COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio State University is one of the largest schools in the country and one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
But after nearly four decades, one man who has played a pivotal role in their growth is calling it a career.
“You could not buy an Ohio State sweatshirt in the Ohio State bookstore,” recalls Rick Van Brimmer, who was a student at Ohio State in 1975.
At the time, “Long’s” was the only place you could buy Ohio State merchandise.
“They didn’t sell stuff that said, ‘Ohio State,’ on it,” Van Brimmer explains.
But now, it’s everywhere.
You see it on shirts, hats, and all throughout campus. The Ohio State logo is iconic, and the brand is unmistakable.
“There’s a lot of people that actually don’t really care about Ohio State football that love Ohio State,” Van Brimmer admits. “And then you add in our athletic teams, and it’s just been an incredible boom.”
Van Brimmer noticed a shift in collegiate athletics when he returned to work at his alma mater in the late 1980’s.
“There was a lot of factors — ESPN for one,” says Van Brimmer of the introduction of a 24-hour sports news network. “There was also at the same time, the advent of leisurewear.”
It was then that the Ohio State brand quickly became more than just a logo to be worn at games.
“Absolutely the university was making an effort to maybe define the way it was marketed to the world,” Van Brimmer admits.
As the Vice President of Business Advancement, Van Brimmer has worked in Ohio State’s trademark and licensing program for 37 years.
As he prepares for retirement, he reflects on the role he played in the university’s growth to one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
“When you see that ‘Block O’, you think about the history of the university, the history of our athletic teams, the strength and scope of the university, the breadth and depth of the university.”
But protecting that brand isn’t always easy.
“While it may seem kind of strong-armed at times, it’s really just protecting the asset,” Van Brimmer assures. “Your name, your logo, and the identity, that is the most valued asset of most institutions or companies.”
Ohio state is the 55th ranked licensing brand in the world — and the only university in the top 100.
Their trademark and licensing department has gone from making less than $1 million annually to more than $16 million.
Dollars that directly benefit scholarships, programming, and student life.
“To understand that all those things we do tend to generate revenue that really impact the daily life of an Ohio State student, and that’s a noble cause,” reflects Van Brimmer, who was once a student himself.
When asked, Van Brimmer told NBC4’s Matthew Herchik that his most memorable moment over the past 37 years was simply being blessed to do what he loved, at a place he loved, with people he loved.