12 Part Blog Description

Are you looking to learn as much as you can about the business of sports licensing? Then please read the 12 Part "An Insider's Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products in 12 Parts: Practical Lessons from the Trenches" - all 12 parts of the blog can be found within this site. Click here to start with the Introduction.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I want to become a sports product licensee - How can I learn more about licensing sports products?

My name is Scott Sillcox and I am a sports licensing expert - not a claim you hear too many people make. I really am quite lucky to do what I really love - meet with people and talk to them about sports product licensing. It doesn't get much better than that. Each and every day of the week I get contacted by entrepreneurs of all ages - people with a burning desire to see a product idea come to life. And while these people may be young or old, from the US deep south or Australia, Nova Scotia or San Diego, what they almost all have in common is a lack of first-hand knowledge about sports licensing. And that's where I come in...



In the calendar year 2015, I'd like to meet with as many of these entrepreneurs as possible, and to that end I will be doing three separate tours and visiting 20 cities across North America. The first tour of 2015 runs from January - March and the nine cities I'll be visiting are shown below. While in each city, I will be meeting with people who want to learn more about sports product licensing.

If you are considering going through the process of acquiring a sports license(s), or if you are considering working with an existing licensee, you should strongly consider meeting with me as I criss-cross North America.

I will be having three different types of meetings with people:

Option 1. You can meet with me for a full day session – from 8:30am – 5:00pm - just you and me (or your team and me if you wish). The full day one-on-one session fee is $1500.

Option 2. You can meet with me for a half day (4.5 hours) session – either in the morning or the afternoon. This half-day session is also one-on-one - just you (or your team) and me. The half day session fee is $900.

Option 3. You can meet with me in a day long workshop attended by no more than 5 people/organizations. The workshop runs from 8:30am – 5:00pm and they are almost always at airport hotel facilities. Truly great things come from these workshop sessions – you meet and learn from kindred spirits because everyone brings a little something to the table and everyone asks different questions that you may not have thought of. As long as you are willing to share a little bit about your idea, a small group workshop like this really works well and you will leave highly energized and highly motivated and most importantly, you will have been able to get answers to virtually all of your licensing questions. The group workshop fee is $499 (a second person from the same organization is only half-price - just $250).

One of the more popular parts of this tour will be the 3rd option mentioned above - the one-day workshops in each city where there will be no more than 5 participants. I have run a number of these sessions and people really get a lot out of them.



The focus of these workshops will be twofold:

- Understanding in detail what is involved in trying to obtain your own license(s)
and
- Understanding the ways in which someone with an idea for a licensed sports product might be able to work with an existing licensee to see the product come to life. We will discuss the pros and cons, as well as the hurdles you will face.

If you are interested in sports licensing but have a lot of questions, this day long workshop is a great source of information - and at $499, it's a terrific value. Workshops must be booked 10 days before the workshop date.

The cities and dates for the Q1 2015 tour are:

Dates / City
1. Jan 12-15 (Mon – Thurs): Las Vegas
Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show is Jan 14-16
2. Feb 3 – 5 (Tues – Thurs): Chicago
3. Feb 10 – 12 (Tues – Thurs): Boston
4. Feb 17 – 19 (Tues – Thurs): Los Angeles
5. Feb 24 – 26 (Tues – Thurs): Princeton NJ & NYC area
6. March 3 – 5 (Tues – Thurs): Cleveland & Ohio
7. March 10 – 12 (Tues – Thurs): Fort Lauderdale, FL
8. March 17 – 19 (Tues – Thurs): Dallas
9. March 24 – 26 (Tues – Thurs): Washington DC

You may have been dreaming about your product and the opportunity it represents for months, maybe years – now’s the time to move your idea forward! Take advantage of Scott being in a city near you, roll up your sleeves and sign up to meet with me in person.



To register, simply call me at 416-315-4736 or email me at ssillcox@rogers.com and book your face-to-face time - you can lock-in a confirmed session right over the phone.

If you would like to see a proposed agenda for any of the three different session structures, just ask me and I will email you a typical agenda.

Many thanks for your interest in sports licensing and I hope I get a chance to meet with you some time in 2015.

Scott

Monday, July 2, 2012

Licensing U - If you have an idea for a licensed sports product, this workshop is for you

Greetings!

In response to a need that many of the readers of this blog have expressed, in 2012 I launched Licensing U: A one day workshop on almost everything you wanted to know about Licensed Sports Products.



I have been holding these workshops for three years, and the Q1 2015 tour dates and cities are shown below. Attendance at each workshop is strictly limited to 5 participants/organizations.

As you may know, from 1997 to 2010 I was a licensee of the NFL, MLB, NHL and through an affiliated company, the NCAA/US colleges. In 2011 I wrote the 12-part blog entitled “An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products: Practical Lessons from the Trenches”, and in May of 2012 I introduced the highly searchable directory of 1500+ licensed sports companies in North America. Both of these highly unique resources have proven to be invaluable guides to people and companies contemplating entering the world of licensed sports products, and together are viewed by more than 3500 people per month – quite a stunning number for such a specific field. Many thanks for your support and readership!

I speak with, and email, a great number of wonderful people each and every day about licensing and licensed sports products, and they generally fall into one of two categories:

1. People who have an idea for a licensed sports product(s) and want to really learn how to obtain their own sports license – be it from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLS, Nascar or other sports licensors.

and

2. People who have an idea for a sports product but would prefer to work with an existing license in some way, shape or form.

The idea for Licensing U came from these conversations – there simply seems to be a massive need for knowledge. A need for an educational, hands-on forum where people can learn even more about entering the licensed sports product world – whether it’s with a focus on acquiring their own license or working with an existing licensee – the workshop will address both needs.

Prior to entering the licensed sports product field, I ran seminars, conferences and trade shows across North America so I am very comfortable in organizing a two day workshop in a handful of key North American markets. The key is that these workshops will be very hands on - highly interactive - with a lot of back and forth dialogue between me and the participants. That’s why it is so important to me that the attendance be limited to no more than 5 people per workshop.

In fact, the participatory, sharing-of-information nature of the workshop is so important to me that I am asking each person who registers to agree to the following statement: “The sharing of ideas during the workshop is encouraged and welcomed – you will only get from this workshop what you put into it. That being said, share only what you feel comfortable with sharing, and understand that none of your fellow attendees are bound by non-disclosure agreements.”

If you would like to see an agenda for the workshop, please send an email ssillcox@rogers.com.

If you are interested in sports licensing but have a lot of questions, this day long workshop is a great source of information - and at $499, it's a terrific value. Workshops must be booked 10 days before the workshop date.

The cities and dates for the Q1 2015 tour are:

Dates / City
1. Jan 12-15 (Mon – Thurs): Las Vegas
Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show is Jan 14-16
2. Feb 3 – 5 (Tues – Thurs): Chicago
3. Feb 10 – 12 (Tues – Thurs): Boston
4. Feb 17 – 19 (Tues – Thurs): Los Angeles
5. Feb 24 – 26 (Tues – Thurs): Princeton NJ & NYC area
6. March 3 – 5 (Tues – Thurs): Cleveland & Ohio
7. March 10 – 12 (Tues – Thurs): Fort Lauderdale, FL
8. March 17 – 19 (Tues – Thurs): Dallas
9. March 24 – 26 (Tues – Thurs): Washington DC

As much as I like to share information and answer questions about sports product licensing, I particularly enjoy listening to what people have to say and the questions they pose. So if anyone has any questions, either about the workshop, the registration process or sports product licensing in general, I truly encourage you to contact me by phone 416-315-4736 or email ssillcox@rogers.com.

