The Big Business of Boat Graphics
Like a fish to water, shops have taken to producing output for the waves.
Boat graphics have probably been around in some form since the very first canoe or raft hit the water. It likely all began with charcoal and finger painting with natural pigments, followed down the graphics evolutionary path by paint, and then pin stripes. Cut digital graphics came next, providing the capability to add even more color to watercraft.
Today, boat wraps have hit the scene, and are rapidly becoming big business for print providers. One reason for their popularity: More and more pro fishermen are wrapping their boats, and fishing fans are seeing these boats live and in televised events such as the FLW Wal-Mart Walleye Championship Tour and the BassMaster Elite Series pro-fishing circuit. In fact, for the latter event, rules passed last year stipulate that a sponsor boat wrap is a requirement to participate in the Series"?transforming a simple bass fishing boat into a traveling, floating billboard and generating millions of advertising viewing impressions in the process. Think of it as NASCAR, but with bait.
As a result, pro and non-pro fishermen, as well as other boat owners, are in the hunt to find knowledgeable print providers to design, print, and install graphics on their boats that will stand up to a watery environment.
"Installing large-format graphics for marine applications requires special considerations due to the harsh environments a boat encounters,"? says Chris Martino from Raceline Digital, which has been producing boat graphics since 1998. "UV from the sun and water, possible salt spray, docking damage, submerged material, high speeds, and more are what the vinyl films must be able to withstand."?
Julie King of Craftsmen, who has also been in the boat graphics business for several years, explains some of the benefits of boat wrapping: "Technology has allowed the products to advance to a level that wrapping a boat is much more economical than traditional painting of a boat. The applications can be changed out with little change or damage to the gel coat (the boat"?s outer skin)."?
But not just anyone can decide on a whim to wrap a boat. "Special care is needed during the actual installation of the boat wrap, starting with proper preparation of the boat"?s gel coat"?removing all dirt and contaminates, then sealing all high-impact areas such as those around the water line,"? says Tim Compise, president of All about Signs and AZ Specialty Stripes, and a boat-wrap connoisseur for the past 4 years.
We"?ve tracked down several shops who have dared to slip on their waders and take on boat graphics"?the cut variety as well as boat wraps"?and showcase them here, complete with details on some of their latest "catches."?
Producing From a Small Location
While Arco Signs & Decals out of Stuttgart, AR, isn"?t located in the largest metropolis (last population count was somewhere around 10,000), the company helped put the town on the map when it entered the boat-graphics business in January of this year. Arco"?s first boat-wrap customer was Ken Cook"?a top-30 money winner on the pro bass tour. The company ventured into boat wraps when a fishing friend of one of Arco"?s regular customers saw the company truck and challenged Arco to professionally wrap a boat.
Since then, Arco Signs & Decals has dived head first into producing boat wraps. The wrap shown here is a boat the company completed for Stephen Browning, a top-10 finisher in the ESPN Bassmaster Pro tournament, and a local Arkansas native.
To produce Browning"?s wrap, the company used its Mimaki JV3-75 solvent inkjet to image onto 175 sq ft of Oracal 3951 Professional Wrapping Cast Inkjet Media. Printing in 4-pass mode, the job took 4 hours to output. Arco then put the finishing touches on the job with Oracal Oraguard 2-mil cast PVC film using a Daige Quickmount III laminator. The install took three people 2 days because of carry-over edge finishing and sealing.
"We print slightly larger than the area on the boat and run one panel above and below the rub rail and piece the stern above the rail,"? says Bill Bracewell, Arco Signs & Decals owner.
The company has been in business for 13 years, has three employees, and uses 2000 sq ft of space for production. Besides boat graphics, Arco produces law-enforcement markings and has corporate and international clients in the agricultural and aviation industries.
ARCO SIGNS & DECALS
Shore Sign, a family-owned graphics producer based in Chester, MD, produces its boat graphics with a Roland VersaCamm and Roland Eco-Sol Max inks. Originally a sign shop, the company entered the boat-graphics business in 2003 and its first go-around at boat graphics was for a private boat owner. "The job started out as just a boat name, but the customer wanted more and added more until we decided to print it,"? says Shore"?s Mac Davis.
The graphics seen here were also produced for a private boat owner, using the shop"?s Roland VersaCamm with Oracal Orajet 3951 Professional Wrapping Cast Inkjet Media; they were then laminated with Oraguard 290 2-mil PVC overlaminate. The job took 20 minutes to print and 10 minutes to finish thanks to the company"?s employees who hand laminate. "Laminators are hard to learn and with employee turnover in our field, it makes more sense to do it by hand,"? elaborates Davis.
Two installers (instead of one) took 30 minutes to install the graphics thanks to a windy Maryland day. "To apply graphics to boats, you must be able to concentrate for long periods of time,"? says Davis. "The last thing you want to do is make a trip back to the shop because you"?re not thinking."?
Shore Sign has been in business for 28 years and has nine employees and 3500 sq ft. Its customers range from first-time business owners and CEOs of large corporations to the private sector.
