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Boat Wraps Boast Big Opportunity for Vinyl Installers

Wrapping boats may be the next big thing as the vehicle wrapping trend extends itself from the highways to the waterways.

By Jennifer LeClaire

You're already wrapping cars, why not venture into the wonderful world of boat wrapping and expand your business?

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  • Vehicle wraps are so 2009. With many boats sitting on the sidelines during the winter months, it's the perfect time to hone up on your skills in the next big wrap wave - boats.

    The opportunity is vast. U.S. recreational boating demand will grow 5.3 percent annually through 2011, according to market research firm Freedonia Group. Powerboats will lead the charge in the boat category. While the South offers the best opportunities for boat vinyl installations because of the large population of boats in the region, wrappers from across the country can get in on the action that is the $15.7 billion U.S. recreational boating industry.

    Beyond the sheer numbers, consider the repeat business. Even though boat wraps typically last a couple of years, many boat owners opt for a fresh wrap every year because the salt water is rough on the vinyl - and the gas spillage can cause some damage around the fuel tank. And if water seeps in, the wrap is, well, a wrap - if it's not dried quickly. Even small tears can cause big problems for these on-water vessels.

    "We've seen a tremendous increase in the number of inquiries for interested boat owners, and we expect the growth to continue for the foreseeable future" says Pete LoBrutto, owner of Impressions on the Go, a vinyl installation company in Austin. "It's a lot less expensive than painting a boat, the boat doesn't have to be transported to our location, and boat owners like the fact that they can design almost anything they want for their wrap."

    Targeting Professional Sports Fishermen
    So what exactly is a boat wrap? Just like a vehicle wrap, it's basically laminated vinyl on which a computer designed photorealistic image has been printed. This adhesive backed vinyl is applied to the boat by a skilled professional - like you - for a nice profit.

    Much like vehicle owners, recreational boaters take pride in their vessels. More and more, recreational boaters are choosing to have their boats wrapped to distinguish their floating pride and joy from the many other boats out on the water. Airbrushing is one alternative, and decals are another, but the former is often too expensive and the latter not as exciting as a full boat wrap.

    Of course, custom boat wraps aren't just for consumers - all anglers registered for BASS Elite Series, Bassmaster Major, and Bassmaster Classic events must have a wrapped boat.

    Professional sports fishermen, especially, want their boats to look crisp and clean at every competition. Anglers alone are a hot target. According to the American Sportsfishing Association, there are 60 million anglers that generate over $45 million in retail sales with a $125 million impact on the nation's economy. Anglers also create employment for more than one million people. And that's just counting professional anglers.

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    Boat Wraps as an Advertising Medium
    What started out as an opportunity to wrap boats for tournaments and even consumers, though, has evolved into a significant advertising medium for corporate sponsors. Taking a page from NASCAR, the professional fishermen have discovered they can do more than have a sportier boat - they can make money.

    Considering these professionals have sponsors who are shelling out plenty of cash to have their name splashed across the boat's surface, professional fishermen are obligated to make quick repairs to wraps as they discover damage and rewrap their boats before the start of a new season so the millions of viewers can see the "advertising" on the side of the boat.

    "Fishing tournament organizers have mandated that the fishermen have to have their boat wrapped to enter the contest," says Craig Campbell, marketing coordinator for digital products at Oracal, a vinyl media manufacturer based in Black Creek, GA. "So they get a sponsor and that sponsor gets exposure on national television. It's caught on like wildfire. Now, even amateur fishermen are wrapping their boats because the professionals have modeled the way."

    Campbell says boat manufacturers are also investing in boat wraps. He points to a major boat manufacturer that has at least 100 boats wrapped as they come out of the factory each year for fishing tournaments, trade shows, and other events.

    Whatever the reason, there is plenty of action in the boat wrapping business. Just as Mike Grillo, president of Road Rage Designs in Spring Grove, Ill. "When we began wrapping cars, our initial customer base was large corporations with fleets and small businesses wrapping the company car," he says. "We have been in the wrap and wide-format market for 15 years and have seen a surge in consumers having their personal boats, cars and trucks wrapped."

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