And please remember that workshop registration is strictly limited to 5 people per workshop, so please don’t delay in registering by calling or emailing me.

For more information, please contact:
Scott Sillcox
Licensed Sports dot net
Aurora, ON
Cell: 416-315-4736
Email: ssillcox@rogers.com
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsillcox

Many thanks!
Scott

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How online ecommerce stores / retailers / etailers selling licensed sports products can find suppliers / licensees / manufacturers who will sell to them and drop ship for them

Greetings!

I am getting asked the following question almost every day, so I thought I should post both the question and my answer in this blog posting.

Scott:

For someone who is starting out as an online ecommerce store / retailer / etailer of licensed sports products, how do I build a relationship with licensed sports products licensees who will sell to me? How do I find a list of the licensees? How do I find out which ones will do drop shipping for me? Can you tell me about distributors and if they will do drop shipping for me? Where do I go to read your blogs?

Dear current or future online ecommerce store / retailer / etailer:

1. Last question first: My blog can be found here. It is primarily directed at licensed sports products LICENSEES, ie companies which are currently licensees of one or more of the North American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Nascar, NCAA, MLS, etc.), or companies/individuals wishing to become licensees of a sports league(s). But there are a number of postings that would apply to retailers/potential retailers like you and I encourage you to read away.

2. You may see other online ecommerce stores / retailers / etailers who seem to have drop shipping programs with various licensed sports product licensees (manufacturers) that you would to have relationships with. I think it’s very important that you understand as much as you can about a company called Kynetic which operates the online stores for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Nascar and ESPN. Please read this blog posting.

The same company, Kynetic, also owns a company called Fanatics (aka Team Fan Shop). Fanatics operates online stores for dozens and dozens of organizations and teams (see their list of partners here). This company (Kynetic + Fanatics) buys product from all sorts of licensed sports products companies (licensees), warehouses the product, and then ships the product - they do not ask the licensees to drop ship. This company (Kynetic + Fanatics) is the largest seller of licensed sports merchandise in the world (not just the largest online seller, the largest seller in total). So when you are trying to figure out who drop ships and who doesn’t, keep in mind that Kynetic/Fanatics does NOT ask the various licensees to drop ship for them – they buy the product outright and warehouse it themselves.

I mention all this because it is entirely possible that a website you admire and think has a drop shipping program established with a licensee (manufacturer) might in fact be a Kynetic/Fanatic website, in which case they don’t actually have a drop shipping program in place with the manufacturer.

3. If you are trying to find licensed sports product licensees (manufacturers) who will drop ship for you, here is my advice:

A. Decide what you are going to specialize in, ie NFL apparel.

B. Go to my searchable online directory and use the Advanced Search feature to find all the companies listed which sell the products you are most interested in. In this case you would search for companies which have the following characteristics: 1. Softgoods - Apparel/Jerseys/Outerwear/Tshirts and are licensed by the NFL - you should find approximately 26 companies. This is a paid directory, and costs $59 for three months use. If you're not sure if this database would be worth the investment, check out this 3 minute video that gives you a sense of what to expect.

C. Figure out which of the 26 sells product that you like (each company's website is right there on my website).

D. Pick up the phone and call each company's sales department - the phone # is right in the database as well. Ask if they have a drop shipping program for ecommerce retailers. If they do, great. If they don't, ask if they can suggest to you a DISTRIBUTOR of theirs who you can work with. To be clear, a Distributor is a company that buys product from a variety of manufacturers (licensees), stores the product in their warehouse, and then sells the product to retailers. Yes it costs you more than if you were able to buy the product from the manufacturer (licensee) directly, but not outrageously more. And most distributors have drop ship programs for online retailers like you. My online directory www.licensedsports.net also has a list of 19 distributors of licensed sports products in the USA and 9 in Canada (use Advanced search and search for 4. Licensed Sports Products Distributors and Country = USA). You can visit each of their sites to see if they carry NFL apparel, then go ahead and contact them to find out if they will drop ship for you.

For more on Distributors, please read this blog posting, especially the last portion.

4. You asked how to build a relationship with these companies (licensees and/or distributors)? By picking up the phone and calling them, and by treating them with respect and paying your bills on time (at least initially you will have to pay for everything by Credit Card, so paying on time isn't really a way to differentiate yourself since all bills will be paid immediately). If/when you become a decent sized customer, they will take note and start to do extra things for you, and one day you will wake up and find that you have built a relationship with them.

I hope this helps!

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me.
Scott

PS from Feb 2013
I hear from a lot of retailers, both bricks and mortar and e-commerce retailers, who want to buy jerseys to sell from their store but seemingly can't buy jerseys. Here's the best way I can explain things:
There are actually two distinct issues:
1. Identifying which officially licensed companies make replica or authentic jerseys.
2. Figuring out if any of them will sell the jerseys directly to you.

To explain, let's use the NFL and their jerseys as the example:

A. Nike is the official on-field jersey licensee for the NFL (I am using layman's terms), but they may only sell to a certain, select type of bricks and mortar retailer and to a select type of e-commerce retailer. I am not privy to their criteria for who they will and will not sell to - you have to work the phone with Nike's sales team and find out if they will sell to you or not. If they will not sell to you directly, you need to ask them if one or more of the entities they sell to (I would refer to these entities as a distributor, but Nike might call them something quite different) would in turn be willing to sell to you. And that's the key for you - you need to figure out who you can buy from - I do not have this info but Nike does. If anyone can share with me the names of a "distributor" who will sell Nike jerseys to independent bricks and mortar retailers and independent e-comm retailers, please let me know - there is a flood of companies wanting to buy from you. Also, please keep in mind that Nike sells several different "grades" of jerseys: they sell a Game Jersey which looks more or less like the on-field jersey and retails for $100-ish; a Limited Jersey which is a funky jersey not worn onfield and retails for $135-ish; and an Elite Jersey which appears to be the actual onfield style jersey and which retails for $250-ish).

B. In addition to Nike, Mitchell & Ness (owned by adidas/Reebok), also has an NFL jersey license, albeit for Throwback Jerseys ($250-ish retail) and Replica Jerseys (these appear to be throwbacks but are a different quality than the Throwback jersey line - these Replica jerseys retail for $140-ish). So you might also want to speak to M&N and see if you can buy directly from them or if not direct, could you buy through a "distributor"?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ode to a wastebasket: The J. Chein Company and a 40 year old licensed sports product

From time to time I would like to salute some of the early licensed sports products companies. There is a danger in getting too carried away with saluting past licensees only in the sense that it could be a never ending project (can you say black hole) and a bit too obscure for anyone to be overly interested in an endless stream of salutes. So rest assured I will pick and choose my spots as I profile a select number of the early licensed sports products companies. But I am also a big believer in history and learning from the past – a bit of the “those who neglect the past are doomed to repeat it” school of thought…

At the bottom of this blog I have added some text that isn’t overly readable, so please feel free to bypass it. I have written and included it largely as a way to use the powers of the internet to try to find anyone out there who might have in their possession a list of early NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL licensees. The reason I am trying to find these lists is to do a study on the longevity of licensees – also a pet project.

I have previously touched on the subject of early licenses and longevity:

A. Sports Specialties Corporation and David Warsaw, generally considered the grandfather of the licensed sports industry

B. The turnover of NFL licenses from 2003 to 2012

C. And to this small body of work I am adding, through this blog, the story of The J. Chein Company, aka Cheinco (pronounced “Chain-co”), another pioneer in the business of licensed products in general and licensed sports products in particular.

