If you have read any of Benjamin Franklin’s writing, you might be familiar with one of his more prescient quotes: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
We put him on the $100 bill, so he might have known a thing or two about the value of money.
We’d like to think Franklin would be a fan of one of NASA’s newest national partners, Action Sports Canopies, a top manufacturer in the large-format print industry. As you might imagine from the company name, it all started with creating portable structures that create a little shade where you need it most.
By focusing on quality rather than outright volume, ASC is able to deliver canopies that withstand the kind of abuse that comes when racing teams — and sanctioning bodies — take their act on the road. Repeated transport, setup and takedown has a way of wearing things out quickly, not to mention the elements a sports canopy is exposed to when in use.
How many times have you come off track to discover that your canopy was ravaged by the wind and twisted into snapped bits of plastic, torn fabric, popped rivets and bent metal? Sure, the wind played a part in that destruction, but if your canopy was one of those cheapies you picked up a WalMart, it also had a bit to do with its construction. Details matter.
For example, canopies with square-frame legs have wider surface areas that are more prone to getting dinged or bent. That creates problems when it’s time to take it down. ASC builds its canopies standard with 40 mm hexagonal-cross-section poles, which limits the surface area that can get dinged or bent. ASC also offers its BEAST frame with 50 mm hexagonal legs. Because there are six sides instead of four, they’re stronger. Also, rather than using plastic feet and slide mechanisms that are pop-riveted together, ASC assembles its canopies with steel feet and Phillips screws. That means you can fix it yourself rather than sending it back to the factory for repair.
“It’s really tough to sell your quality, especially if you’re on the internet or people are looking at a picture of two canopies and one is $400 and one is $800 bucks, said ASC president and CEO Craig Tucker. “We felt that we would never sacrifice the quality to move volume. And what we found is it might be tougher for us to get in the door, but it’s way easier for us to keep the customer. At the end of the day, I would rather not do business selling these lighter weight kind of cheaper things, especially if our name and our company is attached to it. So we’ve been able to focus on that and focus on the quality, and that’s where training comes in, and that’s where relationships come in.”
ASC started building relationships shortly after its founding in 2011 by getting involved in the action sports it sought to service. The company started out by getting involved in the surf, motocross, karting and off-road racing industries. Before long, ASC became the official canopy for the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.
“We got started in my garage and we were competing against some of the other canopy companies out there,” Tucker said. “We did that for about a year, and then we went ahead and started seeing some growth. One of the major ways that we felt we got our feet on the ground was entrenching ourself with industries.”
Through its newest partnership with NASA, ASC is seeking a foothold in amateur sports car racing, another sport where the participants are as aware as Ben Franklin of the importance of quality and service. ASC also supplies canopies for Monster Energy, Black Rifle Coffee, Jacuzzi, the Houston Texans, Kawasaki, HRC Honda Racing and AAA. As part of the partnership, NASA members are entitled to 15 percent discounts on ASC products, and there are a lot more than just canopies.
ASC offers canopies, table covers, flags and banners and signs and decals, everything you need to create a professional appearance for your race team. Canopies represents 15 percent of their business. You can expect to see ASC at some of the larger NASA events across the country.
“We decided about, I guess it’s five to six years ago, that we were going to invest heavily in our production facility and start doing these other products,” Tucker said. ASC also now offers sublimated apparel, race jackets, race pit crew shirts. All of those new product offerings were driven by previous partners who wanted ASC quality and reliability.
One of custom services ASC offers is the ability to make custom canopies using the dye sublimation process. All the canopies start off white, so you can do essentially whatever you want in terms of logos and colors. The bygone days of being limited to one to three screen-printed colors are gone. NASA members can order from the ASC website, and upload any camera-ready logo that you want to appear on the canopy, and in about a week, it will be ready for shipment. For more complex logos and designs, NASA members also can call in their order. That’s where account executive Cayla Sugimoto comes in.
“You can do multicolored logos, you can do single color, you can do images,” Sugimoto said. “They can start to get really creative with branding for their sponsors, and then when you’re just replacing a top every year, if you get new sponsors, it’s not as big of a deal setting up all new screens and all new setups and everything on the screen print side.”
“We can print multiple colors, multiple logos and images with no additional cost,” Sugimoto said. “Our canopies, flags and table covers are fully dye sublimated, making it quicker and less expensive to change out graphics if sponsors do change.”
This is a big advantage for ASC compared with other companies that screen print, because there are usually additional charges for setup fees for new designs.
ASC offers free design assistance, typically connected via chat on the website, email or by phone. Even if you don’t know the first thing about graphics, Sugimoto will walk you through the process and help you get exactly what you want.
All canopy tops are made from 600 denier fabric and are fitted with truss straps so that the top stays on the frame when the wind picks up. The canopy tops also are fitted with an 18-inch valance, which is larger than the standard 14-inch valances on competitors’ canopies. The larger valance gives the canopy a much beefier look, and it gives you more advertising space and larger print area for your sponsor’s logos to get more exposure.
Those same graphics abilities translate to any item ASC carries on its website, all of which can be ordered online, or again, by calling into customer service. Tucker said ASC will do whatever it takes to make every single order go perfectly for every single customer.
“We want to come out to these races, we want to display at the races, we want to come out and meet the guys and really start to entrench ourself in your world and understand how it works because it’s a new industry for us from a standpoint of road racing versus off-road, right?” Tucker said. “But it’s the same principle. They need shade, they need a pit setup, they need good service, they need a good quality product. It’s just a little bit of a different market for us, but we love how big the market is, and we love the fact that there’s anywhere from the weekend warrior to these full blown race teams. So there’s a lot of opportunity I think, where we can get in and start developing some relationships with the teams and the individuals and really working with NASA guys.”
If Ben Franklin were alive today, and racing cars, he’d probably be chilling under an ASC canopy.