Establishing New Territory
"Craftsmen"?s first experience with a full boat wrap was several years ago,"? says Craftsmen"?s Julie King. "One of the specialty companies that we do projects for needed a boat wrapped for promotional needs. The projects seemed to grow from there."?
The project seen here was executed for racing boat driver Tyler Kratochwill. He had purchased the Champ boat used; it was covered with faded yellow paint and was in bad need of a new paint job. But since Kratochwill did not yet have a boat sponsor, he didn"?t want to spend the money it would take for new paint. Instead, he brought the boat to Craftsmen and had King and company design a boat wrap that included his name and number, which would be easy to remove when he did get a sponsor.
The graphics were printed using Craftsmen"?s Vutek UltraVu 2360 and Avery MPI 1005 Cast Vinyl with DOL 1000 Cast Vinyl Gloss Overlaminate. The company"?s in-house design team did the creative and layout for the graphics. Design time was 4 hours, and print time was 3 hours.
"Due to the complex dimensions within this particular project, our original thought was to print spot graphics utilizing an edge seal. However, when we remeasured the boat once it was delivered, the choice then changed. Instead, we printed the design in a full-wrap format and sectioned it into panels. Each panel was specific to the angle in which it was going to be applied to the boat. Because the boat had varied measurements and angles, the number of panels changed several times. Each panel consisted of a 48-in. width and 97-in. length in order to compensate for the contour application,"? explains King.
Total application time: 18 hours. King says that Craftsmen has an entire team of applicators that specialize in working with different applications and materials.
In business for 25 years, Craftsmen Industries specializes in vehicle graphics for cars, trucks, tractor trailers, specialty vehicles, and boats. The company occupies 200,000 sq ft of space, has 200 employees, and has been producing boat wraps for several years.
Graphics for "?the Harshest of Conditions"?
The Color Place, based in Dallas, TX, has been wrapping boats for the past 3 to 4 years, says Reagan Jobe, director of business development and marketing for the company. The Color Place"?s first boat-wrap customer was a professional bass boat fisherman who, upon discovering The Color Place did vehicle wraps, then inquired if the company could apply the same kind of graphics to his boat.
The graphics here were produced for professional angler Edwin Evers. The 243 sq ft of graphics were executed using the company"?s Scitex XLjet (now rebadged HP Scitex XL1500) 3-m solvent printer, HP Scitex XL300 Supreme Ink, and 3M IJ 180C-10 White Controltac vinyl with Comply. The Color Place then added a 3M Scotchcal 8519 Lustre overlaminate with its Seal Image 6000 Ultra to protect the graphics.
"All of our installers have special training to deal with the difficult contours of the boats, ensuring that the graphics will stay on during the harshest of conditions,"? says Jobe.
Printing time took 35 minutes; finishing took 30 minutes. The Color Place also did the installation, taking 1 day and two installers.
In business for 34 years, The Color Place occupies 40,000 sq ft of space and employs 70 full-time people. It owns and operates Scitex XLjets (both 3- and 5-m) and Mimaki JV-160s, and also produces cut vinyl.
THE COLOR PLACE
Row Boat Graphics
Graphic designer Mandie Cox got together with her fellow Evesham Rowing Club members in Evesham, England, and decided the best way to help their club (which is run as a non-profit organization) earn money for new equipment was to stretch the rules of logo sponsorship on rowing boats to include the space on the bottom of the boat below water level.
"It may seem daft to put artwork on the bottom of the boat, but a rowing boat spends a large portion of its life upside down on a rack, or being transported to events on a trailer"?so this is perfect advertising for sponsors,"? says Cox.
The club contacted Supersine Duramark in Suffolk, England, to print the boat wrap"?the company"?s first"?although it specializes in vehicle graphics of all sorts.
Supersine printed the wrap for the first 13-m (42.65-ft) boat in October 2004, and has since done another for the club. The company used its 3M Scotchprint Printer 2000 with the 3M Matched Ink Component System to image onto 1300 x 132 cm (511.8 x 51.96 in.) of 3M Scotchcal Premium Quality Vinyl Film and added a 3M Luster Overlaminate. Because of the boat"?s size, printing was completed in four sections of 1320 mm (51.96 in.) Installation was done by England-based United Signs and took two installers 6 to 7 hours.
Supersine Duramark came onto the transportation-graphics scene in 1995 when Supersine"?a self-adhesive vinyl company"? merged with Duramark"?a graphics conversion company.
The 5300-sq m (57,048-sq ft) facility employs 165 staff members and accommodates a Scitex Pressjet, Scitex Turbojet (now rebadged HP Scitex TJ), and Mimaki JV3-160SP as well as the 3M Scotchprint Printer 2000. The location also holds a range of other small digital equipment and full screen-printing lines including hot air and UV-cured.
Official Fishing Graphic Sponsor
A newcomer to the boat wrapping scene, JaxWraps completed its first boat wrap in February of this year. The Jacksonville, FL-based company acquired the job from Don Workman, a local angler for the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA). His wrapped boat ended up placing third in that particular tournament"?the Pro Event for the SKA"?and drew a lot of attention to JaxWraps from the media and other fishermen.
