We call our sign company a boutique sign company. We’re small and cater to our customers with good old-fashioned customer service. I hope this article about team signage helps you grow your business with some new strategies to implement.
Identifying the teams & products
Breaking down what teams are looking for in signage, we start with exactly who is buying team signage. What we’ve noticed is it’s not always a school, as you might think. More often, it’s the booster clubs or parents.
While sports such as football, baseball, and basketball are popular and funded by the school, don’t forget the smaller sports that don’t have as many funds, such as wrestling, track and field, soccer, volleyball, and others. These sports are just as important, and some are funded by parents and/or boosters. With that in mind, finding the athletic director or the person who oversees the booster club/ parent association is a must.
What we’ve noticed is that teams are moving away from the big trophies of the past. Sure, plaques and trophies are still used, but teams are moving toward custom banners with the athlete’s face. Parents and students alike love seeing their faces in the gym on game nights or pep rallies, and what a nice gift to give the student as they graduate for a keepsake.
Also, team pennants are a great way for the school to display their team spirit. They are smaller than the regular banners and require pole pockets on the top. We had a local youth director of a church ask us to do these so they could display the various schools represented within the group. The kids loved them.
Speaking of game night or pep rallies, fatheads is another trend we’ve seen for teams. The funny fatheads we’ve done for students bring such a smile to the student and the parents. They’re easy to do for any size business and require just a good headshot, Coroplast material, wooden stick, and a sharp X-ACTO knife, if you don’t have a flatbed cutter. We’ve learned that boys love to do those crazy faces for laughs, and girls are more conscious of their appearance, such as leaving more of their hair.
Ballfield signage is always popular, especially sponsorship banners. Generally, the team coach and/or head parent will organize this. It’s a lucrative way to do many banners at once. We recently produced over 30 large 4×8 banners for a local team. As a thank-you, we donated a couple of dugout mesh banners. We added our logo with our phone number. It’s a win-win with advertising for us and much-needed shade on hot summer days for the players. The coach was appreciative, and it’s a great way for them to remember us next ball season.
Metal signage for schools is also trending. We have a school that has a phenomenal wrestling team. They started an after-school program to train kids of all ages to wrestle. To motivate the kids, they wanted their state and regional champs to be displayed in the wrestling room. This motivates the kids in training, and the champs love to see their faces permanently displayed on the wall. We started with just a few, and now every season we add more and more.
Don’t forget that large step-and-repeat (backdrop) banners are also very popular. When teams gather for team signings or banquets, this is a great photo op. We work with a local race company that puts on many races within our community. The director loves the step-and-repeats as it’s a great photo op for social media with her race name on it.
At our shop, we offer the choice for the customer to buy the hardware stand or rent it. We’ve noticed some schools like the idea of us setting it up and doing all the work. This service will pay for itself after a few times, and customers appreciate not having to worry about setup/take down.
Fabric banners are another trend we’re seeing. They’re a great way to sell team logo/graphics to your customer as they’re easy to store and transport, and you don’t have to worry about wrinkling or creasing.
One thing we started doing during Covid is yard art. We don’t advertise this a lot because it’s a full-time job in itself, but teams and schools love it, and it’s a great way to get into the school to do other things. This is a whole other article, but if you have the manpower, it’s a great way to make extra money.
Motivational wall graphics round out what teams are looking for. Positive affirmations are important for athletes. Coaches love displaying positive thoughts and words to build team/individual self-esteem.
Production methods & lessons learned
Most of the custom banners we produce are on 13-oz. material with grommets. However, we can do heavy material or pole pockets if requested. We’ve noticed that generally 13-oz. with grommets is what the customer wants, and it’s the least expensive.
Checking on where the customer will hang these banners is important. More wind may mean adding bungee cords so the banner flexes in the wind, extra grommets, or even suggesting a mesh banner for hanging. Make it as easy as you can for the customer to take the finished product directly to its destination.
Keep one thing in mind. If a customer is planning on using a banner for a long period of time, don’t be afraid to quote 18-oz. material. When you explain the reasoning, customers will appreciate the durability and longevity of a thicker banner material, even if it costs more.
