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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Part 11 - An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products: Ten Things I Learned Along The Way

Greeting folks!

This note is written by Scott Sillcox in September 2018 in response to a lot of readers asking me two questions:

A. You wrote and posted this 12 part blog in 2012-ish, is it still relevant today? Short answer - absolutely! The basics of sports licensing change very little over the years, so I strongly suggest that if you are trying to learn about sports licensing, read away! I have also tried to update certain areas where there have been significant changes, so I feel comfortable in telling you that this information is still highly relevant.

B. You mention that you are a consultant and might be able to help me, do you still do consulting? Short answer - absolutely. I work in the licensing field virtually every day of my life, so if you have questions or would like my help, contact me!

Many thanks and happy reading -
Scott Sillcox

Please also note: This 12 part series initially appeared on my "Heritage Uniforms and Jerseys" blog, but I moved it in March 2012 to this blog which has a more single-focus on the world of licensed sports products.



This is Part 11 of a 12 Part Series of blogs Scott Sillcox wrote called “An Insider’s Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products in 12 Parts: Practical Lessons from the Trenches”. For a backgrounder on Scott Sillcox and his company, Maple Leaf Productions, please see the introductory blog and/or watch his 11 minute introductory video. Scott is available to consult with anyone interested in pursuing a sports license.
The 12 Parts of this Licensed Sports Products blog are:
Part 1: How Licensing Works - Follow The Money or How $5,000,000,000 can be less than you think
Part 2: What’s Involved in Getting a License – You need them far more than they need you
Part 3: The Landscape and some of the players
Part 4: Quality Control – Where The Real Power in Licensed Sports Lies
Part 5: Royalty Reporting and Audits
Part 6: Selling Licensed Goods - Why it’s not as easy as it looks
Part 7: Players Associations and Current vs. Retired Players
Part 8: Royalty Rates – Is 12% the norm and when 12% isn’t enough
Part 9: Local Licenses – myth or reality?
Part 10: Packaging
Part 11: Ten Things (Actually 12 Things) I Learned Along The Way
Part 12: Ten More Things (Actually 14 Things) I Learned Along The Way


The primary goal of this series of blogs has been to share knowledge, and Part 11 sticks with that theme, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out a theme to tie the following random thoughts together.

So in no particular order, here are 10 things I learned about licensed sports products over the course of the last 15 years. In fact, you have been such great readers that as a reward for making it to this point, I’m offering 12, not 10, things I learned in this blog and another 12, not 10, in the last blog. That’s a total of 24 more things I learned along the way. How’s that for value!?! I feel like I’m selling ginsu knives…

The topics covered in this Blog are:
1. Premium Products
2. Beware the calendar!
3. NHL Canada does not equal NHL USA
4. NFL Canada does not equal NFL USA Part II
5. In case of a lockout or strike…
6. Withholding fees
7. NFL lawsuit – New Era Cap vs. NFL
8. Reebok was the exclusive what?
9. Counterfeits
10. In the old days…
11. A Product for every team?
12. When I become an licensee, what can I expect the league to provide?
13-26 are covered in Part 12.

Here we go…

1. Premium Products
I mentioned in Part 8 that “Premium Products” will be explained in greater depth in Part 11 of this Blog. And in Part 8 I wrote that:

A. A premium product is when a licensee sells licensed product to a league sponsor/supporter, typically for a giveaway. For instance, Sports Illustrated is a sponsor/supporter of the NFL, and when someone subscribes to SI, they are often offered a licensed premium item such as a team blanket or backpack. This is what is meant by a “Premium Product” and when the licensee sells that product to that company, the royalty paid is a “Premium Product” royalty.

B. IMPORTANT: Please note that any sales of Premium Products does NOT count against your annual guarantee! The sale of Premium Products is handled by a special Premium Product license and I will explain a bit more in Part 11 of this Blog.

