University of Wisconsin–Madison

Rose Bowl trip boosts interest in UW merchandise

The excitement that followed the University of Wisconsin Badgers’ successful football season has blossomed to full flower with the team’s return to the Rose Bowl, the school’s first trip to Pasadena since 2013.

For fans, that Badger love often means getting the latest apparel, ornament or tchotchke adorned with the Motion W, Bucky Badger, and the Rose Bowl logo.

“It’s still the bowl for Wisconsin fans,” says Pat McGowan, president of University Bookstore.

The Big Ten West champion Badgers play the Pac-12 champion Oregon University Ducks in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl.

Tricia Nolan, assistant vice chancellor of marketing and brand strategy for UW-Madison’s University Marketing, said interest in merchandise has been high. By Dec. 11, three days after the Badgers’ berth in the Rose Bowl was announced, 160 new designs for Rose Bowl apparel, headwear and hardgoods had been submitted and approved by University Marketing. “Companies were sending in designs for artwork before the bowl matchup was even announced,” says Nolan, whose role includes ensuring that UW trademarks are used appropriately.

UW’s trademark licensing business collected $4.3 million in licensing revenue in 2018, primarily from apparel sales. The money that comes into the UW from licensed products is split equally between athletics and the financial-aid office, where it funds “Bucky grants” for need-based aid for the general student population.

McGowan says given past experience with demand, his stores were prepared for an onslaught of interest. Sales are a little ahead of where they were during the Badgers’ last Rose Bowl run, with hats the hottest item this year. The method of sale has changed, too.

“We’ve seen more online sales and less in-store sales,” McGowan says. “Overall, there are still more sales done in the physical stores than online, but it has shifted.”