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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

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 $99 for 6 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 $99.) 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 $99 to use for six 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"?
----------------------------------------------------------------------
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?

66 comments:

  1. Thanks Scott! I do have a question however. If we have a unique product that we would like to get licensed and sell wholesale or to distributors/retailers, is there a way to get licensed through all of the leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS etc) through a manufacturer that is already licensed or do we need to apply to each of these leagues individually. We are a small business and do not have the revenue needed for an NFL license (for example). Our manufacturer is in China and we currently are licensed with NCAA. I have seen small companies that have suddenly had all logos (NFL, NBA, MLS etc) on their product and have wondered how they have done this all at once. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Noelle

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Noelle!

    Sorry it has taken me this long to get back to you - no excuse!

    The short answer is Yes, it is possible to find an existing licensee who would be willing to work with you.

    The longer answer is that every situation is unique, but basically:

    1. I could help you determine which handful of licensees to approach based on a number of criteria - we could talk on the phone and that would help me understand as much as I can about you and your product, which in turn would help me make some suggestions to you as to who you could/should approach. Or you are welcome to use my free-to-use, online searchable database of North American licensed sports companies - be sure to use the "Advanced Search" option to target the most appropriate potential partners.

    2. You would want to do what you can to protect your idea - most companies that you might like to approach would be unwilling to sign a non-discolsure agreement (NDA), but there are still a number of things you can do to "protect" your idea. Once again, I can explain if we chat on the phone or you can use common sense to determine how best to protect your idea.

    3. When it comes to the actual "deal" and what might be in it for you, you would need to understand that your product idea essentially becomes their product, and because it is their license and their sales force and their manufacturing and their distribution system, etc., you might reasonably expect a share of revenue in the 3%-5% of wholesale range. This might seem far too low to you, and if it does, then working with an existing licensee is likely not the answer for you. But if you can live with that (and understand why it is a reasonable amount), then this might be a good route.

    4. You would want to sign a thorough agreement between you and the licensee, and I could suggest a number of things that you might want to be sure are included in the agreement (I always suggest to people that they draft the agreement rather than the licensee). At the very least you want to consider the term, an up front fee, a performance clause/minimum acceptable level of sales, your role in promoting the product, who can terminate the agreement (when and how), similar future projects, "ownership" of the idea.

    Hope this is some help and feel free to contact me if you'd like more information.
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Scott,

    This is great information. Thank you for taking the time. Question. I'm a new supplier for a patented product. You listed serveral distributors for pro sports products. Does it make sense to use multiple distributors for a single product line? Or is that frowned upon?

    Dre

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi DRE -

    Many thanks for the kind words and the question. You can definitely work with multiple distributors - some might ask you to work exclusively with them in some way, shape or form, but that would be an exception rather than the rule. I would encourage you to work with multiple distributors vs just one, but don't forget that you would also want to sell directly to retailers of all shapes and sizes in addition to working with distributors.

    Thanks -
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Scott,
      I'm a graphic designer and I design t-shirts. Do I need a license to design t-shirts for bowl games and specific universities? (NCAA focus)

      Thanks,

      Chris

      Delete
    2. Hi Chris -

      Thanks for the question and the answer seems so obvious, I wondered if there was something I was missing.

      If you mean can you design AND sell t-shirts, the answer is clearly No - a thousand times No.
      If you only mean design, and then if you sell the design to an official licensee, then the answer is Yes, you can do this.

      If I misunderstood your question and you still don't have an answer, call me 416-315-4736.

      Thanks
      Scott

      Delete
  5. awesome post!! thanks for sharing this wonderful story i love reading it, i learned a lot from this and it gives me a different perspective on the topic!

    Dirk Kettlewell

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Barbara/Dirk:
    Many thanks for the kind words and I'm delighted it helped. If you have other questions, feel free to email me directly at ssillcox@rogers.com .
    Thanks!
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good morning Scott,

    I just want to take a moment to tell you how amazing you are! This is an awesome site with awesome information! I greatly appreciate the amount of time and consideration you have put into this. When I decided last year to open a retail store selling NCAA/NFL/MLB/NBA items I searched and searched looking for a point blank answer to rather I had to have a license just to be a retailer. After much deciphering I finally decided I was pretty sure I did not. I have also spent countless hours upon hours of searching the net for potential distributors or manufacturers to purchase from. I cannot explain my gratitude in your distributor search you have created. There are so many companies listed that I have not yet come across. I am almost done with construction and am just about to start ordering product. I have been trying to find additional apparel suppliers and I cannot begin to explain how much you have helped and how much additional time you have saved me. Thank you so much again for all your hard work. You rock!

