June 28, 2016

Pat Summitt: A Brand That Lives On

by Stites & Harbison, PLLC

I had nearly completed a blog post that I intended to publish todayâa post actually about trademarks, branding, and intellectual propertyâbut, when the news of Pat Summitt's death broke early this morning, I decided to put it aside and take some time to honor her memory.

[caption id="attachment_6061" align="aligncenter" width="288"]

Pat Summitt and son Tyler after the 1997 NCAA Women's Championship Game[/caption]

Like many athletic girls who grew up in the 80's and 90's, Pat Summitt was my hero. She was legendary in my family. We would gather around the television to watch the Lady Vols school their opponents, led by players like Michelle Marciniak and Nikki McCray, and I remember going out to the old hoop in my driveway during halftime so that I could work on my own game. And, frequently, my mother would join me for some one-on-one. You see, Pat Summitt did not just motivate those with whom she interacted, and she did not just motivate aspiring young ball players. Rather, her influence was virtually omnipresent, extending across the globe and reaching both the young and the young at heart. Pat Summitt made you want to be better, stronger, more adept. And not just in basketball, but in any area where one hopes to excel⦠including, say, parenthood. In hindsight, I can see that my mom did not shoot hoops with me during halftime of those televised Lady Vols games to become a better player but instead to become a better mother. Pat Summitt's influence spanned generations and was felt far beyond the confines of the basketball court.

Coach Summitt demanded that her players give a full effort, both on and off the court. It did not matter if they were playing a top ranked team in the NCAA Tournament or a tiny school in an exhibition game; her intensity level was the same, and she expected her players to match that intensity. For example, consider the 1997-1998 team that many (myself included) believe to be the greatest team in the history of women's college basketball. It was the year of the "Meeks," featuring Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, and Semeka Randall, along with notable players such as Kellie Jollie and "Ace" Clement. That team went 39-0, beating all but two of their opponents by double digits. Even though most did not even come close to upsetting the Lady Vols, Coach Summitt would not hesitate to scold a player who was giving anything less than a full effort. Her icy glare would send a chill down my spine from hundreds of miles away. More importantly to Pat Summitt, however, was that her players give a full effort in the classroom. Every single player who stayed on her team for 4 years left Knoxville with a degree. She commanded greatness.

Here at Trademarkology, we talk a lot about brandsâhow to protect them, how to add value to them, etc. As I sit here today, reflecting on Pat Summitt and her many accomplishments and the countless lives she influenced, I cannot think of a more powerful brand than hers. I would argue that there is not a single name in sports that is as ubiquitous. Sure, NBA fans love LeBron, hockey fans idolize Gretzky, and the tennis world may agree that Federer is the best to wield a racket. But Pat Summitt transcended the sport of women's basketball. In fact, she transcended sports altogether.

Though she departed the world early this morning, Pat Summitt's legacy will continue to live on. Shortly after she went public with her diagnosis, she filed an application for the mark THE PAT SUMMITT FOUNDATION for charitable services, and the mark registered in 2014.


The Pat Summitt Foundation was launched to support medical research and raise awareness regarding Alzheimer's disease, with the ultimate goal of finding a cure. And, if the Foundation enjoys even a fraction of the success enjoyed by its namesake, who had a staggering 1098 wins in 1306 games, it will indeed reach its goal.

Pat Summitt changed the lives of those with whom she interacted, she influenced countless individuals across the globe, and you better believe that Pat Summitt's brand, and her legacy, will continue to live on long past today.

For more on Pat Summitt's achievements, and her fight with Alzheimer's, check out this video that played at the 2012 ESPYs when she was awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.