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Buying In to the Wolfpack Brand

NC State continues to climb in rankings for trademark licensing revenue — and those funds directly benefit students.

The entrance to NC State's Wolfpack Outfitters campus store. Inside, a customer wearing examines a T-shirt that they took off the rack.
Sales from Wolfpack Outfitters' storefront location as well as its website factor into NC State's rankings for trademark revenues.

Did you know that when you purchase a T-shirt from Wolfpack Outfitters, part of what you pay goes toward student scholarships? Or, did you know that when you buy a bottle of NC State-licensed wine from Shelton Vineyards, you might be helping to fund a student’s research or travel aspirations?

These seemingly simple transactions are monitored by NC State’s Office of Strategic Brand Management (OSBM) and factor into the university’s ranking as number 28 in the nation for  trademark licensing royalties in 2023. NC State is among 700 of the nation’s top colleges and universities represented by the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) — all of which were considered in the national rankings.

“The last two years have been consecutive record-breaking years in terms of the revenue that we’ve generated from our trademark licensing program, and that’s not just since COVID — that’s in the history of our trademark licensing program,” said Chris Boyer, assistant vice chancellor for strategic brand management. “This ranking of 28 among CLC schools is our best ranking ever. There are many things that go into that, but I am so thankful that the university took a chance on starting this approach and creating this office, and now four years in, especially the last two, the metrics are backing up the belief that we could do better in these areas.”

The OSBM was created in 2019 to enforce the university’s brand guidelines both internally and externally, oversee trademark licensing, and develop and service corporate commercial sponsorships for the university, with companies such as CocaCola, PNC Bank and New Belgium. It has also cultivated brand partnerships with North Carolina-based and alumni-owned businesses like 321 Coffee and Shelton Vineyards. Additionally, the office reviews between 5,000 to 10,000 requests per year from companies and organizations wanting to use NC State’s brand trademarks or get a license to produce NC State-branded merchandise or products. Since its inception, the OSBM’s work in all of these areas has helped NC State climb the trademark revenue rankings. 

“Our ranking for trademark licensing revenues, along with the resources that our intellectual brand property is generating, helps tell the story of the work everyone is doing to advance the NC State brand,” Boyer said. “When everyone buys into this unified brand, it helps us in really tangible ways that support students, faculty, staff and alumni.”


in Collegiate Licensing Company trademark royalties rankings in 2019


in Collegiate Licensing Company trademark royalties rankings in 2023

Brand Support = Student Support

One aspect of NC State’s brand that sets it apart from others in the CLC rankings is the way funds are allocated. Ninety percent of net revenues from the NC State trademark go directly toward scholarships in the areas of need, merit, study abroad and athletics.

The OSBM collaborates with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid as well as athletics to distribute the funds to students. In 2022, the office was able to support 246 students thanks to funding from trademark revenue receipts. 

“We’re very fortunate to have been supported by the trademark revenues the university generates for students for many years,” said Krista Ringler, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. “About 40% of the overall funds come to our office, and 100% of those funds go directly toward supporting students.”

Merit-based funds have been used to offer scholarships to students who win medals in the national Science Olympiad, or to Park Scholarship finalists through the Provost’s Academic Award in the amount of $10,000 per student.

“These are students who competed for the Park Scholarship and were finalists in the process, but they did not receive a Park Scholarship,” Ringler explained. “We use a merit portion of these funds to be able to offer a Provost’s Academic Award scholarship to those students to make it attractive for them to come to NC State, even though they did not win a Park Scholarship. That’s been really important because those students are all incredible applicants, but there’s never enough Park Scholarships for all of them, and this allows us to say, ‘NC State still thinks you’re great, and we still want to offer you something.’”

Need-based funding has also been awarded to students attending summer classes at NC State. “There’s not a large amount of financial aid that’s earmarked specifically for summer, so we can use these funds to help students who need or want to attend summer school,” Ringler said. “It allows us to make that opportunity more accessible for them.”

Trademark revenues have made study abroad and other travel opportunities more available to students as well. For example, Wilson College of Textiles students have received funding to attend New York Fashion Week.

“New York Fashion Week provides students with an unprecedented opportunity to go behind the scenes at one of the world’s most prestigious fashion events,” said Jeff Sackaroff, director of career services at the Wilson College of Textiles. “Participants are able to mix and mingle with world-class designers and industry leaders, experience cutting-edge fashion trends, participate in industry panels and network with professionals from all areas of the fashion world. 