Here we are in Part 11 and what I wanted to add is the following:

(i) Every league has a roster of official sponsors, companies which want to associate their name/brand with the league’s brand. These are blue-chip companies like Coke, Pepsi, Anheuser Busch, Molson-Coors, Visa, FedEx, GM, IBM, Pizza Hut, and on and on. And in many cases, these sponsors have periodic needs for licensed products. And if you are a licensee, you should be very interested in becoming a supplier because there is money to be made from becoming a valued supplier to this cast of blue-chippers. The challenge is how to become a supplier. What I learned is that many of these companies have a relationship with a “sponsorship, lifestyle and event marketing agency” (or words to that effect). These companies (agencies) go by names like:

- Genesco Sports (They do NOT have a website - on purpose - it's part of the corporate culture established by their CEO. A good source of info about Genesco from May 2008 can be found here)
- Millsport / The Marketing Arm
- Octagon
- Velocity Sports & Entertainment
- Vertical Marketing Network

My point? There is business to be had if you can cultivate relationships with these companies. And once you are a licensee, it starts with you asking your league rep to provide you with as much league sponsor information as possible. Your rep may be reluctant to provide this information to you, but persist! See also (iii) below for another point of contact.

(ii) In order to make/sell a premium product, with most leagues you actually have to acquire yet another license! It seems crazy on many levels, and I’m not quite sure how it evolved to this stage, but you can’t fight city hall – if you want to sell “premiums”, you have to follow the rules. The way it works (at least in the NFL) is a bit convoluted but here goes – it starts with a sponsor (or their agency) and you agreeing that you are going to supply them with x,000 premium products at $y price – the price will include a 13% royalty. They then tell the league that they wish to do business with you and that they would like to buy x,000 premium products at $y price. You then confirm to the league that you wish to sell x,000 premium products at $y price. The league then creates a specific license for this transaction. The good thing is that the license doesn’t have a guarantee so it doesn’t cost you anything extra and you don’t have to pre-pay anything.

Or let me share with you the actual steps as per a 2006 NFL memo:
1. Team/Sponsor generates idea for a promotion
2. Team/Sponsor contacts NFL Licensees to request bids/proposals
3. Team/Sponsor and NFL Licensee agree on item specifics and terms
(such as price, ship dates)
4. Team/Sponsor submits request for a premium license to NFL (via
www.nfl.biz) in order to create a contract for the product
5. Licensee reviews terms on site and completes Quality Control Process
6. NFL reviews and approves
7. Licensee delivers product, Team/Sponsor executes promotion
8. Licensee signs and returns contract from NFL Legal
9. Licensee reports sales on Scoreboard section of www.nfl.biz

(iii) Almost every league has at least one person who is in charge of “premiums”. If this is business that you covet, you would do well to get to know this person at every league and make sure they know you are interested in premiums.

2. Beware the calendar!

- I became an NFL licensee in September 2000. My annual guarantee was $60,000, meaning that we were guaranteeing that we would sell $600,000 worth of product which would generate $60,000 of royalties (the royalty rate at that time was 10%, now it’s 12%). What I didn’t know was that I had missed the prime selling time to sell products for the fall/holiday season of 2000 so we weren’t going to sell anywhere near $600,000 worth of products in Year 1. But I was the only one to blame for that miscalculation.

- The lesson that I actually want to impart is the fact that NFL licenses run from April 1 – March 31. So when I became a licensee in September, I actually only had 7 months to make the $600,000 in sales, not a full 12 months from the time I became a licensee. I was in such a hurry to become a licensee and I was so delighted that the NFL was going to work with me, I lost sight of the bigger picture and never realized that the NFL worked this way.

- My point? Be smart – don’t lose your business street smarts in a blind pursuit of a license. And be darned sure you take 60 seconds to understand what sort of calendar you are dealing with BEFORE you sign your license. I ended up selling $100,000 worth of product in the first 7 months (generating only $10,000 of the $60,000 of guaranteed royalties), and I would have saved myself $50,000 if I had simply asked the NFL to wait until April 1 for my license to begin.

