Licensing revenue for North Dakota State University Bison-branded apparel and merchandise has more than tripled in the last five years as the school's football team has risen to national prominence.
NDSU is the two-time defending champion in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, and the Bison are undefeated and top-ranked this year.
More than 270 retailers and vendors now are licensed to recreate the school's logos for profit, according to The Forum newspaper. The NDSU athletic department receives a 10 percent royalty on the wholesale cost of items produced. The royalty brought in $418,000 last year.
"The teams that are winning and have a winning tradition tend to be bigger royalty generators," said Rick Fletcher, general manager for CI Sport, which produces collegiate licensed apparel for hundreds of schools including NDSU.
The Licensing Resource Group, a trademark management company, handles applications, royalty collection and policing on NDSU's behalf. Final approval of all designs submitted by licensed vendors rests with NDSU's athletics marketing department. The department can review between 10 and 25 designs a day. That increases throughout the year as vendors try to respond to big athletic successes, such as Fargo recently hosting ESPN's "College GameDay" show or a team making it to the NCAA playoffs.
"Our products are strong enough that retailers are making some good money," said Troy Goergen, senior associate athletic director for marketing and communications at NDSU. "Our goal is to help our economy and promote our brand and put people in green and gold."
NDSU is well known among clients of the Licensing Resource Group for its loyal fan base, said Lisa Tomlinson, vice president of marketing for the company. That and the school's willingness to expand its brand presents a huge opportunity for retailers, she said.
"There is probably a product for every need or want that has a logo on it," Tomlinson said. "When you have that kind of passion and pride for the university, there are more ways to show it than just wearing a shirt."