Earlier today the Wall Street Journal ran a story on Nike’s relationship with Florida State University that featured some extremely interesting information on FSU’s Nike deal.
The lede and the headline were devoted to an incident that occurred last Fall with FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, Fisher’s son Ethan, Nike assistant director for football marketing Mark Dupes and FSU administrator Monk Bonasorte.
And because it’s actually a fairly amusing anecdote, we’ll start with that too…
Apparently in the aftermath of FSU’s 42-14 win over Miami last year, ABC’s cameras caught Ethan — who was sporting a sleek Florida State Under-Armour sweatshirt — embracing his victorious father on the field.
I’ll let the Wall Street Journal take it from here:
In an email sent hours after the Nov. 2 game, Mark Dupes, who as Nike’s assistant director for football sports marketing helps oversee the company’s $4.2 million licensing and apparel deal with the school, congratulated Florida State administrators on the win. “Hey guys great win and game! Appreciate everything you all do for us! Keep it rolling.”
Then Dupes turned to another matter: the sweatshirt Ethan wore during that on-field embrace. “Hey got a text from the USA Director of Sports Marketing last night telling me of how good things look w FSU and our players and sideline staff, exposure for the Brand was exceptional. Then 5 min later I rec a new message…Said ABC cameras were on Jimbo and his Son ad end of the game…His son was Wearing Under Armour FSU sweatshirt! Ouch. Can we please ask Jimbo to eliminate that from the son’s wardrobe in the future! Let me know if I can help w anything. Thx guys. MD”
This in turn put Monk Bonasarte in an extremely awkward position:
Asked about the email Thursday, Bonasorte, FSU’s senior associate athletics director, said he remembered receiving it but hadn’t acted on it. “What am I going to do, go to coach and say, ‘Hey can you take that shirt off him?'” Bonasorte said. “I’m not going to call Jimbo Fisher and tell him what his son can wear.”
Bonasorte also added that he didn’t think the email was meant to be taken “too seriously.”
“It was more just a joke to us. It wasn’t Nike being the big bad wolf telling a kid what to wear.”
However, buried in the story was a bit of very interesting information about just how much Florida State’s contract with Nike is worth:
The November email about Ethan Fisher’s sweatshirt is one of several hundred athletic department emails from last fall that the Journal acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. Dozens of the emails, which cover a two-week period, concern FSU’s relationship with Nike, which will pay the school $1.4 million in cash and $2.8 million in apparel this year. In the 2012-13 school year, FSU had revenue from its athletic teams of $89.1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
That adds up to 4.2 million dollars — and that’s just what’s public. Of course, the relationship also has its perks for Nike too. FSU is on top of the college football world right now, the bandwagon is full. With FSU rebranding this off-season — introducing a new logo and new football uniforms — Nike stands to make a killing off of apparel sales this fall. Toss in the the sight of a Nike swoosh on the shoulder of every Florida State player — just about every FSU game will be on TV this year, most nationally — and Nike is in very good position from both marketing and sales standpoints.
Other apparel companies want in on the act too. In the same set of emails, the Wall Street Journal also found that officials within FSU’s athletic department were wrestling with whether or not to license companies like Under-Armour and Adidas to make non-exclusive apparel items with FSU’s official trademarks.
In an email on Nov. 12, FSU trademark licensing director Sherri Dye asked Bonasorte what to do about requests from two Nike rivals—Under Armour and Adidas—to produce Florida State T-shirts bearing the No. 5 worn by the Seminoles’ star quarterback, Jameis Winston. “We do not have anything in our contract that prevents us from approving these licensees from making tshirts although I know Nike won’t like it,” Dye wrote. She noted that another company, which she didn’t name, had produced a “nice looking” #5 shirt and sold nearly 10,000 of them in two weeks. “Do you have any issues with us approving?” she asked. Dye didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Clearly, it’s a good time to be selling FSU merchandise. I may be in the wrong industry…