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Cardboard fans make people feel ‘like they are a part of their favorite team’: AAA Flag & Banner CEO

Craig Furst, AAA Flag & Banner President & CEO joins Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita to talk on the business of cardboard fans as live sports start to pick up amid COVID-19.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, the pandemic has made for some unusual sports viewing. We've got the basketball games with crowd noise piped in. We've got baseball stadiums and football stadiums empty. But fortunately for the athletes, they've got some welcome company in the form of cardboard cutout fans.

And we are joined by Craig Furst. He is the founder, or president and CEO of AAA Flag and Banner. Craig, it's good to talk to you. I think a lot of us who've been watching these games have wondered how big of a boost are these companies getting, because a cardboard cutout concept itself certainly very unique to this pandemic. But just give me a sense of the kind of uptick you've seen in your business since sports resumed?

CRAIG FURST: Well, before sports resumed, our business was down by about 70%. And ever since sports came back online, we've seen an uptick by an additional 30%. We're at about 60% of our pre-pandemic revenue.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Craig, how have you seen your business evolve? Even before the pandemic, none of us would have thought to put cardboard cutouts in the seat. So where was your business before that? And when did you start to notice that maybe we're onto something that could really catch on?

CRAIG FURST: Well, it was pretty quickly that we all realized that people are not going to be able to be around each other for the coming months. So we started instantly talking to our sports clients who are a major part of our business, and talking to them about things like seat kills, which are the giant tarps that are placed over the seats. And what we learned was that they were out selling sponsorship for those seat kills, in some cases that were making up for about 70% of the revenue of all the fans being in the seats by fans paying for those cutouts.

AKIKO FUJITA: And what kind of cutouts are you seeing? I thought it was interesting. There's been a number of stories about families reuniting with their loved ones who've passed on, being able to see them together in a stadium. They shared so many memories. I mean, what kind of stories are you hearing on how creative and the thought that's going into purchasing one of these seats?

CRAIG FURST: You know, I've seen all over the map some pretty incredible imagery. I saw one of a family that wanted to take their newborn to his first baseball game, their son. And, of course, that's not a possibility, so they made a cutout with their son and that was how he got to experiences his first baseball game.

There's been a lot of celebrities that we've seen come through. One of the more charming ones is there's a whole sports-- a whole section of animals in animal fans in the Oakland A's stadium.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Craig, you've got a number of partnerships in place here now. You're working with the Rams, the Giants, Oakland A's, the Niners, the Washington Football Team, and also a number of college football teams too. What kind of staying power do you think this has and how are you thinking about your business once fans are able to return to the stadium? How do you think that's going to evolve?

CRAIG FURST: You know, it's interesting. We've heard from some of our sports clients that they intend on keeping some of these fan cutouts going into next year, which I was surprised to hear. I think that it's-- it's sparked opportunity for people who may have moved out of state, or who might not be healthy, or who have other issues that they can't attend and perhaps makes them feel like they are part of their favorite team. I don't see this as a long term viable product, but certainly at least through next season.

AKIKO FUJITA: Craig Furst, AAA Flag and Banner president and CEO. It's great to have you on today.

CRAIG FURST: Thanks for having me.