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A&M has a financial Super Bowl stake

Tussle regarding 12th Man usage pads Aggie coffers

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 23:01

While fans across the nation’s living rooms are concerning themselves with the score of the game or the bowl of guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday, marketing officials for the original 12th Man will be keeping a close eye on the nation’s other 12th Man — the Seattle Seahawks.

On the Seattle Seahawks official website, at the foot of every page, reads: “The term 12th MAN is a trademark of Texas A&M University and its use is pursuant to a license agreement with the university.” This means that only with the permission of Texas A&M and under certain guidelines may the NFL team use the 12th Man mark.

A 2006 lawsuit between Texas A&M and the Seattle Seahawks overuse of the12th Man mark resulted in a settlement and a licensing agreement that required the Seattle Seahawks pay both a lump sum of $100,000 to Texas A&M and an annual payment of $5,000 for each year the agreement is in effect. The agreement first expired in 2011 and was renewed for another five years, now set to expire in 2016.

The licensing agreement states that the Seattle Seahawks cannot sell merchandise bearing the term 12th Man, use 12th Man in conjunction with the color maroon or any color of red derivatives or endorse any organization with 12th Man in its name. The Seahawks are not allowed to raise flags bearing the term 12th Man, but may continue raising flags with the number 12 and make other promotional uses of flags bearing a 12. Both parties are engaged in talks over renewing the contract in 2016.

Senior associate athletics director for external affairs, Jason Cook, said the strength of the licensing agreement comes not from the money received, but from the ownership that was established.

“Our licensing agreement has never been about the money,” Cook said. “The 12th Man mark is priceless to us and it’s also priceless to the Seahawks as well. Texas A&M is the owner of the 12th Man mark, it is where the tradition originated and by licensing that mark from us, Seattle is saying, ‘Yes, Texas A&M is the owner of the 12th Man.’”

While the Seahawks’ 12th Man continues to benefit from Super Bowl media coverage, interim vice president of marketing and communications, Shane Hinckley, said there is a marketing plan in place to ensure that the 12th Man is always identified with Texas A&M.

“Part of that is with our SEC contract and our ability to reach 12 million viewers or more on an annual basis on the SEC and TV,” Hinckley said. “Promoting our brand when we broadcast our games is part of that strategy and it’s worked pretty well so far. We’ve been able to increase our national footprint.”

Social media plays a part in this nationwide promotion, illustrated by the creation of the hashtag #12thMan during the transition to the SEC. The licensing agreement was used to establish that this hashtag may be used by Seattle Seahawks players, but not by coaches or other staff.

“They cannot use that from an official organizational standpoint, so you won’t see Pete Carroll or any of the official Seahawks social media channels using #12thMan because social media is outside the geographic boundaries of our licensing agreement,” Cook said.

Junior management information systems major, Jorge Aguero, said he does not have a problem with the Seahawks being allowed to use “12th Man,” but the mark should not become a common feature of NFL teams.

“Being an A&M student, I think it’s very dear to us,” Aguero said. “It’s good that we keep ownership of it and if we’re getting paid for it, but we don’t want to just let anybody use it. I just hope that people don’t lose sight of what’s important — that it’s our name and that no amount of money can take it away from us.”

As talks to extend the agreement with the Seahawks continue, Hinckley said Texas A&M will continue working to make sure the 12th Man mark will always belong to the University.

“The 12th Man brand is invaluable to Texas A&M,” Hinckley said. “Our focus is not to lose ownership of the mark under our watch and our goal is to protect it forever and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that happens. Sometimes that strategy will be to enter into licensing agreements and other times that strategy will be to take legal action against people, so each situation will be looked at and weighed upon its value to protecting the brand.” 

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