Sales of University of Cincinnati-branded merchandise continues to break records. Income from licensed merchandise sales is now close to $1 million annually and helps to support scholarships for UC students. photo/Andrew Higley


Bearcats swag rings in another record year

After four record-setting years, the university is close to the $1 million mark in annual income from sales of branded merchandise. That's good news as royalties help support scholarships.


By Melanie Schefft

Photos by UC Creative Services


October 10, 2016

Totaling close to a million dollars in annual licensed merchandise income, the University of Cincinnati’s Office of Trademarks & Licensing celebrated a fourth-straight record-setting fiscal year.

With $978,430 in royalties –– an 8 percent increase over last year’s total –– UC has more than doubled the licensing income from fiscal year 2007 ($446,836), according to Marty Ludwig, director of UC’s Trademarks & Licensing. In a national licensing industry that averaged about a 7-percent increase in 2016, Ludwig says UC continues to outpace the industry as a whole.

“Since the early 1990s UC’s Trademarks & Licensing program has brought in more than $12.9 million in royalties,” says Ludwig. “The rewarding part is that our licensing income is used to support various scholarship programs including those for first-generation students (as directed through the President’s Office), and athletics, so people are really giving back when they purchase officially licensed UC products,” says Ludwig.


Two women UC soccer players stand in Nippert Stadium wearing UC Under Armour red backpacks

UC women soccer players proudly wear UC Under Armour backpacks.

Baby Bearcats boost brand

The secret to UC’s success lies in the strong partnerships the university has forged with key licensees and retailers that now reach a broad constituency of fans of all ages, Ludwig says.  

Since last fall, the tiniest Bearcat fans have been sporting the popular Baby Bearcats logo on items such as T-shirts, rattles and ski hats found in the UC bookstores and online. Ludwig points out how the exclusive contract with Under Armour for UC merchandise this past year has helped Trademarks & Licensing reach all-time record profits.

Traditional UC logo goods like clothes, glasses and coffee mugs are found in campus bookstores, but Ludwig says upscale retailers and design studios are also getting in on the act.

Red children's T-shitrs with animated UC Baby Bearcat trademark image in front

Baby Bearcat merchadise adds options for the youngest of UC Bearcats.


UC tartan a popular option

The launch of the registered tartan plaid motif in UC’s familiar red and black college colors came during the most successful time in the university’s trademarks and licensing history, Ludwig says.

“By teaming up with several local retailers we have pushed the boundaries to create fun and high-end UC branded products that help represent the university to the community.” Says Ludwig.

“We just rolled out UC-branded chocolate bars by Graeter’s candies, Rookwood Pottery tiles and the innovative red and black tartan plaid fabric motif that can be found on high-end clothing such as designer trench coats, ties and infinity scarves, loungewear, fine furniture, and even authentic kilts for men and women.”

The tartan plaid –– a linear pattern of red and white lines across bold blocks of black –– is part of a design trend that Ludwig says is huge right now, one he expects will be important for the longevity of UC’s brand.


A manequin wears a high-end trench coat that is black on the outside with red and black UC tartan plaid fabirc on the lapel.

UC tartan plaid-lined trench coat designed by DAAP alumna, Asha Ama, and draperies are among the many luxury items found in Dwellings on Madison. photo/Andrew Higley


Bearcat brand rocks luxury

“We have UC’s new authentic tartan plaid here in our store on everything from high-end leather chairs, pillows, sofas, window treatments and more,” says Grace Jones, owner of Dwellings on Madison, a retailer in O’Bryonville. “It’s all really a grand look for any luxury home.”

Moreover, Jones has worked with Donna Salyers –– owner of an upscale boutique in Northern Kentucky that creates high-end faux fur throws, blankets, pillows, jet coats and other items for celebrities in California –– to produce a luxurious $500 UC throw that has black faux fur on one side and the UC tartan fabric on the other.

Adding to the glitz and glamour, Asha Ama, DAAP fashion design alumna and recent finalist on television’s “Project Runway,” also joined the en vogue design team. Ama created a chic UC tartan plaid lined clutch and reversible trench coat with the tartan plaid on one side and black waterproof fabric blend on the other, both also sold at Dwellings.

