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20 Questions with Doug Kouba

Jan. 30, 2018

Name:  Doug Kouba
Position/Institution: Assistant Director of Marketing, Trademark Licensing
Number of years in your position: 4
Alma Mater(s): Saint Mary’s College of California
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA

Why did you become involved in ICLA? 
I became involved to stay up to date on current collegiate licensing trends. With ICLA's large network I also found it to be an opportunity to learn licensing and marketing strategies from other collegiate licensing directors. 

What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
My favorite part is meeting collegiate licensing directors from around the country and hearing their stories.

What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment? 
With UC Davis being a very large campus, the biggest challenge for me is ensuring everyone on campus is aware of the licensing policies we have in place, with that mind, I take every opportunity to educate and keep open communication.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date? 
We were able to license a UC Davis branded bicycle, this was especially great because bicycles are an icon of campus, on any given day there are between 20,000 to 30,000 bicycles on campus, almost everyone in Davis gets around by bike. Licensing a bike was kind of like the ultimate branded product for UC Davis.

What is the most important skill you have developed in your career? 
Communication is the most important skill I have continually developed.

Who has been the most influential person in your career? 
As far as being influential in my entire career, I would have to say my parents.

What is one item you cannot live without?
Fitting right in at Davis, I’m an avid cyclist, I cannot live without my bike.

Who would you chose to switch places with for a day? 
I think it would be Elon Musk for a day.

What is your favorite sporting that event you have ever attended? 
I was at the 2006 Sweet 16 game where UCLA defeated Gonzaga in the final seconds, unbelievable! 

Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?  
I began my career in collegiate licensing in 2013. After spending time as a Retail Buyer for a wide variety of sporting goods brands, I was intrigued at the idea of being part of a single brand and helping to build the brand’s perception and reach in the marketplace.

In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model? 
Since our experiences are so varied campus to campus, I actually think any one of us can serve as a model. I have learned so much from many different licensing directors and have applied bits and pieces to licensing at UC Davis.

How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career? 
ICLA has expanded my knowledge of collegiate licensing and has also dramatically expanded my network. 

What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing? 
I spent years as a Retail Buyer for sporting goods, through this experience I gained knowledge about how retail operates and the challenges that retailers face. Through this experience I feel that I am able to better partner with our retailers in helping them reach their goals.   

What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors? 
I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a challenge with the students, but with the large amount of students we have, there is constant opportunity to do more education about the university’s trademark licensing policies and explaining why licensing is important to the university. 

Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?  
In partnership with our intern, it has been a lot of fun growing our trademark licensing Instagram account, “ucdavisgear.” In order to gain followers, we do about 15 contests per year where UC Davis branded product is the prize. Our followers love the contests! In between contests we take the opportunity to post about new products, promotions, sales, and general UC Davis related topics. Happy to report that ucdavisgear is one of the most followed official UC Davis Instagram accounts.

In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future? 
I’ve seen consolidation in the industry, perhaps an unhealthy trend going into the future. I’m also interested to see Amazon’s future impact on collegiate sales.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?  What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing? 
Best advice: “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

If you are interested in collegiate licensing, I would say pursue it, and be aware and prepared for the unique opportunities and challenges that a university environment offer. If you are just beginning your career I would recommend participating in an internship program.

What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
I once did not listen closely enough to a policy issue from a key partner. As a result, my partnership with the key partner was temporarily strained. I learned that even when the problem seems to be totally unworkable, its important to listen and communicate that you understand their complaint. In addition its important to make it known that you will be actively working to find possible solutions and will report back to them shortly. As a result of this action, in time, we found a workable solution to the policy that met both of our needs and our partnership today is back to being strong.

What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
80%

What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium? 
Seeing familiar faces and meeting new ICLA members.

About ICLA: ICLA provides educational and networking opportunities, enhancement of acceptable operating standards and ethics, and establishment of the overall prestige and understanding of the profession of collegiate licensing. For more information on ICLA, please visit www.iclanet.com. ICLA is administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), which is in its 53rd year. For more information on NACDA and the 17 professional associations that fall under its umbrella, please visit www.nacda.com