Don Wright and Nigel Wilson met in the line up while surfing Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Wilson, a rep for Burton Snowboards at the time, had a solid network of industry contacts and a finger on the pulse of what was happening in the action sports market. The two knew they’d stumbled across a winning idea when they began a discussion about Wright’s latest plans for his company, Wright Global Graphic Solutions,which included launching into the large format print arena. The business model seemed like a no brainer for action sports companies.
“I knew that the action sports industry is all about making the connection to the experience,” says Wright. “Larger than life graphics are a great way to complete that connection. The minute I met Nigel, I knew he understood that vital connection. To me, you have to understand the industry, and be connected to the experience in order to help your customers. Nigel brought the best of both worlds together: a great sense of marketing, coupled with a deep understanding of the experience.”
Since the team got started, Wright has worked on events like TransWorld SNOWboarding’s Riders' Poll Awards, Reef’s Pro-Am, the Hurley Pro, and Launch LA, and has also teamed up with the likes of Quiksilver, Volcom, Nixon, and Red Bull to assist on large-scale marketing campaigns.
“Whether it is an untouched powder line, or the face of a perfect wave wrapping overhead, it's all about connecting the customer to the experience,” says Wright. “Forty-foot Jaws looks cool on an iPhone screen, but you really feel it when an image is blown up to full size.”
We caught up with Wright, senior VP, business development and chairman of the board, of Wright Global Graphic Solutions, via email to learn more about how the company creates larger-than-life graphics for some of action sports most noteworthy brands, and how it helps those brands connect to their customers.
Can you give several examples of what putting together a project of such great size and magnitude includes from beginning to end?
For events of this magnitude, there are so many moving parts, it is almost impossible to describe it in one paragraph. Coordination and never losing sight of the deadline is key.
We have a great team of people in our organization, headed up by a feisty and technically brilliant woman named Heidi Holley.
She and Nigel, who acts as Action Sports Rep, work together to coordinate the images and graphics which come from multiple sponsors of an event. Getting it through production, delivered and installed is rather hectic to say the least, and it takes a ton of dedication and real attention to details to make it happen smoothly.
We were producing and delivering products that were literally “hot off the press” for the East Coast Surfing Championships and were delivering them just hours before the contest opened. Crazy might be the best description…like dropping into Jaws.
What’s the time commitment look like from beginning to end including design and set up?
Let’s say this, somehow, we jam about 120 hours of production into a five day period.
This was definitely not a project for a company that is not vertically integrated. You have to have dedicated associates like Heidi, who can adjust artwork that is coming in at the very last minute as well as production and shipping teams who are committed to that deadline. Most importantly, a good sense of humor always helps.
What’s the ROI on projects such as ECSC, TW Riders Poll, or Reef Pro-Am?
When any of these projects are coming at you, tight deadlines and a narrow margin of error make it easy to drop dollars and lose money. We try to take a holistic approach to the work. We know that margins can get pushed aside in an effort to make the deadline and honestly, we are OK with that. We believe that in the long run, our dedication to our customers will pay off in the form of repeat work. Our whole company is really founded on the philosophy that delivering a quality product, on time, every time, is its own reward. It's also a great way to earn additional business.
What do you look for in partnering with other companies and why has the action sports market been favorable for you to work with over the past several years?
We love dedication and good energy. That is what we look for in our partners, and our associates. It takes both to be successful.
I personally love to surf, ski, and mountain bike, these things all require dedication and good energy. Paddling out in an East Coast storm, hiking a goat path to a secret stash or grinding up a mountain, it's all about dedication. So is hitting a deadline for a tradeshow or surf contest - dedication to the cause.
Action sports people get this philosophy: work hard for the reward. Risk life and limb for the ride. Regardless of how you phrase it, its all about dedication.
Are you planning on expanding your services throughout the action sports market? What project plans do you have in the works with other companies?
Constantly. We are able to work with the manufacturing side of action sports providing labels and tags for soft goods. In the retail environment we can provide wood and metal product display systems. Currently, we are re-branding Vertical Urge’s skate park with Red Bull.
What do you see as the biggest obstacles in creating projects of this size, and how do you navigate those obstacles?
Time. That clock keeps ticking, whether you have art files or not. We can get pretty pushy near the end, trying to acquire the necessary art assets.
Simply put, we cannot start production until the images are approved and uploaded.
It happens all too often, customers contact us a month in advance with promises that the art is “on the way” only to have it actually arrive 12 hours before the product needs to ship.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your company within the action sports market?
Clearly we look to expand on our in-store graphics and fixtures offerings. We also plan to capitalize on our Asian operations for branding opportunities on finished products. We are working on some really exciting branding opportunities that will make that retail environment an interactive space… stay tuned!
What is your overall take on how companies within this market create and produce events and what do you think they need to do to take it to the next level?
Big events are clearly expensive, complicated and full of crazy energy. Obviously, big events are cool and a great opportunity to market your product. However, lately we have seen a growth trend in smaller, regional events based on local shops and getting local kids pumped.
This localized trend is happening not only in action sports, but in the consumer environment as a whole. Local produce sort of started this trend and it is branching out into other industries. Be proud of your neighborhood, your local break, etc., it's all connected. I think it's really neat to see this trend blooming and it really creates an opportunity to capture the power of digital print to customize graphics for the local markets with the amp of a national brand.
Anything else you’d care to add?
We love what we do for work, and we love what we do to play. It's just amazing to tie both work and play together. We thank all our wonderful customers and associates for making every day feel like the perfect wave.
Oh, and call Nigel if you need a partner who understands your needs. He really knows how to help you get your marketing message out there…..that's our shameless plug.