SBJ/September 10-16, 2012/Colleges

Hokies go to the video to boost merch sales

Virginia Tech’s spirited entrance to the football field is usually enough to get Hokie fans out of their seats. The school now is hoping it also makes them buy more licensed T-shirts and hats.

Virginia Tech has partnered with close to 20 Wal-Mart stores throughout the state of Virginia to create point-of-sale displays where Virginia Tech logo gear is being sold. In those displays, Virginia Tech has installed video players that run Hokie football highlights and the school fight song. The idea is that the video of Virginia Tech football will excite fans as they make a buying decision.

Video screens inside Wal-Mart stores in Virginia will show football highlights.
Photo by: VIRGINIA TECH
Each video player is equipped with a motion detector. When a consumer walks by, a 50-second video created by the school begins, starting with a spinning “VT” logo and then the Hokies running onto the field with the fight song playing and fireworks shooting out of the scoreboard. The team’s well-known entrance begins with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” followed by the fight song.

“We thought it’d be a lot more expensive than it actually was,” said Locke White, Virginia Tech’s director of licensing. “When the football team takes the field, that entrance is legendary around here. Our fans have an emotional attachment to that. Hopefully it stirs the passion when they are making a buying decision.”

White, who works in the school’s university relations department, said he was intrigued to read that said certain types of music in grocery stores triggered sales of certain food. On a grander scale, “retail-tainment” is used by Disney stores to create the feel of its theme parks. Bass Pro Shops uses waterfalls and aquariums to make a trip to a store feel like an outdoor adventure.

Virginia Tech and Wal-Mart haven’t taken the concept that far. The screens on the video players are a modest 10 inches, so they fit nicely into a display. White found a dealer in China and bought 40 of the video players for $100 each. There is one each in 20 Wal-Mart locations, which leaves him with about 20 in reserve for expansion of the program.

Knights Apparel, the supplier of merchandise for the displays, said early returns have been good, although specific sales numbers are not back yet.

Virginia Tech signed CLC to be its licensing agency starting July 1, but White, Wal-Mart and Knights Apparel had already started working on this project.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, and the reaction from the stores is that they want more,” said Joe Bozich, CEO of Knights Apparel, which is one of the two largest suppliers of college gear along with Nike. “What we’re seeing is that the retail-tainment concept is generating a lot of excitement. It’s something that we’ll be talking to other schools about.”

Virginia Tech displays are typically in the apparel section of Wal-Mart.

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