Texas Tech and Alabama Waste Millions Suing Supporters

Texas Tech and Alabama have both lost all understanding of marketing fundamentals. Based on this lack of knowledge they are charging forward wasting millions of Alumni dollars. So in order I’ll cover the bone-headed-ness and then why it is bone headed.

  1. The University of Alabama is suing an artist who depicts football games in his art work.

    Mr. Moore’s paintings, reproduced in prints and on merchandise,
    violated the university’s trademark rights, the suit said. It asked a
    federal judge to forbid him to, among other things, use the
    university’s “famous crimson and white color scheme.”

    (NYT article via BoingBoing)

  2. Texas Tech on the other hand is suing a bookstore for selling T-shirts about Texas Tech with words like "Raider Land" and such. From the press release:

    “We regret having to make the choice to file a lawsuit against Red
    Raider Outfitters.  Texas Tech never wants to find itself in the
    position of suing a local business owner.  In this case, however, we
    believe Red Raider Outfitters forced us to take actions to protect our
    marks.  Raider Red, Wreck ‘em Tech, Raiderland and many other symbols
    and phrases are important parts of the spirit and image of Texas Tech.
    We took this action not only to protect our trademark but also to
    protect licensed vendors who properly pay royalty fees to produce Texas
    Tech merchandise,” said Craig Wells, Texas Tech Senior Associate AD.

    They are also prevented from using the trademarked "Texas Tech’s well known scarlet-and-black color scheme"

    (via Keeney PR a schipul client but not for this issue)

OK, it is possible for reasonable people to disagree so let me start with where I am coming from. After the jump….

Positioning, a book by Al Ries and Jack Trout, stated that public
relations and advertising were designed to build your position in the
mind of the consumer
. So Nike isn’t a product, it is a brand that
exists because consumers (you) have a place in your mind to which Nike
is the answer. (from the book – but I agree).

For example, what is the best university in the US? …. er …. you
probably said Harvard or Stanford or maybe even Yale. You did NOT say Alabama or Texas Tech or A&M. Those are good schools. However they are not the top university or even the number 2 university. I am not saying this is your decision, just that is the
position in the mind that Harvard has obtained.

Yes Universities and professional sports teams ARE entitled to reasonable licensing fees.

What is most profitable for them this year is to charge huge fees, sign big vendors and cash fewer larger checks. This generates the most short term profit for the universities. This is the path they are taking.

This does NOT however generate the most long term profit for the schools. The most long term profit comes from alumni and successful recruiting both academically and in sports. That is done by improving your marketing and your position in the mind of the consumer. That is achieved by more PR and more marketing to loyal fans; not less. So short term cash and long term cash are opposed.

Note that the uber-smart marketing and licensing fee consultants talking to the school board are paid on short term profits. The people you hire as consultants are put in a system where the only thing they can counsel the schools to do is directly opposed to their marketing goals.

One more factor – their mission is to educate students. Not to make money. Luckily educating students is in line with long term profit as those folks graduate and come back to support the school. That is a coincidence you can fall back on if common sense does not prevail.

What should the schools do?

Sniping against small business and painters is not the answer. Fire the consultants. Educate the kids. Improve your position in the mind of the consumer. And quit being bone headed. Yes you can quote me on that.

If you must give the consultants something to do – have them hire an actuary to factor marketing, good will, recruiting, future alumni donations and karma into your ROI calculations on licensing fees. Pricing matters so find a way to radically reduce your licensing fees to make it do-able for Mom and Pop shops.