Nike makes a strategic shift in manufacturing NCAA fan apparel

Georgia Bulldogs NCAA partners with Nike

Courtesy: fanatic

Sports retail platform Fanatics forms a long-term partnership with Nike to produce apparel for college sports fans.

The partnership includes collaboration with the Fanatics College division, which already works with most Nike-sponsored colleges and universities. Production is set to begin in the summer of 2024, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Fanatics provided CNBC with a statement from Fanatics Commerce CEO Doug Mack saying it was “excited to maximize the value of Nike’s college partnerships,” but declined further comment.

Nike said in a statement that it is making a strategic shift in how it serves NCAA university partners, expanding its licensing relationships with Fanatics and Branded Custom Sportswear, another college partner, to include Nike NCAA retail fan apparel and include by-products.

Nike has some of the largest contracts with top collegiate athletic programs to outfit their school teams, worth millions of dollars. According to Sports Business Journal, Nike and its Jordan brand outfitted 48 teams in the recent NCAA basketball tournament, its highest total to date. It also equips more than half of Division I football programs.

Sources say Nike will continue to make apparel and merchandise for its varsity team partners, including on-field apparel.

Fanatics will manufacture, among other things, women’s fan apparel, replica jerseys, side hustles, headwear and fan gear. The new Fanatics deal will include a select group of Nike’s college and university partners, with Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, Oregon, Oklahoma and Penn State among the likely participants, sources say, and will invest in the growth of the women’s apparel business among the goals of the partnership.

Fanatics already has exclusive licensing deals with the NFL, NHL, MLB, and various colleges and universities. Some of these deals, including NFL and MLB, also overlap with Nike jersey and apparel stores.

Fanatics is a major hub for sporting goods, home, office and automotive consumer products related to sports. The company is also expanding into online sports betting. The three-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company has a private valuation of $27 billion.

It has made several acquisitions as a limited company in recent years. In 2020, the company acquired sporting goods manufacturer WinCraft, and earlier this year it bought trading card company Topps for $500 million. Last month, CNBC reported that Fanatics was in talks to buy sports betting company Tipico, although no deal has been reached yet.

Topps will release a line of trading cards featuring collegiate athletes in the upcoming fall season, in a deal that parent company Fanatics said will give some players a share of the winnings and combine them with school logos on cards for the first time. The program includes more than 150 schools with current and former athletes. The company has also made arrangements with more than 200 individual student-athletes at these schools to use their names and likenesses. And the plan is to add schools and athletes, Fanatics said.

The majority of the Power Five conference schools will participate in the new Fanatics trading card business including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Texas A&M.

Recently expanded naming, image and likeness rules have allowed college athletes to secure sponsorship deals, opening up additional apparel and merchandise opportunities. Fanatics recently struck a deal that would allow fans to purchase custom college football jerseys with active player names and counts in exchange for compensation.

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