    Thanks!
    Tiffany

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Anonymous -

    Many thanks for taking the time to write such a nice note! It's my pleasure to help and if/when I get more info about how smaller independent retailers can buy from products, especially jerseys, Nike and/or adidas/Reebok, I will post that as well.

    All the best and thanks again -
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  9. Scott, Will I need a license if I purchased official NFL gear at a retail store or online from the NFL Shop and repurposed that gear by incorporating it into a new product to sell? For example: I purchase an officially licensed NFL cap with the Steeler's logo on it. I then cut out the portion of the cap with the Steeler's logo and sew it onto a throw pillow, and sell the throw pillow. Your insight regarding this is greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi anonymous -

    Great question and here goes:

    1. You need to understand that the "authorities" (see #4 below for an explanation) do not want you to do this and if/when they see what you are doing, they will likely try to convince you to stop. They do it first by letter, then perhaps later by legal action.

    2. If you are truly buying the item (ie the NFL cap in your example) at retail and not at wholesale, then my opinion is that the authorities would be hard pressed to make a case against you stand up in court.

    3. But surely at some point it doesn't make financial sense to buy at retail and then re-purpose the item in something else (how can you make money doing that?), and the moment you try to buy the product at some wholesale level, then the game changes. At that point they will begin the process of trying to stop you from doing what you are doing by eliminating your sources.

    4. For your information, the NFL + MLB + NBA + NHL + "NCAA" (actually CLC) have banded together and funded an organization called "CAPS", and it is CAPS that is the "authority" that I referred to above. CAPS stands for "Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports logos" and you can visit their website at www.capsinfo.com . You can also proactively contact them and ask their opinion on your issue, but you can likely guess what their response would be.

    I hope this helps answer your question and if you need more info, send me your direct email address and/or call me.

    Many thanks -
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Scott,
      I found your blog while doing a google search and was wondering what are the rules if you buy jerseys from places like Goodwill and turn them into something else. No logos will be displayed but I want to make sure they don't come after me. In some cases people will ask me to turn their jerseys into something else. Please advise.

      Thanks,
      Kimberly

      Delete
    2. Hi Kimberly:

      This is such a simple question and the answer is a bit more complicated. I have sent you my reply offline because the answer is not as simple as you might have hoped.

      Many thanks for asking -
      Scott

      Delete
  11. I am a web site wholesaler buying from licensed manufacturers,selling licensed NFL,MLB,NBA,NCAA products to small stores and consumers. Do I need permission to show these logos (ie. the NFL Sheild) on my website?

    Allan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Allan -

      Many thanks for the question and if you zap me your question via regular email, I'd be happy to answer. Send a note to ssillcox@rogers.com.

      Thanks!
      Scott

      Delete
  12. Great Article, Scott!

    If a store was to sell unlicensed, home crafted, NFL merchandise would the store be fined or in trouble, the person/company making the merchandise or both?

    Many Thanks in Advance,
    Tiffany

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tiffany -

      Many thanks for your comment. I prefer not to be a spokesperson for CAPS, the policing authority funded by the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and CLC (NCAA), but in broad terms the person/company who would be in the most trouble is the one making the merchandise, especially if during the sales process they made claims that it was licensed merchandise. Feel free to contact www.capsinfo.com and get their take on the issue.

      With respect to the person/store selling the merchandise, at the very least they run the risk of the merchandise being removed from the store without compensation. Hard to imagine the store being fined (who would have the authority to fine them other than a court of law), and it's somewhat hard to imagine the store being taken to court unless it was a large scale and deliberate attempt by the store to sell unlicensed merchandise.

      Short answer - if the store knows it's not licensed and should be, don't buy it.

      Many thanks for the question -
      Scott

      Delete
  13. From Allan,
    Tried to email you, got this message from google,

    " The address "ssillcox@rogers.com." in the "To" field was not recognized. Please make sure that all addresses are properly formed. "

    Allan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Allan -

      I can't imagine why - that's the correct email address. Can you try sending an email using some other non-Google/non-Blogger platform? The only other thing I can think of is if you actually had a period after com - perhaps that is where you went wrong..

      Good luck!