3. NHL Canada does not equal NHL USA

- Who knows how things reach the stage they do, and we could spend a lot of time trying to figure out how things got to being the way they are, but in the end it is what it is and you likely aren’t going to change it. What am I talking about? NHL Canada does not equal NHL USA.

- It seems to me to be very odd and hugely counterproductive that the NHL has an NHL Canada license as well as an NHL USA license. Two separate licenses. Two separate guarantees. Two separate sets of licensing reps to deal with. Two sets of royalty reports. And on it goes…

- From my admittedly narrow perspective, when running a business you should generally do your best to satisfy (delight?) your customers – and in the case of NHL Enterprises their customers are the licensees. And if I were to conduct a poll of all NHL Canada and NHL USA licensees, there is no doubt that almost all of them would say the system is crazy and they would sell more products (and the league would collect more royalties) if there was just one license. And the league would save staff costs and administration expenses by having one administration instead of two. But what do I know…

- My point is simply this: If you are interested in becoming an NHL licensee, this is something you should know ahead of time.

- And by the way:
There is an NFL USA license and an NFL Canada license. And an NFL International License.
There is a MLB USA license and a MLB Canada license. And a MLB International License.

- As my wonderful mother used to say, greater minds than mine are at work on this one.

4. NFL Canada does not equal NFL USA Part II
- I said earlier that I became an NFL USA licensee in September 2000. And two years later, I allowed myself to be talked into getting an NFL Canada license by a wonderful licensing rep (Rob is no longer with NFL Canada).

- What does it mean to have an NFL Canada license? It means you can sell NFL products to Canadian retailers. You may not know a lot about Canada, but one thing you might want to know is while we enjoy the NFL, we don’t have a “home team” and thus Canadian retailers aren’t all that excited about carrying NFL hardline products because they would have to carry multiple teams’ worth of products, and as I explained in Part 6, this is not an ideal sales scenario. In other words, if you are a NFL hardlines licensee, don’t do as I did and don’t rush to get an NFL Canada license.

- I became an NFL Canada licensee of my own accord and I allowed myself to be talked into an NFL Canada license with its own $10,000 annual guarantee. When my sales in Canada were far less than I had hoped, I sat with my rep and asked if anything could be done. And I was told I could use some of my US sales and apply them to my Canadian license. Guess what – that’s against the rules and when the NFL audited our books, those sales were taken away from us and we had to make good on our annual guarantee.

- All of the above was my own misdoing, and I am not blaming anyone but myself. But my point is simply this – think twice, and perhaps three times, about the need for both a Canadian license and a US license for the NFL. Ditto MLB. And ditto any league which separates the two countries.

5. In case of a lockout or strike…

- In 2004-05 there was the small matter of an entire cancelled NHL season. Zero games. A disgruntled fan base. Negative publicity and then some. I’m not taking sides, especially a number of years after the fact, but the fact is that in 2004-05, there was no NHL season.

- I had signed an NHL license that guaranteed that I would pay a specific royalty amount to the NHL. And the piece of paper I signed didn’t happen to mention “In the event of a strike or lockout…”.

- I am sure you can see where I am going with this, and you would be right. My NHL licensing rep told me, with a straight face, that I was on the hook for the full royalty amount. Even though I knew they had waived that requirement for other licensees, my rep and the NHL legal department said that we owed them 100% of the guarantee – a guarantee is a guarantee.

- As my wonderful mother would say (seems I’m quoting her a lot today), “What a world we live in!”

- In the end the NHL and I reached a common ground, but can you imagine being put into that type of situation in the first place by your business partner? And to know that you were being treated differently than other licensees? Not the best way to run a railroad (as mum would say hah ha). A clear example of “You need them far more than they need you” if ever there was one.

