5 Things You Need to Know About Selling Licensed Collegiate Apparel
It's a warm August day. You walk on campus amid students, faculty, staff and administrators, feeling anxious, lost and uninformed. Are you reliving first-day freshman jitters? Or are you on campus in an attempt to discover a new client with promotional product needs? For you, most likely the latter.
According to IMG Worldwide, a marketing, licensing and media rights firm, college sports has the largest fan base of all sports, with 190 million fans. College campuses use promotional products to support their athletic and academic branding strategies, recruit individuals and incite action from constituencies, among other goals. Athletic teams are only one of the many university departments using imprinted apparel to communicate a message.
Before you go tenderly knocking on campus doors, heed these tips to present yourself as the collegiate apparel solutions expert.
Prepare by Taking an Introductory Course
First, read up on licensing, royalties and the institution's trademark rules. Several licensing agencies provide excellent basics on their websites. Check out www.clc.com,www.lrgusa.com or www.smaworks.com.
All three agencies provide licensing services to universities around the country. They also collect royalties on behalf of the institution, when applicable. Depending on how the apparel will be used, the order may or may not be subject to royalty fees.
Don't see your institution in their lists of clients? Search the specific college's website for "trademark permission," "logo usage guidelines" or similar terms to locate the appropriate on-campus contacts. Remember, the purpose of collegiate licensing is to protect the client's trademark and capitalize on revenues generated through sales and distribution of goods.
The Application Process
Heading off to college as a student and expanding your education-sector client list as a distributor both require a lot of paperwork. The application may be the most time-consuming step in acquiring new clients in the education sector. Before you submit an order, whether it be for a student group, an academic department or athletic team, you must apply for a license. A license is a written legal agreement between the owner of the trademark (licensor) and a manufacturer/vendor (licensee). The licensor grants permission to the licensee to affix the licensor's trademark(s) on a product.
The Acceptance Letter
Once a license is in place and an order is written, artwork must be submitted to the licensing agency or school to ensure that trademark standards (size, scale, color, line, etc.) match university logo standards. Art approval is required with every order. Be patient and allow plenty of time between writing the order and the in-hands date. Art approvals can take several days or multiple revisions before the order moves to production.
You Are the Instructor
Your ability to provide university clients with ideas, personal service and quality products gives you an advantage over online promo sources. Build upon the relationship with consistent service and unique solutions. Explore additional opportunities such as program business or group buys. Be aware that public universities with limited budgets and strict regulations may require centralized purchasing approvals and accepting gifts from distributors is often prohibited.
Research Pays Off
The more you know about the college you are seeking to do business with, the more informed you will appear when you approach buyers and other decision-makers. Visit the campus bookstore to identify apparel options students and staff have access to. Retail buyers may not have the resources, staffing or cost flexibility to provide apparel to student groups or even college departments with specific event or program needs. This is your opportunity to present ideas, volume discounts and solutions that shine in your clients' eyes.
Vicki J. Wade worked as an administrator and retail buyer in the higher education sector for 14 years before joining the promotional products industry. She joined The Vernon Company, Newton, Iowa, in 2012 and currently serves as its director of marketing.