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ICLA Announces 2018 Synergy Award Winner

April 16, 2018

The International Collegiate Licensing Association (ICLA) has announced Michigan State University as its 2018 Synergy Award Winner.

The Synergy Award is given annually to an exceptional "team" on campus or from a conference that has demonstrated extraordinary commitment to collegiate licensing over the course of the past year that has directly contributed to the betterment of the industry and the institution or organization. The team must also have made significant contributions to the collegiate licensing industry through innovative or new ideas during the current academic year, have played a vital role on campus and in the industry through their leadership, and have demonstrated teamwork/involvement from multiple components in the licensing process.

"The ICLA Board of Directors is proud to recognize Samantha Stevens, Kaye Blossey and the Michigan State University Trademark Licensing Program as the recipient of the 2018 Synergy Award," stated Tami Breymeyer, ICLA President and Director of Trademark Licensing at Kansas State University.  "The Michigan State team is a leader in finding new ways to combat the online infringements, strengthen relationships across the campus community, and with licensees and retailers, as well as a great ambassador for the university brand and the licensing industry."

MSU Licensing had an incredible year. From the retail appreciation reception alongside the Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show in Las Vegas, to the revitalization of the script "State" jerseys in honor of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Men's Basketball National Championship team next year, to cross-campus initiatives emboldening the MSU brand, it is clear why Michigan State earned the 2018 Synergy Award. In addition to the amazing events and promotions MSU Licensing put together, MSU saw a record-setting 5% increase in royalties, year-over-year compared to 2016.

The year began with MSU hosting its annual retail/licensee appreciation event. These events started in 2015 as a way to build relationships with key partners and educate them on the Michigan State brand. In January, MSU took retail appreciation receptions to another level, when to it decided to take the show on the road and host a happy hour reception during the Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show in Las Vegas. The 2017 event featured a handful of licensees and retailers as well as MSU's illustrious mascot, Sparty. The goal of the evening was to extend a "thank you" to MSU's top partners and show appreciation for what they have done for the MSU brand. MSU Licensing also began a four-month internship program in January through a partnership with Michigan State's Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection (A-CAPP). MSU worked with the A-CAPP office to develop a student intern project to make students understand how counterfeit merchandise is directly affecting MSU.

After the intern project with A-CAPP wrapped up in April, MSU Licensing continued the push to keep unlicensed MSU merchandise off the market. Beginning in April and running through the end of the year, Michigan State Licensing took advantage of a new program called, MarketSafe®, offered by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition. The IACC MarketSafe® Program implements a strategic collaboration between the IACC and Alibaba to create a cross-industry alliance to combat counterfeit products online. Since April of 2017, MSU Licensing successfully removed 598 infringing product listings on alibaba.com, aliexpress.com, TMall.com and taobao.com.

The first half of 2017 was a busy time of year for the MSU Licensing team with the Alumni Magazine article, Declaration Days promotion, Nike/Script State jersey revitalization, the Mother's Day - Vera Bradley Week and the Apparel and Textile Design Fashion Week collaboration.

In February, MSU Licensing was able to secure a full-page article in the winter edition of the Alumni Magazine to promote and educate Spartan Alumni on the importance of buying officially licensed merchandise for the first time ever. MSUAlumni was mailed to 50,000 households of predominantly alumni and life members of the association. In April and May in conjunction with the Top Of The World Declaration Days contest, MSU decided to ramp up the contest and reward MSU students with prizes to get them extra excited about "Declaring" for Michigan State on national signing day. Over the course of one week, Michigan State admissions hosted a selfie contest where students could share why they chose to be a Spartan. MSU Licensing secured licensed products from Logo Brands, Northwest Company and Wincraft, along with a few other licensees for contest prizes. That rolled right into "Vera Week," which was hosted on the @MSUGear Facebook page. "Vera Week" was a smashing success with over 66,000 posts and 12,000-plus reached via winner announcements.  Sales of Vera Bradley MSU products during May increased 9% from the previous year when the product was launched. The 9% increase in May 2017 was due in large part to the extensive promotion on Facebook.

Throughout the spring, MSU Licensing secured a 3000-piece minimum jersey commitment and convinced Nike to bring a replica throwback to market for the Holiday `18 line to honor the 1979 Men's Basketball National Championship squad. MSU Licensing anticipates an incremental growth in royalties from these special throwback jerseys during the 2018-19 year. Sticking with fashion and apparel, the Apparel and Textile Design Fashion Week collaboration closed out the spring and summer months. The New York Fashion Week Experience was made available to MSU through partnership with WME | IMG. The contest was open to IMG College Licensing schools that have fashion design programs, so MSU hosted an avant-garde design challenge and was the only school of the six to require students to create a collection, consisting of 11 illustrations and one concept piece. MSU Licensing reached out to licensees Hanes Brands and Fabrique to donate materials to Apparel & Textile Design students participating in the contest. MSU was the only school to host a hands-on contest and only Big Ten institution represented at New York Fashion Week this past September.

MSU Licensing kicked off the fall with an Apparel and Promotional Vendor Fair in September. This provided the university community (students, staff, faculty) a great opportunity to meet with officially licensed vendors and licensing in one shot. MSU Licensing held a "Lunch N Learn" for licensees, and a chance for licensees to showcase products at the vendor fair. During the "Lunch N Learn" ICS licensees reviewed current business, talked about plans for the future and answered any questions about licensing, Michigan State and working with IMG College Licensing. After the "Lunch N Learn" licensees set up for a three-hour vendor fair, which was very well attended by university departments, purchasing and students. The event was such a hit that MSU Licensing plans to make it an annual event going forward.

The busy year in Lansing, Michigan came to a close with a Non-Apparel Licensee Workshop on campus in November. MSU brought in 13 of the top non-apparel licensees for a day and a half of programming, which included a tour of campus & working laboratory, university brand & marketing presentation, a Q&A with former Athletics Director Mark Hollis, and an hour and a half presentation by MSU Licensing. Even though the non-apparel category is only 30% of MSU's business, it was crucial to bring our top non-apparel licensees to campus and showcase the Michigan State brand. According to IMG College Licensing, this was the first summit where a school chose to focus singlehandedly on the non-apparel category.

The cherry on top of a stellar year was a feature article -- "Going Green" -- in the November/December issue of Retail Merchandiser magazine. The issue was distributed to Retail Merchandiser's entire readership, through social media posts, and given away to attendees of the 2018 Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show.

"Through Samantha's leadership, Michigan State has shown creativity with her experience in marketing and licensing," concluded Breymeyer.

The Michigan State licensing program continues to demonstrate a commitment to collegiate licensing and the university brand, finding unique, effective, and collaborative ways to better their department and the industry as a whole. MSU is lucky to have the experienced team of Samantha Stevens, Director and Kaye Blossey, Assistant Director at the helm. A Dayton, Ohio native, Stevens began working at Michigan State in 2014. Her prior stops in licensing included, Miami University and Appalachian State University.  Blossey, a Williamston, Michigan native, began working at Michigan State in 1987 for the College of Nursing before moving over to licensing in 2002.

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