Two of the major sporting trophies in the US have been awarded in the past 48 hours. In both events, with the Toronto Raptors in basketball and the St. Louis Blues in hockey, two cities notched their first championship wins in their respective sports. While it was a momentous night for the first Canadian team to dominate the NBA and for a hockey team that had endured 52 years to conquer the Stanley Cup, this event also marks another era of a notable shift on how consumers buy their products.
Sports merchandise retailer Fanatics has existing contracts with almost every major sports league giving them the liberty to sell their products in stadiums and online. The company also recently ventured in creating licensed apparel for various teams, which includes the jerseys worn by the Aston Villa, an English soccer team, last season, and the gear used by the Blues as they dominated the Stanley Cup. Now, it transformed itself to a multibillion-dollar enterprise by creating dependable websites that can withstand the strain of enormous surge in traffic whenever a team wins a league, and after that, being able to deliver impressive gears quickly.
This shift has been most evident in the last two days. In a report by Quartz, Jack Boyle, Fanatics co-president for direct-to-consumer businesses, told that within a minute of both the Raptors and Blues winning, their company already had championship-themed products from the winners available on their sites, the NHL and NBA sites, and on other significant sites it manages.
While Fanatics had proven to handle traffic and sales spikes in the past on what it dubs as “hot market” situations, it never experienced this type of demand coming from two separate sports on two consecutive days or has it faced such massive quantity of consumers purchasing from their mobile phones before.
The sports merchandise retailer wouldn’t divulge information, but it is believed that the Blues’ championship scored the biggest “hot market” event ever for the NHL, while the Raptors’ win is only behind the remarkable comeback of Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. Unexpectedly, the company said only 60% of the revenue from the Raptors products came from Canada.
Fanatics is already ready for the big days. Boyle said that they “really don’t get surprised.” However, what surprised them is the quantity of traffic coming from the mobile platform. During the evening of the Blues’ championship, around 79% of traffic was from mobile devices, and it was at 81% for the Raptors. They said they had never witnessed any event going beyond 80% in the past.
Nowadays, where customers are rapidly relying on mobile phones as their primary gateway to accessing the internet, these figures shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The company has even built its business to take advantage of huge moments such as these. “Capturing demand right as the game ends, those are our peak hours, when fans’ emotions are highest,” Boyle noted in the report.
Before, retailers don’t really have much to offer to these happy fans to fork out their money as their respective team celebrates the win. This is because products from primary producers, such as Under Armor, New Era, or Nike, takes time to create and dispatch.
Fanatics steered away from these and functions using a different model. It gets blank jerseys, stores them throughout the country, and personalize them as every order comes in. The company even inked agreements with third-party firms in local markers, such as in St. Louis and Toronto, to ensure that they had enough capacity to produce items for their customers. In this year’s NHL, Fanatics also made championship apparel that players wore as soon as the team won, and they already had that prepared for customizing instantly for fans as soon as the game ended.