- My point isn’t to dwell on the past, my point is to bring this to your attention prior to you signing a future license agreement. If your unsigned license agreement doesn’t have a provision related to the cancellation of some or all of a season, you would do well to negotiate the right to add such a clause. A quarter of the season lost of a strike or lockout? The annual guarantee should be reduced by at least 25%. An entire season cancelled? The annual guarantee requirement should be waived. And while you’re at it, treat all licensees equally in matters like this – none likes to be made to feel they are a second class citizen.

6. Withholding tax
- If you’ve made it this far in this Blog, you may feel a slight negativity. I honestly don’t mean to do that to you. I loved being in the licensed sports products world – it was a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But my point in writing this Blog is to share information and in doing so, perhaps help you and others like you from some potential landmines. I am simply trying to share information, and sometimes that has a bit of negativity associated with it.

- One such landmine had to do with my company being a Canadian company but we were paying royalties to the NFL - a US company. And the same would hold true if you were a US company but were paying royalties to a Canadian company (ie NHL Enterprises Canada). If neither of these scenarios applies to you – being in one country but paying royalties to another - then please feel free to jump to #7 below.

- The take-away lesson I learned was something neither my accountant, nor I, nor the NFL, seemingly knew about. And that is that there is an tax act agreement between Canada and the US that if a royalty is being paid from one country to another (verbal shorthand), you should be withholding 10% of the royalty payment and submitting that amount to you home country’s tax authority. This is called a “withholding tax”, and when we were audited by the Canada Revenue Agency (Canada’s IRS), this tax was brought to our attention. Having paid $300,000+ in royalties to the NFL in New York at that stage, I now had to pay 10% (plus interest and penalties) to the Canada Revenue Agency who were quite surprised that neither I, nor my accountant, nor the NFL, had ever heard of such a tax statute when it was clearly written on Page 287.5 of the Tax Act.

- Bitter? No! Hoping that you don’t make the same mistake? Yes!

7. NFL lawsuit – American Needle vs. NFL

- You may have read about this one, or perhaps heard about it, but in 2001 when the NFL make the decision to cast their lot in exclusively with one soft goods licensee (an outfit known as Reebok), the American Needle company of Buffalo Grove, IL felt they had been wronged. So they took the NFL to court arguing that this was a restraint of trade. And in mid-2010, the US Supreme Court agreed with American Needle by a count of 9-0.

- It was shocking, and to those of us in the licensed sports products world, we wondered what the fallout might be, but surely it would be significant. No, more than that – huge!

- Yet here we are 12+ months later and what has changed as a result of this landmark decision? Basically nothing. It has been business as usual. And when the NFL announced in late 2010 that beginning on April 1, 2012 (if you have been reading closely, the date of April 1 should come as no surprise – and no it has nothing to do with April Fools Day, it has to do with Item #2 above you crazy kids) Nike and a handful of other companies, but NOT American Needle, will be sharing the NFL’s soft goods pie. And the consumer, and the NFL, and the handful of companies will all be better off because a little more competition has been added to the equation. But I can't help but feel American Needle was wronged in all of this - they were not one of the new NFL apparel licensees even though it was because of them that the game was changed.

Just for the record, here is the announcement the NFL made in October 2010 re their apparel licensees:

The National Football League is splitting the key part of its apparel licensing between two companies - Nike and New Era. The five-year, multimillion-dollar deals with those companies and five others will begin in April 2012. Under the new agreements, the NFL split the onfield apparel license among Nike and privately held New Era.

- Nike gets the license for uniforms and gear worn by players and coaches on the sidelines.
- New Era is the onfield hat supplier.

Returning licensees, also with five-year deals, include:
- GIII for outerwear and lifestyle apparel
- VF Corp for T-shirts and fleece
- Outerstuff for youth [Interesting to note that Outerstuff is a division of adidas/Reebok and thus adidas/Reebok remains an important NFL softlines licensee, albeit not for jerseys or hats]
- 47 Brand replaces Reebok for hats for fans.
- Under Armor remains the sponsor of the league's scouting combine and will also begin selling related apparel.
The league said it might award additional niche licenses in the future.

