PBR has turned eight seconds of excitement into a powerful global brand. By Chris Kelsch
Twenty-five years ago, bull riding was just one of seven individual rodeo events. Then, in 1992, 20 bull riders got together and decided the sport of bull riding could be popular enough to stand apart from the rodeo circuit. They each put up $1,000 as an investment to start a modest tour, but it is doubtful they could have imagined what it has become today.
Professional Bull Riders (PBR) has since become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports and entertainment entities. Billed as “the toughest sport on dirt,” PBR now draws more than three million fans to more than 200 global live events. Its television broadcasts reach more than 400 million households in 40 countries, and it has paid to PBR’s cowboys more than $150 million in prize money since it was created. According to one ESPN poll, the sport now boasts 60 million fans in the U.S. alone.
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The Ohio State University licenses products that help alums show their loyalty to the university.
By Alan Dorich
The ways products are licensed for colleges have changed over the past 30 years, Rick Van Brimmer says. “Back into the ‘80s, the people standing at your tailgate were probably wearing a sweatshirt [with the college logo] under their regular jacket [or] a t-shirt when it was warmer,” he recalls.
Now when people go to a tailgate party, the college’s logos can be seen on nearly everything, including tents, tables, grills, food products, and even paper towels and plates. “Now that passion and loyalty [to a school] is reflected in all the products that are there,” he says.
Van Brimmer is an assistant vice president for business advancement, affinity and trademark management for The Ohio State University, which has licensed products with its name since 1974. Located in Columbus, Ohio, the college opened its main campus 144 years ago and was recently ranked 16th among the nation’s best public universities by U.S. News & World Report.
The licensing program, Van Brimmer says, began when a part-time paralegal in Ohio State’s contract office began registering its marks. “That was a woman named Anne Chasser, who is one of the legends of the industry and my boss for several years before I took over,” he recalls.
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Michigan State University’s licensing efforts give its students, staff and alumni the opportunity to show their support for the school year-round while financially supporting student programs and scholarships.
By Jim Harris
The Michigan State University Spartan is more than just a representation of the school’s nationally known athletic programs. The Spartan is a symbol of the pride that students, staff and alumni take in the university – a pride that extends well beyond football and basketball seasons.
“Our students and fans have a vested interest in the university, are passionate about it and want to continue supporting it not just during a season, but year-round,” Director of Licensing Samantha Stevens says.
Established in the mid-1980s as a way to protect the university’s image by making sure the Spartan brand and related marks and logos were being used properly, MSU’s licensing program has evolved into a way for the public institution of higher learning to tell its story beyond the East Lansing, Mich., campus.
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Steve Jackson Games focuses on expansions and licensed products for the Munchkin card game series while it revives tried-and-true fan favorites.
By Stephanie Crets
If you have a warped sense of humor and enjoy tabletop and card games, odds are you’ll enjoy the slate of games offered by Steve Jackson Games. The company has roughly 20 games and more than 100 titles in its current catalog. That can change every year as some games go out of print, while new ones are created and old ones are brought back. But its classic game series is Munchkin.
“Part of the reason Munchkins has been so successful for us is embracing that sense of humor and running off on crazy tangents and having lots of fun with it,” CEO Phil Reed says. “The silliness and the cartooning style really excite the fans.”
Steve Jackson Games keeps the excitement brewing by constantly announcing new cards or expansions for the Munchkin series, such as Mars Attacks, Judge Dredd, and zombie and holiday-themed expansions. “We try to turn the game around to shock and surprise the players,” Reed notes.
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Fans that visit the NASCAR speedways will not only get to experience an exhilarating race, but now they can conveniently shop a wide range of high-quality NASCAR merchandise. Thanks to Fanatics, the market leader for officially licensed sports merchandise, NASCAR fans can shop the largest selection of at-track products in the Fanatics Trackside Superstore, including an expanded selection of women’s and kids’ items.
“A merchandise center will provide a more personal, organized, comfortable and convenient shopping environment for our fans,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
The at-track shop also will feature an area for fans to meet their favorite drivers, along with an interactive customization center where customers can create their very own personalized NASCAR gear. This new one-stop shop offers fans a real reason to race to the speedways.
“We have taken the time to listen to what the fans, teams, drivers and NASCAR were asking for and look forward to using our market-leading scale, technology and production capabilities to deliver an improved and entertaining shopping experience for years to come,” said Ross Tannenbaum, president of Fanatics Authentic.
Check out a sneak peek of the at-track shop below.
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The Halo sci-fi franchise is adding licensed products and licensees and expanding its market to boys ages eight to 14 and into Mexico, Latin America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the Halo franchise is an award-winning collection of properties with more than $5 billion in worldwide sales to date that has transcended video games and grown into a global entertainment phenomenon. In 2004, the Halo Franchise pursued a dedicated licensing program with the release of Halo 2. Since then, more than $1.5 billion in Halo consumer products have been sold worldwide.
The list of licensed products includes action figures, apparel, accessories, construction toys, novels, comics, video and music. “We‘ve got a pretty broad licensing program,” Director of Consumer Products John Friend emphasizes. “We’re involved in everything from toys and collectibles through all categories of soft goods, some home goods and then including films, DVD publishing and digital sell-through of original programming, such as Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on Netflix.”
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SEGA of America celebrates 25 years of Sonic the Hedgehog with new games, new merchandise and much more in 2016.
By Eric Slack
A leading presence in gaming for more than 50 years, SEGA is synonymous with innovation. It was one of the first companies on the interactive scene, and Sonic the Hedgehog became the perfect mascot to symbolize SEGA’s efforts to break barriers when he debuted in 1991. Celebrating Sonic’s 25th anniversary in 2016, SEGA of America’s leaders are looking to continue to build on that pioneering spirit.
“The Sonic Pillar team combines an experienced team from the world of entertainment alongside executives with a history of the Sonic brand from Japan,” says Ivo Gerscovich, chief brand officer and senior vice president of SEGA of America. “It makes for a powerful combination as we look to elevate Sonic into an entertainment icon across film, television, games, consumer products and many other areas.”
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The Licensing Shop and Bulldog Licensing play it smart with Shopkins to ensure the collectible toy brand continues to be a sensation.
By Janice Hoppe
Shopkins fans’ excitement rises with each crinkle of the blind bag until they have finally ripped it open to reveal a common, limited-edition or ultra-rare character. “The fan base loves doing the unboxing ceremonies on YouTube and social media,” The Licensing Shop President Steve Fowler says. “It’s kids talking to other kids through these sites, not suits creating a marketing program. It’s truly organic growth.”
Developed by Australian-based Moose Toys, Shopkins are grocery store-themed collectible characters that children collect, share and trade. Each rubber character has its own unique name and face, turning everyday items into cute and colorful figurines. “It’s a brand that translates so well and is built around pocket money,” Fowler explains. “Fans can buy a two-pack for $2.99, so it’s not a huge commitment. Kids and their parents buy a lot of two packs because they want to complete their collection.”
Shopkins launched Season 1 in summer 2014 and every six months since then has debuted a new season. Season 6 will hit stores in October along with the release of a first-ever DVD. A second DVD is scheduled for September 2017. Each season has at least 140 characters and fans want to collect them all. “The two-packs are in blind packaging, so you don’t know what you are getting,” Fowler says. “Moose Toys has created characters that are common, limited edition and ultra-rare. When you open it up and get No. 149, you are shrieking in delight and the fans want to capture that moment on camera because they don’t want to miss replaying that excitement.”
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