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20 Questions with Bob D'Amelio

Dec. 12, 2017

Name:  Bob D'Amelio
Position/Institution: 
Associate Athletic Director / Western Michigan University
Number of years in your position: 
26
Alma Mater(s): 
Michigan State University (BA), Michigan State University (MA) 
Hometown:  Lansing, Michigan

Why did you become involved in ICLA?
I actually go back to the days of ACLA and NCLA that were the forerunners of ICLA. I originally got involved because licensing became a part of my job that I really didn’t know much about at the time. It afforded me the opportunity to connect with others in the industry and learn as I went along.

What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
I love the opportunity to interact with my cohorts and our licensees on a regular basis. I have built tremendous relationships across the country and learned something from just about everyone I have crossed paths with.

What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment?
Campus politics and getting people in our institution to understand the rationale behind the licensing program, rather than just being viewed as the “logo cop” who is trying to make a buck off of faculty, staff and students.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
I think it would have to be going to grad school. I worked as an accountant for six years before getting into college athletics and was bored to tears. I had been married for seven months when I asked my wife how she felt about me quitting my job and going to grad school for my masters in sports administration. She was supportive and fortunately the change in careers was the best decision I’ve probably ever made.

What is the most important skill you have developed in your career?
There are several skills I have acquired over the years, but the most important ones are being a good listener, developing a thick skin and choosing my battles.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
It would have to be my wife. She has supported me through thick and thin and stuck by my side for over 32 years.

What is one item you cannot live without?
Italian food.

Who would you chose to switch places with for a day?
Chuck Todd. I would love to host Meet the Press and choose the guests that were going to be interviewed that day.

What is your favorite sporting that event you have ever attended?
Without a doubt it was the 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl. What an amazing experience for a Group of 5 school and its fans. The outcome wasn’t in our favor, but all of our staff was treated like royalty. I don’t think that one will ever be topped.

Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
It actually pursued me. When I was promoted from athletic ticket manager to director of marketing, the licensing end of it came with my responsibilities.

In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
There are many individuals in the licensing industry that could serve as a good role model. It would be difficult for me to name one or two.

How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
It has helped me learn and grow in this profession, while developing best practices.

What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
Quite honestly, I prepared for a career in athletics administration but have been fortunate to learn on the job with assistance from others in the industry and my relationship with Learfield Licensing Partners.

What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
My biggest challenge is getting some student organizations and university departments to follow licensing protocol. On several occasions I’ve had to confront both students and vendors who have ignored licensing guidelines and produced unlicensed merchandise. Most of the time it’s like herding cats!

Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?
Back in the day, WMU’s color scheme was brown and yellow. No one was buying merchandise and the most popular shirt on campus was a heather gray t-shirt or sweatshirt with “Western Michigan” imprinted in navy blue. I decided to look into what it would take to rebrand our colors and marks. To make a long story short, I was able to get our then president and athletic director behind it and we transitioned to a Vegas gold and black look with brown accents. This had a tremendous impact on our licensing revenues.

In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
I’m concerned that schools that aren’t national brands are going to lose shelf space in the retail market due to the closure of many brick and mortar stores (K Mart, JC Penney, Sports Authority, MC Sports to name a few). The day may come when fans and alumni of schools like Western Michigan will only have the opportunity to purchase merchandise online.

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 wait for your ship to come in. Swim out to it.”
Every year I have several students reach out to me in their senior year or even final semester and ask how they can get some experience with college athletics / trademark licensing. As competitive as this industry has become, students need to seek out opportunities when they first arrive at college, whether they get paid or not. Network as much as you can with those in the field. Even attend the ICLA Winter Symposium or summer convention.

What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
In the heat of the moment, I fired off an email to our athletic director, upset with a decision that she made. I didn’t mince too many words. It’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve done in the workplace. Fortunately I was able to make amends. Ever since that day, I make sure I’m not sending off an email when I’m emotional.

What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
Unfortunately, about 90 percent of the time. With all of my other responsibilities, licensing doesn’t get the attention it needs or deserves.

What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
I always look forward to reconnecting with friends I’ve made over the years, as well as learning. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I didn’t come back to Kalamazoo with something I could implement or make better.

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