SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/Colleges

New season of college-licensed products puts alma maters in toasters, on shoe racks

College-licensed food products have met only marginal sales success in the past, but a new program featuring Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts has schools optimistic that the concept can work.

By early September, Pop-Tarts featuring the marks of five colleges — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina — will hit grocery store shelves in those markets.

The college-licensed Pop-Tarts are one of a handful of new products hitting the market just in time for this week’s start to the college football season, according to Collegiate Licensing Co., the IMG company that serves as the licensing agent for close to 200 colleges, conferences and bowls.

Toms has shoes with the colors of 33 schools, but no school logos.
Photo by: TOMS
Toms, the maker of casual canvas shoes, has one of the most robust licensing deals this fall, using the rights to 33 schools to create a line of Campus Classics in school colors.

The new line of Toms shoes, priced at $48, launched on its website, Toms.com, last week and will hit store shelves in October. The shoes come in the colors of the school, but do not feature the actual logos. A licensing deal with schools such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas was necessary, even without the marks on the shoes, for Toms to use the precise color codes for each school. Toms also will use the marks in its promotion.

“Toms is one of the hottest brands out there,” said Dave Kirkpatrick, CLC’s vice president of non-apparel brand management. “They’ve already got a great presence on college campuses because of their popularity there, and beyond.”

Toms has gained a measure of its popularity because of the message behind its shoes. For every pair sold, Toms donates a pair to a child in need across 20 countries. That same commitment will apply to the school shoes that are sold. The company has donated more than 2 million pairs since it began in 2006. That mission has created a unique following for the shoe brand, which sold 10,000 shoes in its first year and typically is sold in boutique shops or stores that cater to younger consumers.

The Toms shoes will be available at Nordstrom, Journeys, Jack’s Sports Shop and campus retailers, among other retail outlets.

Unlike Toms, which advertises almost exclusively through social media channels, Pop-Tarts will be advertising heavily to support its licensing deal, specifically at Arkansas. Radio ads on the Razorbacks’ football broadcasts, in-stadium signage and on-site activation at the home games will promote the Arkansas “Razorback Red” Pop-Tarts.

It’s the kind of deal that integrates licensing and sponsorship into a unified effort. CLC is working with its multimedia rights cousin, IMG College, to do more deals that combine licensing and advertising, where it has the rights to both. Arkansas is a CLC school with IMG College handling its multimedia rights.

If sales go well with the Razorbacks, the integrated licensing and sponsorship program could grow to include more schools.

While licensed food has a sketchy sales history, Kirkpatrick said licensees have seen some success with Russell Stover college chocolates, bottled water and ice cream, but distributors for grocery chains often struggle to get the right licensed product to the correct market.

“But it does look like there’s a growing level of sophistication with distributors that make us think programs like this can be very successful,” Kirkpatrick said.

Also new for the football season are two separate licensees in the hard cooler space. Igloo brand hard-sided coolers on wheels debuted this month with the marks to 20 schools. Those will retail for $20 to $50. Yeti, the maker of higher-end hard coolers for $250 to $350, will feature the marks of a dozen schools.

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