The retail space inside Bryant-Denny Stadium provides another way for athletes to increase their earning potential.Fanatics/University of Alabama
Lined fans at the street corner and in the lobby of Bryant-Denny Stadium waiting to buy an authentic Nike jersey with Will Anderson Jr.’s No. 31 or Bryce Young’s No. 9 on it. A Topps trading card activation site invited fans to create their own digital cards. The gear worn by the game was also for sale.
This was the scene inside The Authentic, a new Fanatics store inside Crimson Tide’s football home, before Tide’s recent game against Texas A&M.
The flurry of sales activity on October 8 was just the start of what Alabama and Fanatics believe will be the blueprint for the future of name, image and likeness, where retailers like Fanatics will visit school facilities to connect athletes with money-making opportunities, whether it’s in the form of autograph signings or dating, whether it’s football players, softball athletes or volleyball players promoting NIL offers.
The 3,000 square foot retail space will host a variety of player events that will elevate and further expose their brands.
Bryant-Denny’s space is part of a larger, larger deal Fanatics struck with the university this year. The arrangement provides that Fanatics will pay Alabama a guaranteed amount of money each year for a period of 10 years. Given the company’s resources, the deal could change the NIL landscape as the industry continues to drive innovation in group licensing with expanding categories into trading cards and video games. Moreover, it could lead to rebuilding future models of traditional multi-year sponsorships.
“The Authentic provides a means to increase NIL opportunities, giving athletes a platform and structure to continue to evolve and grow with us,” said Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne. “Our approach is to do everything we can to support our student-athletes so they have the maximum ability to capitalize on who they are and be at the University of Alabama.”
As the most comprehensive offering in the college space, this model has the potential to revolutionize the business as the most multifaceted company in e-commerce and apparel by providing athletes with the opportunity to to use their promotional opportunities and signatures across sports, in addition to selling customizable merchandise. in a retail environment. The Authentic was designed to provide athletes with a turnkey solution for NIL activations, signings, and media opportunities, leveraging the power of Alabama school grades and providing students with the opportunity to maximize their earning potential. through multi-faceted category offerings from Fanatics Commerce, Collectibles, Topps, and Candy Digital with digital collectibles.
“Student-athletes weren’t going to spend a lot of time or have the resources to create spaces that allowed them to continue to grow their brand,” Byrne said. “This space will be a one-stop shop, where they can enter and benefit directly without the need to build infrastructure.
“We want to be at the forefront of what this change is going to be. It’s an evolution – I’m not saying we’re sitting here all inclusive but we thought there was space inside our stadium which made a lot of sense as it was unused space . We thought there might be a market that could really be positive for student-athletes as they start to enter this space and a partnership that would be good for everyone involved.
Alabama is one of the two top-selling universities by Fanatics each year, said Derek Eiler, executive vice president of Fanatics College. The partnership has grown steadily over the past decade, with Fanatics becoming one of the university’s best-selling retailers.
“Each university is unique, and each campus makes its own independent decisions, but the comprehensive model that Alabama and the Fanatics put in place has definitely resulted in much less transactional and much more transformational conversations and strategy,” said Eiler.
Over the past five years, Fanatics has acquired the assets of the largest college headwear licensee, Top of the World; one of the major collegiate durable goods licensees, WinCraft; popular trading card and collectibles brand Topps; and vintage clothing brand Mitchell & Ness. Fanatics has partnered with over 15 top universities on exclusive apparel and headwear deals.
OneTeam Partners, which works with schools and athletes on group licensing agreements, believes the global nature of this program provides an opportunity to help athletes maximize their collective value. “What Fanatics is trying to accomplish is unique and has the potential to impact entire athletic departments as a comprehensive program,” said Malaika Underwood, Acting CEO of OneTeam Partners.
CLC, the school’s licensing agent, represented Tide’s interests in the negotiations.
“Having the dedicated space in Alabama and the platform for student athletes with an NIL product to promote and sell is what makes it more unique than anything right now,” said CLC CEO Cory Moss. “It’s not just about selling, it’s about promoting and building the Alabama and student-athlete brands, and when you put the two brands together, it’s powerful.”
For the launch, The Authentic will focus on existing platforms, from social media to on-site promotions and media related to the reveal. Product includes custom Nike jerseys with name and number t-shirts, headwear, official in-game memorabilia and Topps trading cards.
Fanatics’ rollout will include expanding its apparel offering and Top of the World, Alabama’s headgear licensee, during 2023 and will become exclusive suppliers beginning in January 2024. More Later this year, Topps will release the largest set of college NIL trading cards ever. .
Fanatics and OneTeam have also teamed up with Florida to offer customizable t-shirts in seven fall and winter sports.
“We help [student athletes] tap into the opportunities and try to do it in a way that doesn’t take a lot of their time,” said Florida DA Scott Stricklin. “It’s a way for our athletes to tap into the unique Gator brand.”
Although creating custom products can be challenging as some sports have limited market demand, this is an opportunity for all athletes to benefit financially and bring their fans into the Crimson Tide store.
The payment structure will be defined as a standard revenue share model. Byrne said that historically, Alabama has made minimal revenue from jersey sales.
“With these opportunities, there will be a market advantage that student athletes will benefit from,” Byrne said.
Michelle Edgar is a Los Angeles-based writer.