Texas has long been the first seller of branded merchandise in the country. But all the money from all the T-shirts, T-shirts, coffee cups and keychains sold went straight to UT. That will change.
Last week, in a Friday afternoon news repository, the Texas athletics department quietly announced what is easily the biggest success of UT athletes when it comes to name issues, image and similarity.
The Longhorns has entered into a group licensing partnership with The Brandr Group, a company specializing in licensing and sponsorship with professional athletes and sports leagues.
Wesley Haynes, CEO of The Brandr Group, told the American that he expects company officials to be able to start meeting with UT athletes this week to get players involved.
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College athletes who opt for the voluntary deal can start using Texas trademarks and logos in various name, image, and likeness offerings. It is the first step for UT to sell official t-shirts and player-specific clothing, as the athlete gets a small percentage of each sale.
“Whether it’s name, image and likeness or conference change or all the things that come up, I have incredible confidence in the leadership of the University of Texas,” UT coach Steve Sarkisian said Saturday.
For decades, schools were allowed to sell only generic T-shirts with blank plates. A Vince Young T-shirt could not be bought at the University Cooperative. But you could get a number 10 shirt.
Now, instead of a soccer jersey no. 5 generic, Nike would be able to create a specific t-shirt with the name of Bijan Robinson on the back, for example.
Fans could buy a No. 11 Casey Thompson T-shirt or a No. 1 with the Hudson card name on the back. A portion of those sales would go directly to those players. Maybe fans would buy DeMarvion Overshown’s UT brand bracelets. Agent Zero could also get a share of those sales.
“I think our players are grateful that the university is continually trying to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that exist,” Sarkisian said. “And that’s one more example of that.”
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But when using the group license agreement, athletes need to understand that the university will have its say on what opportunities NIL will pass and UT will get a share of the revenue. Currently, athletes can enter into any NIL agreement with a company under certain rules, but there can be no direct affiliation with UT.
As for how much money will go to athletes, it’s still unclear. “We will not advertise partners or licensing programs unless we can be sure that athletes will get fair market rates,” Haynes said.
Historically, Texas has only partnered with clothing manufacturers that produce high quality products. Craig Westemeier, who oversees UT’s trademark portfolio, closely monitors quality control.
In June, the American statesman reported on how the school recorded Sarkisian’s favorite phrase “All Gas No Brakes” for use on T-shirts and merchandise. The school receives money for these sales, not for Sarkisian.
Texas joins Alabama, Ohio and North Carolina among the small group of schools leading the way in group licensing agreements for athletes.
“I’ve been talking to Texas for a few months now and frankly the initial conversation was about a alumni program,” Haynes said. “Before the NCAA rule, and even the Alston case, no university was allowed to do that and things changed pretty quickly.”
The Alston case concerns a lawsuit that was eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the NCAA was taking advantage of the athletes ’name, image, and likeness.
Haynes said he personally attended the initial player meetings at some schools to hear the athletes ’comments and questions.
“The response we get from student-athletes is‘ Why wouldn’t you? Haynes said.
The two biggest examples of group licensing possibilities are the sale of T-shirts and video games, Haynes said. Both are solid examples of how group licenses work.
Start with t-shirt sales. Texas officials can control how many shirts are sold by a specific player through their sales channels. Take Robinson, for example. UT would know if Robinson’s No. 5 jersey had 1,000 sales or 100.
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Haynes said there are suppliers who want to step in and create fan shirts to buy this season.
“If the quarterback or runner sells 1,000 shirts, he’ll get the equivalent of the royalty of 1,000 shirts,” Haynes said. “If another player sells 10 shirts, he will get the gift for 10 shirts.”
But this only works when the school can track specific sales to specific players. Group licenses come into play when sales cannot be directly related to a person. Let’s take the example of the video game.
For years, consumers bought EA College’s college football game and the current lists were basically digitized and incorporated into the game. In group licenses, a small portion of all units sold would go into a pool. The money would be evenly distributed among UT athletes who have opted for everything and not work for their part.
Fans can buy a video game or trading card game to get one or two players. But all athletes would benefit.
From a hiring standpoint, it would be to Texas’s benefit to find as many group licensing possibilities imaginable for all Longhorns teams. Campus marketers should set the boundaries of thinking.
“This is where the star, the premium athlete, the one the fans know best, helps his teammates,” Haynes said. “Group rights are a way to be part of a team. Yes, you will win more if you are a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. But it’s also a way to lend your notoriety and your NIL value to those who are part of your team, and I think there’s something pretty good about that. “
Opportunities for name, image, and resemblance will only grow and change as time goes on. But creative guys are likely to be motivated once they start seeing fans wearing t-shirts in the stands this fall.
“Early adopters like the University of Texas should get some credit for that,” Haynes said. “Others who are sitting on the sidelines watch how this goes.”
Contact Brian Davis by phone or email at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or @BDavisAAS.