ACCORDING TO STATISTICS from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, there are 4,388 colleges and universities in the United States. For distributors looking to successfully sell imprinted apparel to this market, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities. The top schools and most recognized names probably have long-standing deals, but what about the 3,500 other schools of which most people have never heard? Each institution has proud students willing to promote their school and school teams on T-shirts, pants, sweatshirts and even underwear. “Students will spend money on anything that has [their school logo] on it,” said Jason Neve, graphic designer and sales associate at Boardroom Custom Clothing, Vancouver, Canada. “It doesn’t take much ... they’re loyal to their school.”
When trying to sell to a large school that has name recognition, distributors will likely face significant competition, said Byron Reed, director of marketing at MV Sport, Bay Shore, N.Y. He said the trick is to find apparel that is new and stylistically different. If that isn’t possible, he recommends finding schools that people might not visit and that aren’t heavily trafficked.
A distributor’s job is far from finished once he or she finds a school willing to hear the pitch.
Today’s college students have different concerns than students of previous generations. The term “global warming” first appeared in the late 1970s. For those who came of age before this time the concept seemed far-fetched, but for a generation that has grown up facing the realities and the science, it is often a pressing concern.
The same goes for global labor practices. Corporate accountability and social responsibility have shaped a generation. Sure, they watch reality television and don’t remember that the “M” in MTV stands for music, but such is the call of their culture.