For indoor material, we use a lot of Signbond aluminum composite and PVC for nicer school signs. This gives a smooth look without breaking the bank.
For custom banners, I can’t stress enough how important a good photo is. Check with the person who placed the order on what they want on the banner. Some will even send you a photo or something they’ve seen online. Listen and take good notes. Try to be original and not copy someone else’s work. Generally, most like their team’s name and/or logo, the student’s name, school, year, etc. Each is different so check with your contact.
For outdoor banners and signage, find out how long it will be displayed. Using the correct material (thickness) and adding bungees/extra grommets makes the customer’s job easier.
Use a good design app and extra apps that smooth pictures, but don’t alter the faces. The kids want to look their best without being distorted in any way. Our goal is to give the kids something they’ll treasure for a long time.
Keep in touch with the decision-maker. Once you get the initial order, mockup one proof and send it to that person. Make sure you’re on the right track. Once you get the approval of that one, then you can start working on the others. Your time is valuable, and team banners take time. Explain this to your customers and keep them in the process.
Fatheads depend largely on a good headshot. We generally make our fatheads 18″ x 24“, but they can be custom-sized smaller or larger. Offer discounts for large orders. One or two fatheads take time and should be priced accordingly. If you can do at least 10-20, it makes it more profitable for you and gives the customer a better price per unit.
Get a good X-ACTO knife and change the blade often if you don’t have a flatbed cutter, and be careful. Home Improvement stores generally have plain paint sticks that you can buy in a 10-pack. Heavy-duty double-sided tape adheres easily to the sticks to round out the process.
If the pictures you get from the customer are blurry or too small, you may have to take them yourself. We had a team recently that submitted pictures that weren’t very good. We arranged a time with the coach and came out and retook the photos. We had each student smile or make a crazy face and they turned out great. Remember these faces are magnified and some of these kids will keep these banners/ fatheads for a long time. Give them something they’ll be proud of or laugh about.
Put your name somewhere on the signage. When the parents hold up that fathead or the teacher is handing out that banner, you never know who will say, “Where did you get that?” Make it easy for your contact to give your name and number.
Post on social media. When you do team signage, make sure you show your work. Most of our customers are always looking for ideas for their schools, and it’s a great way to cross-sell. If one school is doing banners and they see fatheads, that gives them the idea to do that as well.
It sounds crazy, but just saying thank you or sending a thank you card to the school contact is so important. One parent, who oversees the booster club, made over 35 custom banners for three schools. She worked day and night getting names, checking with parents, and so forth to finalize the product and doesn’t get paid. We appreciate all the effort she makes to help the school and the students. Be appreciative to all customers; it goes a long way and creates repeat customers.
My husband came up with an amazing idea to help with fundraising if you have a school that is lacking in funds for a big project. My husband offers to donate 100 decals with the school name/logo for the students to sell for fundraising. Every time we’ve done this, the school can get their project done. They appreciate the extra effort you took and again it creates customer loyalty.
Don’t forget larger items like team tents and flags as well, which are something we’ve sold to many existing customers. Once you get your foot in the door with small items, like banners and fatheads, tents are something to suggest. You’d be surprised at how many teams love their own custom tent and/or flags.
If you have the manpower, we like to deliver team signage whenever possible. It’s a great way to thank the customer. We’ve noticed when we deliver, many times we’re asked about doing more work. Coaches, athletic directors, booster club presidents, parents, and anyone else associated with teams are busy people. Helping them get their product by delivering is an advantage over other sign companies, and again, it builds customer rapport.
My husband always says that it’s not always about the money. Hear me out on this… Helping schools, churches, and charities often leads to more work. Remember, they generally work with a limited budget, so be creative in helping them raise the extra money, and if possible, giving them a slight discount or donate signage here and there; it goes a long way.
Team signage is a lucrative business. Finding the right contacts is important. Keep in mind if you do good work, you’ll do this every year for a lot of different sports, and word of mouth and social media will get you even more work.
Custom banners, fatheads, in-school signage, and ballpark sponsorship banners are all good ways to add to your revenue. Team signage generally takes a little more work, but the rewards can be tremendous.