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Eskimo Joe's OSU T-shirt

More Than Cheese Fries

Thursday, August 29, 2019

OSU’s partnership with Eskimo Joe’s proves successful for both

Most college towns have an iconic local restaurant that’s unofficially part of the university experience. But Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater is unique, and so is its relationship with Oklahoma State University.

In 2011, OSU formalized a special partnership with Eskimo Joe’s to produce a co-branded anniversary t-shirt to celebrate both Eskimo Joe’s birthday and the upcoming football season. The partnership has produced nine shirts to date — the latest was officially unveiled July 17 — and a growing tradition.

Kyle Wray, vice president of enrollment and brand management, explained how the joint venture with Eskimo Joe’s owner Stan Clark came about.

“Stan’s a good friend and we sat down one day and talked about doing a co-brand experiment, and he loved the idea,” Wray said. “He really sort of spoke of it as the ultimate adoption or validity in terms of brand recognition to have Oklahoma State say that it wanted to be in the same space as Eskimo Joe’s. And so we did that for a couple of years and then began to get feedback from Collegiate Licensing Co., which keeps track of all the major collegiate brands across the country.”

Wray and Kurtis Mason, OSU director of Trademarks and Licensing, learned from the licensing company that OSU’s partnership with Eskimo Joe’s was more special than they thought.

“There are a number of universities that participate in co-branded programs ... but nothing to the scale that this is,” said CLC spokesperson Tammy Purves. “To this level, the types of merchandise that Eskimo Joe’s produces and the sales they generate with their co-branded shirts is unique.”

The shirt, which always features Pistol Pete, Eskimo Joe and Buffy, is popular, too. The Mike Gundy mullet shirt of 2017 was a top-five seller for a single design in the Collegiate Licensing’s offerings that year.

Wray said the partnership is a nod to the power of both brands.

“We don’t just do it with anybody,” he said. “We’re very careful — you can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve co-branded — but Eskimo Joe’s is part of our family here and Stan being a proud alum and the brand strength that they brought to the table as well, it’s been a good decision for both of us.”

For his part, Clark couldn’t be happier.

“I had done business for 37 years in the shadows of our great university, and I was very honored when I was approached with the opportunity to co-brand Eskimo Joe with Pistol Pete,” he said. “Eskimo Joe’s is extremely proud of this unique partnership.”

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