When two sports teams come head-to-head for a big game, fans often want to celebrate their team with a championship t-shirt. Cue: If-win printing - the scenario of preparing for two different designs, but only printing for the winner. It can be a great opportunity for printers looking for additional sales, but it definitely has its challenges. Mitch Heiman has done many if-win printing orders in his time, spanning everything from college play-offs to the World Series. He’s here to tell us all about the unconventional process and offer some insight for decorators looking to learn more about it.
If-win printing sounds incredibly exciting but also rather complicated. Could you tell us more about what those kinds of jobs are like?}
Yes. With hot market / if-win scenarios, you start by getting all the pieces. You need to have a good understanding of the expectation of when you'll start printing and when the product must ship. Then you will need to know when you’ll have the design(s) so you'll can dial them in with pre-production samples. Once you have the designs you can determine what equipment and machines you have to facilitate the if-win. You will also need a good grasp of the garments, knowing if they will be provided or if you will procure them, and when you'll receive them. Finally, you need to know if value-added services like folding, bagging, ticketing or special labeling are required, and again, what will be provided with respect to special tickets/stickers. Once you have all the information, you can determine your capacity for the event.
How do you get ready for these events on the shop floor?
It's all about staging. Once we have an idea of those particulars, on the day of the game, we're going to set the art in the presses, with 50% of one team and 50% the other team. We’ll confirm the win with the production team and make sure everything gets started. By doing this, you can start with at least 50% of the machines as soon as the game is over. You tear out the art of the losing team, replace them with the winning team’s design(s) and go! It's the same thing with garments: oftentimes, there's going to be a neutral color and different team colors, so your garments should be staged and ready to print. It's all about preparation so you can hit the ground running.
I imagine that can be stressful! What would you say is the most important step of preparation to help relieve the pressure?
With if-win printing, it's all about how fast you can get product to market. The further out you get from the event, the more the business slows down. Saying that, I think it’s important that you really understand what your capabilities are. You don't want to promise a certain number of shirts to be picked up or shipped out in the morning and not get them done. When you over-promise you get into stressful territory for everyone.
Do you ever do your own evaluation on one team vs. the other to better prepare for the win?
Yes, it's about asking, “if the team wins, what's the market opportunity.” For instance, if the Patriots win a Super Bowl, the opportunity can be less, because they've won so many. If you have an underdog up against The Patriots and that team wins, you may want to have additional garments, because there can be a lot of excitement for a new champion. Another example is the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. We starting bringing in garments in Cubs team color early in the post season games, because if Chicago won the World Series we knew the demand would be tremendous, considering the market and the last time they won a World Series, which was 1908.
What would you say are the highlights of doing if-win printing?
It's a great way to boost your sales. If-win printing is business you can plan for (these events happen every year) and you can capture additional sales if you can turn the product quickly. Managing your hot market business with your day-to-day operations can be tricky, but if you do it right, it's a great opportunity.