The Truth Behind Lagging Merchandise Sales

By no means should NC State's relatively small merchandise revenue indicate a lack of fan support.

When the Collegiate Licensing Company released its rankings of schools who sold the most licensed merchandise, many fans were surprised to find NC State ranking last among ACC schools (not counting Wake Forest, of course). Sure, we finished last the year before (not counting Wake Forest), but last year the Pack had both successful football and basketball seasons. Surely this success would have translated into the widespread purchase of Wolfpack paraphernalia, right? Perhaps not. Most fans are probably also aware that UNC finished first. In the nation.

Alas, we know the power of powder blue to not be so easily usurped. Despite a basketball season more ugly than the worst Les Robinson effort, Doherty's giggly argyle-emblazoned boys in baby blue seemingly had top-ranked recruits waiting in line to endure what would surely be another upcoming season of humiliation. And why? Because UNC has always catered to the image-conscious fair weather fan, while NC State dutifully targets its alumni, their relatives, and maybe some people who recognize that baby blue is ugly and decide that Duke is too exclusive to ever morally support. Sadly, most youth, including fleet-footed, sky walking, dead-eye three-point shooting youth, by no fault of their own tend to be image-conscious fair weather fans.

Last winter everyone noticed how all the crisp UNC caps disappeared mysteriously from heads of mall-stalking teens and adolescents. For one glorious moment, it wasn't as cool to brandish UNC colors. At least not in North Carolina. State fans, Duke fans, perhaps even a few Wake Forest fans, eagerly pounced on anyone who dared admit to favoring the heels. Except most of these people usually didn't even realize UNC was having a bad season. Most of them, naturally, were just wearing a hat or jersey "because UNC is cool," and were shocked, horrified even, to discover it might not be. I think many of us were a little surprised to see all the publicly worn UNC gear start to vanish. Being ashamed of your team just because they were having a losing season - well, that was very much a foreign concept to NC State fans.

However, beyond the ACC region, the attraction of UNC garb was as strong as ever. Those shiny nylon basketball shorts flew off the shelves of Foot Locker with the usual regularity, while us cheap-ass State fans spent time bending into shape the bill of our one red frayed hat while enjoying the comedy of errors that was UNC Basketball. The fact that State also made its first trip to the NCAA tournament in 10 years just happened to be a nice plus.

So, it's clear why UNC products kept selling so well and State merchandise never did. Because UNC continued to employ the colluding forces of Michael Jordan, Alexander Julian, and Petey Pablo to mercilessly force-feed baby blue on the naive eyes of our nation's youth. But this admittedly sinister campaign does not explain how everyone else in the ACC (not counting Wake Forest, of course) sold more beer cozies, fanny warmers, boxer briefs and the like than NC State did. This lack of sales was not the fault of the University's marketing/licensing department, as so many have alleged. Despite the irreparable damage inflicted by the three-headed Cerberus Guarding the Gates of Hades logo, and the dull legacy of our old scrunched "nSc" diamond logo, NC State's relative lack of merchandise sales is neither to blame on ugliness alone.

Not (completely) to blame

Nor is the lack of sales to blame on lack of athletic success, since State fans have a well-earned reputation for masochistly supporting the Pack. State fans' support does not wax or wane with the tides of wins and losses. Yes, over the last 10 years there was certainly a whole lot more waning than waxing, but remember, State fans are fans for the right reasons. Not least of all those being disliking baby blue but not wanting to pull for Duke.

So even when the football and basketball teams starting waxing, err, winning, we shouldn't expect a sharp rise in product sales. State fans think function before fashion. If it's red, that's good, and if it says "NC State", even better. No need to go to the mall and put in the effort to look pretty about it. So we should wear our last place finish in merchandise sales (not counting Wake Forest) as a badge of honor, testament to our separation from the fickle, materialistic ways of UNC and indeed the rest of the ACC (except Wake). Of course, if someone could get around the legal difficulties of making a "Carolina Sucks" license, then perhaps sales might really take off.

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