PS It is also interesting to note that the NFL has issued and/or renewed numerous "niche" apparel licenses in the 2011-2013 period, including the renewal of a license with Mitchell & Ness for authentic throwback jerseys, replica jerseys and a line of caps/headwear. And Mitchell & Ness is owned by adidas/Reebok, so once again adidas/Reebok remains an important NFL softlines licensee, albeit not for onfield jerseys or hats. So it would be incorrect to say that Nike is the official/exclusive NFL apparel licensee - that is clearly not the case. Instead the NFL has quite carefully carved up the apparel market into numerous niches, and in some cases the license agreements are "exclusive", and in others they are not. The lesson the NFL learned, I believe, from "The Lawsuit" loss is to embrace competition rather than stifle it, and in my personal opinion I believe they will sell more merchandise, and of a higher quality, as a result. A win for everybody.

8. Reebok was the exclusive what?

- I may not have this down completely pat, but hear me out.

- In 2001 Reebok became the official soft goods licensee of the NFL for the next 10 years. I am using a bit of verbal shorthand, but as far as I can tell, that was the deal.

- So how and why was it that there still seemed to be a half dozen or more soft goods licensees producing various NFL licensed soft goods?

- I think there are two answers, and the second is the more interesting.

- The first reason is that it likely wasn’t a true “exclusive soft goods” agreement, there were likely some soft goods products (custom leather jackets selling for $500+ for instance) that weren’t part of Reebok’s “exclusive” soft goods license agreement.

- The second, and I think more interesting, answer is that Reebok had the right, I believe, to sublicense other companies to make various NFL licensed products for them. Thus it was that there were a handful of seemingly licensed soft goods companies, but their deal was actually with Reebok, not the NFL. And that same sort of sublicensing agreement can likely apply with Nike when they take over most of Reebok’s NFL turf on April 1, 2012. For more on this, please see Part 12 of this series – Item #20 “Sublicensing”.

- The lesson I learned is simply this: an exclusive soft goods license doesn’t always mean an exclusive soft goods license.

9. Counterfeits
- This past February, I was lucky enough to play in a wonderful pond hockey tournament called the “World Pond Hockey Championship” in Paster Rock, New Brunswick (you can look it up kids).

- Through a long and mostly boring story, part of the price of admission for my team was that I was to make sure our team of five skaters had a neat hockey jersey to wear in the tournament.

- So I did what almost everyone does, I went to the internet. And I found some nice hockey jerseys from an outfit called JerseyCheapSale.com – if you visit the site you actually get redirected to www.nhlreebokjersey.com. And these terrific NHL Reebok jerseys were only $55 each – I was quite impressed with myself.

- I even contacted an old friend of mine who works with Reebok Canada and I had the audacity to ask him if I might be able to buy the jerseys from him, maybe even at a better price, who knows, I was on a shopper’s roll!

- My friend was very gracious, never used the word counterfeit, and suggested that it sounded like I had a pretty good deal and he wouldn’t be able to match the price.

- That should have struck me as a bit odd, but I was so taken with my shopping ability that I went ahead and ordered the jerseys, and just as the www.nhlreebokjersey.com website said would happen, the jerseys arrived on my actual doorstep, from China it turns out, about eight days later.

- The jerseys seemed great to me, and I was ready for my induction to the shoppers hall of fame.

- Upon further investigation it was a bit odd, I thought, that the label inside the jersey said “Made in Canada”. Odd because surely these weren’t made in Canada. How could they be made in Canada, shipped to China, then shipped back to me, all for $55 each?

- And then the light finally went off in my head. I kid you not, it never occurred to me before that point, in all honesty, that I had just purchased counterfeit jerseys.

- I may have been the last person in the North American licensed sports products business to realize to what extent the business of counterfeiting is being carried out. The only word I can think of is brazen (you can look that up too kids).

- As my mother would say, What a world we live in.

