2016 NFLPA LICENSEE OF THE YEAR
ORGANIZED & EXECUTED SAGER STRONG CAMPAIGN
IN 2017 RAISED OVER $500,000 FOR CHARITABLE CAUSES & FOUNDATIONS
LOCAL LICENSES WITH 16 NHL AND NBA TEAMS
USA FOOTBALL CAMP PARTNERSHIP
PARTNERSHIPS WITH ESPN PERSONALITIES, BLEACHER REPORT & YAHOO FANTASY SPORTS
Athletes and musicians have always been a favorite subject for me. I started sketching them when I was very young and have found ways to always trip back into it, even while working in other industries. As soon as it was an option to do it full-time, that is all I focused on.
The portraits are sketched on paper using ink pens and then brought into Adobe Photoshop to add colors and effects. The file can be printed on stretched canvas, t-shirts, coffee mugs, pillow cases, and basically anything that you would like to print it on. Most of the portraits have been done for www.500level.com which has the legal rights to the athletes used but this style can be replicated for other subjects as well.
Craig Sager was known for his bright suits, his memorable sideline interviews with the NBA's biggest players/coaches, and his unwavering optimism during his fight with acute myeloid leukemia. We were privileged to be asked to come up with a shirt to help raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation. The foundation donates proceeds to go directly to fund clinical trials and cancer research for Leukemia and other blood cancers.
Creatively, it was tough to figure out what type of design would embody such an outgoing and beloved figure. That changed after he gave his powerful ESPN speech to accept the Jimmy V award. He wore a suit that only Craig could pull off and reminded all of us that "TIME IS SIMPLY HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE." The speech was very moving and after a few tears, we realized that the classic tuxedo t-shirt with a Sager remix is what was needed. The tuxedo t-shirt didn't look right as the standard chest print, we realized it would need to be a sublimation print to cover the entire shirt with the yellow, pink, and orange floral pattern. We were also able to add his famous quote on the back of the shirt, it was a very important addition requested from the Sager family.
We couldn't print the shirts in-house so we took a huge risk and ordered a large quantity hoping the NBA teams, players, and fans of Craig would support the foundation and show their love for the fighting hero. We realized that it needed it's own labeling, stickers, bags, and anything that could help get the word out to spread the support for Craig.
The list of celebrities, players, tv appearances, and fans that posted #sagerstrong was truly unbelievable.
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I am not trying to write a biography on who Gary Vaynerchuk is. He's already done that (https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/biography/). His story is the American Dream and his work ethic backs that up. Gary has a huge fanbase and utilizes his raw speaking ability and vision to inspire them through podcasts, books, speaking events, and especially cutting edge social media.
He is known for his business savvy, work ethic, and cut-through the bullshit way of public speaking. It was not hard to get motivated or to motivate the other designers with catch phrases and ambitious sayings that work in life.. and also on t-shirts.
His fans started posting to #garyveeshop on instagram for contests and discounts.
"Miami's Drew "The Shark" Rosenhaus is one of the best known agents in the history of professional sports." - Forbes.com
We have worked with the Rosenhaus Sports Agency and it's athletes to create unique designs, build online storefronts, and help with logo/branding for a handful of the players. When they asked to make some shirts as gifts for them, we took the liberty to throw in a few custom designs and even tweaked their logo. They like what they saw and decided to have us help with an updated logo, website, and overall brand. The site will launch soon at http://rosenhaussports.com.
As soon as I saw Aaron Rodgers stache in 2012, I knew we had something (https://www.500level.com/products/aaronrodgerssketchk-mens-premium-t-shirt?variant=31189045764#mens-premium-t-shirt/ivory/s/)!
As a fan of sports, the best player always make the biggest play or is part of the biggest moment. Those moments can overshadow the player's career or solidify them as legends.
It is a system that we fine-tuned until we could literally keep up with ESPN's Top 10 plays of the day. Speed to market on viral moments capture consumer demand and can last much longer, depending on the significance of the game and legacy of player.
Thank God for that Stache.
“Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English--but are great in remembering signs”
― Karl Lagerfeld
Logos should be timeless, simple, scalable, balanced, and able to look great with one color. The logo should have no problem lasting 15 years. Keep it classic.
It is easy to show someone an existing product or website but it gets more difficult to pitch ideas without some type of visual backing. As 500 LEVEL has grown, we have had to pitch many large companies, brands, agencies, and player associations. It is important to keep pitch decks as short and precise as possible. They are used to tell a story, build excitement, and show the potential opportunities utilizing each other's strengths.
Every 108 years or so, a team like this comes around. We were asked to make a design for the families of the Cubs during their historic World Series run. We decided to not only make a design, but a custom design for each player that used the same style and background. The players and families loved them.
After celebrating the Cubs World Series win, I was thinking of the Chicago Bulls Championship run where they won the title six different times. Every year, there was a commemorative championship shirt with all of the players as cartoons (They sell like hotcakes on eBay). Luckily, the artist loves the Cubs so he made different bodies for us while I worked on the layout.
Thank you to the very talented Ruben Garza for his great work on this project (https://www.instagram.com/rgcartoons/).
Michael Del Zotto was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers and looking for a logo. He loves to dj during the offseason and always wears hats during the sets. We needed to create a logo that looks good on hats but also other apparel. He told me what a great fanbase he has and wanted them to be part of choosing the perfect logo. He posted different logo options to social media and had his fans pick their favorites.
