How Did Stadium Wrap Begin?

Around 2008, I started a company with a friend of mine, Tim Little, he’s a dear friend today, called Stadium Wrap. Stadium went from a small little thing we were doing out of the back of Tim’s truck, to three years later we had an investor who had put well over a million dollars into the company. We had began franchising and switched to licensing and were operating in 31 states. Were sponsoring major ESPN productions of high school football games and advertising on ESPN. The thing just blew up and was an amazing business adventure on a number of levels. The interesting thing about Stadium Wrap is how it started though. It started as a failed marketing effort. There was a massive production that we were doing as a law firm at the time, it was right after I got out of law school, for a football game between Millsaps College and Mississippi College and I was responsible for managing every part of the game that year including all the promotion, the fundraising, the corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, crowd management, everything! What I realized is that we needed to sell some additional type of corporate sponsorship materials to actually make the event really successful. There was this idea of taking pictures of individual players from both the teams, putting them on giant vinyl banners, that would be hung at the game, and then embedding a corporate sponsor down at the bottom. Now, the key to this was that the players loved this product. They wanted to be on the product. But to be on the product, they had to sell the corporate sponsorship, but they also got to keep the banner when it was all done. So, between the two teams, I had created a sales force of 150-160 people that could go after sponsors that I didn’t have a connection to. This was a great formula, and everybody loved it and was excited. Right before we were going to launch it though, Ron Jurney, the athletic director at Millsaps calls me and he says, “Mike, the whole banner idea, we can’t do it. The NCAA shot it down. You can’t couple corporate sponsorship with the image of an NCAA athlete and so we can’t do it.” So, everything that I had developed, all the print material, all the collateral that all of the players were going to go out and use to sell it, got completely canned. Done. We couldn’t do anything with it.  I took the sample banners that I had from this failed effort, I hung them in my office at the law firm and for months I sat there looking at them. People would come in and go “Wow those are really awesome” and I would go “Yeah they failed.” But, after a bit more thinking, it actually birthed Stadium Wrap which put us on about an eight-year run of going all over the country and being the first company to actually do what we did.