SMBA ’14 Presents Licensing Plan to New USFL

The 2014 sports MBA cohort got a taste of what the Case Competition is going to be like next year (minus the 24-hour work window, for most groups at least) as today we presented our findings for a licensing and marketing plan for the new USFL as the culminating project for our licensing class.

The cohort was divided into four groups to pitch USFL CEO Jim Bailey as well as licensing professor/industry expert Dan Bruton on a comprehensive plan for the league to adopt when it makes a comeback as a full-fledged Minor League football league in the spring of 2014.

In our assignment, we were told that the league will follow the single entity model and is designed to give players “the opportunity to develop and refine their football skills” as they aim to make it to the NFL. In addition, the league is “well supported by legal, financial and general business expertise” but “is lacking in experience in licensing and merchandising its licensed products.”

This provided our class the incredible opportunity to not only learn how to put a licensing project together but to do it for a fledgling sports property in which we can actually make a difference, a rare opportunity for MBAs anywhere.

In my opinion, our class was up to the test with our best collective series of projects of the year thus far.

My group focused on a color theme in which we aimed to match colors of major colleges in cities without an NFL team in the vicinity with colors for a new USFL team; the scarlet and gray of Ohio State served as our prime example for a potential team in Columbus. We explained the importance of colors in creating a brand association and then recommended licensing with emerging companies that have yet to reach the status of market leaders, such as Puma.

Another group focused on an online distribution system in order to spread their product to the greatest amount of fans. In addition, two groups utilized the winning idea from the SMBA ’13 case competition winners of a mobile van to sell merchandise at the stadium and at various spots around the city.

All groups also discussed the basics of licensing contracts that we learned over the course of the class, including the need for a royalty (usually about 10 percent of licensee net sales), a minimum guarantee (usually 10-12 percent of sales projections) and an advance (usually 1/3 to 1/2 of the minimum guarantee). In this way we were able to transfer our knowledge in this subject area to the leader of the new USFL.

The class as a whole seemed to have a little extra juice today knowing that our humble ideas could make a difference in the real life USFL’s licensing and marketing plan.

7 Replies to “SMBA ’14 Presents Licensing Plan to New USFL”

  1. Sounds like an awesome project. What were some of the other cites they were talking about?

  2. The USFL didn’t talk about actual cities, these suggestions were made by the students. My group did a “colors” theme in which we recommended the biggest markets we could find without an NFL team (and ideally without a baseball team) that was close to a college football powerhouse. So along with Columbus, we brought up Portland, Baton Rouge, Hartford, Oklahoma City and Birmingham.

  3. Why was a non NFL and non MLB city so important? When would their season take place?

    1. There are a lot of rumors swirling that this league is trying to launch in 2014. This seems like a tight time frame. Was there any discussion about 2014 or 2015?

      1. Paul, the league didn’t tell us anything about launch dates. We were merely doing a licensing class project that we presented for Mr. Bailey to augment the licensing ideas the USFL had already come up with internally.

  4. Their season will be taking place in the spring. They aren’t looking to compete with the NFL but rather become a minor league football operation. Here’s what the class assignment said:
    “The objective of the USFL will be to place teams in cities large enough demographically and geographically to support a USFL team, but not presently served (or perhaps underserved) by major league sports. Accordingly the USFL will prefer cities that do not have an NFL team and/or Major League Baseball team.”

  5. I don’t see the merit in branding the teams with similar colors to local colleges. I think that would have an effect of seeming like a cheap knock-off of the locally-popular teams.

    It would be better, in my opinion, to create unique and tasteful brands in much the same way that the original USFL did. In fact, buying the copyrights and “resurrecting” the old brands could work well in some markets, such as Birmingham and Portland.

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