Buying and selling Pete

Youngstown Clothing Co. has released YSU-themed collections at Southern Park Mall. Photo courtesy of Matt McClure

By Lindsey Linard

Pete the Penguin, the symbol and mascot of Youngstown State University, has the university and businesses capitalizing on his image.

YSU logos such as Pete the Penguin and the block “Y” can be licensed to  

vendors. Robb Schmidt, assistant director of athletic marketing and promotions, said in order to use these images, businesses apply to be a licensed vendor of these logos.

Schmidt also said businesses go through a vetting process of their brand and products, and once approved, retailers can put the Pete and other YSU logos on merchandise for commercial use.

“If you’re going to have your logo on it, you want it to be a respectable brand or respectable product,” Schmidt said. 

YSU has worked with the licensing company, Collegiate Licensing Company, to help with this process since around 2004. Tim Klaasen, CLC partnerships manager, explained what CLC does and how they help YSU in this process.

“CLC is a full-service trademark licensing agency. We partner with about 700 or so schools across the country to provide licensing services as far as the schools agency for granting permissions for manufacturers to produce and sell branded merchandise out into the market,” Klaasen said. 

Schmidt explained that for businesses to use their logos, YSU charges a 12% royalty fee. A percentage of this money goes to CLC and the rest goes back to the Athletic Department’s general athletic scholarship fund to help student-athletes. In 2022, YSU took home $69,641.62 in royalties. 

YSU products can be found in several large retail outlets, such as Amazon, Walmart, JCPenney and Dick’s Sporting Goods. 

Many local businesses also take advantage of the use of Pete, such as Youngstown Clothing Co., Trumbull Country Club and Touchdown Gifts. 

Youngstown Clothing Co. is owned by Matt McClure, and is a YSU alumnus. The company obtained its license to Pete in 2018 and started printing him on items like T-shirts and stickers.

The business has since released YSU-themed collections in its store, which has garnered new customers and increased revenue, McClure said.

“It’s helped us immensely. We’ve seen growth every year since we’ve started doing the collection,” McClure said. 

Schmidt said that as many companies utilize the Pete logo on a variety of products, the university is still trying to grow the brand visibility of YSU.

“We’ve always been of the mindset at the university that we want that mark out there as much as possible,” Schmidt said. 

Pete the Penguin continues to be a prominent figure around the community as he recently turned 90 years old. The in-person Pete mascot regularly attends YSU football and basketball games, is seen around campus and makes appearances at local events.

“He’s as important here as the history of this Valley,” Schmidt said. “Whether everybody thinks about steel mills or hardworking individuals. I think Pete ties into that.”

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