Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2017 - 60
Michigan State University
Those quality standards go beyond the design and production of the physical products. Licensees must sign onto
MSU's labor code of conduct, signifying they understand
the university's expectations for their factory conditions
and treatment of workers. Additionally, every company using the MSU brand must disclose their manufacturers and
carry the proper liability insurance.
In strategically managing its base of apparel licensees,
MSU stuck with companies where there was an existing relationship. However, the university continues to investigate
new potential partnerships and licensing agreements. The
Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show, set for Jan. 23-25 in
Las Vegas, is one of the best opportunities each year to find
new licensees and connect with existing ones. "With hundreds of licensees across the country, it's impossible to meet
with everybody all the time," Stevens says. "But with many
top licensees in one location, it's easier to meet face-to-face
and talk through plans for the MSU brand."
The university collaborates with every licensee on
MSU-branded products, but it shares a special partnership
with Nike. The relationship began with five of the school's
MSU uses consumer and buyer preference
data to understand market trends and
develop better strategies.
athletic teams in 2001 and has grown substantially since. In
2014, Michigan State Athletics signed a 10-year, $34-million deal, which included making Nike its exclusive licensee
for performance apparel and replica jerseys. "It was really
important to our athletics department that we showed our
loyalty to Nike, and it's really worked out well for all of us,"
The agreement has led to a bigger push within Nike for
other MSU licensed gear, such as new college-branded footwear at the launch of every sports season. "Nike has always
been a very strong partner with the university," Stevens says.
"Now that we have an exclusive agreement with Nike, we
see more product development for retail as well."
Understanding how to maximize its licensing potential
takes a great deal more data and resources than what's available to a small two-person department within a university.
In 2015, MSU began working with IMG College Licensing, a licensing agency that represents nearly 200 colleges,
bowl games, athletic conferences and the NCAA.
One key benefit of the IMG College Licensing partnership is that it provides MSU a more comprehensive understanding of where products are being sold, who buys those
products, and how to reach those customers. IMG, formerly
named the Collegiate Licensing Co., utilizes its internal systems to track the sale of collegiate licensed products across
a number of key variables such as product category, retailer
and channel of distribution.