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FactFinder 12: WSU dealing with the price of success

By Brian Heap, bheap@kwch.com
Published On: Feb 25 2014 10:44:27 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 25 2014 10:45:36 PM CST
(WICHITA, Kan.) -

When you're a winner, it seems everybody wants a piece of you. And in Wichita right now fans will grab anything black and yellow.

The Shockers’ success has a lot of people looking for a share of the pie. Tad Snarenberger, owner of Tad’s Locker Room has seen his sales skyrocket in the past year.
Wichita State University approves every item Tad's sells. Hologram stickers indicate the store pays a 10%-percent licensing fee on all WSU sales. It’s money that goes to the university to help with programs.

But Snarenberger says people often look to make the quick buck, cheating his business and cheating the university. But more than the money, it's about protecting the brand.
"Otherwise you'll end up with Wu Shock with one eye and doing something probably that you don't want the logo to do," he says.

It's not just clothing that needs to be protected. It's any use of the trademarked shocker name, as a local sports bar recently learned.

For three seasons Larry Bud's has rented a party bus to take customers back and forth to home games. It used to be called the "Shocker Shuttle".
Since WSU has no official involvement, the university told Larry Bud's to change the name. It’s now called “Ride to the Roundhouse”.

Wichita State's athletic department declined to speak on camera about policing its brand. But the legal department did give us examples of past cease and desist letters. They've gone out to any group from the Lions Club to a youth baseball team in Indiana called the Shockers.

In 2010, the Sumner County Treasurer's office had to stop using this logo on its website because it was too close to WSU’s trademarked wheat logo.

Ted Ayres, Vice President and General Counsel at Wichita State sent FactFinder 12 Investigators a statement.  It says in part:

“In seeking to protect the University’s financial and fiduciary interests in its logos and marks, we seek to be very careful to distinguish between those who are simply loving their University and supporting our student-athletes and those seeking to exploit or take commercial advantage of the success of the Shockers. The University is obliged to protect its logos and marks, but we always seek to do so in a respectful and professional manner and we generally have good cooperation with that type of approach.”

The University of Kansas has a full-time position dedicated to protecting and policing the brand.  If you want to use the term "Rock Chalk", feature the Jayhawk, or even use the name "Kansas", you need to first get Paul Vander Tuig's blessing.

“We do want to make sure that the standards of our logos are upheld,” says Vander Tuig, Trademark and Licensing Director at KU. The brand is big business for the crimson and blue. According to the university’s numbers, licensing revenue has exploded in the past 30 years. It’s gone from a mere $8000 in 1984 to $2.4 million last year. That's an increase of nearly 30000%.

Part of Vander Tuig's job is to crack down on phony stuff. He says the Internet is making that harder because websites with unlicensed merchandise pop up everywhere.
"Our fans, they don't want to be associated with things that don't benefit the university,” says Vander Tuig. “If it doesn't look right it's not benefiting us."

Wichita State is now playing with the big boys. And in the world of marketing there’s lots of money to be made. Just so long as it being made the right way.
 

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