      Scott

      Delete
  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Scott!
    Thank you so much for all of the wonderful information you have provided on this site. My question is along the same lines as the person cutting up the hat and adding it to another product (I believe it is called marrying items). Would a license be required to add a customers name and number to the back of a licensed t-shirt or jersey? More specifically, Majestic MLB logo t-shirts are offered through some of the wholesale vendors you listed elsewhere in the blog. If I buy from one of them and then offer them as "personalized" or "customized" and allow them to select a number and their last name that I would add to the back of the shirt, would a license be required? Another example; I buy the shirt from a retail vendor such as Eastbay (Nike NFL Logo T-Shirts for example) and provide the same customization as above (their requested name and number). Your thoughts would be great! Thanks again for the great resource!

    Eric

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eric -

      Many thanks for the great question. If you zap me a note (ssillcox@rogers.com) with your email address, I'd be happy to give you my two cents worth. Short answer is maybe - I will explain if you contact me by email...

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  16. Dear Scott,

    I am a huge basketball fan from Poland especially of NBA league. I want to open an online store in Poland with NBA products (mainly with clothes). As the local market is big and we have many NBA fans (especially from Suns because Marcin Gortrat is playing there) I think it could be a good idea.
    I want to buy clothes in online shop such as "fansedge" or "fastbreakfanatics", then pay the taxes in Poland and sell the products in my online store or maybe in the future in a stationary shop in Warsaw.
    The question is wheter I can do this in this form? Or maybe I need a licensees to sell NBA clothes? Or should I find a NBA licensees (or distributors) willing to sell their products to me (such as Adidas, Majestic Athletic, New Era Cap or Mitchell and Ness).
    If so, it may you have a list of distributors which could cooperate with me. I fear that the polish customs office will require a license for selling the NBA goods from me.

    I would be grateful for any information.

    Kind Regards
    Mariusz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mariusz -

      Many thanks for the great note and if English is your second language, wow!

      1. As the blog posting above explains, you do not need a license to sell NBA products, at least not a license from the NBA (or NFL, or MLB, or NHL, or Nascar or NCAA).

      2. The challenge you are going to have is finding a company that will sell you licensed apparel (especially jerseys, quality t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, etc.). If you wanted to sell mainly hardlines products, you will have no problem finding licensees who will sell you those products on a wholesale basis. But when it comes to apparel, especially the premium brands of apparel and ESPECIALLY jerseys, you will find it very difficult to find a licensee who is willing to sell to you. You will also have trouble finding a distributor of theirs who is willing to sell to you.

      In the blog posting above I list 9 distributors (in the USA). You could contact each of them and see if they are able to purchase the soft goods items you want, and then ask them if they can sell to you. My guess is that in all cases they do not carry the higher end licensed apparel. They all carry hardlines product, and lots of it, but very few have much of an offering of softgoods.

      Ultimately, you might ask - what's the issue? The issue is that the soft goods licensees don't want to commoditize the product and simply sell to any vendor who wants to buy from them - they want to sell only to strategic vendors that they have determined make sense in their overall distribution plan, and small online retailers (and small bricks and mortar retailers) are not part of their plan.

      But please go ahead with your suggestion of contacting Adidas, Majestic Athletic, New Era Cap and Mitchell and Ness (Adidas) and don't give up without getting an answer if they will sell to you or not. If they won't sell to you, ask them who will. If you then contact their suggestion and they won't sell to you, go back to them and get their alternative suggestion.

      I cannot comment on the Polish Customs officials re them allowing you to import products in order to re-sell them, but as long as you can document the source of the product and as long as you can show the customs officials that the product is licensed (the hologram goes a long way - ultimately you can contact the NBA office with a hologram number in hand and they will be able to get back to you confirming if that product is genuine or a fake.

      I wish I could be of more help...

      Scott

      Delete
    2. Dear Scott,

      many thanks for your detailed answer, I am enormously gratful for your help.

      Kind Regards
      Mariusz

      Delete
  17. How would I go about getting a license to have team logos put on phone cases made in China for resell here in states?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings -

      You would apply to the various leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.) for a license to make and sell that product. But unless you have a good deal of experience making and selling phone cases and other similar accessories, you do not stand a chance of becoming licensed, especially because that category (smart phone cases) is completely full and then some.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there's no sugar-coating the reply to a question like this.

      All the best and keep thinking of ideas...

      Scott

      Delete
  18. Scott
    I am wanting to start a small kiosk selling European Soccer Jerseys. Distributors here in the US are scarce. If I buy from a authentic licensed seller..I dh not have to have a license myself correct? Ie (Nike, Adidas, Puma) cannot go after me as long as I have a business and resellers license correct?
    Thanks again
    Jay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason:

      I have answered this question offline, but the short answer is No, you do not need a license from any soccer league or from Adidas (etc.) to buy jerseys from the manufacturer (licensee) or from one of their distributors. But your challenge is going to be to find a manufacturer, or more likely a distributor, who will sell to you because they will perceive you not to meet some of their sales criteria (ie in order to sell to you, you may have to meet a number of specific criteria centered around your sales volume, purchase amounts, years in business, bricks and mortar precense, etc.).

