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The Big Score: High-Stakes Hot-Market Printing

(February/March 2018) posted on Fri Apr 20, 2018

It takes a certain amount of skill, planning, and luck to get commemorative championship game T-shirts from screen to store to happy fan overnight.

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By Kelsey Johnson


The hotel alarm goes off and one thought runs through my mind: Game day.

It’s January 8; tonight is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game. In less than 12 hours, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will battle it out for that coveted national title at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

So what exactly brings this Purdue Boilermaker fan (hey, at least we made it to a bowl game this season!) to Montgomery, Alabama – right in the heart of Bama territory – on the day of the Division I football championship game? The promise of seeing a hot market live in action.

I’d been pursuing such an opportunity for a while. An email sent a few days before the game quickly turned into a last minute plane ticket and hotel reservation in Montgomery, home to F&E Sportswear, the print shop tasked with printing shirts for the national championship game. “Last minute” is the very nature of hot-market printing – the apparel industry term for when a contract printer takes on the hefty (and often chaotic) duty of printing souvenir or keepsake items for the winning team in a championship game. The kicker? Fans celebrating a big win want to buy their shirts ASAP. We’re talking about having these special edition T-shirts available for purchase the morning after the game.

With the participants usually determined by other semifinal games (generally only a few days or weeks prior), it’s difficult to do much advance planning. Being able to work quickly and efficiently (and stay cool under pressure) is key. It takes a certain type of shop to thrive in this high-stakes environment.

A test print of the Georgia back design.


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