The National Football League, Nike and athletic apparel retailer Fanatics on Wednesday announced a 10-year partnership granting Fanatics exclusive consumer product licensing rights to manufacture and distribute all Nike NFL adult products (jerseys, sideline apparel and fan gear) sold online and in stores. The tie-up launches with the 2020 season, according to a press release from the companies.
As previously announced, Nike will remain the exclusive on-field supplier for uniforms, base layer and sideline apparel for all 32 NFL teams, with the exception of headwear, and will still sell fan merchandise, according to the release.
In recent years, Fanatics has expanded its relationship with the National Hockey League and acquired sportswear manufacturer Majestic and the rest of VF Corporation's Licensed Sports Group business, solidifying its partnership with Major League Baseball. Fanatics in 2015 also forged a deal with NASCAR.
The game is on. The companies this week called their new partnership a fresh model for licensed sports merchandise, with Nike outfitting the players and coaches and Fanatics outfitting fans. The vertical commerce approach will bring "much-needed agility to the industry," according to their press release.
Nike and the NFL will leverage Fanatics' made-to-order capabilities to create the largest assortment of NFL merchandise, which will be able to capitalize on stories and developments in football throughout the season. Fans can continue to buy officially licensed NFL products directly from Nike.com and Nike retail outlets.
"With technology, mobile and social media all contributing to a surge in real-time expectations, it’s exciting to team up with like-minded partners in the NFL and Nike who are equally enthusiastic in rolling out a new model for this industry that best serves the fans, retailers, players and the league," Gary Gertzog, Fanatics president for business affairs, said in a statement.
The deal is the latest among assertive efforts from Fanatics, with partnerships that are a departure from what pro leagues might have once forged with a company primarily known as an online retailer. Its various arrangements involve physical retail stores and efforts, but also give Fanatics manufacturing and logistics responsibilities.
It's the sort of vertically-stacked partnership that Fanatics reportedly has been developing for a while, and that could radically alter pro sports licensing, manufacturing, retail and shipping relationships. And unless Fanatics opens a storefront on Amazon's Marketplace, this keeps official NFL merchandise away from Amazon — at least officially.