SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/Colleges

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  • A&M’s merch boom: More than Manziel

    Texas A&M sold a school-record $70 million worth of licensed merchandise during the most recent fiscal year, and not all of it was in the form of Johnny Manziel’s No. 2 football jersey.

    While the Aggies’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback certainly contributed to the elevated sales, school officials said several factors led to their best year ever, mostly a new brand strategy and the move to the SEC.

    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Gross royalties grew to an all-time high of $3.939 million in 2012-13, the Aggies’ first in their new conference, up from $3.23 million the year before. The fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30. But that 22 percent spike in sales of A&M gear wasn’t an anomaly as it came on the heels of a 23 percent jump in royalties in 2011-12 — the year before anyone knew who Manziel was.

    In fact, the school that for years was in the shadow of the University of Texas has been seeing its licensing royalties grow exponentially in recent years.

    Over the past two years combined, Texas A&M’s licensing revenue has shot up from $2.6 million to nearly $4 million. Over the last five years, licensing revenue has more than doubled from $1.9 million. Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., a division of IMG College, is the school’s licensing agent.

    Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s jerseys helped the surge in sales.

    “One thing that has become evident during our annual review with CLC is that our licensing program is stronger than one season or one player,” said Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s senior associate athletic director for external affairs.

    Cook mostly credits the increased licensing revenue to the move to the SEC, as well as an integrated approach across all of campus. Whether it’s the athletic department or the English department, they’re all using the same A&M marks for a “one brand approach,” Cook said. That is a rare approach as many schools use a seal or some other mark that’s not consistent with athletics.

    On the strength of those increases, A&M leaped to 12th from 19th in CLC’s 2012-13 year-end rankings of top-selling schools, passing SEC brethren South Carolina and Tennessee in the process (see chart).

    The year-over-year increases can be traced to several developments, Cook said. The Aggies were in their first football season as a member of the SEC in 2012, which coincided with football coach Kevin Sumlin’s first season at A&M. The Aggies sold more co-branded apparel with A&M and SEC marks than any other school, said Cory Moss, senior vice president and managing director of CLC.

    “We’re seeing some [retail] penetration in the state of Texas that they didn’t have before,” Moss said.

    The Aggies also were more successful on the field than anyone expected, winning 11 football games — the most victories in 15 years — and planting the only blemish on Alabama’s otherwise impeccable record.

    And then, of course, there was Manziel, the talk of college football who eventually became the first freshman to win the Heisman last season. His visibility soared over the course of the season and certainly contributed to the surge in sales with his

    No. 2 jersey, but school officials are reluctant to credit an individual player for such sustained growth.

    The NCAA is investigating whether Manziel took money for signing autographs, a violation that could threaten his eligibility, according to an ESPN report.

    Other factors helped set the table for A&M’s sustained licensing growth, the school said. In 2008, the Aggies hired Shane Hinckley as assistant vice president of business development with oversight of licensing campuswide. Hinckley served on the board of directors for the International Collegiate Licensing Association from 2006 to 2012, and was its president in 2010-11.

    In 2009, A&M brought on CLC. Subsequently, A&M merchandise has moved into more national chains such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Aeropostale, Old Navy, Target and Wal-Mart.

    CLC also credited Adidas outerwear and performance wear for delivering greater sales. Adidas has been the school’s shoe and apparel partner since 2007.

    “They’ve also done a great job of building their brand,” Moss said of A&M. “They’re in new retail categories and they’re in new product categories.”

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  • With move to SEC, boom times in Aggieland

    Texas-size sales

    The top schools in terms of licensed product sales from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013
    1. Texas
    2. Alabama
    3. Notre Dame
    4. Michigan
    5. Kentucky
    6. LSU
    7. Florida
    8. Georgia
    9. North Carolina
    10. Arkansas
    11. Oklahoma
    12. Texas A&M
    13. Wisconsin
    14. Nebraska
    15. Tennessee
    16. South Carolina
    17. West Virginia
    18. Auburn
    19. Penn State
    20. Missouri
    21. Florida State
    22. Kansas
    23. Oklahoma State
    24. Clemson
    25. Louisville

    Top 10 Apparel Licensees

    Top manufacturers from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013
    1. Nike USA
    2. Knights Apparel
    3. Gear for Sports
    4. Sports Licensed Division of the Adidas Group
    5. Top of the World
    6. Colosseum Athletics Corp.
    7. Outerstuff Ltd.
    8. Twins Enterprise
    9. College Concepts
    10. VF Imagewear (Section 101 by Majestic)

    Top 10 Non-Apparel Licensees

    Top manufacturers from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013
    1. EA Sports
    2. Wilson Sporting Goods
    3. The Northwest Co.
    4. Team Beans LLC
    5. Commemorative Brands Inc. dba Balfour
    6. Tervis Tumbler Co.
    7. Logo Chair
    8. Fabrique Innovations Inc. dba Sykel
    9. WinCraft
    10. Herff Jones

    Source: Collegiate Licensing Co.
    Texas A&M’s licensing success follows a flurry of momentum around the program.

    Season tickets, which increased $25 this season, are sold out, just as they were last season. The school said it expects to generate close to $2 million in additional ticket revenue. The Aggies, who have eight home games this season, have sold 75,252 season tickets, which includes 30,000 for students. A waiting list for season tickets is 20,000 deep.

    Donations also jumped last year, climbing to $22 million in fiscal 2012 from $20 million the year before. Figures for 2013 are not available yet, but Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s senior associate athletic director for external affairs, said: “We anticipate that the number will be much greater due to the fact that donors are making capital contributions.”

    Texas A&M is raising money for a massive $450 million redevelopment of Kyle Field.

    “What we’ve found in moving to the SEC is that Texas A&M has been extremely undervalued,” Cook said. “That was the reason we moved to the SEC. It’s a huge point of brand differentiation in Texas and that’s significant for us.”

    — Michael Smith


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