A 24-hours-a-day operation churns out 200,000 square feet of graphics.
Three weeks. Eight high-profile football games. More than 200,000 square feet of graphics.
Working 24/7 and surviving on pizza, the team at OAI visual branding agency tackled obstacle after obstacle as the 2015-16 college bowl game season flew by in the form of 100-foot banners. The out-of-home and event graphics provider churned out signage for eight events across the state of Florida from December 19 to January 2: The AutoNation Cure Bowl, Miami Beach Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, Capital One Orange Bowl, American Family Skills Challenge, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Outback Bowl, and Under Armour All-America high school championship.
Four of the games were held at the same venue, the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando, Florida, and three of these took place within five days of one another. That meant installers were working at breakneck speed to tear down the previous event signage and install up to 40,000 square feet of graphics, regardless of the time of day or the weather conditions.
The AutoNation Cure Bowl was the first event held in Orlando on December 19. Luckily, frantic teardown wasn’t an element here, but Crystal Richardson, project manager, says the bigger challenge was late-coming artwork, as sponsors were finalized at the last minute and the game’s participants were announced with less than two weeks’ notice. But the OAI art department managed this chaos by making templates where clients could simply plug in their artwork and send files straight back.
“We find that it’s easier and more streamlined,” says Brittany Zeccardi, project manager, about using this system. “And typically there’s less room for error.” Prepress operations were wrapped up in one day, and the production of 30,251 square feet of interior and exterior graphics began.
For the Cure Bowl, OAI covered the field walls, scoreboards, tunnels, and the stadium’s exterior in signage. All printed on the company’s Vutek UltraVu 5330, materials included Agfa 13-ounce vinyl, 8-ounce coated Ultraflex UltraMesh Plus banner material with 37-percent airflow, and 7-ounce PVC-coated Ultraflex Speaker Mesh with 70-percent airflow. The latter hung around the stadium’s exterior and was reinforced with extra vinyl at the corners and grommetted every 24 inches for added security.
Printing alone took five full days, and that was just the beginning. “Some of the pieces are over 100 feet long,” says Richardson. “To fold those, quality control those, hem and get finishings on them – it takes multiple people out in production to be able to lift it and maneuver it around. It’s also a huge installation challenge with the size.” A team of six battled windy conditions over a weeklong period of installation.
OAI also provided detachable, fabric mesh sponsor logos for the stadium’s field goal nets – a new offering and growing trend, says Marissa Howe, marketing manager. To ensure the graphic would withstand any number of field goal kicks throughout the game, OAI sent test samples to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to practice with for more than a month.
“It’s a great sponsor space,” says Richardson, adding that the Bucs want to order more to serve as a target spot for their kicking team.
Howe also notes their clients’ growing awareness of social media. “Every field wall you look at now will have social tags on it,” she says. “Before it was mainly just sponsors, but now you can tell that the bowl games are really making sure to make awareness of their own brand and drive traffic with the hashtags and promotions.”
Next up for OAI is client management software where customers can view proofs, send approvals, and monitor job status. Already anticipating another hectic football season, the company hopes to have the system in place before the end of the year. “It’ll be great for the bowl games,” says Richardson. “Their stuff is going fast and it needs to be seen and approved quickly.”
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