Fanatics tries fan-first approach with NHL

Fanatics tries fan-first approach with NHL

By Ian Thomas, Staff Writer


Fanatics asked fans about the qualities they want in replica NHL jerseys.
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

When Adidas launched its new on-ice NHL jerseys last week, it touted their innovative design and how it will affect players. Fanatics, which will manufacture the replica NHL jerseys next season, aims to do the same for fans.

“In our view, many jerseys available to fans are either a version of what was on the field or on the ice, and just made a little cheaper or dumbed down,” said Raphael Peck, president of Fanatics Branded. “They were constructed in a way that showed that the fan was not an integral part of how they constructed it. We wanted to change that.”

Fanatics, which acquired the rights to manufacture and sell adult-size NHL replica jerseys for 16 years in 2015, is addressing that issue by adding features to its jerseys after months of polling and focus group testing.

“We looked at every component of the jersey, and really wanted to figure what features were most important to fans,” Peck said. “We found that the fan wants something lighter and washable, something that isn’t scratchy so that it’s comfortable to wear with or without something under the jersey, and that it fits really well, not too baggy or too boxy.” Those issues will be addressed with the introduction of new fabrics, as well as increased attention to the flexibility and moisture management of the garments.

The jersey will provide Fanatics a moment to showcase its focus on technology. It also comes three years ahead of the company’s similar deal with MLB that will see Fanatics produce and market replica jerseys starting in 2020.

Peck said that, by increasing distribution points and upgrading the supply chain, it aims to reduce the time it takes to buy and receive a custom jersey down from months to just weeks. It will also allow for customization of the “jock tag” — the material at the bottom of the jersey with the manufacturer’s name, size and other information — as well as name and number. It is expected that the non-custom Fanatics jerseys will run about $175, with prices for customs still to be determined.

If it takes eight to 12 weeks to receive a jersey “or if you’re a Nashville fan six weeks ago and you can’t find a jersey, how bad is that for business? How terrible of a fan experience is that?” Peck said. The shorter lead time will also allow Fanatics to provide further jersey stock to brick-and-mortar locations, and Peck said the company hopes that also will lead to a wider variety of NHL-related merchandise available at stores.