- And my take-away for you, gentle readers, is if you want to be a part of the licensed sports products business, especially on the soft goods side of things, you’d better take action and support any and all efforts to stop this. And I would also like to offer a much belated apology to my old friend at Reebok – he must have thought I was beyond brazen…

December 2012 update: Here is an official NHL blog entry detailing some of the recent efforts the NHL and others have taken. The NHL goes on to say "Should you have any questions about the report [meaning the blog], have any verifiable tips about the sale of counterfeit merchandise or just want to confirm if a supplier you're dealing with is an official NHL licensee, please contact us at 1-866-752-9645 or email Jody Wong at jwong@nhl.com."

10. In the old days…

- When I became an NHL licensee way back in 1997 (did people have TV’s way back then?), we were told by the NHL licensing people that if a team was going to change their uniform or logo, the team had to submit those changes to the NHL, and we as licensees would receive 12 months of advance warning to allow us to change our product line. And the league would supply us with logos and proofs of those changes ahead of time, and they would remind us that we were to keep the changes confidential, and we did.

- Well, we’re not in Kansas any more baby.

- If someone tells you that the leagues are going to give you advance warning about changed uniforms or logos, you might also believe you can buy $55 Made In Canada Reebok jerseys from China.

- In September 2005, when the NHL and NHLPA reached a new CBA after missing an entire season, we as licensees learned that the NHL now had a spiffy new silver and black logo to celebrate the return of hockey. And oh yes, about all the now suddenly stale-dated orange and black NHL logoed products and packaging on your warehouse shelves Mr. NHL Licensee and on your retail shelves Mrs. NHL Retailer, you’d better get those changed.

NHL old logo on left, new logo on right

- In 2007-08, the NHL and Reebok launched an entire new line of NHL jerseys, some with major changes and others with minor changes, but they were changes nonetheless. As licensees, when were we allowed to see the upcoming changes and have access to the artwork so we could adjust our products? In August and September, when Reebok and the NHL teams had release unveilings for the public. We weren’t even told, we had to find it out ourselves.

- My point? In this day and age don’t expect any advance warning of changes in logos or uniforms from the league. You, as a valued licensee and partner of the league, will find out about changes when John Q Public does. And as my nephew says, Deal With It.

11. A Product for every team?

- Over the years I have heard the question asked: Does the league require that I make a product for every team, or can I pick and choose which teams to do?

- If you were to ask your licensing rep this question, I believe the answer is going to be largely “Yes, you need to make a sincere effort to make the same products for every team across the board”. And this makes sense from a league and team point of view, just because one team doesn’t have as large a following as another team shouldn’t mean that fans of that team are denied products. I get it.

- But in the real world, in the world outside the boundaries of licensed sports products, this is what manufacturers do all the time – they make products that they think will sell and refrain from making products that won’t. It’s called, of course, the law of supply and demand.

- So when we crawl back into the cozy world of licensed sports, the reality is that while the official league stance would be “Yes, you should make products for every team”, the reality is somewhat less rigid. This doesn’t mean that if you are an MLB licensee you can “get away” with making only Yankees and Red Sox products, but it does mean that you may not have to make Diamondbacks and Brewers and Marlins products. The league will want to see an honest effort but for the most part they will watch your team product offerings with a half an eye.

12. When I become an licensee, what can I expect the league to provide?
Here is one person’s list of some things you might expect from the league when you become a licensee – these are presented in no particular order:

A. A Licensing Rep
You will be assigned to one Licensing Rep, a person who you can and should work with to develop new products, ask questions, use as a sounding board, etc. They are a resource provided to you by the league and you should take advantage of that resource and cultivate a good working relationship. But that being said, they don’t have all the answers and don’t expect them to “play favorites”. What I mean is if you wanted to know of a good distributor who they suggest you might work with to try to sell to Walmart, or if you wanted to find out if they knew the sales contact at a particular chain of retail stores, don’t expect them to give you the answer. I found this a but odd since surely our common goal is to sell more product, but from their point of view they don’t want to be seen as favoring one distributor or retail chain over another. So right or wrong, don’t expect this sort of help from your licensing rep.

