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For most D-I institutions, there are generally three commercial relationships that are the most lucrative and important. You have your broadcast media partner, your multimedia rights (MMR) partner, and your apparel partner. Generally, these three contracts are contributing the most revenue, the most exposure, and the most internal political attention.
It's usually a pretty big deal with a school changes apparel partners. Apparel partner changes usually mean some sort of tweak to the uniform designs, but it also means more discounts on product inventory, more money for the school, and more attention.
Sometimes, schools, and even observers, believe changing apparel partners could impact recruiting. After all, apparel companies often wield significant influence in the AAU and club sport circuits, and are growing in influence in the 7x7 and prep football world.
Take this story, from 2015, when Michigan became one of the first Jumpman programs. From the Detroit Free Press:
"It's going to interest a lot of kids with the brand, because everyone loves that brand," said Nate Craig-Myers, a receiver out of Tampa who has offers from several schools, including Michigan State. "To be the only program with Jordan will definitely help."
Isaac Nauta, a tight end out of Bradenton, Fla. (with offers from both U-M and MSU) agrees: "I love the Jordan brand and I was super happy Michigan went with Nike. Everyone loves to be decked out in the best and newest gear, so that definitely helps."
The shoes, yes -- It's always about the shoes -- but the idea of having that perfect Jumpman logo stitched under the shoulder pad of every football jersey. Unreal.
It's more than just shoes. It's the idea of being cool, of being the buzz king of apparel in college football. These aren't just shoes and Jordan isn't just a logo. There's a cult following, a love for acquiring and collecting those shoes.
Or here is the L.A. Times, right after UCLA signed a massive contract with Under Amour, back in 2016:
In the living rooms where recruiting battles are won and lost, Jim Mora likes to talk with young players about football and getting a good education. Now, the UCLA coach has something else to mention.
The 15-year, $280-million deal his school signed with Under Armour this week ranks as the largest shoe and apparel sponsorship in college sports history.
“That resonates with a recruit or a parent,” Mora said. “They’ll think, ‘UCLA is really becoming big, big, big time.’”
Michigan certainly got a lot of money in their Jumpman contract. UCLA made a ton from UA, too...until UA pulled out of the deal.
Does this stuff actually matter in recruiting? Can a school become so "cool" as a result of their new apparel contract that they win more games? Shoot...does this even help the shoe companies?
A new study out of UNC suggests that the answer is...probably not.