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Fan favourite: how Fanatics has made its mark in licensing

LicensingSource.net catches up with Fanatics’ svp international business development, Matthew Primack, to find out more on how the company – and sport in general – is in a purple patch.

When asked how he would sum up his experience since joining Fanatics in January, Matthew Primack – the company’s svp international business development – confidently states: “Exciting, optimistic, invested.”

Fanatics has been well positioned to adapt and take advantage of the shift in consumer behaviour towards buying online during the pandemic. The company is building the leading global digital sports platform, which includes a licensed merchandise business, a collectable and trading cards business, a sports betting and iGaming division, NFT company Candy Digital and 50% ownership in physical sports retail giant, Lids.

Matthew, who made the move to Fanatics after 15 years at IMG, has certainly arrived at an exciting time for the business as a whole.

“We believe we have an opportunity that no one else in the sports world does – to leverage our database of 80+ million fans, our DTC prowess, our leading tech and digital marketing expertise, our incredible relationships with partners worldwide and a trusted brand – to expand the business beyond merchandise to better serve sports fans across the world,” he says.

Fanatics vertical commerce model means it can flex and supply demand regularly as teams and players become popular or successful.
Fanatics vertical commerce model means it can flex and supply demand regularly as teams and players become popular or successful.

Fanatics currently partners with 1,000+ sports organisations and clubs in the world including the likes of NFL, NBA, MLB, Manchester United, Chelsea, The FA, England Rugby and Formula One. It recently announced one of the biggest sports merchandising deals in history with Paris Saint-Germain, plus a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, the first ever official online Olympic store, a wide-ranging deal with WWE and a new deal through Topps (which it acquired in January, significantly strengthening its trading cards offer) with UEFA.

“With trading cards and collectables being a significant pillar of our long-term plans to become the leading digital sports platform adding a leading trading cards company like Topps to build out our business was the logical thing to do,” says Matthew of the Topps acquisition. “It’s an iconic brand, has excellent product quality and a worldwide presence which allows us to immediately serve our partners and their fans with incredible trading cards and collectables immediately.”

England Rugby is among the 1,000+ partners which Fanatics works with.
England Rugby is among the 1,000+ partners which Fanatics works with.

Fanatics also recently completed a round of new financing, raising $1.5 billion which now values the company at $27 billion. Of this round, more than half came from strategic partners, including sports leagues, players’ associations and team owners.

Matthew continues: “Fanatics can immediately deliver growth and enable the game changing fan experience and global reach in merchandising with a level of quality and professionalism that the clubs can be proud to associate with. I do think that most of the clubs and leagues we work with – like PSG, Atletico, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, the NBA, etc – are very fan-focused and realise that to stay ahead they need to think innovatively and need to have a state of the art ecommerce system, global distribution and the product agility to move quickly if needed.”

Matthew believes that it’s an amazing time for sport in general at the moment – all to the benefit of Fanatics.

“With the log-jam of sport catching up on schedules that were delayed by the pandemic, it seems like there is something major happening almost every week. For example, F1 is thrilling, the EPL race for the European spots is incredibly close, cricket, golf and tennis are all very unpredictable at the moment. Overall, I’m a fan of drama in sport and we seem to be in a purple patch. Generally speaking, when there is drama there is interest and when there is interest there is fandom which is in turn a good paradigm for licensing,” he concludes.

Partners such as the NBA are very fan-focused and know they need to think innovatively to stay ahead, says Matthew.
Partners such as the NBA are very fan-focused and know they need to think innovatively to stay ahead, says Matthew.

Growing gains

Matthew believes that the opportunity for growth for the international Fanatics business is still huge.

“The obvious one is working with football clubs across Europe to serve the international markets effectively – there’s no reason top clubs don’t do 50% or more of their sales outside of their home country… that’s far from the reality for most clubs in Europe, and this has been a massive unlock Fanatics has been able to offer clubs,” he says. “Paris Saint-Germain for example have sold merchandise in more than 144 countries since we signed our new partnership less than two years ago. That’s the easy one though, then it’s about growing the market and expanding the assortment and identity of what fan gear is.”

Matthew continues: “Today, in Europe for a typical club, 70-80% of the merchandise sold is the kit. In other regions of the world, the jerseys or kits make up less than 50% of the sales. There is a whole untapped fashion and fan gear category that is being underserved at multiple price points.

“Lastly, as the world evolves toward ecommerce, there are regions where 90% or more fan gear is purchased at physical stores. This is quickly evolving, and the pandemic has expedited that shift toward ecommerce. A shift toward ecommerce enables product agility and more active fan engagement. We are the best ecommerce solution for this industry, no question… we know the market is big, we know the clubs are looking to tap it and we know we’re the best solution to help them do it and grow their business.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2022 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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