May 21, 2024

Michigan athletics’ official retailer, The M Den, initially introduced a merchandise line featuring the slogan “Michigan vs. Everybody” in 2021. However, when head coach Jim Harbaugh faced suspension in November amid allegations of sign-stealing, the slogan took on a new significance. The M Den promptly re-launched the campaign, capitalizing on the fervent response from the Michigan fanbase, which felt a sense of unity against external scrutiny.

Jared Wangler, a former football team alum and co-founder of Valiant Management Group, which oversees the school’s name, image, and likeness collective, led the campaign. Despite accusations of cheating and an ongoing NCAA investigation into recruiting violations, the Michigan community is turning the situation to its advantage. The M Den’s merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, wristbands, and trading cards with the “Michigan vs. Everybody” phrase, has achieved impressive sales, surpassing 50,000 units in just two months.

How Michigan Turned Scandal Into a Successful Marketing Ploy

Proceeds from sales contribute to the university for the use of its intellectual property, generating six figures thus far. Additionally, a portion benefits all Michigan athletes, who have collectively earned $350,000—a significant increase from the campaign’s earnings in 2021.

Notable figures such as Tom Brady, former Michigan quarterback, and the athletic department have embraced and promoted the slogan, turning it into a rallying cry. The success has spurred other retailers like Fanatics and BreakingT to create their own variations, such as “Wolverines Against the World” and “Michigan vs. the World.”

Wangler sees this as a form of revenue-sharing, aligning with Harbaugh’s longstanding advocacy for a revenue-sharing model for players. Harbaugh has emphasized the disparity in how various stakeholders profit from college football, except for the athletes. Ironically, the fallout from Harbaugh’s alleged rules violations has inadvertently contributed to the financial gain of Michigan players and athletes at large.

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