During the 1980s and 1990s, triathlons were perceived as the domain of esoteric, obsessed fitness junkies. However, as current attitudes have transformed physical fitness into mass mania, participation in triathlons, which entail a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon,
has skyrocketed. According to www.usatriathlon.org, the organization’s membership grew 5.5% in 2013 and ascended to 174,787. This marks its participation apex, and culminates 20 consecutive years of membership growth.
Modern, U.S.-run triathlons trace their roots to Hawaiian competitions, and races held there are among the most prominent. TYR, a purveyor of fitness apparel named for the Norse god of warriors, has sponsored the Kona Ironman Triathlon for several years, and hired bbi Display Systems (Malibu, CA) to create a water-suspended inflatable billboard to brand the race along the triathlon’s swim course’s starting line.
William R. Barlow founded bbi in 2002, and the company holds a patent for amphibious, airtight, inflatable billboards. The company has produced inflatables, which he said have been installed in 70 countries, for such high-profile companies as Coca-Cola, Nike, Chevrolet and many others. The company also sells its wares to independent operators worldwide.
“In the past, the billboard industry was dominated by just a few companies, such as Clear Channel and Viacom,” Barlow said. “Now, inflatable signs allow customers to set up billboards at virtually any location for rates far lower than a conventional billboard, and they can be set up over ground or water on a temporary or permanent basis within hours.”
For this project, bbi constructed its HD inflatable system with Zodiac marine-grade material, which is heat-welded with a Miller system to ensure airtight seams. Two bbi-200 HD systems created a 24-ft.-long, 14-ft.-tall billboard – Barlow said systems can be linked to create displays up to 72 ft. long – and the system can anchor like a small boat and be transported or displayed via a towing vessel or canoe. The system contains a proprietary, flow-through ballast system that provides stability amidst any weather.
To inflate the system, bbi supplies a 110- or 220V, electric air pump. Once the systems are inflated, no ongoing powersource is required. To make minor pressure adjustments in the field, the company provides a manual foot pump, which can also be used to fill ballast bag bladders, which serve as ballasts for the flow-through system in water-based installations, if no water source is available. For the inflatable’s graphics, bbi contracted with Vincent Printing (Chattanooga, TN). The graphics were produced on fine-mesh, banner material, and decorated with a solvent-ink printer.
Arriba Los Inflatables!
Inflatable signs are especially ubiquitous, off-premise advertising in Central and Latin America. It’s not difficult to understand why; they provide a cost-effective “billboard”, and year-round balmy weather provides ample opportunities for outdoor events, where they provide a vital cog in a customer’s promotional arsenal.
One of bbi Displays’ international, independent operators, Panama City-based InOut Marketing, implemented a series of inflatables as part of a year-long contract with Medcom, Panama’s largest media company, to roll out displays at Panamanian sporting events. The displays’ durations vary from days to weeks.
Pedro Ochoa, InOut Marketing’s president, said its other major clients include fast-food restaurants, mobile-phone vendors, brewing companies and car manufacturers.
“We have signs up nearly every day of the year, earning us money,” he said.
One of its prominent, roadside inflatables promotes Medcom’s anchor network, RPC-TV, with a simple message, “RPC Con Todo” (“RPC For Everything”) that’s complemented by an edgy graphic. The sign comprises three bbi-200 HD systems, which are linked together to form an 18-ft.-tall, 36-ft.-long system with a 14-ft.-tall, sign-display area.
To secure the systems, InOut Marketing uses anchors that screw into soft ground; if soil or surface conditions won’t allow this, installers simply weigh displays down with sandbags. If a display requires slightly more elevation, InOut Marketing will install plastic pipe stands to raise it. For water-based installations, the company uses a flow-through, water-ballast system that expels water like a drain. Ochoa said he’s had a single installer, paddling a canoe, successfully secure 36-ft.-long displays in water – a testament to inflatables’ lightweight construction. Because their systems don’t require floating in air, InOut Marketing uses compressed air, not gas, to inflate its systems. The airtight system doesn’t require an ongoing inflation source, Ochoa said.
To create the inflatables’ graphics, the company creates graphics on a Roland VersaCamm cutting plotter and eco-solvent-ink printer. When they don’t have in-house capacity, they purchase them from Vincent Printing.
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