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Top 5 Collegiate Licensing Powerhouses in the USA

football player in green with top 5 licensees
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In the ever-evolving world of collegiate licensing and NIL deals with college athletes, choosing the right partner for your needs can be daunting. I have been in apparel licensing since 1997 when I worked with Collegiate Licensing and Licensing Resources as a licensee with Northwest Custom Apparel. I aim to simplify the choice by rating the top five collegiate licensing companies in the United States. I have evaluated these companies based on their market influence, product diversity, quality, and unique selling points. Each company is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses in the collegiate licensing market.

’47 Brand (4/5)

Why: Esteemed for quality headwear and apparel with strong sports league partnerships, though slightly less diverse in collegiate-specific products.

 A Legacy in Sports Lifestyle Branding

’47 Brand, LLC, based in Westwood, Massachusetts, is a distinguished sports lifestyle brand known for its quality headwear and apparel. Under Ms. Kathleen Crane’s guidance, the company has established a strong partnership with major sports leagues and offers an extensive range of products that resonate with sports enthusiasts.

CI Sports (4/5) 

Why: Known for a wide range of collegiate apparel and strong customer service, although more regionally focused in the Midwest.

Midwest’s Collegiate Apparel Specialist

CI Sports Inc., located in Fargo, North Dakota, has evolved from a small screenprint company into a significant national player in the collegiate apparel industry. Under the leadership of Mr. Jamie Knopp, they have expanded their reach, providing a wide range of collegiate apparel across the country.

  • Address: 2121 43rd Street S, Fargo, ND 58104
  • Contact: Mr. Jamie Knopp, 701-239-4208
  • Website: CI Sport
  • Email: [email protected]

Why: Renowned for being the top in licensed collegiate sleepwear apparel with a vast range of licensed products and excellent customer service.

The Sleepwear Leader in Collegiate Licensing

College Concepts LLC, under the brand name Concepts Sport, has established itself as a licensed collegiate sleepwear apparel leader. The company in Atlanta, Georgia, under Ms. Sonya Holmes’s leadership, offers a wide array of licensed products from various colleges and major sports leagues.

Why: Specializes in innovative DTG printing with superior color matching, catering to a wide range of clients, and excelling in customer satisfaction.

Young Man loading a t-shirt on the Kornit Direct To Garment Printer. The ink on the shirt is water-based an sustainable

Pioneering Direct-to-Garment Printing

Northwest Custom Apparel is a leading direct-to-garment printing company specializing in the Collegiate Licensing Marketplace. They offer DTG printing services to significant licensing companies, professional sports teams, and NIL college players looking to create their Brand. Their ability to match PMS colors for teams is superior to screenprinting. The company was founded in 1977 and has been printing DTG since 2011. Whether you need to print a single t-shirt or thousands for your university or licensing partner, Northwest Custom Apparel is the place to contact.

  • Address: 2025 Freeman Road East Milton, WA 98354
  • Contact: Mr. Erik Mickelson 1-800-851-3671
  • Website: www.nwcustomapparel.com
  • Email: [email protected] 

All-Star Dogs (3/5) 

Why: All-Star Dogs stands out for its unique focus on pet apparel in the collegiate market. They specialize in Made-in-the-USA products, appealing to pet owners seeking collegiate-themed attire for their pets. However, their market scope is more limited due to this specialized focus.

Championing Collegiate Pet Apparel

All-Star Dogs, headquartered in Marlboro, New Jersey, is a trailblazer in the collegiate licensing market with a unique focus on pet apparel. Led by Mr. Refael Olya, the company takes pride in its Made-in-the-USA products, catering to pet owners who want their furry friends to share their college spirit.

Conclusion

My journey through the top 5 collegiate licensing suppliers has highlighted diverse specialties, from ’47 Brand’s sports lifestyle branding to CI Sports’ extensive collegiate apparel. College Concepts Sport leads the pack with its exceptional sleepwear line, while Northwest Custom Apparel stands out for its cutting-edge direct-to-garment printing technology. All-Star Dogs brings a unique offering with its collegiate-themed pet apparel. Each of these companies showcases distinct strengths, making them leaders in their respective niches. Congratulations to all for their remarkable contributions to the collegiate licensing industry, innovatively enhancing college spirit.

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Antonio-Massey

Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.

Alicia-Wada

Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.

Erik-Mikelson

Erik Mickelson

Manager

Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.

 

Ruth-Nhoung

Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.

Steve-Deland

Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.

 

Taylar-Hanson

Taylar Hanson

Sales

Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Nika-Lao

Nika Lao

Sales

Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.

Bradley-Wright

Bradley Wright

Accountant

Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.

Dominic-Nguyen

Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.

Sothea-Tann

Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.

Brian-Beardsly

Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.

UT-Tri-Tran

UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.

Bunsereytheavy-Hoeu

BunsereytheavyHoeu

Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.

Sreynai-Meang

Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.

Kanha-Chhorn

Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.

Savy-Sorm

Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.

Sorphorn-Sorm

SorphornSorm

Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.

Jim-Mickelson

Jim Mickelson

CEO

Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
163 Google reviews
Steve McMains
Steve McMains
2024-05-31
Great place to do business with.
Hector Aponte
Hector Aponte
2024-05-15
Splendid service by this team. I needed a job done in one day and without hesitation I was helped. Besides the no notice, need now accommodation, the overall quality of the job of superb.
anthony mckenna
anthony mckenna
2024-05-13
Amazing service and quality of work.
katie latimer
katie latimer
2024-04-23
This small business is excellent! Great turnaround times and pricing. We've completely switched over to them for our uniform needs. The embroidery looks amazing and very professional. We have gotten jackets, vests, safety vests, hats and uniform polo shirts with them. The screen prints are very resistant to numerous washes. They have been super flexible and patient with us and going through getting PO set up with our company.
Dave Lambing
Dave Lambing
2024-04-03
I am the Quartermaster for the Tacoma Fire Buff Battalion. We use Northwest Custom Apparel to produce our uniform articles. Their work is always perfect and done is record time. I can't recommend them highly enough.
Kyle Keehnel
Kyle Keehnel
2024-03-27
Our company has been going to NWCA for years and have always encountered friendly service and quality products.
Smokey B3ar21
Smokey B3ar21
2024-03-14
Super friendly staff , wonderful products for our company and couldn’t be happier with them
Chuck Schilling
Chuck Schilling
2024-03-09
Working with NWCA was like hitting the EASY button! Ten days from our initial meeting to completed shirts and we couldn't be more pleased.
Bret Lauritzen
Bret Lauritzen
2024-02-26
Prompt service
Cassandra Johnson
Cassandra Johnson
2024-02-17
Words can't describe how much I appreciate the outstanding customer service I received from Northwest Custom Apparel! I placed an order for two coats that I needed in one week for a Valentines' day gift and Nika made it happen! She was proactive, quickly responsive, and understanding of me needing to see different looks of our company logo. She was incredibly sweet, accommodating, and made every effort to make my order the way I wanted it. A part of me felt bad asking to see the different looks, but she reassured me it was not a problem and was on top of her game! Every staff member I interacted with when I came to their shop was very pleasant, welcoming, and attentive as well. All around great work! Will absolutely use them again and highly recommend!!! Thank you Northwest Custom Apparel!!!