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Spalding pumps up b-ball packaging

Packaging for the new “Spalding NBA Infusion” basketball with built-in “Micro Pump” has a lot on the ball. Not only does the box use holography, a thermoform inside the top of the box highlights and protects the pump in its extended state.

The box is converted from an 80-ga holographic biaxially oriented polypropylene/12-pt SBS substrate.
The box is converted from an 80-ga holographic biaxially oriented polypropylene/12-pt SBS substrate.

“We took quantum leaps with this packaging,” exhorts Alan Byrne, senior packaging specialist, Spalding Sports Worldwide, Chicopee, MA. Byrne says one-of-a-kind packaging highlights the distinctive ball and pump.

The box is converted by Inland Paperboard and Packaging (Indianapolis, IN), which receives an 80-ga holographic biaxially oriented polypropylene/12-pt SBS substrate from Hazen Paper (Holyoke, MA). Hazen receives the BOPP already metallized and embossed with the holographic imagery. Inland offset-prints the BOPP/SBS in nine colors plus overlacquer, and then laminates it to single-face E-flute corrugated. As usual with Spalding, graphics were handled by Colangelo Synergy Marketing (Darien, CT).

Tight thermoform tolerences

The retractable pump, positioned at the top front of the ball, is covered by a thermoform molded of polyvinylchloride by Jay Packaging (Warwick, RI). Byrne says tolerances were exceptionally tight for the thermoform’s small hexagonal cavity that surrounds the pump itself, which is in its extended position, about 1 1/2’’ above the ball surface.

If the thermoform fit is too loose, the pump may retract before it reaches retail. Too tight, and the packaging assembly operation becomes difficult at the Chicopee plant, where Spalding operators use specially designed metal "fixtures" to assist ball loading into the box. The fixtures hold the flaps open and hold the pump in an extended position for placement of the thermoform. The pump is displayed via corner cutout on the box top both for consumers’ benefit and to keep it from being hidden by store shelves or when stacked.

Compared to Infusion's 20-month product development, the six-month packaging development was a fast break.

Infusion’s official introduction date is May 2001, but Packaging World spotted it in early March at a Chicagoland sports store where it was selling for $5 less than the suggested price of $44.99.

-Rick Lingle

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