makes the shop the best choice of partners for all their print needs as contracts come up for renewal.
Know the Plays
Part of winning — and keeping — sports team and stadium work over the long term is the ability to demonstrate expertise in a wide range of applications and conditions. “Concrete wall graphics are a must in this market,” said Lowry. “We use 3M Envision series LX480 films with 8549L laminate for concrete wall graphics. The film is particularly well suited to the market because not only does it create an excellent finished graphic, you can also install it in hot or cold environments (such as hockey arenas) with ease. When you can’t control all of the factors in the environment you are installing in, having a film that accounts for that is critical to the success and profitability of the project.”
Atwood agreed, noting that while the majority of the work they’ve done for the Hillsboro Hops and other local teams is predominantly printing on traditional substrates, they have done their fair share of applications in places like sidewalks or on the tops of dugout, which have a brushed concrete texture.
Atwood also noted that just having a reputation for great work isn’t always enough either. One of the secrets to his shop’s success is building a relationship that works more like a partnership than a buyer-supplier transaction. “You have to have a good eye for graphics, and a good understanding of what the customer is looking for,” he pointed out. “We pride ourselves that we can bounce ideas between customers and us to make sure they get quality signage they were looking for.”
And the payoff can be a large one. Lowry noted that because this market can be so competitive, the margins on individual jobs can be lower than other types of work, but, “Sports teams have large scale ongoing needs that are constantly evolving. If you can put yourself the correct position to fulfill those needs, your business will benefit greatly.”
And the benefits transcend the bottom line as well. Atwood noted that every day, both locals and visitors are driving by the stadiums they have worked on, seeing the high-quality and eye-catching graphics, which translates to more referrals as their reputation continues to grow over time.
Working with teams and stadiums is a fantastic way to build a reputation in the market. People from all walks of life and all types of positions enjoy sports, and when the time comes for their business to procure new graphics, having highly visible and successful examples of what the shop can produce can only help grow the number of referrals and incoming jobs. Whether it’s working with the local little league team or winning a contract for the Super Bowl, sports graphics are a lucrative vertical no shop can afford to ignore."
Credit For The Article:
McQuilken, Toni. "Batter Up!, 1 Sep. 2016, http://www.printingnews.com/article/12239320/batter-up. Accessed 13 Sep 2016.