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Volume 23 No. 13

Colleges

Editor’s note: This version is updated from the print edition.

Bill Battle’s on the other side of the table now, but the University of Alabama’s athletic director still drives a shrewd deal.

The Crimson Tide extended the agreement that makes Collegiate Licensing Co. the school’s exclusive licensing agent. The 10-year deal will pay the Tide in the neighborhood of $100 million total, making Alabama one of the few schools to receive a guarantee rather than a royalty.

CLC left no doubt that it wanted to keep the licensing rights.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“We feel very confident that CLC is the right choice to build our brand and our fan base,” Battle said.

When Battle ran CLC, the company he founded nearly 35 years ago, he seldom worried about competition. After all, he founded the collegiate licensing industry. Now that he’s on the other side of the table at Alabama, Battle saw the benefits of competition with CLC bidding against other licensing agencies for the Crimson Tide’s rights.

Fermata Partners also pursued the Tide’s licensing rights. That must have created some interesting exchanges, with the eager bidders pitching their services to the godfather of the industry. But ultimately, Alabama, which was CLC’s first college client, found what it was looking for in its longtime partner.

The Tide ranks first among CLC’s best-selling schools in the most recent release, just ahead of Texas. During Alabama’s run of national football championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012, CLC helped the Tide make $5 million in incremental revenue. CLC says Alabama’s licensing program has generated $98 million for the school since its inception in the early 1980s.

CLC’S TOP-SELLING SCHOOLS

1. Alabama
2. Texas
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Texas A&M
7. Florida
8. LSU
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina

Note: From July 1, 2014, through March 31.
Source: CLC

If there was any doubt just how badly CLC wanted to keep the business, it was erased when CLC, an IMG College company, traveled to Tuscaloosa to make its pitch. Not only were CLC senior executives Cory Moss and Jim Connelly in the room, so was IMG College Chairman Ben Sutton as well as Patrick Whitesell and Jason Lublin from William Morris Endeavor, the company that bought IMG last year.

As if that show of force wasn’t enough, they escorted Battle to the front door of the Mal Moore Athletic Complex, where he was greeted by more than 50 CLC employees, who sang the Tide’s “Rammer Jammer” cheer.

“I jokingly asked them, ‘Who’s back at the office working on my account?’” Battle said with a laugh.

While CLC’s enthusiasm left an impression, Battle talked just as enthusiastically about CLC’s infrastructure, its strength in numbers (close to 200 college clients) and the analytics that WME is introducing to CLC.

Whether issuing guarantees will remain a part of CLC’s strategy remains to be seen. Michigan is one of the few other schools that receives guaranteed revenue from its licensing deal. CLC pledged $83.5 million to the Wolverines over 10 years in a deal struck last October.