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Volume 6 No. 212
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Hangin' With ... Fanatics Int'l President Steve Davis

STEVE DAVIS was named president of Fanatics Int'l on Oct. 3. Davis, previously the CEO of digital fast-fashion retailer Rue La La following his time overseeing global operations for GSI Commerce, joined the company a month after Fanatics closed a $1B funding round led by SoftBank Group's Vision Fund. Fanatics CEO DOUG MACK said after that investment that Fanatics is "hoping to expand its revenue in international markets by leveraging SoftBank’s expertise in Asia." Davis, who is based in Barcelona, said that Fanatics Int'l currently employs 400-450 people, the majority of which are based in Manchester. The company also has smaller offices in London and Tokyo. Davis spoke to SBD Global about the differences between the North American and European markets and his goals for Fanatics Int'l. 

On working to partner with teams instead of leagues ...
Steve Davis: The first thing to understand about the Premier League, and the same can be said about most of the leagues around the world, is that unlike the U.S., you don't enter into league-wide deals. That's not how the business works over here. You create relationships with individual clubs and each club runs its own strategy and how it's going to go to market. Today in the Premier League, we have some amazing clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton, to name three. We aspire to create many relationships across the Premier League clubs and to build upon that.

On v-commerce (producing its own merchandise to maximize sales online) ...
Davis: We really want to add the v-commerce element to these existing relationships and really help to verticalize the fan gear opportunity and to dramatically increase the range of product available for fans and the speed at which we create it and turn it around. That's a really big opportunity with our existing partners. The second big opportunity is, these Premier League clubs play on a global stage every time they're on TV. They are now seen by millions and millions of people around the world. The reality is the majority of these clubs' fanbases now are outside of their home market. They have far more fans outside of their home market than they do inside of them because of the media distribution that the Premier League has. It's our focus to build this global capability that's going to service these fanbases where they live and where they are and where they're accustomed to engaging with local players. We're taking live, for example, a warehouse and fulfillment operation in China over the next six months to service our existing fans of our Premier League clubs better in China and the Asia region. ... We're really going to build this infrastructure to serve fans everywhere they are. That's going to do a real service to fans around the world and obviously help Premier League clubs to build their businesses.

On European competitors ...
Davis: If you take each different component of our business, you have a different set of alternatives or competitors to our Fanatics proposition. If you take our e-commerce and brick and mortar retail operation, your most typical scenario is clubs have often run their own retail stores and e-commerce operations themselves over the years. That's the most common setup. In some cases, the kit partner themselves -- Nike, adidas or otherwise -- runs the e-commerce business and the store itself.

On the amount of merchandise available for U.S. clubs versus European clubs ... 
Davis: As it relates to the v-commerce part of this and really verticalizing the business, dramatically expanding the assortment, you obviously have the performance brands that produce the kits and a small range of merchandise outside of that. The clubs here have an assortment that is much, much, much smaller than the typical U.S. team assortment. So the Premier League clubs here might average a range of merchandise that might only be 10 percent as big as some of the big clubs in the United States. So I would say there's really just an absence in the market of people really focused on building and growing out that fan gear proposition beyond kit. That's certainly something that we're going to bring to the market and we think can it really grow the industry and grow the business.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.