Is College-Licensed Running Apparel Coming Soon?

Running apparel of your favorite college is hard to find if you don't run for the school. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Runners find it hard to represent their alma mater at a race.

Your typical big-time road race will have up to 50,000 runners parading down city streets in pursuit of the finish line.

The apparel these runners are wearing is all over the board, and it’s cool to see the uniqueness of running outfits. Some wear the official race shirt they got at the expo the day before. Others have singlets from the running club they’re a part of. Some have custom-made shirts with their own name or a motivational message screen-printed on.

Something’s missing, though. Recreational runners are known to be largely college-educated, yet there’s very little school pride to be found.

Why is that?

The answer is simple: Running apparel with a collegiate license is really hard to find. The University of Oregon has one of the most tradition-rich distance-running programs in the country, but good luck buying a singlet like the ones you see at Hayward Field. Same with other high-profile running schools like Wisconsin, Colorado or Stanford. Even schools with enormous alumni bases and unstoppable national brands—Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan—don’t have running-specific products for their endurance-athlete fans.

Apparel companies work with universities to obtain licenses to sell products with the official university trademarks on them. In exchange, the schools get a royalty of each product sold. Big-name universities have licensing deals in place with hundreds of companies—some you’ve heard of (like adidas and Nike) and many you haven’t. The products these companies sell will vary wildly, from T-shirts to golf balls to baby bibs to desk calendars and fishing accessories.

But there’s very little in the running space. The running boom of the last decade has sent thousands of people to the roads. Some of them surely would like to show off their favorite school, right?

There’s a similar shortage in college-licensed triathlon kits, but interestingly enough, cycling jerseys are relatively easy to find. Adrenaline Promotions, a company based in Washington, has sold collegiate licensed cycling apparel for many years now, with a license agreement in place with more than 200 universities. Their jerseys, shorts and socks are in more than 2,000 retailers and also available online at their website and Amazon.

John Ambrose, owner of Adrenaline Promotions, is well-aware that college-licensed running apparel is hard to find. And he’s exploring the opportunity, even hinting that it may not be far off.

“Adrenaline has been working with a variety of manufacturers to create a portfolio of products,” Ambrose says. “We’re currently doing market research and looking into go-to market strategies and distribution strategies.”

The running market is a bit more fractured than the cycling market, presenting additional challenges. But Ambrose is hoping he can find a way.

“We’ve been working on it for the past couple of years and we hope to roll out something in the next 18 months,” Ambrose says.

So it may not be long before you see Boilermakers, Jayhawks, Sooners and Hokies flaunting their favorite school at a half marathon near you. In the meantime, they’ll have to show their school spirit in other ways.

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