NFL Sunday's have been the best sports day of the week for a long time. Sunday is even better when you can watch the game and turn the great plays and performances into designs. I grew up drawing athletes and always focused on their biggest plays. It was impossible to find shirts with those plays on them but that isn't a problem anymore:
Athletes and their families occasionally purchase shirts from 500 LEVEL. I personally write a Thank You letter to them and ask to reach out to me if they have any custom design needs or ideas. Max Scherzer's wife, Erica May-Scherzer did just that. She had emailed me before the playoffs started to ask if we could print on some maternity clothes for her during her pregnancy. I happened to google Max's 2017 stats while we were talking and noticed that the couple has helped a ton with the Humane Rescue Alliance. They helped with a lot of dogs that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
I noticed the Humane logo had two blue eyes and Max is known for having one brown eye and one blue. I remixed the logo and sent it over to Erica to see if they would like to try and raise even more money for the dislocated shelter dogs. She loved it and got us in contact with the head of the Humane Rescue Alliance.
There have been some major achievements for 500 LEVEL. Starting the company from nothing is difficult so it's always nice to see a little recognition. The first time we saw one of our t-shirt's on tv, it was a major moment for the company. We have been lucky enough to start having that happen on a regular basis. It still feels great.
Content, content, content! It's easy to get carried away with posting business updates to social media too often or running ads that do not catch the public's attention. It's much more effective to focus on good content first, and then follow it up with a strategic campaign.
A lot of athletes have noticed a big spike in personal branding in the last few years. It was typically the bigger named stars that would have endorsement deals but that has changed and allowed more athletes to have their own eCommerce websites designed to provide a extra revenue stream but also enhance their personal brand identity. After creating a clean Shopify template, it made sense to automate the look and start building as many athletes, celebrities, and even local small businesses websites.
Currently manage personal storefronts for 500+ athletes and celebrities
Example active online storefronts:
Ezekiel Elliott RB #21 Dallas Cowboys: www.shopzeke.com
David Johnson RB #31 Arizona Cardinals: www.davidjohnson31shop.com
Henrik Lundqvist G #30 New York Rangers: www.hlundqvist30shop.com
Gary Vaynerchuk American entrepreneur: www.garyveeshop.com
Todd Frazier 3B #29 New York Yankees: www.shoptoddfrazier.com
Russell Powell Pangaean Studios: www.pangaeanstudios.shop
Crossfit South Lamar: www.crossfitsouthlamarshop.com
We were able to secure licenses for Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee when starting 500 LEVEL. The estates were great to work with and concentrated on keeping the legacies of both at the highest level. They were some of the best selling and most requested from athletes throughout our entire catalog.
It is such a great feeling to get tickets to a big game. Walking in the stadium, there is that rush of excitement to get past the lines, smell the pretzels, and see the storefronts with the hottest fan garments. Seeing your own shirts in the storefront windows is great. Offering shirts that show a huge play from a few days before have shown to be the hottest sellers in the stadium.
Throwback players have become the best year around sellers for 500 LEVEL. These are the players that I grew up watching, wearing their jerseys, and even changing my junior high basketball number for. I owned the jerseys, recorded NBA Inside Stuff, and purchased their Starting Lineup figures. There is something very nostalgic about researching different images and videos to find the perfect layout for a throwback design. It is my favorite section on www.500level.com .
I'm a fantasy football nerd. I listen to the podcast daily and have a league that 10 of us college buddies started 15+ years ago in the basement of the Sig Ep house at Illinois State University. It is a legit addiction. The popularity of Fantasy sports has skyrocketed and the face of the fantasy football is ESPN's Matthew Berry. Utilizing a pitch deck and fantasy specific designs, we were able to team up with Matthew Berry for his own fantasy line. He has mentioned us on the podcast numerous times and worn the shirts live on ESPN.
I have always loved legos. I decided to try to make a portrait out of lego bricks. It is a fun hobby that keeps me busy when the weather gets a little colder. I have sold a few of them but realized that the medium of LEGO bricks is a lot more expensive than people see it's value.
(This description written from an iPhone plugged into an iPhone charging base built out of legos)
A clothing joint for men.
Tough but sleek. Industrial yet classy. ESPN on the screens, Revolver branded condoms in the old-school dispenser, beer in the fridge, and the latest fashion throughout the store. Free CD’s updated every Friday with hip-hop that kept customers coming back while browsing the newest fashion.
March 18, 2007|By Kelly Aiglon
David Ross was such an integral part of the Cubs pulling off the World Series. The guy hit a homer in Game 7! He retired and was literally carried off the field. He celebrated the win and then smoothly transitioned into a telecasting position with ESPN while becoming a part of Cubs front office. During his free time, he decided to become the lovable ex-jock on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. His teammates wanted to support him so they rocked the official Lady & The Gramp shirt for opening night of the show.
Keep dancing Gramps.
I've always been a hat guy, way before the bald head came into play at the age of 20. www.chicagoflaghats.com came about in 2007 and spread into different flags throughout the USA and internationally as well. Athletes want their own logo and are proud of that brand. David Johnson has been the top 5 running back since he came into the NFL and rocks his hat for the majority of televised interviews (https://www.davidjohnson31shop.com).
It's nice to meet other hat guys!