Advertising / Business development / Design / Sports

How a Wilmington sports branding agency landed Disney

And Adidas. It may have had something to do with Nick Matarese's wooden business cards.

Disney, Adidas and Rukket Sports are three Barn clients. (Photo courtesy of The Barn)

The Walt Disney Company keeps a list of 60 designers, all of whom they can call upon at any time. Nick Matarese of the Wilmington-based sports branding agency The Barn is now on that list.
There are a few rules, though.
“I can’t draw Mickey,” Matarese said. “I’m not allowed.” No, that job is reserved for a Mickey design specialist. Actually, Disney has a specialist for every single one of their characters.
If the Mickey specialist sends Matarese a sketch of, say, Mickey arm wrestling Pluto — that design must be incinerated if it’s not the final product. It’s almost like one of those top-secret “this message will self-destruct” missions Inspector Gadget used to get.
As for the actual contract? “It’s binding anywhere in the universe,” Materese said. “There are no loopholes.”
Rewind. How did The Barn get on that exclusive Disney list in the first place?
Matarese said he began talks with the company last May in Boston, when the Disney Design Group contacted him directly. Before long, he was being fast-tracked through Disney’s legal system and was handed his first project.
“They’re fun to work with,” Matarese said. “They get it. They let me go crazy a little bit.”
Shortly afterwards, he was given a second, larger contract: a merchandise line for a new Disney project. It wasn’t just hard work that helped him land that second deal. Proper branding had a lot to do with it. Namely, Matarese’s trademark wooden business cards.
“That is literally my calling card. It just goes with our mentality that we’d rather do quality, not quantity.” Matarese said. “Yeah, they’re expensive. But you just stopped for 20 minutes on my business card. I win.”


Business card game strong.

The wooden business cards are what set the foundation for Matarese’s business relationships. Besides delivering quality services, those relationships are incredibly crucial to The Barn’s success. Fostering relationships is what got Matarese a contract with Adidas.
Back when Matarese was working with the Henson Group, he was acting as lead designer on several projects. One of those projects was Adidas.
Having always been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, Matarese eventually decided to leave Henson to launch his own agency, Matarese Designs — or, what would soon become The Barn (named after the 100-year-old barn he was working out of).
Soon after opening his doors, he discovered Henson had lost the Adidas contract. So, he made some calls to some old pals and picked up the contract for himself. It was a perfect fit. Matarese, who’s also a hockey coach at the University of Delaware, loves designing for athletics.
Masculine design is The Barn’s specialty. That’s what separates them from the pack.
“A lot of [designers] don’t really have a vertical, they’re just taking jobs wherever,” Matarese said. “They follow the money. They don’t follow what they want to do.”
In fact, Matarese said people think he’s “weird” because he designs for sports teams and athletics manufacturers. That doesn’t phase him. He just continues to work as hard as he can.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” he said. “I haven’t passed out yet. I’m still breathing.”

Companies: The Barn / Disney

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