I would also suggest that you need to be proactive in dealing with you rep, They have a number of licensees for which they are responsible, so if you want their help, you should proactively seek their help/advice/guidance – don’t think of them as proactive sales reps in the sense of other sales reps who are anxiously trying to sell you products or services. You need to keep in mind what I wrote about way back in Part 2, the reality of your licensing relationship is that you need them far more than they need you.

B. Access to graphics
The league will provide you with password protected access to a website where you can find and download a variety of electronic files – logos, wordmarks, uniform designs, etc. Not all licensees have access to all files – if you are not a Cooperstown licensee (MLB’s vintage line), you will not be given access to that family of images. But every licensee will have access to a league-wide set of images.

C. QC Approval
As I have written about in Part 4, the league provides a Quality Control department where you send prototypes, designs, actual products and packaging for approval. The QC Department is primarily there to ensure league standards are maintained, but the QC department is also a resource for you to call on if you need some help or guidance in the design process. While they are mostly a “police department”, think of them as a friendly police department.

D. Royalty reporting
In most cases the league will provide you with an online means of submitting sales and royalty reports as explained in Part 5. Ultimately this is their way of collecting their royalties and therefore something the league has to provide, but the fact that it’s online and relatively easy to complete is a service offered by the league. And in most cases you can use the royalty reporting system to see how you are doing Year-To-Date, and how your various product lines are doing. You can also use their system to summarize what teams’ products are selling best. So while online royalty reporting is a requirement, I suggest you think of it as a service as well.

E. Marketing help?
Don’t expect a lot of this, although from time to time various leagues try various initiatives. These range from the NFL doing TV commercials and seeking products to be featured in the TV spot, to the NHL trying to encourage a major retailer to have an “NHL Licensed Products” kiosk in every store and helping to foot the bill for the kiosk itself, to MLB providing updates on which team’s products are selling best in any given month.

I would suggest that while the league will provide some occasional marketing help, you might want to develop a network of fellow (non-competitive) licensees with whom you can trade ideas back and forth as a far greater source of marketing ideas.

You might ask about things like co-op dollars for advertising and the like – all I can say is if that sort of help is being offered nowadays to general hardlines licensees, I never heard about it.

F. Networking opportunities and education?
Most of the leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL for sure, not sure about NBA or NCAA [meaning CLC, LRA, SMA]) hold an annual 2 or 3 event where they try to bring all/most of the licensees together to display their wares to the team stores/concessionaires, team marketing departments, other retailers, and perhaps league sponsors/partners. It’s questionable how much business (ie actual buying of product) gets done during these events, and they can be a bit costly to participate in, but these are valuable networking opportunities for licensees to get to know people from the league, people from various teams, their fellow licensees, various retailers and perhaps some league sponsors/partners, and in that sense this is a powerful opportunity that the league provides.

G. Tickets?
Most of the leagues will have some sort of program that allows licensees the opportunity to purchase tickets to games (including post-season games). I don’t have a lot of experience because I never tried to take advantage of this offer, but from time to time I would receive information from the league as to how I might be able to order tickets, so some licensees may view this as a perk offered by the league.

If you made it this far, I congratulate you – 12 Things I Learned Along The Way - that’s a lot of reading!!!

Thanks for making the effort and comments are always welcome.


PS: This is just a quick FYI that in the fall of 2018 Scott Sillcox will be continuing the multi-city tour of North America that he started in the spring of 2013. While in each city, I will be meeting face-to-face 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 live and in person. If you 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 me coming to a city near you.

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

2. You can meet with me for a half day session (4.5 hours) – 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.

3. New for 2018: You can meet with me for two hours - the timing depends on my other meetings. The two-hour session fee is $600.

