Can any competitor or startup stop the sports-powered kingdom called Fanatics? Unless its regulators due to anti-competitive behaviors, this company has all but cornered the entire sports category.
Fanatics Commerce operates a vertically integrated platform enabling online and in-store commerce for leagues such as NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and Formula 1. It is essential to understand that Fanatics powers stores for brands in city centers and at team facilities. The company has understood that it must partner with popular global brands such as Manchester United and popular college athletics programs such as the University of Alabama and others.
Due to the vertical integration, Fanatics can create new products or SKUs post events faster than any other company. Offering fans merchandise after a championship win generates revenues no other company can offer partners. Fanatics’ true power lies in its licensing department, which enables the company to create designs of goods in hours and not days. Fanatics also operates a B2B business that works with leagues (who happen to be company investors) to help them find long-term uniform suppliers.
Fanatics Collectibles was started after Fanatics acquired Topps who produce sports cards. The company also invested in an NFT company which they exited. Fanatics has also augmented this business with game-worn merchandise and items that commemorate moments. Name me a fan who does not want to own a framed image signed by an athlete from their favorite team.
Collectors will continue to buy and sell trading cards as they are assets that generally do not lose value. In cases of unique supply, they become assets that can generate large returns for investors. Creating additional products through exclusive partnerships with leagues and teams makes this valuable.
Sports betting outside of Nevada has generated over $18 in revenue from June 2018. Fanatics is betting that it can monetize its US audience through a loyalty program that offers additional winnings that can be used to purchase merchandise or be spent on additional bets. Fanatics do not need to spend marketing capital on these customers as they already own their purchase data, as this offers a competitive advantage compared to other Sportsbooks that hospitality sector companies mostly own.
Fanatics Events is the most recently created Fanatics business in partnership with talent management agency and event company IMG. Fanatics is the majority owner of this new entity. This new company will start offering events in 2024, initially focusing on sports collectibles and memorabilia.
Fanatics has created an end-to-end ecosystem based on licensing agreements with sports leagues, teams, and in some cases, athletes. Fanatics is building an incredible story that will become more widely known once the company goes public. They continue to further build out their ecosystem with partnerships and acquisitions to ensure that they can offer fans access to once-in-a-lifetime events and merchandise. Who else can say that?
This is awesome Hendrik. Framed something I have been thinking for a long time. You can even see how they can localise this with national sports too - Sports unions should be doing deals. The only thing that will change and (in their favour) is how image rights deals evolve and where player power is becoming even more divisive.
Just knowing some of the earlier history here, it surprises me how they’ve gotten to this point.
This is somewhat similar to what happened with the operations for online streaming - Major League Baseball put in a lot of work to figure out how to make that happen, and then when the other sports leagues went looking for how to solve that problem they went to MLB Advanced Media rather than trying to do it themselves. That’s given them a very strong position and feature capability in the streaming market for live events, similar to what you’re referencing here for what Fanatics can do around fans. MLBAM still exists for a number of different aspects supporting many different sporting leagues, though the streaming technology was spun off as BAMTech - which was then acquired and became the underlying basis for Disney+.
As you reference in your opening part, I remember the time Fanatics put together a championship t-shirt immediately after the US Superbowl ended, as it caused a massive crush of traffic that I had to adjust in order to handle that efficiently.
Fanatics has launched Fanatics Live, a live shopping platform for sports collectibles, initially focusing on sports card breaking.
I think this is clever - one, this will place huge pressure on Whatnot, who has had first mover advantage in the collector’s space for sports cards. Fanatics owns Topps, which likely will be removed from other platforms and Fanatics will likely also leverages their relationship with leagues to bring other collectibles to the live shopping platform.
Fanatics are also leveraging, an engaged audience of sports card collectors and a phenomenon called card breaks - which fundamentally is opening a pack, a box of packs, or a case of boxes, then offering slots to participants for purchase, when all slots are sold, the breaker opens the cards which then can split them based on a variety of factors.
Using the supply and demand of sports cards, plus the excitement of owning a limited edition card based on the slot, team, etc will lead to audiences and collectors wanting to join shows without the need large marketing spend.
I participated with a live demo of a live shopping platform that eBay had on top of their marketplace listings platform. I personally have no interest in those, but I can see how for certain product types and customer bases it could be quite interesting. Looks like they have it actively in use, though I didn’t know that until I went looking to see what might have happened to the platform: eBay Live (yes, this is different from the user conference of the exact same name) This only seems to work in the app, but there are recordings from previous events where you can see how people are using the platform.