5 Secrets to Success in NCAA Collegiate Product

May 25, 2010 Evergreen Enterprises, Inc. 0 Comments

At some point in our life, we all wrestle with identity. We each make decisions about what will define us as people—our jobs, our friends, our hobbies, even our hairstyle. Likewise, every successful organization has an identity of its own to define and maintain. As a graphic designer, I’ve long held an interest in corporate identity work—those particular logos, colors, typefaces, and other visual elements that give a company its unique look.

Early on in my 7-year history with Evergreen, I took the opportunity to work directly with the identity of over 40 schools and universities in our NCAA Collegiate product line. As I’ve managed the visual direction of everything Collegiate at Evergreen, I’ve seen our product line both expand and contract, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Here are what I believe to be a few secrets to success:

1. Recognize people’s passion.
Our “alma mater” is a part of our identity as individuals that continually defines us, perhaps more than we know. I am continually amazed at the amount of pride that people find in their particular college or university, whether large or small, and the extent to which they will buy almost anything if it shows their school’s logo or mascot on it. College sports fans are often more passionate about their school than fans of professional teams, and they enjoy displaying this loyalty anywhere—on cars, houses, clothes, and more—as long as it’s the correct statement. Which leads me to…

2. Sweat the details.
Each school takes their identity seriously, and so do we. As part of the licensing contract we have in place with each school through their chosen agency, all product designs we create are submitted to a school representative to ensure that we’re giving faithful treatment to their logos and colors. In many cases, the schools are very particular about the details, to say nothing of the fans themselves. I’ve worked hard to to fully understand each school’s identity, which can be a bit of a moving target as logos and colors change over time.

3. Learn your game.
Evergreen started out as a flag company, and that’s always been one of our strong suites. Thus it should be no surprise that our core Collegiate products are flags. We offer more schools in flag than any other product. Over the years we’ve capitalized on this strength and expanded into similar outdoor soft goods such as floormats, mailbox covers, windsocks, feather banners, and new inflatables. The licensing agencies now recognize Evergreen as an industry leader in flags and outdoor garden décor. They even go so far as to limit us in other indoor-related product categories where they feel we aren’t as strong—a challenge we are constantly working to overcome.

4. Know the playing field.
The Collegiate business is just as intensely competitive as the teams and fans themselves. As mentioned, the licensing agencies who control the rights to the school identities actively limit the number of players in a given product category, and it’s not always easy to get approval to make certain items. Evergreen works hard each year both to expand the categories we’re already allowed and to secure the new products that we feel will be hot sellers in the upcoming season. Likewise, this can be a very regional business, so we lean heavily on the strengths of our dedicated sales force to help us determine which schools will be strong contenders in the marketplace. It’s also important to stay tuned to what’s happening in NCAA college sports, as this year’s champion will likely be next year’s big seller.

5. Follow the rules.
Strict guidelines apply to all facets of this business. There are contracts to be signed, approvals to be gained, and royalties to be paid. Evergreen has taken steps to develop positive relationships with the schools and their licensing agencies, and we must be careful to maintain their favor by not stepping away from the established policies. Our full-time Licensing Coordinator, along with our Vice Presidents of Product and Sales, makes sure all paperwork is up to date so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of good rapport, without any “penalties.”

That’s about it. As with any decision in life, approach the Collegiate business by learning to identify a good opportunity and then take it. That’s what I did.

- Matt Hawkins, Senior Graphic Designer

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