So without further ado, here is the story of The J. Chein Company – Cheinco – an early licensed sports products company.

I have owned the wastebasket pictured below since I was 13 years old in 1971. It’s a classic, says “National Hockey League Services 1971” along the seam, and has “Cheinco Housewares – J. Chein & Co. Burlington, NJ 08016” stamped on the bottom.

J Chein NHL Wastebasket
J Chein NHL Wastebasket
J Chein NHL Wastebasket
NHL Services Copyright line
J Chein Company name stamp

The J. Chein Company intrigues me for two reasons:

1. As mentioned, I have owned this wastebasket since 1971. I think this is a great product – it is well made (still going strong and doing yeoman work on a daily basis for 40 years and counting); it uses all the then-current teams’ logos and thus was a brilliant early example of a licensed product that overcame the “regionalism” that limits sales of licensed products and thus could be sold in any hockey market (modern licensees take note!!!); and I think it’s quite attractive in a licensed-sports-products sort of way. Just great work on Cheinco’s part.

2. As Alan Jaffe, author of “J. Chein & Co, American Toymaker”, wrote in 1995: “The Chein company pioneered the process of product licensing in the 1920’s and 1930’s, purchasing the art and rights for comic character toys featuring Popeye [Popeye the cartoon debuted in 1929], Felix (Felix debuted as a silent movie in 1919 and as a comic strip in 1923], then later the Disney characters, and eventually the Ninja Turtles and company advertising logos, such as Coca Cola.” How about that – Cheinco was purchasing the art and rights - licensing – in the 1920’s!

Here, in Mr. Jaffe’s words, is a summary of the story of The J. Chein Company. Content for this article is from the June 1995 issues of a magazine called “Inside Collector”, and is written by Alan Jaffe, author of a book called “J. Chein & Co, American Toymaker”.

J Chein & Company book

The J. Chein Company

The company began in a loft in New York City in 1903, with a metal-stamping operation run by Julius Chein. The company produced small tin prizes for the Cracker Jack boxes and other small toys for five and dime stores. Although the Chein Company made the advertising tins that we collect in its later years, its reputation is built on the nostalgic tin toys and tin banks that are so collectible.

Robert Beckleman, the last president of Chein Industries Inc., says that Julius Chein had a friend with the American Can Company who convinced the toy maker to lithograph designs on metal instead of painting them. American Can did the litho work for them until 1907, when Chein opened a plant in Harrison, New Jersey. They manufactured lithographed noisemakers, horse-drawn carts and coin banks which were sold mainly through the Woolworth chain stores.

Julius Chein was killed in a riding accident in 1926. He fell or was knocked from his horse, in Central Park, although there are variations on the story of his death. He was known for his violent temper, and was known to fly into a rage over something that went wrong at the plant. Stories tell that he had even been known to take off his watch, throw it on the floor, and jump on it when he was angry.

Back to the story of his death, it is rumored that he died of an apoplectic fit when his horse refused to jump. All that is documented, of course, is that he was riding his horse when he was killed. Chein had a disability that may have attributed to his bad temperament. He lost one of his arms as a child in a fireworks explosion. He had been fooling around with fireworks, which went off and blew off his arm (or part of it).

Mrs. Chein inherited the toy making company after her husband's death and turned the reins over to her brother, Samuel Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman had worked for Chein earlier when he was younger, but had left the Chein Company to start his own competing toy company, Mohawk Toys. The Chein Company flourished for decades under his direction, producing some of its most popular toys. Mr. Hoffman was a significant step in building the company in the early years.

In the early 1940's, the metal working company retooled to come to the aid of the war effort. Instead of toys, Chein made munitions: nosecones and tails for bombs, and the casing for incendiary devices. Times following World War II were prosperous years, but that time also marked the introduction of foreign made toys. The Japanese were exporting the small mechanical toys inexpensively, which had a tremendous impact on the Chein Company. Chein countered this by making larger mechanical toys that would be bulky and very costly for the Japanese to send to the United States. This time period led the Chein Company to produce some of the most collectible of any of the toys it ever manufactured. The Ferris wheel, which Chein had been producing since the 1930's, was refined, the company's first roller coaster was manufactured in 1949, the Playland Merry-Go-Round in 1950, the Space Ride and larger Rocket Ride came along in the early 1950's.

In 1949, the Chein Company left its 50,000 square foot facility in Harrison and built a new shop in Burlington, New Jersey - a more economical one floor plant of 75,000 square ft. Most of the front-line supervision, most of the toy and dye-makers, lithographers, and the very key manufacturing personnel made the move to Burlington. In peak seasons, Chein employed 600 people at the new factory.

Two problems contributed to later difficulties for the Chein Company. In addition to the onset of small foreign toys, giving the company its first real competition, the company still had strong ties with Woolworth, and nurtured their relationship. At this time Woolworth was the number one variety store and controlled some of the distribution of toys. It was inconceivable for them to consider a separation from Woolworth, so all Chein toys were still being sold only through this one outlet. The other problem was that plastic was available as a cheaper material to make toys, but Mr. Hoffman, still in control of the Chein Company, refused to turn to plastics. He didn't believe in the viability of plastic as a material, a shortcoming that greatly contributed to the demise of the company.

The Chein company pioneered the process of product licensing in the 1920s and 1930s, purchasing the art and rights for comic character toys featuring Popeye, Felix, then later the Disney characters, and eventually the Ninja Turtles and company advertising logos, such as Coca Cola.

Still, the company was working with a material that was rapidly becoming obsolete. Plastic was quickly taking over metal fabrication in both the toy and housewares divisions. Steel was too expensive, plastic was the new base material and the wave of the future. Rejecting plastics, refusing to involve their products in television advertising, and not selling to the mass merchandisers and discount stores, the company could not survive much longer. They did try to move into plastics, but it never quite worked for them.

Then in the mid-60s, Samuel Hoffman retired from Chein. Shortly afterwards the U.S. government hurried the end of the production of tin toys because of the hazards of their sharp edges. The cost of retooling to curl the edges of the toys was cost prohibitive, and thus ended the Chein era of tin toys.

The Chein toy division expanded its marketing and development, acquiring the Learning Aids Group, including its Renwal Plastic Division. Although they made toy planes, boats and cars, what most of us remember most from this company is the Visible Man and the Visible Woman.

In downsizing efforts a few years later, Renwal was sold and the toy division of Chein was discontinued. The company turned all of its attention to housewares in 1976, which they had been producing since the mid-fifties. Their products included kitchen canisters, bread boxes and one of their most successful items -- wastebaskets. It is in this time period that their advertising tins started being manufactured. Many of the Cheinco tins were given away empty when the products were purchased, sitting next to the actual products or on special displays in the grocery stores. There were also sets of tins, e.g. Sunkist California Dream Tin, Heinz Pearl Onions, and Maxwell House Coffee that were sold in department stores, packaged as a cannister set.

In the 1980's Cheinco Industries, produced a series of lithographed steel "carry-all" tins including Donald Duck, Star Wars and Oreos. Throwbacks to the two-handled pails of the 1920's and 1930's, these tins ins were too small to carry an entire lunch, but nonetheless turned up in lunch box collections. It was also around this time, that Bristol Ware, a division of Cheinco, reproduced the very popular roly poly Tobacco Tins. (Note: not sure when the Bristol Ware Division started, came into being or how production was broken down).

