Sports merchandising: Technology boost for supply chain and on-demand manufacturing

By: | Published: October 17, 2018 12:10 AM

Fanatics combines tech capabilities with an agile supply chain and on-demand manufacturing to create an assortment of merchandise for fans.

Matt Madrigal, chief technology and product officer, Fanatics

In the fast changing world of sport, here is a model which allows organisations the flexibility to align and tailor their retail offerings with action and results on the field. US-based Fanatics Inc, the global leader in licensed sports merchandise, is growing its offerings through technology, data and analytics platform which will fuel the company’s innovative vertical manufacturing model. For Fanatics, e-commerce remains the core of the company’s business.

Fanatics, which received $1 billion investment in 2017 from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, has become the global leader for licensed sports merchandise fueled by capabilities and substantial scale in technology, merchandising, digital marketing, memorabilia, distribution and manufacturing. It is making investments in merchandise assortment, mobile capabilities and its worldwide distribution system not only makes it easier than ever for fans to shop for team merchandise, but also grow the industry by making more team gear available to more people, especially for the previously underserved market of displaced sports fans.

Having opened its new technology innovation centre in Hyderabad, the company, which has partnered with some of the largest sporting operations and clubs in the world including Real Madrid, Manchester United, Big Bash Cricket, NBA, NFL and the Wimbledon Championship, plans to hire around 100 engineers in Hyderabad over the coming years.

Betting on its model called vertical-commerce or ‘v-commerce’, it combines technology capabilities with an agile supply chain and on-demand manufacturing to create the broadest and most responsive assortment of high quality merchandise for fans. The company’s data infrastructure also allows it to market more effectively to mobile users by targeting the right customers at the right time with the right product on the right device. Through enhanced data, Fanatics is better able to understand the interests, behaviours and locations of its customers to offer them relevant merchandise at the exact moment they would want it.

“As the global leader in licensed sports merchandise, our growth will be driven by our technology platform and data-driven capabilities. In order to scale our vertical-commerce model, that includes a global e-commerce presence and wholesale capabilities to design and manufacture our own apparel, we need to invest in world-class engineering talent and we will be scaling up our our India development centre,” said Matt Madrigal,chief technology and product officer, Fanatics.

Overall, the licensed sports world is an industry that needed disruption. Most industries have quickly adapted to the digital economy, whereas the sports licensing market had been slow to change. Fanatics is betting on technology, data, verticality and omni-channel integration. “For decades, this industry faced long-lead buying cycles, trying to guess which teams and players will be hot each year—sports is the most unpredictable business in the world and we now live in a world where consumers expect to get what they want, exactly when they want it. In the on-demand economy, speed is what customers have come to expect.

What we’re doing at Fanatics is adapting sports licensing to the 24/7 mobile economy,” he adds.

As of end of 2017, the global licensed sports merchandise market is worth $25.3 billion, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. The latest trend gaining momentum in the market is 3D printing. The usage of 3D printing is cost effective as it eliminates several expenses such as the use of multiple machines and human labour. A phone-first company, Fanatics innovates m-commerce through personalisation, responsive design, testing and investments to enhance both its mobile optimised web sites and top-rated app.

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