Going Big Across the Board
By Michael Quirk, Associate Editor
Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show
Thanks to a burgeoning trend, Victory Tailgate has taken direct-to-consumer tailgate games to new heights.
The game is called “Bags” in some parts of the country, while it’s called “Cornhole” in others. There are two boards — each complete with holes measuring 6 inches in diameter — four players and eight beanbags with each set.
Whatever you prefer to call it, one thing is clear: The game has become a staple in tailgates and backyards across the United States. One company has taken that popularity and the boom of online retail, and put them squarely on the board.
Victory Tailgate, Orlando, Fla., started in 2008 when its CEO and founder Scott Sims noticed the lack of effective marketing in the tailgating-games space. The company started with basic color combinations and custom/corporate orders before satisfied customers enabled business to boom.
“Our quality, hand-made product, attention to detail and customer service lead to exceptional word-of-mouth referrals and, combined with our aggressive online marketing, lead to extremely rapid growth,” Sims says.
One of the popular destinations for a cornhole set is in the vicinity of a stadium or arena on game day. With that in mind, Victory Tailgate turned its attention to securing collegiate licenses. After proving the viability of the direct-to-consumer approach, the company gained traction in the licensing market.
Licensing and Competition
When Victory Tailgate began its foray into licensing, it originally took a collegiate scope, though that has since been expanded. Currently, Victory has licenses for more than 600 colleges, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer. In addition, the company also sports licenses from brands such as Star Wars, Corona, Margaritaville, Monster Jam, Pepsi, Chevy and Guy Harvey, among others.
Two differentiating factors among cornhole boards include slickness and durability. According to Sims, Victory Tailgate is the only licensed cornhole board supplier with U.S. manufacturing operations, which he counts as an advantage.
“We offer superior quality and craftsmanship,” he says. “We do not sacrifice quality that impacts game play just to cut cost or size to get into large-box retail. By going direct to consumer, we are able to keep our standards where we want them to be.”
The Nuts and Bolts
Victory Tailgate can do “pretty much any customization a customer would want,”Sims says, as each board is made to order and produced on demand. While the licensed boards may dominate the product mix, custom and corporate orders still are a large part of the business. Sims says the company’s flexibility and quick turnaround times are rare in the industry. He adds that several artists are able to offer alternative artwork solutions, which also is a key to their success.
“All our artwork is done in house,” he says. “We have a very talented and diverse team of over 20 graphic designers. This way, we are able to offer several designs for each product, as well as continually update our product line with new trends and designs. We are also able to respond quickly to custom requests and orders.”
Victory cornhole boards come in four different sizes for a bevy of purposes. The 24″ x 48″ version is standard for tournament competition. More commonly seen at tailgates is the 24″ x 36″ size, which is more portable and fits horizontally in many standard trunks. The 12″ x 24″ version, also known as “junior size,” can be used for smaller spaces or indoors. The smallest version, measuring 5″ x 10″, is ideal for desktops and typically is intended as a gift or tournament prize, according to the company. The larger two boards feature 6-inch holes, while the smaller sets feature holes that are appropriately scaled down.
The boards are made with cabinet-grade plywood. Painting starts with three coats of exterior primer, then four to six coats of exterior paint, finished with a clear gloss sealant. The legs are foldable with hidden carriage bolts and wing nuts.
Each set comes equipped with eight bags — four per team – with a choice of 16 colors. The standard bags are regulation sized, made of Duck Cloth canvas measuring 6″ x 6″ and containing between 15 and 16 ounces of whole corn kernels. Victory Tailgate also offers “all-weather bags” for consumers who need extra weather protection. The only difference is the use of plastic beads instead of corn kernels.
One of the keys to the Orlando business is its involvement with two local charities that are near and dear to Sims’ heart. The first is Operation Hat Trick (OHT), which supports wounded veterans.
“We started working with Operation Hat Trick very early on as we were both growing in the licensing space,” he says. “The charity is one dear to our hearts, and the team at OHT are so passionate and inspiring. We hope to continue to grow together with them.”
Another charity, Quest, supports Central Floridians with developmental disabilities by offering them choices and opportunities to “live, learn, work and play.”
“We now have set up an entire production area in one of their facilities for a few of our processes, giving over 50 adults the opportunity to work and earn a wage, where they normally wouldn’t have been able to,” Sims says. “That partnership has been extremely rewarding to watch unfold and witness firsthand.”
While cornhole boards continues to be Victory Tailgate’s bread-and-butter product, the company has diversified its product base, starting with its new apparel line, Made Loyal.
According to Sims, the line was created to provide small-retail benefits such as no minimums, quick turnaround times and a variety of styles. The apparel also is on demand and distributed direct to consumer, and each product is cut and sewn in house in sizes ranging from 2T-4XL.
The company also offers Tumble Towers. Similar to the kitchen table classic Jenga, the blocks are much larger and come emblazoned with team logos. Sims says the game has gained traction and they hope to continue to bring more tailgating classics to the masses.
“After the success of the cornhole boards, we had customers and clients wanting us to offer more products in the outdoor-game space,” he says. “The Tumble Towers have been hugely popular, and this year we are planning on introducing several more games that would compliment any tailgate, backyard get-together, or any event.”