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Underneath the logo: What collegiate apparel sponsorships mean to BYU, Utah and USU

Published: Tuesday, March 26 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

FILE -- In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 photo, players warmup with new helmets and uniforms as the Univeristy of Utah and Arizona State University play PAC 12 football in Tempe, Arizona. Utah has an agreement with Under Armour for all their uniforms and athletic apparel through 2017. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) FILE -- In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 photo, players warmup with new helmets and uniforms as the Univeristy of Utah and Arizona State University play PAC 12 football in Tempe, Arizona. Utah has an agreement with Under Armour for all their uniforms and athletic apparel through 2017. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This is part one in a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts affect Utah’s major universities.

College athletics means business.

On every collegiate player is a logo that serves as a perfect microcosm for the inseparable relationship between on-field athletic performance and off-field financial gain. That logo represents a lucrative apparel contract that affects nearly everything about a school’s athletics, including recruiting, equipment and even performance.

It started long ago with Nike

In the 1990s, Nike saw an opportunity to develop widespread brand recognition through collegiate athletic sponsorship. At the same time, schools were trying to lower equipment and apparel costs. It wasn’t long before apparel contracts proliferated across the NCAA.

FILE -- In this Monday, November 1, 2010 photo, Under Armour and the University of Utah unveiled new camo football uniforms. Utah has a contract with Under Armour through 2017. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) FILE -- In this Monday, November 1, 2010 photo, Under Armour and the University of Utah unveiled new camo football uniforms. Utah has a contract with Under Armour through 2017. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Local fans will remember the iconic Nike "swoosh" logo showing up on BYU and Utah football uniforms in 1996. Today, BYU remains with Nike, as does Utah State and 70 percent of all Division-1, FBS colleges and universities. The University of Utah is one of a handful of schools aligned with Under Armour.

These apparel contracts hit the spotlight in 2007 when the University of Michigan inked a monster eight-year, $60 million contract with Adidas immediately before the economy tanked. Three years later, when the University of Alabama became Nike’s highest-paid school, significantly less money was involved. The Crimson Tide signed for nearly $30 million a year over seven years.

So how do universities in the state of Utah measure up nationally with these apparel deals? And what is the sum of benefits they bring local athletes?

The value of these contracts can be difficult to calculate and understand, as they may be laced with incentives, cash equivalents and other discount benefits not obvious to the average fan.

Nike and BYU unveiled new blackout uniforms for a blackout game played at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Oct. 13, 2012. BYU is under contract with Nike for their athletic apparel. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo) Nike and BYU unveiled new blackout uniforms for a blackout game played at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Oct. 13, 2012. BYU is under contract with Nike for their athletic apparel. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

Over the course of this series, we will investigate the ins and outs of apparel contracts and their moving parts for Beehive State FBS schools so you may better understand how Utah, Utah State and BYU fare in their respective deals. Just like the schools themselves, the contracts are very different. Part two of this series will address the anatomy of an apparel contract and what it means for every university in the state of Utah.

Utah State is currently a Nike school with a contract set to expire at the end of May, 2013. That puts them squarely in the evaluation phase of the new contract process. Part three of this series will focus exclusively on Utah State.

Utah has a long-term contract with Under Armour and is currently working with the high-tech apparel designer to redesign and unveil new football and basketball uniforms. The deal is full of potential revenue opportunities for the Utes, and the relationship between the companies is strong and valuable to the institution as it evolves its focus. part four of this series will focus exclusively on Utah.

FILE -- In this Dec. 15, 2012 photo, the USU defense celebrates a 4th down stop as Utah State University defeats Toledo 41-15 as they play football in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. USU underwent rebranding in partnership with Nike during the summer of 2012. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) FILE -- In this Dec. 15, 2012 photo, the USU defense celebrates a 4th down stop as Utah State University defeats Toledo 41-15 as they play football in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. USU underwent rebranding in partnership with Nike during the summer of 2012. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

BYU has been a Nike school since the mid-1990's and is in it for the long haul with the Oregon-based apparel goliath. That relationship is valuable to BYU in more ways than just money, and has been a factor in their recruiting success. part five of this series will take a closer look at that strategy and what the Cougars' relationship with Nike has meant and will mean for them.

Ryan Teeples ( twitter.com/SportsGuyUtah ) is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting Inc ( RyanTeeples.com ).

Editor’s note: This is part one in a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts affect Utah’s major universities. Part two dissects university apparel contracts, part three reviews Utah State's contract with Nike, part four deals with the University of Utah’s deal with Under Armour and part five looks at BYU’s agreement with Nike.

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