“By providing access to this exclusive event, trademark revenues give our students a truly priceless experience,” Sackaroff continued. “The exposure and connections made through attending New York Fashion Week can have an indelible impact on students’ career goals and help launch them into the world of fashion.”

Other students have been able to realize their dream of studying abroad. Christopher Oates, a student double-majoring in environmental sciences and biological and agricultural engineering technology, received funding to spend a summer doing coursework in Rome. 

“Scholarship funds made this experience possible,” Oates said. “Having to worry less about the costs of the trip made planning and preparation much easier, and it made my time abroad even more enjoyable.”

Doing Business Across North Carolina

The OSBM continues to advance the NC State brand through a variety of avenues, especially across the state of North Carolina.

“All of the relationships we pursue, whether from a trademark licensing standpoint or corporate involvement standpoint, first have to be evaluated and compared to the university’s mission, vision and values to make sure they are aligned,” Boyer said. “As North Carolina’s public land-grant institution, there is a charge for us to generate economic prosperity across the state and beyond.”

One recent example is the university’s partnership with Shelton Vineyards, which has released a selection of officially licensed NC State wines honoring the university’s Hallowed Places. A portion of the wine sales supports student scholarships, and one NC State student was directly involved in the launch: College of Design student Josh Garrett created the feature labels for the Wolfpack Red and Wolfpack White wines. 

This week, Shelton Vineyards announced NC State Reynolds Coliseum as its newest wine in the NC State collection.

“Giving back to our community has always been at the core of our family’s values, and we are thrilled that a portion of the proceeds goes to furthering the education of others through scholarships,” said Mandy Shelton Houser, co-president of Shelton Vineyards.

The OSBM also partnered with 1in6 Snacks to launch ‘Pack Snack Chips. Owned by NC State alumnus Josh Monahan, the company uses locally grown potatoes for its chips and donates a portion of its proceeds to North Carolina food banks. Through its retail partnership with NC State, 1in6 Snacks is also helping to support student scholarships, and ‘Pack Snack Chips are sold at NC State athletic events and in other partner stores. 

“As North Carolina’s public land-grant institution, there is a charge for us to generate economic prosperity across the state and beyond.”

– Chris Boyer, assistant vice chancellor for strategic brand management

The OSBM has helped campus organizations advance their own brands within the NC State brand as well. In 2020, staff worked with the Department of Music and the creative services team from University Communications and Marketing to begin developing a visual identity for the NC State marching band and federally registering its nickname, “Power Sound of the South.” With the registered trademark secured, the officially licensed Power Sound of the South retail line launched in August 2021, sold exclusively through Wolfpack Outfitters. Marching band alumni, students, parents and fans can now purchase branded apparel and merchandise to showcase their pride in “the world’s most dangerous marching band.” A portion of proceeds from sales of the line support student scholarships and the marching band. 

A One-of-a-Kind Wolfpack

The school pride felt by students, employees and alumni plays a significant role in the recent ranking for trademark revenues.

“We have a lot of history and tradition here at NC State, and that really is a huge benefit to our licensing program,” said Gregg Zarnstorff, director of trademark licensing and brand protection. “Fans embrace the uniqueness of NC State’s brand. For example, having two mascots — we’re one of only a handful of universities that have a male and female mascot. That the university had the foresight to trademark Wolfpack back in 1982 further sets us apart from other teams. The visibility of the brand on campus and the pride that people have in going to NC State or wearing our apparel show that school spirit.”

Zarnstorff has worked at NC State since 2010 and with the OSBM since its inception in 2019. In his first nine years at the university, he helped double licensing royalties for the university, and more than $9.5 million was given in student scholarships during that time. He also worked with athletics to generate graphics and with retailers to improve sales of Wolfpack gear, and he helped the annual Packapalooza event earn trademark status in North Carolina.


in internet sales for FY2022

During his tenure at the university, Zarnstorff has witnessed firsthand the tremendous growth in NC State’s brand value. After his first year in 2010, the university earned around $759,000 in trademark revenues. In 2022, it totaled more than $2.5 million.

“I’m very proud that we’ve been able to move up the rankings year after year, especially in an environment like North Carolina where we have seven Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the state — four of which are in the same conference,” Zarnstorff said. “Our Office of Strategic Brand Management has been able to pull a lot of the pieces together and help us accelerate our trademark royalties efforts. That growth has really been the result of investing in the brand.”