Tartan ties are made by Vesi, a local company in Evendale, and Celtic Corner Boutique in Anderson produces the kilts, sashes and scarves. Alma Mater Design in Oxford also helped develop UC’startan plaid.

UC’s Trademarks & Licensing received the 2016 “Synergy Award”  –– the highest honor awarded to a college or university by the International Collegiate Licensing Association (ICLA).

Accepting the award, Ludwig described UC's brand success to a crowd of over 4,000. He defined a brand as a living thing, worth infinitely more than any revenue or expense line in a budget.

"A 'successful brand' is the most valuable asset you can achieve –– a corner of someone's mind," he said.

Greater's UC logo chocolate bars on a tartan plaid covered bench and pillow

UC logo Greater's chocolate bars rest on a tartan plaid covered bench and pillow available at Dwellings on Madison. photo/Andrew Higley

Chair covered in red UC logo-designed upholstry

UC logo upholstry adds a touch of class to fine furniture. photo/Joseph Fuqua II


School pride by the numbers

Among more than 160 colleges, universities, conferences and bowls in the Collegiate Licensing Company’s (CLC) consortium of clients, UC ranked No. 44 and is well positioned when compared to other peer institutions like Central Florida (No. 56), Boston College (57), Northwestern (59), Rutgers (54), Georgia Tech (47), Pittsburgh (48) and Vanderbilt (53).

As students  settle into the new fall semester, Ludwig says their participation in social media programs continues to increase. The #WeWearUC campaign urges students to share their Bearcat pride photos. And as part of a national #CollegeColors campaign –– sponsored by several retailers including Dick’s and Lids –– students can win prizes by flaunting their school’s swag and colors and attaching #CollegeColors and other hashtags.


Tommy Tuberville, UC football coach and team staff wear UC trademarked Under Amour apparel
UC Bearcat football player wearing the Under Armour UC logo reaches for the ball during a game

Head Coach Tommy Tuberville and UC football coaching staff and players wear the exclusive Under Armour UC trademarked apparel. photos/Jay Yocis (L) Andrew Higley (R)


A 5-year look at UC’s growth in trademark merchandise:

  • 2015-16 –– $978,430
  • 2014-15 –– $905,400
  • 2013-14 –– $863,861
  • 2012-13 –– $859,458
  • 2011-12 –– $768,839 

Top five apparel categories for fiscal year 2016:

  • men’s/unisex performance apparel
  • men’s/unisex T-shirts
  • men's unisex performance apparel
  • men’s fashion apparel
  • women’s T-shirts

Top five non-apparel categories for FY 2016:

  • gifts and novelties
  • housewares (drinkware, bowls, coolers, sports bottles, reusable shopping bags, etc.)
  • school supplies
  • sports equipment
  • domestics (blankets, pillows, cushions, wall hangings, etc.)

Top five licensees distributing retail products in FY 2016:

  • Under Armour
  • Knights Apparel
  • VF Imagewear (Section 101 by Majestic)
  • Champion Custom Products
  • Colosseum Athletics

Top five retailers carrying UC branded merchandise in FY 2016:

  • UC Bookstore (Follett Higher Education Group)
  • DuBois Bookstore
  • Rally House
  • Meijer
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods


A woman on the right stands next to a man holding a trophy

Marty Ludwig accepts the 2016 Synergy Award for the University of Cincinnati at the ICLA Conference in Dallas, Texas. photo/provided

Unveiling ceremony for UC's tartan plaid design in Tangeman University Center
A man stands on a ladder excavating soil samples from a site in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Breagh and Kaylee MacKinnon hold cookies topped with the UC tartan plaid. photo/provided

Neil MacKinnon, dean of UC School of Pharmacy stands wearing a UC tartan plaid kilt

Neil MacKinnon, dean of UC School of Pharmacy wears a UC tartan kilt at the tartan plaid unveiling in UC's TUC. photo/Andrew Higley

Eight girls dressed in plaid kilts dance with the Cincinnati Scots Highland dancers

Cincinnati Scots Highland Dancers perform for the UC tartan plaid unveiling in UC's TUC. photo/Andrew Higley

A bagpiper (Robert Reid) stands wearing a kilt and holding bagpipes

Cincinnati bagpiper, Robert Reid, helps celebrate the unveiling of UC's tartan plaid in Tangeman University Center. photo/Andrew Higley