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On a Hot Streak

Zach Ellsworth has been working in heat print technology for the past 20 years. Zach is currently serving as the director of fulfillment technology at GroupeSTAHL, where he’s focused on making it even easier for businesses to implement heat print technology at scale.

I had the unfortunate circumstance of a flu bug running wild through my house this winter. As I spent time taking care of some of the household chores over those few days as I waited for the inevitable infection, I thought about taking some preventative measures—what combination of vitamins and minerals I could take that would keep me from experiencing the body aches, the nausea and the overall irritability that would ensue. As I considered the options, I was reminded of my mother-in-law’s miracle cure all—vinegar. Not only is it great for cleaning windows, keeping frost off of your car in the winter and flavoring some of my favorite salad dressings and chips, but it is also the cure for every upset stomach or potential common cold that I’ve ever had. 

Heat transfers have become a staple of team sports decoration because they work on difficult-to-decorate fabrics and make personalization easy and inexpensive. Images courtesy of Imprintables Warehouse

So what’s the flu have to do with decorating for team sports? Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed a trend in the world of heat transfers. Just like vinegar, tons of new and different uses have been discovered. New niches have been carved, new materials and adhesives have made the applications more broad and new techniques have made your own creativity the only limit to what can be achieved with a heat transfer.

But heat transfers have historically been a staple of team sports decoration. And rightfully so—the advantages of heat-transfer application match the needs of almost every team sport decoration perfectly.

The “I” in team

What is the first thing that every team needs? They need their players to be easily identifiable. Whether it’s a roster of 50 football players, nine basketball players or a handful of volleyball players, there needs to be a way for the fans and the officials to differentiate the players. What better way to do that than by putting a number on the shirt they are wearing? 

Of course, since they are on the same team the players want the numbers to be the same size and color but different numbers. This variable-data scenario points directly to heat transfers. Whether cutting, printing or ordering them pre-made, the setup is simply typing and turning on your heat press. It costs less than some other decorating options and the finish rivals them.

What about those teams that want their players to be easily identified but want to wear some difficult-to-decorate fabrics? This can manifest itself in a couple of ways. First are those fabrics that are just difficult to stick anything to—coated nylons or stretch fabrics that require the decoration to stretch with it. There’s a heat transfer that will work for most any situation. Some heat-transfer products even boast a universal adhesive, providing a solution for any type of fabric a client may want to decorate.

Have some extra inventory of numbers and letters on the shelf for a quick turnaround on last-minute add-ons.

The second most common difficulty for fabric commonly used for team sports is dye migration; where the color of the fabric bleeds through the decoration. This is typically a problem on darker polyesters like red, maroon, dark green or black. Screen printing has traditionally been troublesome in that it can require multiple passes or layers of ink to provide the opacity required, which can make the print more rigid and more likely to crack and peel. Heat transfers are available with dye-migration blocking agents built in to provide the color fastness and opacity required to be successful in decorating for team sports. They can give the player a better finished hand as well as a longer lasting print, even under the toughest of conditions.   

Last-minute plays

Heat transfers have become a staple of team sports decoration because they work on difficult-to-decorate fabrics and make personalization easy and inexpensive. There are plenty more reasons that heat transfers make sense but the last one we’ll cover here meets another major need of every team—every team dealer, at one time or another, will have a client that needs to add just one more player once the order has already been fulfilled. This situation may be one of the most common uses of heat transfers in team sports decoration. Even if the first 50 jerseys for the local high school’s football team were screen printed, it just doesn’t make sense to setup the entire process two weeks after the first 50 were delivered for that 51st jersey. 

Those who employ the heat-transfer process for team sports decorating also will typically have some extra inventory of numbers and letters on the shelf for a quick turnaround on these last-minute add-ons. 

As sophisticated and varied as heat-transfer applications and niches have become, one thing remains the same—heat transfers are a perfect fit for team sports decorating.