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Volume 27 No. 35
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Fanatics Lands 10-Year Deal To Manage Merch Sales At NASCAR's "Souvenir Row"

Leading online sports retailer Fanatics has quietly won a shootout to manage trackside merchandise sales at NASCAR races for the next 10 years. Sources said that Fanatics, NASCAR's e-commerce provider since '03, beat out Legends and Aramark in securing the rights to NASCAR's "Souvenir Row." Motorsports Authentics was the incumbent trackside merchandise retailer. During the RFP, respondents were told they could expect a yield of $26M annually from trackside merchandise sales and another possible $14M from merchandise centering on tracks, drivers and specific races. Presentations were made earlier this month in Charlotte. Competitors were told to suggest new business models for NASCAR's flagging merchandise business, which could mean abandoning trailers for retail tents. The importance of the win for Fanatics is even more intriguing, since it built its business on being the back-end e-tailer to sports properties and has a lock on most of the more significant ones, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA Tour and more than 150 colleges and pro teams. That Fanatics went hard after a brick and mortar retail assignment, much less one with the complex logistics of trucks merchandise at all NASCAR races, shows the company is looking for expansion well beyond its online retail base. While its core business is e-commerce, Fanatics operates 13 venue merchandise operations, including those for the Univ. of Texas, LSU and the Coyotes. By getting further involved in the licensing industry, Fanatics could also explore vertical sourcing of products, some of which was discussed during the NASCAR pitch. At the same time, some large retailers have been taking their e-commerce operations in-house -- a trend that’s likely to continue as mobile payment grows. “Fanatics has ambitions across every sports property, so it will be interesting to see where they go," independent consultant and longtime NFL licensing exec Gene Goldberg said. "You could see them get into the entertainment business next, which would be a natural outgrowth of their growing interest in event merchandise."