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Volume 26 No. 206
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Inside The Creation Of Fanatics' Long-Term NFL Licensing Deal

The NFL was attracted to working with Fanatics because of Rubin's experience in the landscape
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
The NFL was attracted to working with Fanatics because of Rubin's experience in the landscape
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
The NFL was attracted to working with Fanatics because of Rubin's experience in the landscape
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN

The NFL's upcoming 10-year licensing deal with Fanatics was the topic of discussion between Fanatics Founder & Exec Chair Michael Rubin and NFL Chief Media & Business Officer Brian Rolapp on stage at the '19 Dealmakers in Sports conference. Rolapp said the deal, which begins in '20 and makes Fanatics the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of all Nike-branded league apparel, was years in the making. He said of working with Rubin, "There's an economic interest to make money, but also picking the partners based upon the capabilities that they have. Especially when you map that against a market that's changing with technology and changing over time." He added, "There's probably fewer industries that have been changed and disrupted by technology more than the consumer products, specifically the licensed sports landscape. When we thought about our Nike relationship and our apparel relationship, we felt like it was done one way for so long and thought, 'What would be a better way to react to all these changes and be of more value to the consumer?'"

IT JUST MAKES SENSE: Rubin commended the league for making the partnership happen. He said, "The NFL started this conversation with us years ago about maybe taking one set of rights, make it two sets of rights, and have each party help us create more value overall, and that was tremendous wisdom." Rubin: "We're going to be able to grow the licensed sports industry, grow the NFL's business by service demands with that set of rights working collaboratively with Nike." Rolapp said of Rubin's acumen in the space, "Michael is clearly the innovator and leader in how you distribute these consumer products in this landscape. ... Nike is a premier designer and marketer of apparel and brand, so let's make marketing rights attributed to them that will actually create value. That's how it all came together. But I will say that it was a lot of Michael's idea and thought leadership that pushed it." Rolapp: "We were a little skeptical in the first place. And if there's anything about Michael, he's pretty persistent."