Are you an artist who wants to capitalize on your customers’ (or your own!) love of sports with your designs? If so, tailgating season is the perfect time to promote your designs—not to mention your favorite team! Keep reading to learn how Spoonflower artist Helen Fallaw discovered her niche creating game day designs and how it’s led to connections with and purchases from sports fans and makers seeking prints in their team colors. You’ll also learn five tips you can use to start your own tailgating design collections.
How Helen Discovered Her Game Day Niche
Helen: Having majored in textiles and apparel design in college, fabric and pattern design has always been a passion of mine. After working for several years designing for a large infant bedding manufacturer and then staying at home with my children, I started designing and selling on Spoonflower as an outlet for my creativity and as an opportunity to make my own designs for clothing for myself and my children.
The desire to make my own game day clothing led me to design team color collections. As a sports fan and a creative, I like to wear unique game day attire that you won’t see on every corner. So one day I created a design for a top for myself and received numerous compliments on it. It was then I realized I might be on to something. If I wanted something unique for game day, others probably would too! That is how I found my niche.
Tailgating—A Growing Tradition Full of Fans Wanting Game Day Gear
Tailgating is a popular tradition for football fans with an estimated 50 million tailgaters across the United States. It has evolved from eating a picnic lunch out of the back of the family vehicle to elaborate spreads involving grills, large-screen TVs, tents and food. It is a social event for gathering with friends and family, hours before and after the big game. And, importantly for artists, each of those 50 million fans wants to stand out with their game day attire and tailgating gear.
For these reasons and more, designing for the tailgating community is a worthwhile market to explore. As Spoonflower artists, we are able to offer custom, unique designs that our customers will love and cannot be found anywhere else! Given Spoonflower’s almost unlimited possibilities, I started with 3 team color collections and currently have over 20 of them.
5 Tips For Creating Tailgating Designs
1. Consider your customer.
Think about what types of icons your customers would purchase to represent their favorite teams. Consider trends and how you can adapt them for your customer while still utilizing your style and voice. For example, this season my new collection features a Chinoiserie tiger. Chinoiserie is a style currently trending; including a tiger in my design allows anyone whose favorite team has a tiger for a mascot to show off both their team spirit and their stylish nature at the same time.
Remember that different people support their teams with varying style preferences. Some tailgaters prefer to be more subtle with prints that only use their team’s colors. Other fans may want to sport those colors more boldly by having their team’s symbols prominently featured.
Keep in mind that your designs do not have to be sports-related. Team color florals work great as well as geometrics. Just be careful to avoid using official team logos and mascots, etc… as they are trademarked.
2. Capitalize on the designs you’ve created.
Begin with one collection. Once you have settled on the style and theme you are going to use, develop a small collection in one colorway. Start with basic designs that coordinate such as stripes, dots and ditsy prints and then add hero prints. You may even have existing designs in your shop that can be recolored into team colors!
Next, recolor your designs. Once you have perfected your collection, the fun begins. Now you can recolor those designs into as many color options as you like. You can go online to find hex codes for the colors of a specific team to make sure your colors are accurate. Another way to capitalize on your prints is by offering designs in multiple sizes to expand the number of products for which they may be used.
Fill-A-Yard is a cost-effective method of proofing many designs. It is a good idea to take advantage of Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard® option for proofing your designs. I suggest a collection of six designs offered in seven colorways (or vice versa) to start. This will utilize a full Fill-A-Yard of 42 swatches and be more cost effective.
3. Design with options in mind.
If you have created team-specific designs featuring a team symbol such as a tiger, go with designs that can easily be revised with a quick redraw to use for different teams instead of designs that only work for one team. For example, I have a seersucker stripe print with a tiger that I have used for multiple collections by recoloring the stripe and changing the tiger to a bulldog and an elephant. This is a quick way to add to your collections while still being team specific.
4. Find an organizational method that works for you.
Book-binder rings can help organize your collections. When your Fill-A-Yard swatches arrive, keep them organized since it is easy to lose track when there are many similar color options in the same designs. I use book-binder rings to organize each collection together. This method makes it easy to flip through my swatches for reference. They are easy to hang for display too!
You will also want to keep your Spoonflower shop organized. I do that by arranging all my designs in collections named after the team colors. On my Spoonflower shop page, when a customer comes to my shop they will see the message in my bio to search my shop by collection instead of individual designs. As there can be hundreds of designs to go through, narrowing their search by collection will help them find what they are looking for faster.
5. Be open to customer requests.
Customers may contact you with requests for scale changes and colors. I have received numerous sales from customers who loved a particular design but needed it in a different scale or colorway. With Spoonflower, you can make scale changes without re-proofing the design so making a scale change is a snap. It also makes for a happy customer who will be more likely to return to your shop in the future. It has even benefited me, as I have had customer’s request new color options that I had not previously considered. Once added to my shop, not only did the customer purchase it, but others did so as well.
Other Important Things to Consider
Design and Promote Year-round: The market for team designs is steady year-round for makers and those operating small businesses like PointingDogCollars, 46th Ave Quilts and TheOldBagStudio, which have all used my designs in their creations. Therefore, you want to be designing and promoting year-round; however, sales do surge in the fall/football season. You should strive to have new collections ready for launch by August to cover the tailgate fan base and holiday gift season.
Don’t forget to tag your designs. As with any design, tagging is important. Be sure to include the colors of the collection in the tags as well as the location of the team (state or city). I have found that often customers are looking for prints for a high school, rec league or lesser-known college team that uses the same or similar colors as more well-known teams; therefore, it’s important to include all the terms they may use in their search. Descriptive terms of the print itself like stripes, dots, etc., are necessary as well.
Use mockups or images of swatches to market your designs. Marketing is an area I need to improve upon. However, I try to post new designs and color options on my Instagram and business Facebook pages, especially to promote my new collections in July and August during the lead up to tailgating season. It is also beneficial to focus on graduation season in May and June as that is a good time for people looking for graduation gifts. I use mockup images of my designs and occasionally photos of swatches or items I have made myself for this purpose.
Look forward to seeing your designs in the wild! I have had a great response to my collections with steady growth in sales and repeat customers. It has even led to a couple of licensing opportunities. It is extremely rewarding for me to see my designs being used out there in the wild and I know it will be for you too!
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