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Published on August 5th, 2014 | by press-room

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Forbes: Fathead Shedding Sports Specific Label As Detroit Company Caters To The Masses

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Whatever your passion is, Fathead can help bring that to life.

It’s one of the mantras that the company’s 100 team members currently focus their efforts around.

Whether it’s a LeBron James posterizing dunk, Tim Tebow dropping down on one leg with his iconic ‘Tebowing’ pose or Yasiel Puig celebrating a monster home run, the Detroit-based company continues to capture not only trending topics but also those ‘Fathead Moments’ consumers want in graphic art form.

During the summer of 2006 — after Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a group of investors purchased Fathead — the company only had a few sports licenses: the NFL, NFLPA, NBA, NASCAR and a few universities.

Now, that number has stretched to over 650 as the company remains the leading entity in providing vinyl wall graphics to rabid fans and consumers.

“I think the reason that Fathead intrigued all of the leagues and why they gave us exclusive licenses early on was the fact that this was new,” said Patrick McInnis, Chief Executive Officer. “There really wasn’t anything in the market like this. It was very intriguing to the leagues, and hence, why we were able to get every league under license.”

Forbes - Kevin Durant

The eight-year-old company prides itself on forward thinking and the ability to move product quickly from idea to creation to end result. When then-New York Knicks point guard, Jeremy Lin, had his coming out party in February of 2012, Fathead had photography approved by the NBA and a designed wall graphic up on its website all within a span of eight hours.

“Operating with a sense of urgency is the ante to play,” McInnis explained. “It’s one of our isms. …We’re in a business where things are changing minute by minute. If you’re late to the hot market, you lose in this business. It’s part of our culture. It’s also part of the business that we’re in.”

Both McInnis and Joanna Cline, Fathead’s Chief Marketing Officer, noted that the company’s solid relationships with the major professional leagues have allowed Fathead to push product in a timely manner around bigger sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, NBA Finals and World Series.

“We have fantastic partnerships with the leagues, and they react very well when something big is happening,” Cline said. “If we see during the World Cup, a player really takes off, and he isn’t represented in the Fathead lineup, we can move exceptionally fast to make sure we can offer that product to our customers.

“It’s the same thing with championships. If it’s the playoffs and it’s the Finals and a team wins, we’ll have product available for sale within five minutes of that team winning.”

As the company has grown in size and moved locations from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, it’s also shifted its brand strategy and how it targets consumers. While the public perception might still be that Fathead is a sports-specific company, Fathead’s offerings from 2006 to 2014 have significantly broadened.

In 2011, Fathead conducted brand research with a third-party firm to better understand who was really buying the company’s products. The findings allowed executives and team members to gain a deeper insight into Fathead’s consumers. The company discovered that 50 percent of its product lived in a child’s bedroom, with the main demographic being 4-13. Daughters were also a larger market than original thought. As a result, Fathead softened its marketing and directly targeted Moms, who were the likely decision-makers for purchasing Fathead merchandise for kids’ bedrooms. Fathead’s marketing team modified its television budget, of which 75-80 percent was used to target sports and male demographics.

Today, roughly 60 percent of television dollars are being spent toward family advertising compared to 40 percent with sports. Moms also can now use their Huggies Rewards points to get a discount with products at Fathead’s website. With a varied product selection has also come a wider array of solutions for businesses, colleges and non-sports organizations. For example, custom printing comprises almost 20 percent of Fathead’s business in 2014. Athletic teams like University of Michigan football and University of Wyoming football have both entrusted Fathead with outfitting their facilities with celling-to-floor coverage of Fathead decals, custom phrases and consistent messaging in order to establish a team culture. The NFLPA had Fathead outfit a few of its conference rooms while different casinos have also hired the company to brand their gaming floors.

Even with its sports roots and Dan Gilbert still remaining a majority investor in the company, Fathead is transitioning to a lifestyle company, which can ultimately cater to anyone. It’s no surprise then that some of its top-five products in 2014 — like the Frozen movie collection and an instant beach window graphic — fall outside the sports world.

“If you love sports, entertainment, nature or if you just want to celebrate a great moment in your child’s life, we can now help bring that to life,” Cline said.

Mark Burns is an Editorial Assistant with USA Hockey Magazine along with a Contributor for SportsAgentBlog.com. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkJBurns88.


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