There’s nothing like the first taste of a championship. After winning their maiden Stanley Cup title, the St. Louis Blues are generating record sales for merchandising giant Fanatics. With the Toronto Raptors poised to possibly win Canada’s first NBA Championship tonight, Fanatics could be in for two record-setting days in a row.
It took only 12 hours for Blues fans celebrating the first Cup in the franchise’s 52-year history to shatter Fanatics’ previous sales record for Stanley Cup championship merchandise, set by the Washington Capitals in 2018. Within 14 hours, sales of licensed Blues t-shirts and jerseys were pacing 10% ahead of last year, according to Jack Boyle, co-president of direct-to-consumer retail for Fanatics.
“I think it’s a great way for fans to be part of the team and part of the championship,” says Boyle. “They can’t hoist the Cup in the air…but they can buy items.”
These moments of victory are glorious — but fleeting. Sports fans are willing to shell out big bucks within seconds or minutes of winning a championship. But as the urge passes quickly, it’s vital for leagues, teams and online retailers such as Fanatics to have the right product ready to go.
Within minutes of the Blues beating the Boston Bruins 4-1 in the Cup-clinching Game 7, fans went directly to their smartphones to order merchandise. Around 80% of Fanatics’ Blues sales volume, according to Boyle, came via mobile devices.
The most popular items? Try the championship caps and t-shirts – retail price $34.99 – that we’re worn by Blues players and coaches celebrating on the ice, says Boyle.
If fans shop the Blues’ “Winning Never Felt So Good” Cup Collection” at Fanatics, they can also purchase miniature Cups with the Blues logo ($69.99) and framed pictures of players hoisting the most iconic trophy in sports ($189.99).
Fanatics was not the only corporate winner Wednesday night. NBC Sports says Blues-Bruins Game 7 was the most-watched NHL game in 25 years. The game drew a total audience delivery of 8.914 million viewers, according to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. St. Louis popped a 41.8 local TV rating — making it the highest-rated Blues game ever in that market.
It was also the most-streamed NHL game ever, delivering an average minute audience of 191,5000. NBC’s seven-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick rose to the occasion.
“It is the last chapter in an incomparable storybook finish for the St. Louis Blues, and an incredibly disappointing finish for the Boston Bruins,” Emrick said as the Blues celebrated on the Bruins’ home ice.
Meanwhile, Boyle and Fanatics are ready to roll tonight if the Raptors win the NBA championship.
Fanatics both manufactures and sells licensed sports gear for the major U.S. sports leagues. Similar to the Blues, Fanatics’ factories will instantly churn out Raptors championship gear if Kawhi Leonard and teammates can get by Steph Curry and the powerful Golden State Warriors.
The Blues and Raptors have one thing in common: Neither club had ever won a championship.
The “high” of finally winning after years of playoff heartbreak and near-misses is intoxicating to their fans, says Dr. Norman Wyloge, a New York-based psychoanalyst who treats athletes and celebrities.
At the moment of victory, money’s no object. But it’s a temporary state that wears off quickly. If consumers aren’t careful, they can end up with a financial hangover, warns Wyloge.
It used to be fan demand for team/player gear would come and go before retailers could capitalize. Exhibit A was the “Lin-sanity” craze in 2012, according to the New York Times.
When New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin became an instant star, fans searched for his t-shirt or jersey to no avail. By the time retailers stocked up, Lin-sanity was already waning.
Those days are over. Fanatics has changed the game by making fan merchandise available when and how customers want it.
Social media companies such as Instagram are getting in on the action too.
The NBA, Instagram and New Era caps are teaming up to offer a “Shoppable Moment” the instant the NBA Finals are decided in either Game 6 or 7. The minute the buzzer sounds anointing the 2019 champion, Instagram will offer a $50 hat/T-shirt bundle to the 37.7 million followers of its NBA account.
The “tap to shop” promotion will be exclusive to Instagram for 24 hours after the game and will give Raptors or Warriors fans the opportunity to complete the purchase without ever leaving the app.
UPDATE: After the Raptors beat the Warriors for their first title, Fanatics boss Michael Rubin said he expected the company’s second-best day of NBA sales.
Unlike the situation with the Blues, Fanatics doesn’t sell the on-court championship gear worn by the new NBA champs. The Raptors’ NBA on-court championship t-shirts and caps are sold respectively by Nike and New Era. As of 8:30 a.m., New Era was already sold out of several Raptors championship caps.
“Fanatics is having a second straight monster day of champ gear sales,” tweeted Rubin. “This will be the second-best NBA Championship ever for merchandise (only behind Cavs in 2016).”