"Sometimes word of mouth can do so much for a business,"? says Rebecca Humbard, JaxWraps"? PR coordinator.
Since then, JaxWraps has become the Official Graphic Sponsor of the Southern Kingfish Association"?being present at different SKA tours and presenting free boat wraps as prizes to tour winners as well as advising fishermen on how to take care of their boat wraps.
A recent wrap completed by JaxWraps was done for Women"?s Bassmaster Tour angler Janet Parker, who approached the company to do the wrap when she was offered a new endorsement deal with Aaron"?s Sales and Lease Ownership out of Atlanta.
Layout for the graphics was provided by Aaron"?s. JaxWraps took the design and produced it using the company"?s Vutek UltraVu 3360EC grand-format printer with ColorBurst RIP and Triangle inks, printing onto 140 ft of 3M Controltac vinyl. The company then added a 3M Luster Overlaminate using its Seal 62 Pro laminator.
JaxWraps has been in business for more than 11 years and occupies an 11,000-sq ft facility in Jacksonville, FL. It has 24 employees and specializes in the graphic design and implementation of wrapped vehicles. The company owns a Vutek UltraVu 3360EC and a Mimaki JV3-160SP, along with its Seal 62 Pro laminator.
All About Wraps
While All About Signs in Phoenix, AZ, can print banners, fleet graphics, and P-O-P signage among a multitude of other graphics applications, the company has considered its specialty to be boat graphics for the last 4 years. It has even gone to the lengths of trademarking its boat graphics product: LiquidWraps.
This recent wrap, produced for California-based pro fisherman Mike Forslund, was produced in two pieces"?one piece per side. The company used its Roland Soljet Pro II SC-540 printer/cutter with Roland Eco-Sol Max inks to image onto 2225 sq ft of 3M IJ-180 Controltac Plus Graphic Film. All About Signs then added a 3M 8519 Lustre Overlaminate using its Royal Sovereign RSC-1650C laminating equipment. Printing took approximately 3 to 4 hours.
Installation was done by the All About Signs"? in-house sister 3M-certified installer company, AZ Specialty Stripes, requiring two installers. "One of the biggest and most important elements in installing boat wraps is the water. You have to make sure that the boat wrap is installed correctly to avoid the wrap being damaged or worse"?even torn off while the boat is in operation at speeds exceeding 70 mph,"? says Tim Compise, president and owner of All About Signs and AZ Specialty Stripes.
All About Signs occupies 4850 sq ft of space and employs five individuals who work for both the printing company and the installation company. The company gets most of its boat-wrap work from bass fishing-boat manufacturers such as Triton and Ranger.
ALL ABOUT SIGNS
Raceline Digital produced its first boat graphics back in 1998, when a customer saw an ad for the company in Soundings magazine"?and called for graphics to be installed on his 31-ft Scarab. This company uses its two 30-in. wide SummaCut D760 vinyl cutters to produce cut-vinyl graphics to decorate the boats that come into its facility.
"We can cut just about any type of marine-rated vinyl film"?from opaque to metallic and more,"? says Raceline"?s graphic designer Chris Martino.
The boat graphics seen here were produced for a private boat owner who had a plain white hull and wanted to add some color. "While he was on his way to a boating event, he stopped in at our shop and left the boat with us for a day to do the installation before heading to the event,"? says Martino.
Martino and crew used more than 150 sq ft of 24-in. Avery Dennison marine-rated vinyl film for "durability, long life span, and deep gloss color,"? says Martino. Once the vinyl was cut using the SummaCut D760 (approximately 20 minutes), it was hand weeded for masked application. Installation took four Raceline Digital employees 2 hours per side and 2 hours for the deck.
Raceline, which opened in January 1996, operates inside a "compact, but efficient 1600-sq ft studio,"? and employs a team of six. The team includes two operations personnel who oversee the preparation of the graphics and run the vinyl cutters, two production assistants who weed and mask the graphics, a company administrator, and the graphic designer (who is also the owner).
The company"?s customers are primarily powerboat owners, but also include race teams, boat builders/dealers, and owners of radio-controlled boats, Poker-Run boats, Sea-Doo personal water crafts, and tow vehicles.
Boating by the Numbers
Does it make sense for your shop to consider boat graphics as a market niche? How popular can boat graphics possibly get?
Many factors will enter into these answers, but consider the following numbers from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (www.nmna.org):
"? The number of boats on the water in the US grew to 18 million in 2005, a net gain of 340,000 from the previous year. In fact, the number of boats in use has grown steadily over the past 8 years, and is up 11% since 1997.
"? More than 864,000 new boats were sold in 2005, down less than 1% from 2004.
"? Average price of a new outboard boat, motor, and trailer package
in 2005 was $25,347.
"? More than 40% of new boat sales in 2005 took place in the second quarter, followed by 31% in the third quarter. May, June, and July are the most active months for boat sales.
"? Five states accounted for more than one-third of total expenditures for new boat sales: Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Washington. The Great Lakes Region boasts the largest number of boat registrations: 3.4 million (representing 27% of all registered boats in the US).
"? Three out of four current boat owners have an average household income of less than $100,000.