OXFORD — University of Mississippi officials say they are protecting its brand by refusing to allow an Oxford gun shop owner to sponsor a university hockey club.
And, university attorney Lee Tyner tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal no student organization is authorized to sell sponsorships that pair one of the university’s logos with that of a business.
Nathan Yow, owner of Mississippi Auto Arms Inc., wrote about the rejecting of his offer in letters to the Oxford Eagle and the Daily Mississippian.
Yow said his donation was in the form of a sponsorship that would include advertising on the hockey team’s equipment bags and its website.
“When you go to an Ole Miss football game, every other slide that comes on the scoreboard is for Gold Strike Casino, so if you openly accept donations for casinos, how’s that any different from firearms?” he told the Daily Journal.
Larry Ridgeway, vice chancellor for student affairs at Ole Miss, said university reviews such sponsorships.
“Obviously, if we’re going to have a university sports club, we want to make sure that the sponsorship or the kind of images they would want portrayed on their sports club T-shirts or jerseys would be something that the university would feel like would be appropriate,” he said.
Yow said as a small business owner he could justify the donation only with the promised business exposure.
“I was told if I wanted to put my personal name on the bags, I could do that, but that’s not going to do my business any good,” he said.
Yow also said he has pursued sponsorships with Ole Miss football and baseball but that “they would never call back.”
Tyner said if the hockey club sponsorship offers included a promise of pairing a business logo with a university logo — which Hockey Booster Club spokeswoman Sarah Wadford confirmed — the students involved “didn’t know what they could and couldn’t do with our marks.”
“The only thing we said no to was whether student groups had the right to license the use of our logos and marks to third parties, to co-brand with third parties,” he said.
Tyner said such misunderstandings are common, both on campus and off.
“Individual departments don’t have a right to make agreements to use our logo, but I’ve got people doing stuff all over this campus they’re not supposed to be doing,” he said. “We have issues on improper use of our logos, and marks come up every week.”