From standard T-shirts and sweaters to formal blazers and shoes, a diverse arrangement of UCLA merchandise is being marketed around the world.
What began as a Japanese interest in the southern California college environment quickly developed into an overseas clothing market in Tokyo and Osaka by 1980, said Cindy Holmes, licensing director of UCLA Trademarks and Licensing. Over the past three decades, UCLA has established itself as a brand in Japan as well as Korea, China, and various European markets.
UCLA jackets, jeans and accessories made their way to South Korean department stores in 1997, Chinese malls in 2000 and European outlets in 2007.
Each region caters to different age groups and fashion tastes, and the merchandise varies from country to country. Today, international marketing in these regions makes up 33 percent of overall licensing revenue and produces $600,000 in annual royalties for UCLA, Holmes said.
China is the leading source of marketing revenue, with 80 stores in large metropolitan cities.
Besides generating revenue, UCLA products also advance the university’s image as a prominent educational institution, Holmes added. Through informative placards, photos and even clothing tags, UCLA brands provide international consumers with images of campus life.
Kook Yeo, a third-year computer science and engineering international student from Korea, said some people consider UCLA solely as a brand, but those who know UCLA as a university hold the institution in high regard.
In China, UCLA’s image is very well known, surpassed only by Ivy League schools, said Peiching Yu, a first-year international electrical engineering graduate student.
UCLA-brand products compete with designers such as Abercrombie and Tommy Hilfiger in European markets, and with Ralph Lauren and Armani Exchange in China.
Trendy outfits targeted at a younger collegiate audience are the best-selling items in European countries such as Spain, Italy and France. UCLA has also expanded to Scandinavian countries, but England is the most robust European market for UCLA products.
In Japan, UCLA brand jeans, shirts, and casual wear are sold in multi-brand stores and boutiques. China boasts 80 exclusive UCLA stores that sell high end trousers, blazers, woven shirts, shoes and wallets to an older businessman demographic.
Because older males in China spend larger amounts of disposable income, UCLA chose to target that group by selling clothes more suited to a mature consumer base in that country, Holmes said.
In South Korea, UCLA targets a younger audience, producing children and young adult clothing lines in addition to umbrellas and shoes. In addition, while Japanese, Chinese and European stores are concentrated in larger metropolitan areas, merchandise sold in Korea is focused in suburbs.
However, Glenn Kim, a first-year international aerospace engineering student from Seoul, South Korea, said he never saw UCLA clothing or merchandise being sold or worn, suggesting some limitations to exposure.
With overseas licensing, UCLA also faces the problem of counterfeit UCLA products. Numerous vendors in Japan and China illegally use UCLA’s logo, Holmes said.
As the UCLA brand spreads to other international markets, there is a need to maintain trademark legitimacy, she said.
Despite these problems, UCLA will continue to expand its licensing rights. By spring 2012, UCLA-brand clothing targeting a college-age group will be launched in India, starting in larger cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai, Holmes said.