The company continued with the housewares until the late 1980's, when the company was sold to the Atlantic Can Company and was then known as the Atlantic Cheinco Corp. The Atlantic Can Company produced cake and cookie tins, but was beset by problems including chemical odors being released from the plant and the fact that they were, according to bankruptcy proceedings "a seasonal company trying to go counter-seasonal". The company, one of the world's leaving manufacturers of metal lithographed containers, including cookie tins, kitchen canisters, and wastebaskets filed for bankruptcy in February 1992, two years after one of their biggest successes, 700,000 Ninja Turtle wastebaskets were sold! Later that year Ellisco Inc., a Pennsylvania company, purchased the assets of Cheinco.


Many thanks for reading!
Scott

PS Here is what our friends at Wikipedia have to say about "J. Chein & Company”.

--------------------------------------------------
I am trying to find a list of NFL licensees from the 1960’s or 1970’s or 1980’s; a list of MLB licensees from the 1960’s or 1970’s or 1980’s; a list of NBA licensees from the 1960’s or 1970’s or 1980’s; and a list of NHL licensees from the 1960’s or 1970’s or 1980’s.

More specifically, I was wondering if anyone out there (perhaps a former licensee or a former employee of one of the leagues’ licensing departments?) has a list of any of the following:

Lists from the 1960’s:

1. A list of NFL licensees from 1960 (or thereabouts).
It is possible that there wasn’t any formal licensing until 1963 when a company known as Sports Specialties Corporation became the first official licensee of the newly founded "National Football League Properties". See Blog Part 12 for more on Sports Specialties Corp. and its founder David Warsaw. http://licensedsports.blogspot.ca/2012/03/insiders-guide-to-world-of-licensed_6196.html

2. A list of MLB licensees from 1960 (or thereabouts).
The previously mentioned Sports Specialties Corp started selling licensed MLB bobblehead dolls in 1960 si it’s possible a “list” of licensees might exist from the early 1960’s. MLB Properties, which is still in existence today, was formed in 1966, but there may have been a predecessor organization known by a different name.

3. A list of NBA licensees from 1960 (or thereabouts).
It may be that there was no formal licensing of NBA product in the early 1960’s, or it may have started later on in the decade. NBA Properties Inc. was founded in 1967 but it is possible that it operated under a different name/structure in the early-mid 1960’s.”

4. A list of NHL licensees from 1960 (or thereabouts).
We know from a famous licensed products lawsuit (Boston Professional Hockey Club vs Dallas Cap & Emblem) http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/597/597.F2d.71.77-1280.html that the NHL’s licensing body officially known as “National Hockey League Services Inc.”, aka NHLS, was in operation at least by 1968. But we don’t know when NHLS began operations – an educated guess would be some time after MLB began their operation in 1960 and prior to the 1968 date mentioned in the lawsuit.

Lists from the 1970’s:

1. A list of NFL licensees from 1970 (or thereabouts).
In the 1970’s the licensing body was, and still is, “NFL Properties”.

2. A list of MLB licensees from 1970 (or thereabouts).
MLB Properties, which is still in existence today, was formed in 1966, and thus operated throughout the 1970’s.

3. A list of NBA licensees from 1970 (or thereabouts).
NBA Properties, which is still in existence today, was formed in 1967, and thus operated throughout the 1970’s.

4. A list of NHL licensees from 1970 (or thereabouts).
As mentioned above, I know for certain that in 1970 the licensing body was officially known as “National Hockey League Services Inc.”, aka NHLS. I have read, and written (in Blog Part 12), that NHL Enterprises began in 1969, but this is clearly not the case for two reasons: It was known as National Hockey League Services (NHLS) at least until at least 1971 (I have an NHL wastebasket that says National Hockey League Services 1971” on it), and perhaps much later. And secondly, we know that NHLS existed in 1968, so the 1969 date doesn’t make sense. I wondered if in saying that NHLE began in 1969, the writer was referring to NHLE or its predecessor, but that doesn’t even make sense given tat NHLS was in existence in 1968. I am certain that the NHL licensing body was known as NHL Enterprises Inc. from at least 1981 – so the gray area at the moment is from 1972 to 1980. In 1996 the name was changed to NHL Enterprises, L.P.

Lists from the 1980’s:

1. A list of NFL licensees from 1980 (or thereabouts).
The licensing body was, and still is, NFL Properties.

2. A list of MLB licensees from 1980 (or thereabouts).
The licensing body was, and still is, MLB Properties.

3. A list of NBA licensees from 1980 (or thereabouts).
The licensing body was, and still is, NBA Properties.

4. A list of NHL licensees from 1980 (or thereabouts).
I am certain that the NHL licensing body was known as NHL Enterprises Inc. from at least 1981. In 1996 the name was changed to NHL Enterprises, L.P.

Thanks for any list-finding help - I'd really appreciate it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Licensed Sports Products and the ebb and flow of time: What can change in 10 short years

I’ve written a fair bit about how difficult it is to acquire an NFL license, and I stand by what I have said and written. It is tough sledding to get an NFL license.

But time is a curious master, and I wanted to share with you the slightly bigger picture of what time can do and what the passage of time reveals.

When I became an NFL licensee in 2000, there were a large number of licensees – perhaps 300 or more. Things ebb and flow, and shortly after I became a licensee the NFL made a conscious decision to significantly reduce the number of licensees – a real bloodletting as I recall. There could be all sorts of reasons for the NFL to decide to reduce the number of licensees (then or now), but the prevailing thought at the time, as it was explained to me by several members of the NFL licensing team, was that if the NFL had six companies producing headwear, they would fight and bicker and point fingers at each other and generally make life miserable for the NFL licensing staff, but more importantly, they would compete in the marketplace and lower the wholesale, and therefore retail, prices of ball caps. Now on the surface of things that sounds like a good thing – companies competing and prices being reduced - but look at it through the eyes of the NFL licensing team at the time…

Let’s say each of the six companies sold 500,000 ball caps, and let’s say the average wholesale price of each cap was $7.50. The NFL’s royalty (at the 2002 royalty rate of 10%) would be:
500,000 caps/company x 6 companies x $7.50 each wholesale x 10% royalty = $2,250,000 in royalties

But remove the competition (ie reduce the number of licensees from 300+ to 100), and the prices for caps are going to rise. And the thinking was that regardless of price, the number of caps sold will be the same (perhaps a flaw in the thinking I realize, but accept it for now). In this scenario, the NFL royalty would be:
3,000,000 caps/company x 1 company x $10 each wholesale x 10% royalty = $3,000,000 in royalties.

And not only would the royalties increase by 25% by reducing the number of licensees, but the NFL licensing staff headaches of trying to adjudicate the fighting and finger-pointing between licensees would also largely go away. A win-win if ever there was one for the NFL licensing team, and thus the rationale for reducing the number of licensees.

Whether you agree with the thinking or not, accept for the moment that the prevailing thinking in 2000-2001-2002 was that by reducing the number of NFL licensees, the royalties collected would increase and the headaches would decrease.

So between 2000 and 2003, the number of NFL licensees decreased from 300+ in 2000 to just less than 100 by 2003.

September 2013: I used to show a list of NFL licensees that was given to me by the NFL in 2003, but I have been asked by the NFL not to publish that list - strange but true. This isn't a big deal, so let's not sweat it. Suffice it to say that the list, which I have, shows the NFL having just less than 100 licensees and since I was given this list by the NFL in March 2003, I will presume that it is more or less accurate.

