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Can Digital Printing Tee Up a Custom Merch Boom?

New data and a golf-focused social media influencer’s new brand provide reasons for optimism.




Applied with a heat press, shirt logos were printed on Roland DGA’s HeatSoft Plus (ESM-HT3) polyurethane transfer media, which is designed to stretch and weed easily for a soft hand.
Applied with a heat press, shirt logos were printed on Roland DGA’s HeatSoft Plus (ESM-HT3) polyurethane transfer media, which is designed to stretch and weed easily for a soft hand.

FRANK SCARCELLO EMERGED on social media as “Daddy Chungus” with the goal of making golf a more accessible and inclusive game. Little did he know he would also play a role in doing essentially the same thing for golfing gear. Thanks to Scarcello’s recent partnership with Roland DGA, a manufacturer of digital printing devices, the Daddy Chungus logo has been plastered across a range of limited-edition golf shirts, bag tags, and ball markers, all sold on Shopify.

Can Digital Printing Tee Up a Custom Merch Boom?

According to Roland, the idea of the partnership is to showcase how easy and affordable it can be to customize virtually anything. Digital printing unlocks capability for cost-effective shorter runs, enabling the customization of virtually any equipment with full-color graphics, no minimum order quantities, and few restrictions in terms of shapes or materials.

As for Daddy Chungus (a nickname inspired by a meme worthy a Google search for the uninitiated), Scarcello aims to appeal to anyone who’s ever been uncomfortable on the golf course. He has built a community by showcasing what he calls the “real side of golf – the chunks, the slices, the skulls.” He thought people would appreciate seeing “someone who’s not perfect, but still plays pretty well,” with a self-described “wonky” swing developed years ago to avoid ruining his baseball technique.

Having amassed a still-growing following of more than 15,000 across Instagram and Tiktok, Scarcello is doing well. However, when he started a little over a year ago, he never imagined developing his own logo, much less printing it on merch that has so far been sold on both coasts but also as far afield as England and Australia. “If you’d told me I’d be selling a limited-edition range of merch a year later, I’d have thought you were crazy,” he says.

Scarcello has “no plans to retire” from the sales. Rather, he is focused on furthering his mission of inclusivity, and on giving back to his community. Five percent of every sale goes to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation – a cause close to his own heart as someone afflicted with Chron’s. He also insisted on keeping the merch affordable, beginning with the choice of blank shirts. “Most golfing gear is way too expensive, which creates an unfair barrier to entry for the game,” he says.

However, digital printing made the most difference in keeping costs and prices reasonable.

Can Digital Printing Tee Up a Custom Merch Boom?

Daddy Chungus branded bag tags, ball markers and polo shirts are now
available on Shopify.

The Process

Roland did the printing at its Irvine, California headquarters. However, even those with a single piece of equipment could potentially capitalize on custom-branding merch. The VersaSTUDIO BN-20 printer/cutters used for the Daddy Chungus shirts fit on a desktop, and the digital heat-transfer printing process is relatively simple. After printing the graphic onto a heat transfer, finalizing the shirt requires lifting the transfer off the backing liner with a heat-transfer mask, then applying it with a heat press. Unlike more setup-intensive techniques such as screen printing, which generally requires more inks and other materials, this process can be cost-effective at volumes as low as one.

Versatility is another advantage. A desktop inkjet printer like the BN-20 can not only do heat transfers, but also double as a means of producing stickers, decals, posters, and more. The process is cost-effective for longer runs, too. Had the graphics been larger or the volumes higher, a wide-format TrueVIS VG3 or SG3 printer would have been a better choice, company representatives say. Printing batches of transfers in advance of new orders is also good strategy for some applications.

The Daddy Chungus bag tags and ball markers called for a different technology: Roland’s VersaUV LEF2 line of benchtop UV printers. With a standard carriage height of 7.87 inches on the largest model, these machines can accommodate a wide variety of three-dimensional objects and materials. With a rotary rack accessory, capability extends to printing around the circumference of golf balls or any other cylindrical item.


Can Digital Printing Tee Up a Custom Merch Boom?

The Data

Conducted this past spring by Roland and Censuswide, a survey of core golfers (those that play at least 12 times per year) in the U.S. indicates that the Daddy Chungus example is no one-off. Although the focus of the survey was golf, the Daddy Chungus example might also be a template for how digital print can bring together emerging influencers and print providers for new branding opportunities in any space.

Here are a few key findings:

  • Core golfers plan to spend as much as $40 billion on golf-merchandise in the next 12 months.
  • More than half of US core golfers (55%) have purchased merchandise from golf and sports social media influencers.
  • Nearly a third of respondents state they see “no difference” between products from golfluencers and major brands, and two thirds see these products as “complementary.”
  • Most respondents (76%) say it is important that an influencer is associated with a cause or charity.
  • More than 63% cite trust as a reason to purchase from an influencer. More than half who purchased goods did so directly through influencers’ social media channels.
  • A summary breakdown of Roland DGA’s golfluencer research can be found here.




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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