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Customized NFL Cleats Raise Money For Charity

The NFL was a little more colorful this past weekend, as hundreds of players wore logoed customized cleats to raise awareness and money for charity.

Players this season have been expressing their personality and fashion tastes with colorful custom cleats – shoes that would also violate the NFL dress code and draw a fine. For Week 13 of the football season, the NFL called a détente on the shoe wars and concocted “My Cause My Cleats,” a campaign designed to raise awareness for different social causes. More than a third of the league – over 500 players – donned cleats with custom designs representing a charity or cause of their choice.

“While there has always been interest and adoption at the youth level in sports, customized footwear has now taken the main stage in many verticals such as sports with the NFL’s Week 13 efforts or fashion with UGG stores offering the opportunity on their famous boots,” Josh Ellsworth, general manager of Stahls’(asi/88984) CAD-CUT Direct division, tells Counselor. Ellsworth noted the increasing demand for personalization and advances in a number of decoration techniques, including heat printing, direct-to-garment, UV printing and embroidery. “They are helping to drive quality products and, therefore, profitable new sales opportunities for businesses.”

Traditionally, NFL players must wear shoes without brand names and logos (beyond that of the shoe manufacturer) – it’s a fine of $6,076 for first-time infractions and $12,154 for subsequent ones. But the cleats sported by players last week featured all sorts of colorful logos, graphics and designs to raise awareness about issues such as domestic abuse, animal cruelty and rare diseases. NFL Auction has also allowed bidding on the shoes with 100% of the proceeds benefiting respective charities.

Ellsworth says customized footwear meshes well with the promotional product industry because it centers on memorability. “Custom branded shoes can be the next great thing that aligns with a campaign’s goals,” Ellsworth says. “Consider the following opportunities: customized footwear that supports a special cause for a charity run/walk, promotional footwear with a ‘Kick Cancer’ mantra that allows on-demand customization, promotional sneakers for a company’s event staff that will be on their feet all day or even custom shoes with a player’s name, number, or hashtag.”

However, Ellsworth warns that there are challenges to consider. “Footwear does bring in an element of sizing, so inventory risk for print on demand or in advance promotional opportunities can be costly,” he says. “The shoe fits when you have a good understanding of exactly who your customer is and what size they want.”

Here’s a look at several of the cleat designs that were worn by the players.

Promo Items for Pilgrims

In the months leading up to the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day 2016, preparations were as globe-spanning as the millions of expected attendees. First instituted in 1986 by Pope Saint John Paul II, World Youth Days (WYD) are hosted every three years by the Vatican and the incumbent Pope, and welcome droves of young people to a week-long faith celebration in a different city. The July 2016 event was held in Krakow, Poland.

Vatican representatives had a good idea of what they wanted for the attendees, known as “pilgrims,” who would eventually converge on Krakow from all over the world. For example, organizers wanted to include ponchos that could also double as ground blankets. So the organizers teamed up with their distributor partner and came up with an item made of a special fabric that not only protected wearers from the rain, but was both soft and durable enough to sit on. In addition, a dye-sublimated scarf was constructed of absorbent microfiber so that it doubled as a towel. 


Each item was color-matched, and the items came in red, blue and yellow. In addition to the ponchos and scarves, other WYD-branded items included backpacks, neck gaiters and silicone bracelets. The finished items were flown to the Polish port city of Gdansk, then trucked more than 350 miles to a warehouse in the Krakow area specially built for WYD, which also housed food and water for 2.5 million pilgrims that attended the successful event.
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