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Tales Of Brand Licensing Idiocy: The Urban Outfitters NPR Shirt

Posted by Abe Sauer on May 11, 2011 11:00 AM

Herein we bring a tale of brand licensing gone horribly awry. It involves geeky brand National Public Radio and hipster closet Urban Outfitters and the absurdities of trendy consumers.

Currently, Urban Outfitters is selling the above t-shirt online bearing the NPR logo (a different version is also available in select UO stores). Artificially worn and stressed to appear "vintage," it's the kind of branded staple Urban Outfitters always stocks in its tee section.

What results is a trip down the brand licensing rabbit hole, where irony rules and even NPR doesn't seem to understand what's going on.

UO's president and founder Richard Hayne, today one of the richest men in America, launched Urban Outifitters at a University of Pennsylvania campus in 1970. (NPR was founded that same year.) Hayne's retail empire has since grown to include the retail brands Free People and Anthropologie.

The irony is that the former hippie is a longtime Republican backer and fundraiser. According to the FEC, his efforts in 2008 at joint fundraisers have netted $50,000 for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the RNC, and Florida GOP Senator Mark Rubio. This is in addition to the thousands of dollars he has personally given to Republican candidates and political action committees in the last decade.

The irony of course is that it was this exact same Republican party that pushed hard recently to pass a bill that would defund NPR and remove all of its federal aid.

But it gets better (worse?).

The same NPR t-shirt at Urban Outfitters for $24 is available on NPR's website for $4 less. Plus, these sales benefit NPR, instead of Urban Outfitters, and Hayne.

Oddly, NPR seems to be aware of the Urban Outfitters shirt and tweeted its recommendation that consumers buy it — but first make a donation to their local stations:

Still, why not recommend they just buy the shirt from NPR — which has covered the ironies of Urban Outfitters' twisted t-shirt messages in the past?

Ladies and gentlemen, brand licensing is a hell of a thing.

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