      Best of luck!!!

      Scott

      Delete
  19. Scott,
    You are a Godsend for this valuable blog! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, talent and expertise.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous -

      Many thanks for taking the time to write and for the kind words - all the best!

      Scott

      Delete
  20. Scott, Thanks for the blog. I am a home based business and I make items using NFL licensed fabric purchased from local fabric stores. Can I sell the items to stores who will then resell them to their customers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous:

      This is such a simple question, yet the answer is tricky. If you send me an email (ssillcox@rogers.com), I will try to answer it in greater depth. But the short answer is: if you are buying the fabric at retail, legal precedent suggests you are allowed to do what you want. That doesn't mean you won't hear from CAPS (www.capsinfo.com) asking you to cease and desist, but it means that if you wanted to fight it, I'm suggesting legal precedent is on your side.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  21. Hey Scott.quick?I have created a product.I have not infringed on any league licensed logos or text.What next?Do I just go up to the game and start selling my unlicensed product(s)?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Scott, very interesting article.

    I have a question:

    -If I buy a licensed NFL iron on logo patch of a team, can I then iron the patch onto a t shirt and sell it?

    What if I declare upfront that the shirt is unlicensed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robert:

      I have sent you a separate email with my detailed reply - short answer is that the folks at CAPS (www.capsinfo.com) would say this is illegal. If you feel differently, you might end up in court figuring it out.

      But read my full email reply.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
    2. Hi Scott,

      Thanks for this post! I had a similar question (that might be answered in your detailed reply). I'm a quilter. If I bought a patch and incorporated it into a quilt, could I sell that quilt?

      Would it make a difference if I made the quilt and charged separately for the patch (at whatever I paid for it retail) and then just sewed it on once the quilt customer purchased both?

      Thanks!

      Catherine

      Delete
  23. Hi Scott! I can't believe how *exactly what I was looking for* your blog is! I have an idea for an MLB novelty product which would have a very short shelf life. I just want to sell the idea, I'm in no position to manufacture or market it (this assumes also that someone hasn't already thought of it and gearing up to make it as I type this). It's unique to a particular team. Is there someone at the local level in the team's city that I might pitch such an idea to?

    ReplyDelete
  24. That is, is 'locally' the place to start when it's only about one team, or do you start with the league anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Scott, I would like to purchase and use licensed photographs in a unique product. Could I sell that product to the public without licensing? The completed product uses no images, names, logos other than that which was purchased from a licensed distributor - is this something that can be done legally or do I need to contact one of the licensed manufacturers and have them make it?

    ReplyDelete
  26. HI Laura:

    Thanks for your question! Could you zap me your email address and I will give you a full answer to this question. My email is ssillcox@rogers.com .

    Thanks -
    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  27. Can I make products that are the colors of the NFL teams and just the name of the mascots: example: Blue and Silver with the word Cowboys printed on material?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi -

      Thanks for your question and if you would be good enough to send me an email directly - to ssillcox@rogers.com - I will send you something I have written/compiled on this subject.

      Thanks!

      Scott

      Delete
    2. Could you send me this same info to shellehames@yahoo.com, please? Thanks!

      Delete
  28. Thanks for sharing the great information !

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi Scott,

    I am looking to possibly start up a sports retail website that sells the odd color jerseys, is there any advice you can give about how to get started?

    Thanks,
    Kevin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kevin:

      Thanks for taking the time to write. My two cents worth, and that's may be all it's worth, is that before you spend any money starting the site, work the phone and email and whatever tools you have in your arsenal to find out who will sell jerseys to you and at what price. Everything I am told by your fellow e-commerce retailers is that buying jerseys is a really hard task. So roll up your sleeves and do your homework ahead of time.

      Best of luck and if you find any companies willing to sell you jerseys at wholesale, I would greatly appreciate you sharing some of that info with me if you were willing to do so.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  30. I have a trade skill where people often approach me asking to create an item with a teams logo, name, etc., for them specifically. its a one off product that i don't mass produce. the first question, am i allowed to make the product for them without any backlash from overseeing committees? the second questions, can i then use pictures that i've taken of the finished product as a sample of some of the work i've done with the intent that i may receive orders for other similar, if not the same, logos and teams?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi Scott.
    Could I purchase a licensed NFL Shirt from a wholesaler and resell with an added feature such as a snap or clip for a hat or what have you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joel -

      The short answer is no, especially if you are trying to make a business out of this.