Turn the hands of time ahead to 2008, and the NFL was continuing to make further reductions in the number of licensees. The thinking, as it was explained to me in March 2008 at the NFL Hardlines Summit in Miami, was that the NFL wanted “blue chip” licensees, and by reducing the number of licensees (from 100-ish where it had hovered for 5 years) to 80 while simultaneously increasing the annual guarantees somewhat significantly, they would shed some of the smaller, riskier companies and yet still increase the royalties generated on the basis of increased annual guarantees. “If you want to remain an NFL licensee, you’re going to have to prove you belong by paying for that privilege.”

Turn the hands of time to 2012, and the pendulum has clearly swung the other way. By my count there are approximately 175 NFL licensees in 2012, a very significant increase since 2008.

Why has the pendulum swung the other way? A host of reasons, including:

1. The NFL lost the American Needle court case in 2010, and regardless of what the NFL might say publicly, the Supreme Court ruling meant the NFL needed to increase competition and that meant increasing the number of licensees, particularly on the apparel (softgoods) side of things.

2. The NFL licensing team had some turnover after 2008, and with new people come new ideas. “What do you mean they reduced the number of licensees and stifled competition – what were they thinking?”

3. The NFL licensing team realized that by limiting competition, they were also limiting creativity and ingenuity, and they were actually starving the baby, not nourishing it.

Which way is the pendulum swinging right now? Is it still on the upswing or has it reached the peak and will soon be on the downswing? My guess is the NFL is still increasing the number of licensees, and that we might see as many as 200+ licensees in the next year or two.

And what impact would a larger pool of licensees have on things? If you are someone who is interested in acquiring an NFL license, my guts says now is a pretty good time to make your case and get in line.

Here are a couple fact-driven points that I would like to make.

I have said that things ebb and flow. I said that in 2000 there were 300+ NFL licensees, and by 2003 that number was barely 100 licensees. And I have said that now - in 2012 - there are roughly 175 licensees.

Of the 98 licensees from 2003 - not even 10 years ago – what percentage would you guess are still NFL licensees in 2012? 70%? 80% 85%? I would love to ask my friends at the NFL this question, because I’m guessing they have never been asked.

So please take a moment and guess, and think why you guessed the figure you did. What percentage of NFL licensees in 2003 are still NFL licensees in 2012?

The truth is, I think even the staff in the licensing department of the NFL would be surprised by the answer. I think if we were all honest with each other, we would think a fairly high percentage would still be licensees, largely because we all want to believe that having an NFL license is a bona fide ticket to prosperity – the pinnacle of the licensed sports business, the gold standard by which all leagues are judged.

So here are the facts as best I can determine:

Of the 98 NFL licensees in 2003, only 44% (43 companies) are still NFL licensees in 2012 – more than half the licensees have fallen by the wayside in less than 10 years. I realize that some companies were purchased and thus in a sense they are still licensees, but that’s gilding the lily. I also realize that I may have missed a handful of companies because the company name has changed slightly and I may have miscounted by a few companies, but the big picture point is that it appears that less than half the NFL licenses in 2003 remain licensed by the NFL less than 10 years later.

LIST OF THE 43 2003 NFL LICENSEES WHICH ARE STILL LICENSED IN 2012
1 Action Images, Inc.
2 BIC Corporation
3 Bradford Exchange, The
4 Brax, Ltd.
5 Highland Mint, The
6 Caseworks International
7 Classic Balloon Corporation
8 Decopac
9 Duck House, Inc.
10 Electronic Arts Inc.
11 Everlasting Images, Inc.
12 Fabric Traditions
13 Franklin Sports, Inc.
14 Fremont Die Consumer Products, Inc.
15 Great American Products, Inc.
16 Hallmark Licensing, Inc.
17 Hunter Manufacturing Group, Inc.
18 Imperial International
19 Kolder Inc.
20 Danbury Mint / MBI Inc.
21 McCarthur Towel and Sports, Inc.
22 McFarlane Toys
23 Memory Company, The
24 Mounted Memories, Inc.
25 MSA
26 National Emblem, Inc.
27 Northwest Company, The
28 Party Animal, The
29 Photo File, Inc.
30 Pro Specialties Group, Inc.
31 Reebok International, Ltd.
32 Rico Industries DBA Rico Industries/Tag Express
33 Riddell
34 Siskiyou Buckle Co., Inc.
35 Sports Coverage
36 Forever Collectibles / Team Beans, LLC
37 Topperscot, LLC
38 Topps Company, Inc., The
39 Twins Enterprise, Inc.
40 Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
41 Wincraft
42 Winning Streak Sports, Inc.
43 Zippo Manufacturing Company

Or phrased another way, of the 175 NFL licensees in 2012, only 25% (43 companies) were licensees in 2003 - less than 10 years ago! So over a period of less than 10 years, the NFL created well more than 100 new licensees. And that doesn’t take into account the companies who became licenses in 2004 –2010 and then fell by the wayside by 2012. So it’s possible that the NFL may have licensed 150 new companies, perhaps even 175 or more, over the last nine years – a significant number of companies!

No matter how you slice it, that’s a fair amount of turnover. In one sense that’s good news if you are currently seeking a license – this suggests that it’s not an impossible dream.

On the other hand, this is a bit scary in that it reveals, no matter how you slice it, that having an NFL license is not a ticket to the promised land. And having that perspective on things is an important lesson for anyone to learn, the NFL included.


Food for thought…

Many thanks for reading and as always, please contact me if you have any questions.
Scott Sillcox

Monday, March 19, 2012

How do I sell to the ecommerce / online stores of the major sports leagues? Can you say Kynetic?

How do I sell to the ecommerce / online stores of the various professional sports leagues? I was recently asked this question by a number of people, and thought that I should post my answer for others to see. As always, I welcome feedback so if I have any misinformation or outdated information, please let me know!

1. League ecommerce stores:

In most cases the leagues farm out the ecommerce / online store portion of their websites to a third party. To the consumer it appears to be the league running their own online store, but it is actually a third party. Here is who five of the biggest selling leagues work with:

A. The MLB e-comm site was run by GSI Commerce until late 2011 – now run by Kynetic LLC.
MLB online store logo

B. The NFL e-comm site was run by GSI Commerce until late 2011 – now run by Kynetic LLC.

C. The NBA e-comm site was run by GSI Commerce until late 2011 – now run by Kynetic LLC.
NBA online store logo

D. The NHL e-comm site was run by GSI Commerce until late 2011 – now run by Kynetic LLC.
NHL online store logo

E. The NASCAR e-comm site was run by GSI Commerce until late 2011 – now run by Kynetic LLC.
Nascar online store logo

Notice anything?

Here’s the background…

2. The story of Kynetics

- In 1999, 25 year old and serial entrepreneur Michael Rubin started Global Sports Incorporated.

GSI Commerce logo
- GSI grows and grows, and by the beginning of 2011 GSI Commerce (as it is was then known) is running 200+ online e-commerce sores for all sorts of blue chip companies including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Nascar and ESPN. In a short 12 year span GSI had become the 800 pound gorilla in ecommerce world – in addition to the well-known, high profile sports sites, they also run e-comm sites for 175+ other well known companies including Ace Hardware, Calvin Klein, PBS, QVC, Restoration Hardware, Toys R US, Speedo and Ralph Lauren.

- In early 2011 GSI buys Fanatics, a leading provider of outsourced e-commerce solutions to colleges, conferences, professional sports teams and sports media properties. Included are the e-comm stores for more than 20 NCAA Division I programs including Ohio State, Florida and Oklahoma.