The cities and dates for the Fall 2018 tour are:
1. Week of Oct 1 - Detroit and Cleveland
2. Week of Oct 8 - Boston
3. Week of October 15 - Atlanta
4. Week of October 22 - Chicago
5. Week of Oct 29 - Florida (Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando)
6. Week of November 5 - Southern California
7. Week of November 12 - Greater New York City area
8. Week of November 19 - Calgary and Vancouver
9. Week of November 26 - Washington DC and Raleigh NC
10. Week of December 3 - Northern California (Bay Area)

11. Week of December 10 - Dallas

I can send you a suggested meeting agenda - just ask - but because our one-on-one time together will be totally focused on your needs and your story, no two sessions are ever the same so the agenda is highly flexible.

If your city is not listed above and you would like me to come to you, I’m happy to go almost anywhere in the continental US or Canada as long as you book a full day session and pay a one-time all-inclusive travel fee of $500. Thus for a flat fee of $2000 I will come right to your door and spend a full day with you.

To register, simply call me, Scott Sillcox, 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.

PPS: In March 2012 I launched a new, searchable Online Directory of 2500+ North American Licensed Sports Products Companies – it can be found at www.LicensedSports.net and only costs $59 to use for three months. This is a highly searchable directory of licensed sports products companies in North America, companies that have been licensed by various sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Nascar, MLS, etc.) as well as the various players’ associations (NFLPA, MLBPA, NBAP, NHLPA) and there is nothing like it anywhere on the internet. I update the database weekly, sometimes daily. 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.

So if you’re looking for all the licensed sports products companies based in Connecticut, or all of the NFL licensees which sell housewares, or all companies licensed by the NBA and the NHL and MLB, check out this terrific and highly searchable resource at www. LicensedSports.net .

You might be asking yourself why did Scott Sillcox spend so much time and effort to create this Online Directory?

The answer is simple. I have a fair amount of knowledge about the licensed sports products business, knowledge that seems to be in scarce supply, especially on the internet. After spending 15+ years in the licensed sports products business, I accumulated a wealth of knowledge that I am happy to share. This blog and modestly-priced Online Directory are designed to share that information - information that is simply not available anywhere else on the internet. This blog and Online Directory are my way of giving back and helping people interested in the world of licensed sports products. I am also available as a consultant to people wanting to enter the licensed sports business (either by obtaining their own license or working with an existing licensee) as well as to existing licensees and would be delighted to chat with you if you think I might be able to help you in some way.


  1. What about using at team's logo in a print ad, how does that work?

  2. Hi and thanks for the question - it's a good one!

    The short answer is that unless you are a licensee or a sponsor/partner of the league, or unless you have something in writing from the team/league giving you permission, you cannot use a team logo or uniform in a print ad. This is why you sometimes see print ads for TV's that show a football player or baseball player in a generic uniform on the actual screen - the advertiser does not have permission to use a team logo/uniform and thus they have to use a generic image.

    Let me know if this prompts any other questions -

  3. What if I wanted to buy video from each league? For example, if I wanted to obtain a license for a sports archive website, would it be any different than selling apparel? Thanks in advance.

  4. Hi!

    This is a great question, and the answer is that this falls outside of "product licensing" and instead falls into the area of media partnerships. In effect you are wanting to become a media "partner" of each league, and thus I woud suggest you contact the media relations department of each league. I would suggest you try to do this by phone - if you try email you may never hear back - it's harder for them to duck you if the contact is made by phone. What I can't tell you is what they might ask of you and what a "deal" might look like.

    Best of luck -

  5. Hey Scott, firstly want to thank you for creating such a highly detailed blog about something there seems to be little information on elsewhere!

    I wanted to ask you what using team logos for a web application entails in comparison to selling merchandise. Would the process for getting permission be the same?

    Also, with the same situation - do you have any insight on how costly licensing fees are?

    1. Hi Jeremy - I just wanted other readers to understand that we took this question offline and answered it in a direct email to you.
      Thanks! Scott


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