Licensing Lessons

A primer on collegiate licensing

Colleges and universities often have a list of preferred vendors, and many require a license to use their logos. That means distributors looking to enter this space need to educate themselves about the licensing process, and the paperwork involved.

“The first question they will ask is how many and what are the other schools you are licensed with. They want to know you are familiar with the processes and procedures,” says Matty Toomb, VP of sales and marketing at Ohio-based Shumsky (asi/326300).  

The College Licensing Co. ( website is a great place to start, as the organization represents nearly 200 colleges, universities, bowl games, athletic conferences, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA. 

“It’s not just about sports; you are not supposed to use any of their logos without permission, approval and royalties,” says Toomb.

Many universities provide detailed information on their websites with specific requirements for ordering promotional items, a list of preferred vendors, and when exceptions may be made and outside local vendors used. The length of the contracts vary per school.

Sometimes giveaway promotional items can sidestep the licensing regulations, but it depends on the school. “You need to invest the time, energy and money into learning to handle this type of customer,” says Toomb.

Recently, Toomb worked on a project with supplier Vantage Apparel (asi/93390). He sent Vantage a logo and before it went to virtual spec, Vantage asked if it was for a university client. “This shows that suppliers are looking closely at the virtual stage, and they’re understanding the college licensing/bookstore market,” he says.

Shumsky is a preferred vendor at Ohio State. “These schools are never centralized – that’s the hardest thing about working for them. Plus, this sector is highly competitive – you have to be on your game on creativity,” says Toomb. “The whole university isn't going to put a single logo on all the merchandise they sell. Each department customizes their own messaging.”