Marketing vehicle combines the best sail manufacturing methods with the newest quality imaging technologies.
By David Drimmer
In 1995, two years after establishing a local charter business in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aaron Kiss was stopped by the city from distributing advertising brochures on the beach to his most valued customers: vacationing tourists looking for information about day sails, dinner charters and champagne cruises. A newly passed city ordinance was established to control beach littering.
To reach the vital customers that made Sea Seekers Sailing Inc. profitable, Kiss placed a 600-square-foot sign directly in front of them by imaging the sails on a 45-foot charter vessel with logos and phone numbers and sailing down the beach 50 yards off shore.
This idea spawned Photo Sails™, and profits soared 500 percent as competitors went out of business. Within months, through the internet, the company’s website and word-of-mouth, local businesses were hiring Sea Seekers to put advertising sails together for their own marketing.
“Imaging on sails had been left to low-tech solutions, such as stickers that fail after minimal exposure to the elements and hand applied dyes that limit art to mono-color or multicolor recreations,” says Kiss, president and CEO of Photo Sails. “Stitching of logos directly onto sailcloth has been tried and found to be expensive and creatively limiting. Photo Sails combine the best sail manufacturing methods with the newest quality imaging technologies.”
After learning that existing sails and sailcloth could not be “printed” upon with traditional large-format equipment due to their cloth transparency, the 3-D shape and existing stitching, fittings and grommets, Kiss sought a new laminated and opaque cloth to replace traditional sailcloth. After exhaustive strength, stretch and UV testing, he found one recently developed by 3M.
Imaging is just one of seven steps in the creation of custom Photo Sails. Care is taken in every step to create a durable and proper airfoil that allows a vessel to sail in almost all points of the apparent wind. Variable load path technology aligns each cloth panel, and four different weights of cloth are utilized to keep weight to a minimum in a sport that takes each ounce of sail weight seriously.
Kiss believes that Photo Sails is the future of sail imaging and sailboat branding supported by the constantly improved digital age. “Our patented (in seven countries) four-layer laminated sailcloth is 100-percent opaque and allows for double-sided imaging,” he says. “That is the basis of our second U.S. patent 6,886,483. Our first patent 6,622,648 covers the process of printing high resolution and up to two million colors, recreating photo realistic quality imaging directly onto our sailcloth.”
Some of Photo Sails’ Fortune 500 clients have sought niche mediums instead of traditional advertising avenues of television and print. MillerCoors came to Photo Sails looking for a way to brand beaches and events in California. After a three-week creative proofing process of Coors Banquet-designed art, and a six-week production period, the beer brand wanted to take advantage of controlling an exclusive branding vehicle.
Coors branded the 2010 World Series at AT&T Park in McCovey Cove with custom Photo Sails on a 51-foot sailing yacht. “The guerrilla marketing campaign gave Coors Banquet the largest signage at the World Series visible by the attendees,” Kiss says. “MillerCoors has minimized its production expenses by shipping the one set of Photo Sails to multiple locations on the West Coast. The current set of Coors Banquet Photo Sails was built in 2007 and has been seen by more than 30 million people.”
The sails were printed on a Vutek 5300 and were coated with a UV inhibitor. Photo Sails utilize UV inks that do not need UV coating, which reduces overall sail weight.
“The manufacturers of our sailcloth and the inks utilized remain proprietary information in the seven countries we have secured intellectual properties,” Kiss says. “The original Photo Sails products were made of laminated PVC materials, but now Photo Sails has attracted the attention of North Sails, the world’s leader in sail manufacturing, which has requested development of 10 new products, including imaging on Mylar racing sails, spinnakers, Dacron, Taffeta, Nylon and various Polyester sailcloths. These new developments require completely new imaging applications that involve machinery that is being developed outside of the traditional large-format printers.”