Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Big Money On Butler Merchandise


Two years ago, 90 percent of all Butler merchandise was sold in its on campus bookstores and items would be ordered once a year.

Shawn Vanzant of the Butler Bulldogs reacts after defeating the Michigan State Spartans 52-50 guring the National Semifinal game of the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Oh, how times have changed.

Licensing revenues have jumped from $40,000 two years ago to $85,000 this past fiscal year.

And if Butler beats Duke and wins the national championship tomorrow, that number could top $500,000 by the time financials for this year wrap up, according to John Mybeck, chief operating officer of Strategic Marketing Affiliates, a collegiate licensing agency that manages the mark of 155 schools and properties.

Thanks to the success of the basketball team, Mybeck says Butler gear — for the first time ever — got distribution before the season with the big boys like Dick's Sporting Goods, Finish Line, Kohl's and Walmart.

But even then, because of the small alumni base that Butler has, distribution was far from comprehensive.

"There was Butler gear being sold in Indianapolis and Central Indiana, but certainly not in Chicago and Evansville," Mybeck said.

After Butler made the Sweet 16, the school's 125 licensees started getting very active, asking to get artwork to be approved for designs so that items could be sold at retail immediately.

One licensee, Knights Apparel, submitted designs for items that would be turned around immediately and would land a greater variety of Butler licensed product in Target and Walmart.

Butler merchandise has been flying in recent days, Mybeck said.

"Finish Line sold 500 to 1000 shirts in the week going into the Final Four," said Mybeck, whose company happens to be based in Indianapolis. "They sold 3,000 shirts on Saturday alone. You can't go anywhere without seeing Butler around here."

Butler is still a long way from earning the royalties that the big schools do — typically $2 million or more a year. But a national title will vault them into a new category.

"If they win, they will no longer be the flash in the pan," Mybeck said. "They clearly will have established themselves as being worthy of being carried in stores on a year round basis."

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