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Volume 22 No. 32
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Legends taking swing at memorabilia with possible Steiner Sports acquisition

Legends is close to acquiring Steiner Sports from agency holding conglomerate Omnicom Group, which itself acquired the seminal sports collectibles company in 2000 for $25 million. Multiple sources said the deal includes $14 million in memorabilia inventory and that Omnicom has been trying to sell off Steiner for some time, especially after the memorabilia market nosedived following the 2008-09 recession.

Legends is partly owned by the New York Yankees, so the acquisition would give it even deeper ties there. Other than that, the acquisition would allow Legends to replicate the Steiner memorabilia curation, retail and acquisition model at the sports venues it services outside of Yankee Stadium. Founder Brandon Steiner is acknowledged as a pioneer, and in a business where counterfeiting is routine, Steiner authentication is considered the closest thing to a Good Housekeeping Seal. Other sources pointed to the considerable media business Omnicom agencies conduct with the Yankees and YES Network as an additional catalyst.

While Legends already services venue merchandise operations for a number of pro teams and venues, including the Yankees, the Steiner deal allows Legends to enter the merch business as a manufacturer and wholesaler, capabilities that rival Fanatics has been building for some time, complemented by equity investments from some of the biggest properties with which it does business.

“This puts Legends and Fanatics on a path to collide,” said one senior licensing industry executive.

Legends has ownership stakes from both the Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. According to SportsMemorabilia.com (owned by Fanatics), the Yankees are the most popular team for autographed memorabilia, accounting for 7.2 percent of sales. The Cowboys are third overall at 3.1 percent.

Sources said Fanatics, which has direct player memorabilia deals with stars including the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, looked at the deal but walked away, satisfied with a memorabilia business it’s built through the acquisitions of Mounted Memories and SportsMemorabilia.com. Fanatics’ memorabilia business has grown from $10 million to more than $100 million over the past eight years. Sources also said Steiner had earlier investigated buying back the company himself.

Legends is partly owned by the Yankees, but potential rival Fanatics has a deal with Aaron Judge.
Photo: getty images

PLAYING CHICKEN: Quick-service restaurant Chick-fil-A is close to taking the wraps off a new corporate sponsorship with Major League Soccer that’s intriguing for a number of reasons. Primarily, it means that the Atlanta-based, 2,200-store chain is now interested in what most of the world knows as football. While it has numerous MLB, NBA, NHL, college and minor league team deals, until now Chick-fil-A’s national deals have been football related, including a College Football Playoff deal and title sponsosrship of the Atlanta-based College Football Hall of Fame, sponsorships of the Peach Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, both held at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With QSR competitors like McDonald’s slowing their sports spending, we’re wondering if Chick-fil-A is accelerating its sports spend.

An MLS corporate affiliation should allow Chick-fil-A to more effectively target soccer moms and the Hispanic audience. Also notable are Coca-Cola’s MLS corporate sponsorship rights, since Chick-fil-A is a longtime purveyor of Coke. Interpublic Group’s Momentum Worldwide is the shop activating the MLS rights deal, having won a recent agency shootout.

FEMININE MYSTIQUE: The Aurora Games are the closest thing to an all-female Olympic Games in this country. A bevy of sponsors have committed to the inaugural event, scheduled for Aug. 20-25 in Albany, N.Y., in which athletes in six Olympic sports — basketball, beach volleyball, figure skating, gymnastics, ice hockey and tennis — will compete in an “Americas vs. the Rest of the World” format.

There will be 40 hours of television coverage in the U.S. on ESPNU, backed by sponsors including Women’s Health, TJ Maxx, State Farm Insurance, Musselman’s Apple Sauce and Celebrity Cruise Lines. The Aurora Games are owned and produced by Jerry Solomon’s StarGamesSteve Disson’s Disson Sports & Entertainment is the sponsorship agency.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.