Game-Time Decisions

Issue 03-20-17   |   Reviewer:   Bob Cohen, MBA


Not that long ago, the supply chain for sports gear took days. For events such as the Super Bowl, material had to be printed in advance. For less predictable events, the moment had likely passed by the time the product was available. The speed at which licensed sports merchandise moves now is minutes and seconds, not hours and days. Enter Raphael Peck, president of Fanatics’ branded apparel division and the architect of a revolutionary approach to sports apparel manufacturing and marketing.

To fully show off its flexibility and speed, Fanatics needs narratives, and the three-week, sixty-eight-team NCAA basketball tournament is the autobahn of sporting events. Psychologically, the time between the last shot and availability of team merchandise is critical. In today’s on-demand society, fleeting attention spans require instantaneous satisfaction. A student’s, parent’s, or alum’s passion peaks right at the end of a big game.

Lately, the company has begun to expand and diversify its operations. It runs the online shops for major sports enterprises, dozens of individual franchises, and university athletic departments; the NBA’s flagship store in New York; and a rapidly growing memorabilia offshoot. Most important, under Peck’s guidance, Fanatics has begun taking on the exclusive rights to manufacture licensed gear, which allows the company to put its own brand on goods.

Of course, Fanatics is far from the only one in this space. To stay ahead, Fanatics is doubling down on manufacturing and investing more than $100 million in technology and production. Major sporting goods companies remain major licensees, and foremost retailers sell a lot of sports apparel. But no company is combining those two functions like Fanatics, let alone matching its speed.

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