- In June 2011 GSI was purchased by eBay and becomes known as “GSI Commerce, an eBay Inc. Company”. But of interest to readers of this blog is the fact that at the same time and as part of the transaction Ebay sold 100% of GSI's licensed sports merchandise business to GSI Founder and CEO Michael Rubin. Talk about shrewd – the jewel of the crown was spun off to the original owner! GSI started in 1999 as a company selling sports products, and when it was sold to Ebay, Ebay divested itself of the sports component of GSI because Ebay believed “these businesses are not core to its long-term growth strategy”. Un huh…

Kynetic logo
- Thus it is that a company founded in the summer of 2011 – Kynetic - is now , as per their website, “The largest seller of licensed sports merchandise in the world. Fanatics operates the official stores of the biggest names in sports, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, ESPN and more than 60 Division I athletic programs and conferences, professional sports teams and top sports media properties. With more than 150,000 items, Fanatics offers the broadest product assortment—spanning professional and collegiate teams—through league partnerships and Fanatics’ own network of sites.”

This site lists most of Fanatics’ partners, but as of March 2012 still doesn’t list the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL or Nascar, ie it doesn’t list the former blue chip GSI e-comm sports sites even though they are all now part of Kynetic. My guess is this is deliberate – please read on.

- GSI, and now to a certain extent Kynetic, seemed to make it their business to make it seem as though every one of their websites was run by the league/company/partner being represented, and as such you will almost never find any reference to GSI/Kynetic anywhere on the site. It's almost remarkable (to the point of being eerie) how good they are at “hiding” the fact that they have anything to do with the site. Greater minds than mine are at work here…

- That being said, Fanatics seem to have a different philosophy and most of their team and school sites link back to their corporate site – www.teamfanshop.com . But the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and Nascar sites remain shrouded in mystery, and thus the reason for this blog – to explain who is behind the majority of North American sports leagues e-comm websites. If you look at GSI's website right now (March 2012), it still shows the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and Nascar as their clients, but since September 2011 they have been part of Fanatics/Kynetics. I am not suggesting there is skullduggery going on, I am simply trying to answer the question posed in the title of this blog.

3. More on Kynetic

Kynetic consists of three consumer Internet businesses: Fanatics, the world’s leading online retailer of licensed sports merchandise; Rue La La, a leading online private sale destination in the U.S.; and ShopRunner, an innovative members-only service that aggregates shopping benefits from the top retailers and brands.

The Philadelphia Business Journal wrote a great article on Kynetic and Michael Rubin in September 2011 and I have copied some of the content below in italics. Many thanks to the PBJ.

“Rubin has been an entrepreneur since 1986, when he opened a ski sales and repair business in his parents’ house at the ripe old age of 12. I detailed the chain of events that led him from it to forming what would become GSI Commerce in this 1999 story.

GSI’s revenue was $1.36 billion last year (2010), and the company was on its way to some serious growth this year when eBay bought it, due in no small part to the March acquisition of Fanatics for $277 million. When GSI bought Fanatics, the Jacksonville, Fla., company operated more than 250 e-commerce websites, including www.footballfanatics.com, and an additional 60 e-commerce stores for collegiate and professional sports teams and media organizations. It employed 400 and had posted non-GAAP income from operations of $23.8 million on revenue of $186.3 million last year.

The Fanatics that is part of Kynetic also includes the licensed sports merchandise operations that GSI had before buying it. Those posted revenue of $300 million last year (2010) and included the e-commerce operations of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, NASCAR and ESPN.

Rubin anticipates Fanatics will post revenue of $600 million to $700 million next year. He said the company employs 500 in Jacksonville and will have 100 employees in Kynetic’s Conshohocken PA office when that opens (Nov 2011). Fanatics is still run by Alan Trager, its CEO prior to its purchase by GSI. [The other two divisions of newly formed Kynetic are] Rue La La [which] employs 400 at its headquarters in Boston and its other offices in New York and Seattle., and ShopRunner [which] will employ a little less than 50 people at Kynetic’s Conshohocken headquarters.

Fanatic/Kynetic also has fulfillment operations in Kentucky that can employ as many as 300 people, depending on demand, which peaks during the holiday shopping season.”


4. Kynetic’s 411

Kynetic LLC’s head office of approximately 100 employees in Conshohocken PA is located close to GSI’s in King of Prussia PA:
Kynetic LLC
Millennium Corporate Center
225 Washington Street, 3rd Floor
Conshohocken, PA 19428
Ph: 484-534-8100
Ph #2 - Fanatic admin within Kynetic: 484-567-8383
www.kynetic.com

The bulk of the Fanatic employees (500+) work out of Fanatic’s office in Jacksonville, FL:
Fanatics, aka TeamFanShop
5245 Commonwealth Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32254
Customer Service: 1-877-827-8965
Business Development: 904-421-1897
www.fanatics.com
www.teamfanshop.com

5. Selling to a “league” e-commerce website

Let’s continue to use the NFL as our example… If you would like to sell a licensed product to www.nflshop.com, the NFL ecommerce website run by Kynetic/Fanatics, the Kynetic/Fanatics buyer will be trained to make sure you are an NFL licensee in good standing before they can/will buy from you. If you are not a licensee, they can not and will not buy from you. The Kynetic/Fanatics buyers will work very closely with their NFL counterparts to make sure this principle is closely followed.

With respect to the NFL ecommerce site vs individual team ecommerce sites - Kynetic/Fanatics runs the NFL ecommerce site. But every team has their own ecommerce site and in most cases the team site is run by someone other than Kynetic/Fanatics (Kynetic runs a handful of team ecommerce sites including the Denver Broncos, NY Giants and San Francisco 49ers). The teams are free to either run their own sites or to farm them out to someone else. You need to contact each team to find out how each does it – even if I provided you with a list by league and team, it would be outdated the moment I published it. The e-commerce landscape vis a vis team e-comm sites changes too quickly for me to keep up, so I encourage you to go directly to the team and ask who runs their ecommerce store.

6. Advertising on a league website

A. If you are interested in advertising on the League's ecommerce site, then you would go through Kynetic/Fanatic. I don't know this for a fact, but I am fairly confidant in saying that Kynetic/Fanatics has all sorts of restrictions as to who can/can't advertise on each site, and ultimately someone at the league would have to approve each and every advertiser. What they would be checking is that the potential advertiser is either: a licensee of the league; a sponsor/marketing partner of the league (ie Coke); or if not a sponsor/marketing partner, then at least not in conflict/competition with someone who is (if Coke is a league sponsor, Pepsi wouldn't be allowed to buy ad space online).

B. If you are interested in advertising on the League's webite (but not the ecommerce site), you would start by contacting the league itself. In this case the same vetting process would happen - they would thoroughly check to see that the potential advertiser is either: a licensee of the league; a sponsor/marketing partner of the league (ie Coke); or if not a sponsor/marketing partner, then at least not in conflict/competition with someone who is (if Coke is a league sponsor, Pepsi wouldn't be allowed to buy ad space online).

I hope this helps and as always, please call or email if you have other questions or information to share with me!

Scott

PS In June 2012 Kynetics, through their Fanatics Division, bought a licensed sports product company Dreams Inc. (aka Dreamscorp). It is quite interesting to note that Dreams Inc. was both a retailer (Dreams Inc. owned a chain of stores known as Field of Dreams - once 30-ish bricks and mortar stores, now downsized to roughly 10 stores - plus an e-commerce operation) and a licensee (Dreams Inc. owned Mounted Memories, a licensee of most of the major sports leagues plus other licenses). Thus by purchasing Dreams Inc., Kynetics and Fanatics have clearly established themselves not only as America's leading licensed sports product e-commerce retailer, but also a leading sports memorabilia retailer AND a sports league licensee - a very unique combination.

