Global sports merchandising company Fanatics has announced an expansion of its partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment to assume operations of the organisation’s global event merchandise business.
The deal begins on May 1 ahead of WWE’s Backlash event and will see Fanatics Commerce, the company’s e-commerce, licensed merchandise and physical retail operations division, manage the on-site event retail experience for WWE’s annual calendar of 300-plus events.
The partnership covers premium events such as WrestleMania, Royal Rumble and SummerSlam. Fanatics will work closely with the teams at WWE that previously operated the event retail business in-house to optimise the event shopping experience for its growing global fan base.
This will include curating an enhanced in-venue product offering with more localised merchandise collections, creating innovative event retail stores and experiences, and using Fanatics-operated team stores during various live events.
The expansion follows strong commercial results for WWE across its retail channels in 2022, including record-breaking demand for official merchandise. Fanatics first became WWE’s global e-commerce partner in 2022.
Alex Varga, senior vice-president and head of corporate development at WWE, said: “Fanatics has been an amazing partner and will immediately bolster WWE’s event retail business. Expanding our partnership will allow WWE to further expand our offering to fans and grow merchandise revenue in 2023 and beyond.”
Molly Adams, chief strategic retail officer at Fanatics Commerce, added: “The WWE has built one of the most incredible global events portfolios across sports and entertainment, and we’re honoured that they’ve tapped Fanatics to build on our overarching partnership together.
“Through our expansive global footprint and event retail operations expertise, Fanatics is uniquely positioned to provide an unrivalled event retail experience for WWE’s passionate fans at hundreds of events worldwide.”
The new deal has been signed after sports and entertainment company Endeavor earlier this month entered into a definitive agreement with WWE to form a new publicly listed company consisting of the WWE and Ultimate Fighting Championship brands.
As part of the deal, Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling interest in the new company, while existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% interest. Endeavor owns UFC and the deal with WWE significantly bolsters its presence in the combat sports sector.
The transaction valued UFC at an enterprise value of $12.1bn (£9.7bn/€11bn) and WWE at an enterprise value of $9.3bn.
The recent WrestleMania event at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles was the most successful and highest-grossing event in the history of WWE.
WrestleMania 39 generated a gate of more than $21.6m, which broke the previous record by 27%. More than 161,892 people attended SoFi Stadium across the two nights.