MLS and Fanatics have agreed to a long-term deal that includes manufacturing rights, with the league reportedly making an investment in the company.
Fanatics has had a e-commerce agreement in place with MLS since 2015, but the company will now be given the rights to manufacture merchandise for the league. Under those terms, Fanatics is expected to roll out a new line of MLS apparel prior to the 2019 season, but is expected to launch a “localized Canadian ecommerce platform in 2018,” according to an announcement from the company.
In addition, Yahoo Finance has reported that MLS has invested in the company. The financial details of the investment have not been confirmed by the league, but this news comes as Fanatics continues to see an uptick in MLS merchandise sales. More from Yahoo Finance:
“When teams are hot, more often than not they’re running out of merchandise,” says [Fanatics president of business affairs Gary] Gertzog. “With our capabilities, we can fill in unexpected demand really quickly. We understand that a lot of demand is unexpected, you don’t know which team will be hot and which players will be hot, so we have to be agile and nimble and ready to move. And frankly, it’s what the leagues and the major teams expect now.”
MLS says its merchandise sales in 2016 were up 21% year over year, reflective of the league’s steady rise. Fanatics adds that its own MLS merchandise sales are up 118% since 2015, when it took over MLS e-commerce.
“You see it more and more in New York,” says Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing, which is MLS’s commercial arm. “Soccer culture is just culture. People are not as averse to wearing an FC Barcelona or Manchester United shirt or hat, much like a Yankee hat in the international market. Our sport lends itself well to that.”
Adidas has been the exclusive all-team apparel brand of MLS since 2004, but Carter says, “Ultimately we felt like having only one supplier in fanwear wasn’t servicing the fans with a wide array of products. So Adidas is going to focus on the products that the players wear. But now we are building a broader fan gear business.”
Fanatics has previously received manufacturing rights from other major sports leagues, including MLB, NBA, and NFL. Additionally, NFL, MLB, and the NFL Players Association have made investments in the company.
Image courtesy Seattle Sounders FC.