- To read more about the acquisition, please see this Fanatics newsrelease. When the newsrelease mentions the figure of $150 million, don't be confused into thinking this is what they paid to acquire Dreams Inc. - I don't know what the figure was but I suspect a whole lot less than $150 million.

- To understand more about what business Fanatics (and therefore Kynetics), is now in by virtue of this acquisition, please see this section of Fanatics website. As their website clearly states, they are now in the business of "Licensing and Manufacturing - Fanatics holds licenses for over 600 colleges and universities, as well as professional leagues and organizations. This licensing strategy is supported with state-of-the-art manufacturing, sourcing, and customization capabilities."

- The impact of this development should not be ignored - Fanatics can now be a competitor to many of their suppliers - a somewhat frightening prospect to existing licensees, many of whom may be unaware of this situation. At the very least, this is something existing sports licensees, especially those who sell to Fanatics, should be keenly aware of.

Does a Retailer need an NFL (or MLB or NBA or NHL or NCAA) license to sell licensed sports products from my bricks and mortar store and/or over the internet?

I am a retailer – do I need an NFL (or MLB or NBA or NHL or NCAA) license to sell licensed sports products from my bricks and mortar store and/or over the internet?

I get asked this question more often than I ever would have guessed. To me the answer is so clear - “No you don’t need a license to be a retailer of licensed sports products” - that at first I thought people were asking me a different question and I was misunderstanding them. But the question kept being asked on a weekly basis, so it is clearly something people are unsure of, and it has prompted me to post my response here for others to find.

Note 1: I also find that I am getting asked this question by retailers outside of North America – ie a retailer in Spain wishing to sell NFL licensed merchandise. In this post I try to answer that question as well.

Note #2: Please note that in my answers below, for the sake of simplicity I have used the NFL as my example, but please understand that for the most part any time you see “NFL”, you could replace it with MLB or NBA or NHL or NCAA or MLS or Nascar, etc. The key is that the principle of the answer holds for the other leagues as well, not just the NFL.

So, I am a retailer – do I need an NFL (or MLB or NBA or NHL or NCAA) license to sell licensed sports products from my bricks and mortar store and/or over the internet?

1. You do not need a license of any kind from the NFL to sell NFL products at retail. This holds whether you are a bricks and mortar retailer, or an e-tailer, or both. All you need is to find NFL licensees (or distributors – see below) willing to sell their products to you. This answer may prompt two other questions:

A. You might well ask, why wouldn’t an NFL licensee sell to you? - If you are a small retailer and you are wanting to sell Nike licensed merchandise, Nike might not sell directly to you because you aren’t able to place a large enough order. Or Nike may have a carefully crafted list of established retail accounts with whom they work and they simply will not sell to you. But this unwillingness-to-sell is rare and only applies with the largest of licensees like Nike and does not apply to the vast majority of the other 174 NFL licensees.

B. You might ask – where can I find a list of “all the NFL licensees” that I can contact with respect to buying NFL licensed products from them?
- You might think that the leagues would be happy to provide you with such a list, and you might be right. You can always try contacting the various leagues and see if they will provide you with a list of their licensees. If they won’t, and I suspect they won’t for a variety of reasons, I offer two suggestions:

Allow me to try to clarify something that can be quite confusing. The NFL does have a "Retail License", and at first glance you might think this means that the NFL is granting certain companies the right to retail NFL licensed merchandise. This is NOT what the NFL menas by Retail License - what a Retail License is a license that allows a manufacturuer (ie a licensee) to sell products to retailers. So if I am an NFL licensee with a Retail license, thissimply means that I can sell my products to retailers. It does NOT mean that I am a retailer who has been given some special right by the NFL.

Online directory of licensed sports product companies
(i) Please visit LicensedSports.net a searchable Online Directory of North American Licensed Sports Products Companies that you can sign up to use for $59 for three months. This is a highly searchable directory of 1500+ licensed sports products companies in North America, companies which have been licensed by various sports leagues. Looking for companies which sell NFL housewares? You’ll find a list here including contact names, phone numbers, email addresses and dynamically-linked websites. Looking for a supplier who makes NFL and MLB and Nascar headwear? That list is here. Looking for a new supplier of MLB licensed posters? That info is here as well. (In the interest of full disclosure, please note that I, Scott Sillcox, created this online, searchable directory precisely because the information was not readily available anywhere else. It may seem a bit self serving for me to promote my own directory, but it’s easy to use and there’s nothing like it on the internet - fair value for $59.) If you're not sure if this database would be worth the investment, check out this 3 minute video that gives you a sense of what to expect.

(ii) Plan on attending the “Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show” held annually in January in Las Vegas. While not every licensed sports products company exhibits at this show - there are approximately 1500-2000 licensed sports product companies in North America, and you will find 300-ish of them represented at the show - there is a very good cross-section of licensed sports product companies including almost all of the biggest ones, and it would be well worth your while to attend the show if you are retailer looking for product.

2. Just to be crystal clear, while you don’t need a license to sell licensed sports products at retail, you DO need a license if you wish to manufacture and sell products with NFL league and team logos and trademarks to retailers, wholesalers, distributors, etc. Geographically, the NFL breaks this type of license into NFL USA licensees, NFL Canada licensees and NFL International licensees. (I'm not completely in-the-know with the NFL International license - perhaps they have broken this down into smaller areas or regions rather than simply "the rest of the world", ie an NFL Europe license and an NFL Asia license.)

- When someone is an "NFL USA" licensee, what this means is that they are contractually bound to only sell products to customers (retailers, distributors, "wholesalers") in the USA - they cannot sell to customers outside the USA. My company is located in Canada and yet I can be a NFL USA licensee - the license designation defines who you can sell to, not where you are located.

- It is these licensed sports products companies (licensees) which pay the NFL the licensing royalty, generally 12% of the wholesale price. For instance, if NFL licensee ABC CO sells $5,000,000 worth of NFL products to retailers (12% royalty) and distributors (15% royalty) and other various wholesalers (12-15%), they must remit to the NFL a royalty in the amount of 12% (or 15%) x $5,000,000 = $600,000. But the retailers and distributors and wholesalers do not submit any royalties whatsoever to the NFL - the royalty has already been paid at what is referred to as "The First Level of Distribution" – when the sale was made by the licensee to the retailer or distributor.

3. For retailers in Europe who wish to buy NFL licensed products, here are my thoughts/suggestions:

- You are interested in being a retailer in Europe (let’s assume England for now), as explained above you do not need a license of any kind from the NFL. But you do need to understand that theoretically you can only buy from companies with an NFL International license (manufacturers) OR from "middleman" companies who have purchased from companies with an NFL license (these type of companies are generally called distributors or in some cases “wholesalers” but that is a confusing expression). The question then becomes, how do you find a list of companies (licensees) you can buy from?

- To get a list of companies with NFL International licenses, ie NFL International Licensees, I suggest that you contact either:

A. The NFL Head Office in New York (contact info below). You should explain that you are a retailer in Europe, and that you would like to receive a list of NFL International Licensees from which you are allowed to buy NFL products.
- I believe that Mark Waller, Senior VP of NFL International, or someone on his staff should be able to provide you with such a list. mark.waller@nfl.com
- For North American retailers, contact the NFL switchboard in New York at 212-450-2000. If you are successful in obtaining a list of NFL US licensees, good for the NFL for helping you and would you be nice enough to let me know?

