New NHL-Fanatics Deal Brings Fast Fashion to Hockey Fansby
Fanatics will make replica jerseys, on-ice Stanley Cup apparel
16-year deal puts spotlight on e-commerce giant’s own brand
Fanatics Inc. has quietly become the world’s largest online seller of sports fan gear, running web stores for all four major U.S. leagues, operating brick & mortar outlets and handling more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Now it’s giving its own brand top billing. Starting next season, Fanatics will create the official replica jerseys of the National Hockey League as well as on-ice Stanley Cup merchandise. The deal, announced Wednesday, extends through the 2032-33 season and includes exclusive rights to manufacture and sell apparel around exciting moments right after they happen -- a kind of rapid-response merchandising that has become Fanatics’ signature.
Terms of the 16-year agreement weren’t disclosed, but it is a major development for the closely held company. Once focused mainly on retailing other brands, Fanatics has slowly begun to compete for top licensing rights with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. The NHL deal is its most high-profile yet.
"We built this engine over the past four years, and invested a lot of money into it," said Raphael Peck, president of Fanatics Branded. The firm’s facilities have more than 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space and extensive, on-call design teams. "We’re now looking to brand our product and take credit for that."
The jerseys will have the Fanatics logo on the front, the first time the company’s name will appear on an official uniform. The Fanatics replicas will look a little different from the ones players wear, which starting next year will be made by Adidas AG. Reebok currently has the contract to make both.
With recent investments in production, Fanatics can profitably print, sell and ship a single shirt in one day. This means the company, based in Jacksonville, Florida, and San Mateo, California, and its retail partners rarely get stuck with unsold inventory.
It also means Fanatics can respond quickly to what company executives call "hot markets." For example, when No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews scored four times in his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, there was huge demand for his jersey -- which wasn’t on sale yet. Many retailers didn’t receive official jersey shipments for at least another week.
Fanatics’ deal with the NHL includes "hot market exclusivity," an agreement it also has with the National Football League. So when there’s an Auston Matthews-type moment next year, they say they can have commemorative products on fans’ doorsteps the following morning.
"That’s what the demand calls for," said Brian Jennings, an executive vice president at the NHL.
Fanatics is building a fulfillment center in Canada and recently hired a general manager of Canada to meet the demands of hockey fans there.
"This is a huge deal," said Peck of Fanatics Branded. "Jerseys, hot-market items and locker room products are the cornerstones to building the brand and growing the business. If you look at where the Fanatics brand is going to continue to go, we’d really like to look more at these exclusive core items."