After printing and drying, it goes to the laminate dept (shown in photo at right). '"The clear coat laminate in a very important process in the wrap," said Kip. "It protects the original finish and makes the product very durable. Laminate adds an additional ultraviolet protection along with physical protection". Once the wrap goes thru the cutting machine (shown in photo at left), it has to be hand checked for any small infractions. Plus a worker must pull all the unwanted decal from the design as shown in the photo to left. Then the design goes to the masking table.
A VISIT WITH MOTORSPORTS DESIGNS
"Who painted your truck and boat"? I hear that everywhere I go. Is it paint, or is it a Wrap? In reality, its a decal. A very big decal. Well, to be accurate, its a vinyl printed BoatWrap(R) produced by Motorsports Designs in NC. At Motorsports Designs, they know decals better than anyone else. Why? Because they were the originator to produce pressure-sensitive decals as the primary means to identify the race cars with vinyl numbers and sponsor logos in NASCAR.
What started as a business that catered to the racing industry, has become a business that has seen a growth in industry demand when it comes to professional fishing. Motorsports Designs is the sole producer of all FLW Outdoors sponsor wraps, which includes not only the FLW Tour boats, its matching Chevrolet tow vehicles, but all FLW Outdoors events; Events like the Kingfish & Redfish Tour.
Recently I paid a visit to Motorsports Designs in High Point. There I was greeted by Motorsports Designs President Kip Johnson. I've met Kip several times as he attends some of the FLW Tour events. Kip is also an avid Wolfpack fan, having graduated from NC State.
"Since 1982, we've set the standard in racing graphics by delivering a quality product with the express service demanded by this speed-driven and ever-changing industry. Part of that change has come with the growth of high profile graphics for professional anglers boats and tow trucks." said Kip.
"Each graphic is custom-created using today's highly technical methods of screen printing, digital printing, computerized die-cutting and 3M Scotchprint graphics," added Kip. "We can produce anything from a company brand logo like Eagle Claw to a bold, attention-grabbing highly complex graphic like a picture of a bass jumping out of the side of the boat".
How many wraps does Motorsports Designs supply in a typical season? "If its Nascar, or FLW, we probably made it." said Kip. While racing is responsible for about 65 percent of Motorsports Designs' business on an annual basis, the rest is accomplished through a variety of programs like commercial fleet and tournament angling. By the end of 1982, Motorsports Designs handled decals for about 20 cars. By the end of 1984, Motorsports Designs had all but one of the Cup cars under wraps.
"Our first customer was Richard Childress. We approached Childress with the idea of cutting out the letters and putting them on as a decal, and the rest, as they say, is history. Our second customer was Richard Petty, and both those relationships are still in place today. In comparison, we supplied one team with more than 300 wraps last season," Kip said. "We now are a 80 million dollar industry".
"We classify our business in two categories, Nascar and Commercial. Nascar not only includes the race cars, but the race team haulers, pit boxes, show cars etc. With anything that doesn't pertain to Nascar being called Commercial", added Kip. "Commercial includes professional fishing, Thomasville school bus fleets, Highway Patrol and various law enforcement agencies, but it also can be any company that wants a wrap. We do small jobs like a small business logo to huge ones like a airplane we did that took 2 weeks to complete".
I was here to learn more about the fishing side of wraps produced by Motorsports Designs. The wrap is a quick way to turn a boat or tow vehicle into a powerful advertising media. As professional fisherman, we have a limited amount of resources to expose sponsors; our biggest of course is our boat and tow vehicle, along with our tournament jersey and hat. Its a complete marketing package, as a tournament pro, I am only the vehicle, the wrap is the selling feature to a potential sponsor, such as Eagle Claw.
"Its the least expensive, most impactive form of advertising", said Kip. "An applied layer of vinyl can be printed in anyway imaginable, then fitted like a second skin on the boat or truck. And the bright colors and brand logo graphics grab your attention and keep it".
A company like Eagle Claw can be assured that its logo will be seen by millions of people. An average trip to and from a tournament will generate millions of "image" impressions per highway miles traveled. Figures from the federal transportation studies claim a wrapped boat or truck generates 1.2 million impressions per month. National Billboards.com calculates image impressions generated by a wrapped boat not in miles but by time. Its something that you don't turn off. Its working 24/7, either while driving or parked in a hotel, boat ramp, or gas station parking lot. They estimate that close to 150 million impressions a year is generated by a sponsor wrapped boat. Its like driving down the interstate, who would you notice more: Kevin Harvick in a plain car or Kevin Harvick in his wrapped Sprint Cup car?
So how does the boat wrap process start? "It starts with a customer order. We had the Eagle Claw brand in place, but we have a full design team to help translate your idea into a high resolution boat or truck graphic. Once the design is in place, the initial process begins." said Kip.
In the above photos, it shows designers working on customer orders. The photo to the left shows one of the Nascar design teams working on an upcoming racewrap. The photo to the right shows the FLW accounts team. The designer here is working on the new FLW Team wrap for Duracell batteries. The Duracell wrap is for the FLW boat & truck.
