Wichita State University sports merchandise has become as hot nationally as the Shocker men’s basketball team.
Sales of Shocker gear emblazoned with the school’s logo and references to the team’s undefeated season are spiking, according to the company that manages the school’s merchandise license.
“There is an increased demand for their products, both on the local and national levels,” said Joe Sheeley, regional brand manager for the Licensing Resource Group, which manages the licenses of more than 180 colleges and universities, conferences and other properties nationally. “We have definitely seen the demand spike as far as companies wanting to be licensees and the products being sold to retailers.”
Sheeley said he wasn’t permitted to release any figures supporting that claim, but at least one indication comes from Fanatics.com, which sells licensed Shocker merchandise on the Internet.
Shocker gear is up 593 percent for the season to lead all college basketball teams on the site, according to a Fanatics.com spokesman.
During the past seven days, sales of Shocker merchandise is up over 2,000 percent on the site compared to the same days last year, and WSU is the third-most-searched school on Fanatics.com, trailing only Syracuse and Duke.
A new black T-shirt proclaiming WSU’s undefeated season in yellow across the chest has been one of the top-selling items on the site since the Shockers beat Missouri State in the final regular-season game on Saturday to extend their record to 31-0.
Fanatics.com is the largest online retailer of officially licensed team merchandise in the nation, according to its spokesman.
“Those numbers are pretty staggering, but not too surprising based on the success of our basketball program,” said John Brewer, Wichita State’s assistant athletic director for marketing and strategic communications.
WSU receives royalties from the sales of its licensed merchandise. The university made $127,000 in royalties in 2012, and $400,500 last year, reflecting the team’s run to the Final Four, Brewer said.
This year’s numbers aren’t in yet, but Brewer has heard they are way up from last year.
“We’re still seeing the impact of the Final Four and, of course, the success of the team this year,” he said. “More and more we’re seeing the ‘undefeated’ shirts. The vintage logos are starting to be seen a little more and utilized a little more.”
Sheeley, who represents the licenses of team gear for other schools in the Midwest, said Wichita State’s sales this year are consistent with other schools that have been receiving the kind of national media exposure WSU has been receiving.
“Across the board you’ll see a demand for their products,” he said.
It happened before for the Shockers, when they made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2006, he said.
“It spiked then, but tapered off,” Sheeley said. “Since then, we’ve seen a steady growth, and a spike last year.”
With another tournament season just getting underway, the spike could become more like a trend this time. And WSU will get a chance to show off its brand at tournament sites around the country as the Shockers advance, starting this weekend in St. Louis during the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Brewer said WSU will have space on billboards in the St. Louis area, sell Shocker merchandise at the tournament site and provide in-game features on the Shockers inside the arena.
March Madness is as busy for a school’s branding team as as it is for its basketball team.
“We don’t really take many breaks,” Brewer said.