B. The NFL Europe office is located in London and you could contact them and explain that you are a retailer in Europe and that you would like to receive a list of NFL International Licensees from which you are allowed to buy NFL products.
David Tossell, Director of Public Affairs, NFL Europe/UK,
1-9 Hills Place, 4th Floor
London, England
W1F 7SA
Ph: 44-20-7534-0030



- But there is one other important source of NFL licensed products for you to buy from, and this is the group of "middleman" companies I referred to above which are known as "distributors". In this case these distributors have already purchased from NFL licensees, and these distributors can and should be able to sell to anyone they please, including someone in England even if they are based in the US. I do not know if there is such a distributor(s) in Europe, but I suspect there is - use the internet or ask the NFL UK office contact.

- But here's the key point and key takeaway in this entire blog posting and this is directed at North American and non-North American retailers: Don't be limited to European distributors - you can purchase from US-based distributors (some contact info can be found below). The key thing about distributors of NFL products, particularly those in North America, is that they make it their business to stock a wide variety of NFL products (almost all teams) AND they generally have very low minimum order levels, ie you can order 3 of this and 2 of that and 6 of another thing, and you simply order using a credit card. That is the business of distribution - they basically act as a warehouse of NFL products. Yes they charge a bit more than if you bought directly from the NFL licensee, but not outrageously so. Please also note that the distributors suggested below almost always sell more than just NFL products, they also sell MLB and NBA and NHL products that you might also be interested in. The distributors below are listed in no particular order.

NEW INFO: In addition to the great distributors listed below, please also check out my searchable Online Directory of North American Licensed Sports Products Companies which costs $59 to use for three months. In it you will find a large list of Distributors and their contact information. Simply use the "Advanced Search" option and search for category 4 = Licensed Sports Products Distributors.

Distributor #1:
Casey's Distributing
8921 "J" Street, Suite 300
Omaha, NE 68127
USA
Ph: (402)334-3485
www.caseys-distributing.com
Check out their website and you can actually see products, pricing and quantities on hand.

Distributor #2:
SportsLine Distributors
3160 Commercial Avenue
Northbrook, IL 60062
USA
Ph: (847)656-0300 www.sportslined.com
Check out their website and you can see products but not pricing or quantities on hand.

Distributor #3:
West Coast Novelty Corp.
2401 Monarch Street
Alameda, CA 94501
USA
Ph: (510)748-4248
www.westcoastnovelty.com
Check out their website and you can see products but not pricing or quantities on hand.

Distributor #4:
Merling Wholesale
100 Beall Street
Cumberland, MD 21502
USA
Ph: (301)729-2571
http://merlingwholesale.com
Check out their website and you can actually see products, pricing and quantities on hand.

Distributor #5:
Majestic Housewares
5200 Unruh Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
USA
Ph: 215-331-4010
www.superduperwholesale.com
Check out their website and you can actually see products, pricing and quantity discount price breaks.

Distributor #6:
Big Apple Card Company
4800 Lyons Technology Parkway, Unit 2
Coconut Creek, FL 33073
USA
Ph: 800-883-8090
www.bigapplecard.com
Check out their huge selection of licensed of hardline and softgoods products from the major leagues as shown in their remarkable catalogue.

Distributor #7:
Sports Merchandising Network, Inc.
884 Buford Drive
Lawrenceville, GA
Ph: 800-516-3417
www.teamsmn.com
Check out their website and you can see pricing and search for products by league, team and product - all without logging in.
May 2013: It appears as if SMN may be out of business. They have an alternative website but it doesn't seem to lead anywhere. If anyone has more info about SMN, please let me know.

Distributor #8:
SportsWorld Distributors
2984 First Street, Unit 3
La Verne, CA 91750
Ph: 866-597-7678
www.sportsworlddistributors.com
Check out their website and you can search for products by league, team and product - all without logging in. Prices shown on the website are suggested retail prices.

Distributor #9:
Good Tymes Enterprises Inc.
P.O. Box 2073
228 Preston St SW
Abingdon, VA 24212
Ph: 866-628-5101
Fx: 276-628-4779
www.goodtymesent.com
A distributor of Nascar, collegiate, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL products. They have a wide range of hardlines products - no softgoods. They have a 90 page 2013 catalogue.

Best of luck and I hope this has helped answer some of the questions listed below.

Thanks for reading, and as always, please let me know if you have any questions!
Scott Sillcox

PS from Feb 2013
I hear from a lot of retailers, both bricks and mortar and e-commerce retailers, who want to buy jerseys to sell from their store but seemingly can't buy jerseys. Here's the best way I can explain things:
There are actually two distinct issues:
1. Identifying which officially licensed companies make replica or authentic jerseys.
2. Figuring out if any of them will sell the jerseys directly to you.

To explain, let's use the NFL and their jerseys as the example:

A. Nike is the official on-field jersey licensee for the NFL (I am using layman's terms), but they may only sell to a certain, select type of bricks and mortar retailer and to a select type of e-commerce retailer. I am not privy to their criteria for who they will and will not sell to - you have to work the phone with Nike's sales team and find out if they will sell to you or not. If they will not sell to you directly, you need to ask them if one or more of the entities they sell to (I would refer to these entities as a distributor, but Nike might call them something quite different) would in turn be willing to sell to you. And that's the key for you - you need to figure out who you can buy from - I do not have this info but Nike does. If anyone can share with me the names of a "distributor" who will sell Nike jerseys to independent bricks and mortar retailers and independent e-comm retailers, please let me know - there is a flood of companies wanting to buy from you. Also, please keep in mind that Nike sells several different "grades" of jerseys: they sell a Game Jersey which looks more or less like the on-field jersey and retails for $100-ish; a Limited Jersey which is a funky jersey not worn onfield and retails for $135-ish; and an Elite Jersey which appears to be the actual onfield style jersey and which retails for $250-ish).

B. In addition to Nike, Mitchell & Ness (owned by adidas/Reebok), also has an NFL jersey license, albeit for Throwback Jerseys ($250-ish retail) and Replica Jerseys (these appear to be throwbacks but are a different quality than the Throwback jersey line - these Replica jerseys retail for $140-ish). So you might also want to speak to M&N and see if you can buy directly from them or if not direct, could you buy through a "distributor"?
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Do you need a license to sell NFL merchandise?
Do you need a license to be an NFL retailer?
How do you become a licensed NFL vendor?
How can you sell officially licensed NFL merchandise / products / goods / accessories / apparel?
How do you sell items with NFL team logos?

Do you need a license to sell MLB merchandise?
Do you need a license to be an MLB retailer?
How do you become a licensed MLB vendor?
How can you sell officially licensed MLB merchandise / products / goods / accessories / apparel?
How do you sell items with MLB team logos?

Do you need a license to sell NBA merchandise?
Do you need a license to be an NBA retailer?
How do you become a licensed NBA vendor?
How can you sell officially licensed NBA merchandise / products / goods / accessories / apparel?
How do you sell items with NBA team logos?

Do you need a license to sell NHL merchandise?
Do you need a license to be an NHL retailer?
How do you become a licensed NHL vendor?
How can you sell officially licensed NHL merchandise / products / goods / accessories / apparel?
How do you sell items with NHL team logos?

Do you need a license to sell NCAA / US College merchandise?
Do you need a license to be an NCAA / US College retailer?
How do you become a licensed NCAA / US College vendor?
How can you sell officially licensed NCAA / US College merchandise / products / goods / accessories / apparel?
How do you sell items with NCAA / US College team logos?