Next the design goes to the printing room. "4 primary colors of ink make up all colors that we would need", added Kip. "Materials keep getting better, as do the printers which take huge Vector-based computer graphics and translate them into vinyl." In the picture to the left, numbers are being printed to place on a Busch Series race car this weekend.
"Naturally, we like to have as much as possible built into the wrap so that once we apply it, we're done, but deck and hull usually have to be applied separately. If there are any added graphics, they have to be applied separately after the wrap is done. But we have templates for the various model of boats in place. We have a deck panel, hull, back lid, and a fender kit. We will always start with the hull so that the edges of them overlaps when you put the sides on, so don't get caught by the water."
"Boats are the hardest compared to Cup cars or trucks," said Kip. "The cars only experience wind from a frontal direction, but boats are in water which gives pressure points from all directions".
Once the design is printed onto the vinyl, the wrap goes to a computer operated cutting process. The cutting blades can only cut the thickness of the decal layer, not completely thru the adhesive backing. It takes a perfect cut to do this, or the wrap is rejected. The cuts are guided by computer generated lasers that match up to dots printed on the design. The picture to right shows the computer operator starting the cutting process on a wrap.
The day I was at Motorsports Design, they were working on the new FLW Team Chevrolet boat and a boatwrap for David Fritts Outdoors. The photo above show workers, inspecting the newly printed wrap for Team Chevrolet. The other photo shows the computer generated cutting machine cutting out the Fritts wrap. Its kind of interesting to note just how precise the machine is, so precise that it will even cut out something as individual as a personal signature for David Fritts.
Most wrap applications, both for Nascar and FLW are done by mobile application teams from Motorsports Designs. Nascar teams don't like hauling a race ready car to an off site, so while I was there, an application team was sent out to Roush Racing Shop. Some in house wraps are done, such as was being done today for the Eagle Claw boat.
The process begins after the wrap is made, cut and sorted in position to be applied. Its kind of like a big jig saw puzzle that has to be placed on the boat. Each item is marked and labeled for the workers to position on the boat. The wrap in laid out on big tables inside the application bays. Next, the boat must be prepped for the wrap.
The boat is pulled into the bay after it has been washed. A worker will begin the process by removing any or all hardware from the boat. Things like hand rails, cleats, to even the manufacture logos and decals. Once the boat is prepped, its given a bath of alcohol based solution to remove any unwanted debris on surface.
"It takes a good team of applicators less than three hours to completely change a boat's look," Kip said. "You can apply these over fiberglas, over paint, over another BoatWrap, then peel it off and change it to whatever you need."
"The material we're using now has a repositionable technology, which allows the installer to reposition the graphic if it's not in perfect alignment" Kip said. As the photo shows, the applicator uses a propane heat gun to heat the vinyl wrap as he applies it. "Heating the wrap allows to stretch to fit. It makes mistakes, like a wrinkle or bubble, easier to fix. Plus reheating the wrap returns it to its original shape and size, in case the installer runs into a snafu'." explained Kip.
"You can push wrinkles, you can push bubbles, you can stretch it (wrap) over the boat and then squeegee it. Before, you would have to have held it off the boat and squeegee it while someone held it in front of you. That's what makes the time difference."
In the series of photos above, it shows the application in various stages. The first stage is placing the hull side wrap in place. "For the sides, we usually have two people," he said. "We'll lay the sides up, and most of the time we have the sponsor logos built in and the stripes built in. We line it up with the bottom of the boat and make sure the graphics falls in the right place. Then we put a piece of tape in the center, over the deck, take half of it and fold it back over, pull the backing paper off to expose the adhesive. We cut and remove that. One person swings around and attaches the side at the rear. Then the back deck and side rails are done. The boat has to be jacked up, away from the trailer to finish the side hull wrap. The worker has to be exact, placing the boat stripes build into the wrap design exactly correct to the boat finish. Once the wrap is complete, its hard to tell the difference from the covered original boat finish.
One of the last things to get the wrap, is the trailer fenders. The workers lay the vinyl wrap over the fender, then use heat to form it around the curves and grooves. After the wrap is done, the last part of the make over is replacing the original boat logo's on the sides and trailer. All hardware is replaced, and the boat is done. "Usually we ask that the boat owner wait atleast 2 to 3 days before placing the boat in the water, but it could be used immediately if need be." said Kip.
It was really interesting to see the wrap from design to application. I'd like to thank Kip and Motor Sports Designs for allowing me as a special guest. Not only is the vinyl wrap a neat way to promote sponsors, but its a very cheap way to protect the original boat finish. 'Its really not that expensive to wrap a boat or truck, usually around 7 dollars per square foot. Or around $2500 to $4000 depending on the size and graphics" Kip said in closing.
I know from experience, its worth every penny. And I'm sure I'll continue to hear, "Is that painted or is that a Motor Sports Design BoatWrap"?