By Barry Janoff
January 12, 2015: Monday night marks the first Championship Game under the new College Football Playoff format, with Oregon meeting Ohio State in AT&T Stadium.
But during the week-long buildup to the game, and throughout game day itself, executives from the NCAA, College Football Playoff, the two universities and others have been dealing with a problem nearly as traditional as college football: counterfeit merchandise.
The business of college sports is lucrative, with the retail market for collegiate licensed products estimated at $4.6 billion annually,, according to IMG College, the division of IMG Worldwide that focuses on college sports marketing, sponsorship and activation.
Counterfeit merchandise has become its own substantial cottage industry. During the two College Football Playoff semifinals played earlier this month, the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual and the Allstate Sugar Bowl, more than 1,100 counterfeit items with a retail value of nearly $30,000 were seized, according to IMG College.
This past October, College Licensing Company, the licensing division of IMG College, signed a six-year deal to become the exclusive CFP licensing representative.
Since then, CLC has signed deals with some 49 companies that are officially licensed to produce approved merchandise bearing the marks of the College Football Playoff. About a third of the licensees had already worked with IMG College, CLC and the NCAA under the previous BCS system.
But with the arrival of the CFP system, the stakes became higher and the rewards more substantial both for official and unofficial participants.
“Protecting the brand and integrity of the College Football Playoff and its consumers is of the upmost importance,” Cory Moss, CLC svp and managing director, said in a statement. “By teaming with law enforcement officials, we have the ability to cover a large jurisdiction and deter potential counterfeiters, while ensuring consumers are not lured into purchasing inferior, unlicensed product.”
Among the brands that have official CFP status are adidas, 47 Brand, Cutter & Buck, Nike USA, Nike by Haddad Apparel Group, Under Armour by Gear for Sports, Fathead, Franklin Mint and Wilson Sporting Goods. (See full list below.)
Royalties generated from the sale of CFP merchandise help fund the organization’s philanthropic initiative, Extra Yard for Teachers. Extra Yard for Teachers is dedicated to honoring and supporting teachers nationally and in the communities that host the CFP National Championship through the direct provision of resources, professional development and training, teacher recognition and the support of a college-going culture.
According to Bill Hancock, executive director for the College Football Playoff, “We are pleased with the enforcement efforts to date and know that CLC and the network of law enforcement officials they have coordinated will use their full arsenal of resources to ensure that the fans and consumers of the College Football Playoff enjoy a positive experience during their time at the game and our weekend events.
Among the guidelines that CLC offered for consumers seeking to purchase CFP items:
Consumer tips for purchasing officially licensed College Football Playoff merchandise:
• All officially licensed College Football Playoff merchandise should display the, “Officially Licensed Collegiate Product” or the CFP’s “Extra Yard for Teachers” hologram somewhere on the product or hangtag.
• The merchandise should depict the College Football Playoff logos and trademarks in a tasteful manner.
• The tag on the garment should be intact. A torn or missing tag is evidence of a garment of inferior quality, one that probably would not meet the stringent quality standards put in place by the College Football Playoff.
• All merchandise should bear the name of the manufacturer somewhere on the product, either in the form of a hangtag, a neck label, or screen-printed directly on the garment.
• All merchandise should have the appropriate trademark designations (i.e. TM, â) next to a specific name or design.
CLC represents nearly 200 colleges, universities, conferences, bowls, the NCAA and the Heisman Trophy. CLC says that college sports have some 190 million fans, "the largest fan base of all sports."
“Protecting the brand and integrity of the College Football Playoff and its consumers is of the upmost importance."
“The College Football Playoff has the potential to be the biggest event in the history of college sports,” said Moss. “CLC is partnering with a true leader in the sport’s growth and evolution at a time when there’s vast potential for this new brand. We will draw on our full range of resources and expertise to capitalize on the attention and buzz of the College Football Playoff. CFP’s faith in CLC reinforces our position as the licensing company with the resources and experience to grow and protect the biggest and most iconic brands in college sports.”
The first College Football Playoff Championship Game: Jan. 12, AT&T Stadium, 8:30 PM ESPN.
The "best-in-class" licensees selected to produce College Football Playoff branded merchandise for retail sale include: adidas; Antigua; Box Seat Clothing Company; Captivating Headgear; Columbia by OCS; 47 Brand; Cutter & Buck; Game Change Apparel; G-III; Blue 84; Knights Apparel; New World Graphics; Nike USA; Nike by Haddad Apparel Group; Wildcat Retro Brands; Outerstuff; Sportsscarf; Top of the World; Under Armour by Gear for Sports; Zephyr Graf-X; Blakeway Worldwide Panoramas; Boelter Brands; B.S.I. Products; Highland Mint; Emblem Source; Fanatics Authentics; Fathead; Franklin Mint; Fremont Die Consumer Products; Hunter Manufacturing; Kolder Incorporated; Matthew Powell Creations; OYO Sportstoys Inc; ProGraphs; R.F.S.J. Inc; Rico Industries/Tag Express; Sewing Concepts; Team Beans; Wilson Sporting Goods; WinCraft.