Inflatables manufacturers find diverse markets in addition to promotional products.
To attract the attention of drivers, car dealerships float spheres or other shapes with automakers’ logos. People dressed in inflatable costumes that identify them as brand mascots line festival walkways to interact with attendees. Giant replicas of consumer goods—whether it’s a can of beer or a tennis shoe—can be found in stores and all sorts of places where crowds gather. Organizers of community runs and fundraising walks recognize their sponsors with printed inflatable arches at the finish line.
Branding/promotion opportunities create a lucrative marketplace for companies that work with air (and/or helium) and fabric. But inflatables manufacturers also find other outlets for their products.
Canvasland in New Zealand provides inflatable games, bounce houses, slides, outdoor cinema screens, and land- and pool-based obstacle courses. “We have a full range of modular pool inflatables, so you can pick and choose the units and assemble your own obstacle course,” CEO Robert Crocker says.
In industrial applications, his company has provided inflatable ballast bags for a sport company and an airtight bung for cleaning out vats at a dairy. Canvasland has even manufactured rigid-hull inflatable boats that have been used for passenger craft, Coastguard rescue and America’s Cup chase boats.
For a theater production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” Canvasland designed an inflatable version of the blood-craving plant Audrey II that actors could enter and exit and that featured moving tentacles.
X-treme Creations makes inflatable products for event rental companies, including Arcadome structures and Patapoof furniture. The Belgium-based company also took part in a European Commission-funded project to develop a flood barrier and collaborated with the English National Health Service Foundation on a decontamination door for medical facilities.
“Industrial applications are less visible, but they are very important,” X-treme owner Dan Vandevoorde says.
Air Dimensional Design Inc. created AirDucts™ for cooling and heating temporary structures. And in addition to making inflatable décor for events, the North Hollywood, Calif.-based company has made air-flowing scrims that animate projections. The special effects were used for two Super Bowl halftime shows: by Prince in 2007 and by Beyonce in 2013.
Company owner Doron Gazit is also an environmental artist who was profiled in a cover feature of Smithsonian magazine (“Tickling the Sky,” August 2000) about his tubular outdoor sculptures. When his company’s rental products reach the end of their lifecycle, he uses them for his installations.
“I put them out in nature where people see them at a distance,” he says.
Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer and magazine editor based in San Diego, Calif.