Northwestern University’s Male Basketball Team officially won the first NCAA Tournament in the school’s history at approximately three minutes past 6pm on Sunday the 12th of March, and just minutes later merchandise was released for sale for the championship team. The official merchandise was released by Fanatics Inc. which is one of the world’s biggest apparel merchant.

The delay free production of the licensed sports products is quickly becoming a standard as the demand for the most recent winning team’s sportswear increases. Fanatic Incorporated is clearly the leader in this industry and if in the past five years, you have bought a pair of basketball shorts, shirts, hats, jerseys, etc., online, then you have likely bought from Fanatics as they have a growing monopoly over this sector of the fashion industry. Marty Brochstein, who is a senior Vice President for the International Licensing Market Merchandisers’ Association, recognises that “this is the biggest change to a single marketplace that we’ve seen in a decade or two.”

Although the Northwestern win was a predictable outcome for the Fanatics group, given the chances of the team losing was slim, the quick design of the merchandise wasn’t that shocking. However, it’s when there’s a close game and the small guy reigns over the favourite team that really gets to us. How do the Fanatics do it? Well, as it turns out, that’s what they really like to see and they have a well established team ready to go at a minutes’ notice.

The Fanatics have a team of about a dozen quick responders based in various cities when competition games are running. Raphael Peck, the president states the team “only go fast”. The space they work in is decked with laptops, inspiration boards, design notes, templates and of course TVs to watch the game and otherwise used for videoconferencing. When the siren sounds, the team are ready to go, this team don’t need motivational speakers, they thrive in times like these.

As an official NCAA partner, Fanatics has design books for each college that list the authorised logo designs, colours, and typefaces. Using those raw active ingredients, it takes the quick responders all of a couple of minutes to work up a design for the basketball shirts showing the storyline, whether it’s a come-from-behind victory by an acclaimed powerhouse or the time to shine for the under-dog. From there, the style goes to the school’s licensing or athletic department for approval. As soon as that’s gotten, which is usually instant, if the Fanatics have an enduring relationship with the school, the shirt goes up for sale on the Fanatics website. The process only takes about fifteen minutes from the siren to the first sale, there’s no denying why the Fanatics are business leaders in this industry.

Raphael Peck is the brains behind this part of the Fanatics’ business; prior to his arrival, the company was just about entirely a retail outlet for other manufacturers’ merchandise. The shift took place under the management of billionaire Michael Rubin, who bought out the Fanatics in 2011 and combined it with his e-commerce technology business, GSI Inc., which, among other things, managed online sales for the major U.S. sports leagues. Rubin sold GSI to EBay Inc. and later that year all while hanging onto his league relationships, which he moved onto the Fanatics, and then utilised proceeds from the sale to obtain sports retailer Dreams Inc. The combined enterprise rapidly turned into a merchandise empire, with products varying from apparel and jerseys to top quality bobbleheads, lawn chairs, mugs, and grills. Fanatics aren’t open to revealing the financials of the company, but it was valued at about 3.1 billion when it raised capital in 2015.

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