Don Schaaf and Friends Inc The team behind the team

Dec. 09, 2014, 1 p.m. (ET)

Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc.: The team behind the team

Team USA Bobsled and Skeleton has experienced a lot of success on the world’s biggest stages in recent years. Most notably, at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Team USA won six medals in the two sports, with Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton leading the charge with two medals each.

The success of USA Bobsled and Skeleton is very reflective of our ability to attract world-class talent, both on the track and off. We are very fortunate to have some of the most dedicated athletes in the world, who are 100% committed to representing their country in the best way possible.

However, contrary to popular belief, our organization receives no funding from the United States government. Our source of funding relies solely on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. Every donation/sponsorship is an integral part of the success we experience as an organization.

One of these key supporters, Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc. has been a fundamental part of the organization since the fall of 2009, leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. The company is truly the meaning of “the team behind the team.”

“Existing (USA Bobsled and Skeleton) board member Ted Offit approached Don (Schaaf) to ask his help on a pre-Vancouver 2010 Games fundraiser and sponsorship program,” recalled Aaron Hansen, who is an art director with DS+F. “Of course there wasn’t anything budgeted so we did the work pro bono. I seem to remember that we even paid for the printing ourselves — so it actually cost us money to help out!”

DS+F is a company, based out of Washington D.C. that specializes in branding, marketing and advertising.

“The majority of our clients aren’t local to us. We work for Fortune 1000 companies, global trade associations, large law firms, non-profit institutions and corporations that are leaders in their respective markets,” said Hansen. “We create brands and then we manage them. We name products, create B2B and B2C launch campaigns, websites, motion graphics/videos, packaging programs, etc.

Basically, we create solutions for anything that can hold a brand — even the exteriors of entire factories in China and Istanbul, transportation fleets in Germany or bobsleds,” he continued. “As a company we’re probably most famous for helping MCI launch their Friends & Family program, and we did that HDTV logo that is probably printed somewhere small on the front of your television.”

Not a fan of HDTV? You may have still seen the company’s work. If you have ever seen the American bobsled team race, then you have seen the work created by DS+F, even if you weren’t aware of it.

“The most visible project we take on every season is most definitely the team’s bobsled wraps,” Hansen said.

The bobsled wrap is the design work that is displayed on a bobsled. The job is a tedious one that is very specific and can be very tough to produce. A wrap features several different logos from sponsors that must be placed in specified spots on the sled. What is even more difficult about the process? Every sled wrap is completely different.

“The most difficult part of the process is visualizing a design in 3D,” said Hansen. “Each sled effectively has four branded surfaces, the top, bottom and both sides. Fortunately, we’ve worked with on two NASCAR team wraps and an Indy car, and created other branded racing and transportation vehicles for other clients so we come to the party with built-in experience.”

So what is the process of developing a bobsled wrap?

“During the off-season, we start by creating a new ‘USA Stars and Stripes’ treatment for the tail section of all nine bobsleds we’ll wrap,” Hansen said. “This unique (we’re the only nation to do this so far) tail wrap serves two main purposes — to let fans know that, regardless of the sled’s sponsor, it’s a Team USA sled, and to have a dedicated space to house all the team’s sponsors. The team approves this special tail treatment before we ever create new sleds for the season.

Each season, the process begins with a set of sponsors and their assigned sleds. (Two-man vs. four-man sleds have completely different dimensions and angles.) We’ll do research on a sponsor, reviewing their latest ad campaign online, pulling up their brand usage guides if they have them, etc.

Then, we meet as a team to discuss possibilities, keeping in mind that the best designs always make the sleds look like they’re moving, even when they’re standing still,” Hansen continued. “Once we have a few designs worked out we present them to the team and the sponsor for comment and selection.

A final design is chosen, our production team creates high-resolution digital artwork, artwork is transmitted electronically for full-color output and the installation gets scheduled. Having seen these professionals wrapping vehicles before, using squeegees, heat guns, special spray solutions and a ton of experience and talent, I can honestly say that I’m glad it doesn’t fall on us to ensure that our final designs go on the sleds straight.”

While the work itself is very tedious, DS+F doesn’t downplay the pride they find in their company’s role in helping Team USA compete against the top competition in the world.

“You never, ever get tired of seeing your work on television, in photos and on the web,” he admitted. “A few years ago we were told that one sled we designed honoring the NYFD and 9/11 was the most photographed sled on tour that year; that made us all feel great. More importantly, the strongest designs will be captured more often — and that’s great exposure for the team’s sponsors.”

Tasked with the difficult process of building and maintaining the brand of USA Bobsled and Skeleton is not just a single person job. Instead, DS+F approaches the assignment similar to every other duty they inherit.

“Regardless if we’re working pro bono or for one of our regular clients, we approach every assignment as a team,” said Hansen. “If strategy is needed in advance, our Executive Vice President Mike Raso and Don Schaaf are brought in. Because Don’s also on the board, he can get the team up-to-speed quickly.

I’m the company’s Art Director so I’m in charge of the creative products we produce,” he continued. “Because I’ve been involved with the sled wraps for a number of years, I tend to create the majority of them myself as well. The entire team is involved with all of our clients, but the group below is really dialed in on the team’s brand:

Alecia Lewis, Senior Designer 
Carolyn Davidson, Digital Marketing Manager 
Rebecca Perez, Senior Digital Designer 
Tony Caruso, Senior Brand Strategist 
Thema Wilson, Campaign Director 
Henry Baker, Director of Motion Graphics.”

As if designing the sled wraps wasn’t enough for one company to do, DS+F performs many other tasks for USA Bobsled and Skeleton.

“We work on everything from external communications template designs, sponsorship prospecting materials and brand usage guides, to fundraising videos and logos, wearables and everything in between,” said Hansen.

If you are in need of branding/marketing/advertising assistance, Don Schaaf & Friends, Inc. would love to speak with you about the services they can provide.

“The head rainmaker is Don so it’s most effective to email or call him: or 202-965-2600,” he said. “Of course you can always visit our website for more info: Or, if you find yourself in DC and would like to stop by the studio we’re located at 1313 F Street, NW, just two blocks from the White House, in a historic, loft-like space that’s pretty cool.”

One thing is for sure; we are very fortunate to have DS+F on board with USA Bobsled and Skeleton. Their hard work and loyalty to our organization is unmatched in the branding/marketing/advertising industries and we are very excited to have them as a partner.

From our whole team, including all of our athletes, staff and board of directors, we thank you for your continued effort on behalf of Team USA. It truly makes all the difference in the world.