Two and a half years ago, the administrative staff and leaders of Brock university made a decision that would have a lasting effect impacting students, athletes and the institution itself for years to come.
During this time of transition Dan Lewis, director of the Brock campus store, was approached by the previous athletics director to begin a dialogue about combining their skills and resources and begin working together. Up until that point the two departments had been working independently; the campus store purchased and distributed Brock merchandise to the student body while the athletic department purchased and distributed athletic gear to student athletes in their various programs. The Brock athletics department was affiliated with Adidas during this point in time while the campus store independently brought in many different brands to sell at the campus store. This created several issues within the Brock community.
To begin, fans of Brock athletics couldn’t purchase and wear the same clothes as the teams they were following. Without being able to physically wear the same gear, fans found it difficult to connect and support Brock teams. “I had a Brock Under Armour shirt that I wore to their rugby games and it didn’t make sense why they wore Adidas and I had Under Armour on,” said Franktonny Camacho, a fan of Brock’s rugby team. Another issue which was created by this business paradigm was the fact that each department split their potential buying power in half. Because the two departments weren’t sharing resources, they couldn’t buy their products in bulk and, therefore, had to spend more money for the products they needed.
“When [the athletics department and the campus store] began talking we realized we could work together to benefit the institution. We buy a lot of clothing and sell it while the athletics department is focusing on training and developing athletes. We realized if we work together it allows us to leverage our buying power through the campus store with a vendor, which in our case is Nike,” said Lewis.
The two departments came together to combine their buying power. With double the resources, Brock put out a set of terms after their Adidas contract came to an end and Nike bid for their new contract. Brock was all too happy to sign on and committed to a four year affiliation with Nike starting in the opening academic term of 2015. With their new business model, the Brock campus store would now handle the ordering and have final say concerning the artwork displayed on Brock merchandise.
“This frees the athletic department up so they can focus on their core abilities and through this we get access to products we otherwise wouldn’t get with better pricing. It’s a consistent look we feel supports our brand and we raised the quality we provide through this relationship,” said Lewis.
One line of products that Brock has access to because of this partnership is called Nike Sideline Gear. This gives the Brock campus store inventory which is only offered to Nike affiliated universities and it’s the same line that coaches in the NCAA wear.
According to Lewis, this elevates the brand of Brock.
“There’s an inherent pride being with Nike, one of greatest brands in [the] world. Lots of folks are excited to buy what they produce.”
Another group which benefits from the partnership made between Brock University and Nike are the non-varsity athletic clubs on campus. There are club teams, like the Brock ultimate frisbee team, that don’t have a budget who go through the campus store to provide their athletes with the gear they want. The campus store facilitates these deals as the club members pay individually for real Badger Nike products. Again this elevates Brock’s image all around Ontario at non-varsity tournaments and allows players of these clubs to have very high quality equipment and apparel to support their athletics.
Brock’s signing of their contract with Nike has correlated highly with an increase in school spirit and attendance at various sporting events. Year after year, Brock consistently breaks attendance records at big ticket events like the Steel Blade Classic in September or even the recent Meridian Centre basketball games against the Ryerson Rams. However, Lewis does not claim responsibility for this correlation. “The real pride comes from the leadership of the institution and focus on events like the one just held at the Meridian Centre. I like to think we help support that by providing things students want to wear,” said Lewis.
Along with that pride comes more involvement of people from the local St. Catharines community. “There’s an interest in the community for Brock wear which is a great success story! We’ll leave the store open after a basketball game and we sell more and we get that community engagement piece,” said Lewis.
What the Brock campus store has managed to accomplish two and a half years into their new partnership with Nike, along with several other changes aimed at providing students with products they want for fair prices, has caught the attention of Campus Retail Canada (CRC), which chose Brock to host 90 campus store directors and managers to walk through the store and see all the great things they are doing. Brock’s contract with Nike will end in 2019 at which point administrators and leaders will reassess their standings and situation.
“Students are not proud to wear a $10 t-shirt. The quality of a garment that has a badger on it says a lot. From a business perspective, we’re not making more money but it makes the institution more relevant and opens the campus store to [the] community,” said Lewis.