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20 Questions with Gregg Zarnstorff

Dec. 1, 2014

Name: Gregg Zarnstorff
Position/Instirtution: Director, Trademark and Licensing at NC State University 
Number of Years in Position: 4
Alma Matter (s): UW-Milwaukee; Wisconsin-Whitewater
Hometown: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

1) Why did you become involved in ICLA?
Professional development, benchmarking program against peers, identifying best practices, and networking.

2) What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
The helpfulness of its members and the value of their experiences. Learning about different programs at each of the universities.

3) What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?
Working with the large number of diverse groups, departments and programs who want to adjust, adapt, create, or use the University trademarks in ways that are detrimental to the brand and the image.

4) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
Improving distribution and creating revenue growth in a stagnant economy and middle-of-the-conference athletic success.

5) What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
Searching out the best practices and adapting them to the situation at hand. Strive for efficiency.

6) Who has been the most influential person in your career?
A manager early in my career that led by example, created team environments, stressed metrics, benchmarking and collaborations.

7) What is one item you cannot live without?
Other than my iPhone, it'd be coffee.

8) Who would you chose to switch places with for a day?
I'd like to change places with an ordinary third world person- just for a day. I would want to know what they thought of the world and how they viewed their quality of life.

9) What is your favorite sporting event that you have ever attended?
1982 AL Championship Game 5 when the Milwaukee Brewers won.  I rushed the field from the outfield bleachers and went downtown Milwaukee that night with the crowds. The night ended at the emergency care center after I drove a wrought iron fence spike through my foot.

10) Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
I already had experience in corporate brand licensing and liked the environment, stability, and challenges with collegiate licensing.  Being able to live in Raleigh was a plus.

11) In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?  
Dale Arens, Samantha Stevens, Renata Hays, Rachael Bickerton, Brent Eden, and Derek Lochbaum, (Don't tell Derek I said that). There are many more to learn from as well. 

12) How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
I've nearly borrowed or bootlegged every good concept I could get from my fellow ICLA members.

13) What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?

Having been a retail buyer in a chain store and coupled with experience in product development, marketing, and licensing in a manufacturing environment allowed me insight into the distribution channels and the lifecycles of products and brands. The knowledge of various business models has been a great asset.



14) What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
With student groups it's generally the generational differences and IP rights.  Their viewpoint is skewed by file- sharing, Napster, CafePress, and instant brands like Pinterest, Snapchat, Tesla. Hard to communicate the issues of "trademarks" and what that means to students who grew up pulling IP from the internet. With some vendors, they don't understand the need for the consistency in branding and messages they associate with our brands. They try to adjust or marginalize the University's brand to fit their needs.

15) Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?  
I consider my career transitions successful. I moved from retail management to product development in manufacturing; from there to corporate licensing; and then from corporate licensing to collegiate licensing. I used my experience from the previous position to bring new perspectives to each position, and in doing so improved the performances.

16) In your opinion where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
It's going to be more chaotic and segmented. Look at all that's happening:  multimedia rights and conference realignment;  football playoffs; student-athletes and the O'Bannon case and unionization; Bangladesh and the Accord/Alliance; mass customization at unit level;  lower attendance at sporting events and more conference TV Networks; increasing royalty rates; transition from brick-mortar to e-commerce. Hold on!

17) 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?
"Don't be afraid to rock the boat, but be quick to grab an oar when it's time to start rowing." Be a part of ICLA of course. Go back to the Seminar presentations at the member site and start 3-4 years back and go through them, there is a lot of good info and contacts there.

18) What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
The biggest mistakes I've made professionally have been linked to not taking action soon enough to avoid a problem growing from a small one to a large one. I've learned to identify the small problems that have the potential to grow larger, and address those more timely.

19) What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office? How do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?  
70% in office or in the department. The balance across campus or retail. Have hobbies and interests outside college sports. I also have a trick where I pick out a particular landmark on my commute home where I mentally "dump" any stressful work problems so I don't bring those issues home to family. I do the same on the way to work, dropping my family problems at the same landmark.

20) What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium
Being able to contribute; "stealing" more ideas from members.