      If you send me your email address (ssillcox@rogers.com) I'll give you a more complete answer "off air".

      Thanks for reading and thanks for asking -
      Scott

      Delete
  32. Hi Scott, I want to make something from fabric with NFL,NHL,NBA,MLB, college teams and NASCAR logos. Are there wholesale suppliers I can purchase the fabric from? and 2) can I resell the product I made from that material without paying a license fee?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous -

      I believe I answered this question in depth in your recent email to ssillcox at rogers dot com. But for the sake of others, here is the short answer.

      The leagues do not want you doing this, and while there are legal arguments on both sides of the fence, the issue is that the licensee who is authorized to make fabric has agreed not to sell the fabric to anyone or any company wanting to make a product from the fabric and then resell that product.

      The company that is licensed by the NFL and MLB for fabric that you are talking about is Fabric Traditions - www.fabrictraditions.com. When you visit their website, you will see a note at http://www.fabrictraditions.com/?page_id=207 saying:

      Q. Do you have licensed products?

      A. Yes. We carry National Football League and Major League Baseball fabrics. These fabrics are intended for individual use only and are not allowed to be made into products for resale of any kind. The fabrics are 100% polyester fleece and 100% cotton and are 60" wide.

      So there you have it - sorry to be the bearer of bad news but better you know ahead of time than after you've invested a lot of time and money.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  33. Hey Scott,
    My company understands that getting licensed can be very expensive, but we still want to sell our product with sport's logos on them. Is there any way we can sell our product to a licensed wholesaler/distributor without being licensed?

    Thanks,
    Riley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Riley:

      Thanks for the question, and the short answer is Yes there's a way. Ultimately you would find an existing licensee who might be interested in your product, then you try to convince them to allow you to become a manufacturer for them, then they will sell it to retailers under their existing license. These are hard deals to consummate largely because of price - it's very hard for you to make a buck and the licensee to make a buck and still have the product sold at a reasonable retail price.

      I certainly offer consulting on this very subject, so feel free to call 416-315-4736 or email me ssillcox@rogers.com if you'd like more details.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  34. Thank you for thanking the time to share this. Now, I understand.

    ReplyDelete
  35. There seems to be so many grey areas here. As on person said they buy fabric from a licensed wholesaler and make products that they want to sell. I didn't see your whole response, so it was a little confusing. I've read so many different answers to this question. I was reading about the "Precious Moments" ordeal and it seems to me that the verdict was that it was legal to do that. Am I reading this wrong??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous -

      If you send me an email ssillcox@rogers.com I'd be happy to elaborate on this for you.

      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  36. Am I allowed to customize a basketball court and make it look like the Spurs court, using their logo and team name? I'm not selling anything, just a fan and would like to know. The court will be used by the public but free none the less. Is that okay, or do I need permission?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question and the short answer is you will be fine to do this given that it's free and that you aren't selling anything. Best of luck with the court!
      Scott

      Delete
  37. I was bored of the coffee table in my man cave so I made my own personalized Dallas Cowboys coffee table. If I wanted to start a small business hand crafting sports furniture would I have to get a license?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous -

      If you can send me an email - ssillcox@rogers.com - I will be happy give you my two cents worth. If you don't want to do that, the short answer is Yes, you would need to get a license. But there are all sorts of nuances that I'd be happy to explain directly to you.

      Thanks for reading and asking - Scott

      Delete
  38. I came across someone Making and selling NCAA merchandise for Most of the schools in the south. I know it is against the law to manufacture and sell without the proper license. who can I contact to give them info so someone can investigate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi -
      The policing body which does much of the work for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and CLC (collegiate licensing) is CAPS - The Coalition To Advance The Protection Of Sports Logos. You can get their contact info at: www.capsinfo.com
      Thanks -
      Scott

      Delete
  39. Hi! Your blog is overflowing with great info! I have an idea for a NCAA product that I am sure could be a HUGE short-term seller. I'm just not sure how to quickly and legally market a product like that. Could I potentially contract with you to sell through one of your sites? I am trying to sell some t-shirts in order to save money for a family trip to China. I have two adopted daughters from China and my dream is to take my family of 6 back there as a family. My product idea is timely and GREAT (I think) but I want to make sure I do everything legally through a licensed vendor. Any guidance/feedback would be much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to add a comment - all input is welcome, especially the constructive kind! All the best - Scott