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Sidney Lee | The Norman Transcript | January 17, 2016

National Championship provides opportunity for Top of the World in Norman

FBS Championship: Alabama captures title over Clemson

For the rest of the world of college football, their night ended Monday when Alabama won the 2015 National Championship. At Top of the World, 3001 36th Ave. NW in Norman, their night had just begun.

"After the game, we basically have a 48-hour window to turn over as many hats as possible," hot market specialist Shane Trease said.

At midnight, crews came in to stitch 29,000 hats that would flood the market. About 80 percent of the hats will go to retailers in Alabama.

Trease said if Clemson had won the game, the order would have been for 20,000 hats.

"We started at midnight last night," Trease said the day after the game. "Those hats will be out the door tomorrow at the latest."

The term "hot market" is used by Top of the World to refer to orders that need quick turn-arounds, like the National Championship caps, which they promised to retailers across the country within 48 hours of the game.

"It could go on for two to three weeks," Trease said.

When Ohio State won the national championship, retailers ordered hats for three weeks after the game.

Top of the World also does on-field hats for the Big 12 Championships.

"Then we basically have a 24-hour window," Trease said.

The screen printing on the hats is done overseas before the game, then shipped to Top of the World.

Once the game is over, the stitching begins as the logo and name of the winning team are put on the hats.

Some hats at Top of the World are made with all stitching, with the team's new title and the year.

Top of the World covers most hot markets associated with college sports.

"It can be anywhere from women's volleyball or swimming to the national championship," hot market designer Eric Prater said.

Praten said part of the challenge in designing hot market hats is making each hat different, even though it has to incorporate the same school logos and much of the same wording.

"They kind of give us an idea, but it's very vague," Prater said. "It just has to say 'champion' and we go from there."

Once the NCAA has finalized the hat design, it then goes to the teams that are still competing for the title to be approved. Each school might have a slight change to the design, so if they win, it works better with their logos.

There are other challenges, as well.

"We have to stick to grayscale because we don't know who's going to win," Prater said.

While they may have to work with the same basic elements every year, Prater said they have found ways to make each hat design unique. As an example, recently they have started putting designs under hat bills.

But the effort and challenges of the design are more than worth it to Praten.

"I get to see it on TV," Praten said.

Top of the World makes more than just championship hats. Top of the World sells hats under two labels. One is the Top of the World label, which sells to stores like Lids, Dicks and other mid-tier sporting good stores. The other label, Captivating Headwear, sells to stores like Wal-Mart and gas stations.

This second label also offers to "crunch numbers" for retailers to let them know which hats are selling best at their stores, taking the headache of figuring out their most popular products out of that company's hands, said Renata Hays, the vice president of licensing, marketing and product development at Top of the World.

She said most of the Captivating Headwear clients are not focused on how their hats sell because they have so many other items, so it is a service these retailers appreciate.

Clients of both labels also appreciate the quick response time for orders, especially if a team gets "hot" and they begin to see demand.

Hays said while other companies may not get the orders from overseas before the team begins to lose momentum, Top of the World can have orders out and to the store in a short amount of time.

Hays said Top of the World has licenses with 550 schools and the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as companies like Coca-Cola. They also work with Mossy Oak and Real Tree to make team hats with materials from those companies.

"We have millions of hats in this warehouse," Hays said.

The company has grown to cover nine acres in northern Norman, which Hays said is a big change from where it started, first out of the owner's garage, then out of a converted gas station.

Hays said they only started putting their logos on the back of their hats within the last five years because they have always wanted the team's logo on the front of the hat to be the focus.

But the next time a college athlete wins their sport's national championship, as they put on their new championship hat, a small shield-shaped logo may be seen on the back.

"That's the pinnacle of that sport. For that athlete and for us to be a part of that moment as a company is special," Hays said.

This article was written by Sidney Lee from The Norman Transcript, Okla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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