Summer Reading: Fanatics, the NHL, and Merchandising Monopolies

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In October of 2016, the NHL had announced that Fanatics would be the exclusive apparel outfitter for the NHL starting in the 2017-18 season and that it was a long-term (16 years) agreement between the two companies. They would pretty much be in charge of everything, aside from the authentic, on-ice gear– which Adidas would be in charge of. After the first year of Fanatics, it’s been something of a roller coaster for them, especially when you look at their first hack at the Stanley Cup champion turnaround gear.

Many Caps fans have been keen to point out the mistakes that were made with their orders from Fanatics following the Caps Stanley Cup win, as well as the timing for their “fast turnaround” for their Conference Championship gear to be sent out. Not only that the integrity of the products have been called into question (check out that whole thread– it’s a riot), as well– which sucks for the amount of money they are charging for it.

It’s almost the old adage of it’s better to get it right than get it first. It’s not just for journalism, but it’s for any facet of life. Benefit of the doubt, though, as it is their first year doing this and Fanatics may not have been prepared for the onslaught of orders they were going to get from the Capitals faithful. But when the selling point of this deal was the “quick turnaround” aspect of Fanatics, this is a major black mark on this 16-year deal.

(Personally– the stuff I’ve gotten hasn’t been off at all that I saw. Fanatics seems to really excel on autographs, plaques, that kind of not-wearable stuff. The shirts are okay and the sizing is somewhat on-point, but nothing to write home about; the hats seem okay, though pricy as hell; and it doesn’t seem like Fanatics likes to do many second-run items on special events– which is something I encountered with a hat I liked, but they told me once they were gone, that’s it. Luckily I did find it elsewhere. Demand does not mean you will get the supply, apparently.)

Fanatics has a monopoly on sporting merchandise, with the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR to compliment their NHL deal. However, their customer service leaves something to be desired and their products are….decent, at best. Design wise, many may enjoy that– but the actual put together pieces aren’t anything to write home about when it comes to quality; especially with their price point being what it is. It pretty much kills any competition and despite the low-grade apparel, fans seem to be pretty much stuck with the limited choices out there now because of this deal.

However, when it comes to teams and players– does the deal make sense?? While it’s not known how things are divvied up, it was exposed how the NASCAR deal works out with Fanatics when it comes to teams and drivers. Of course, there’s some kind of different with the travelling side show of NASCAR, the percentages were quite eye-opening when you look at it– especially when you see the cut the driver’s get. Plus, it allows some lower series drivers to actually create merch for their fans to buy, which they’d NEVER get through NASCAR.com or at the tracks through Fanatics. There’s something to say about the folk-hero driver or player.

NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck revealed last summer that Fanatics takes 75% of the revenue from the merchandise they make in NASCAR. Of course, there’s plenty of overhead and travelling costs– but my god– that’s a lot. Teams get 9% of the revenue, with their drivers each getting a percentage of that in their contracts. The sanctioning body of NASCAR as a whole gets 1%. But, the fans hated the experience of the big tents they set up that Fanatics had to totally revamp their “superstore” because people didn’t know about it. However, it’s well known that NASCAR doesn’t have a marketing department because if they did– they’d know how to do justice to their sport and gauge fans interest…but that’s another story for another post.

Obviously, the NHL is probably much different with the league getting a bigger cut and then cutting the teams into that percentage, but with how much they have to dish out– what’s the overhead for Fanatics in different arenas or do they only take from the NHL exclusive events like outdoor games the playoffs?? How much does the NHLPA get a cut for the shirts and replica jerseys sold with their players names on it and are they getting as screwed over as NASCAR drivers have been??

Or will the NHLPA go on the route some NASCAR drivers have by creating their own website to sell merchandise and thus getting a bigger cut of the profit?? Names like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson have been selling their wears on Driver Direct Apparel, which seems to give a bigger cut to the drivers that they wouldn’t get from Fanatics.

It’s also very much akin to what independent wrestlers do thanks to Pro Wrestling Tees, which has the profits for each wrestler’s merchandise going right to the wrestler. Don’t know if the NHLPA would do something like that– especially since they probably would have to get over the hurdle of getting the rights to use the NHL club logos on their merch– but that’s for bigger people to figure out legalities.

In the end, it was a rough first year for Fanatics. They’ve got 15 more years to go, but they need to learn from their first year mistakes and hope to not make it a second time.

2 thoughts on “Summer Reading: Fanatics, the NHL, and Merchandising Monopolies

  1. Pingback: PHT Morning Skate: The hockey world remembers Ray Emery – ProHockeyTalk

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