Global fans to be targeted with Fanatics’ latest round of funding

Fanatics, the online sports merchandising company, has competed its latest round of funding with a huge investment of USD 1bn from Softbank’s Vision Fund. This is the company’s fourth round of funding, but the previous rounds (most recently involving Silver Lake Technology, prior to that Singapore’s national investment fund Temasek and Alibaba and with initial funding from Insight Ventures) have not been on the scale of this most recent round.

The company originally started as a traditional “bricks and mortar” sports retailer back in 1995 in Jacksonville, selling NFL team the Jaguars’ merchandise. The business has come a long way since then and while it made its first online sale in 1997, it became a fully-fledged online retailer after its acquisition by GSI, one of the leading e-commerce fulfilment companies, in 2011. The company has expanded its brands to include FansEdge, UK Kit retailer Kitbag, Majestic and more recently launching Fanatics Authentic, specialising in sports memorabilia. In addition to its own brands it white labels its technology to provide the online and offline stores for over 300 organisations, including major professional sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA, to name just a couple.

CEO Doug Mack is quoted as saying that the investment from Softbank will help “to expand its revenue in international markets by leveraging Softbanks expertise in Asia” whilst acknowledging that they “have only scratched the surface of the global opportunity”. This is a significant deal in terms of the amount of funding provided to Fanatics but barely makes a dent in Softbank’s huge USD 93bn fund, which has left many more traditional VCs baffled by the amount raised and also questioning the size of the individual investments made so far.