Fanatics has inked a 10-year deal to become the primary apparel and headwear partner of the University of Oklahoma, the fifth top-tier athletic department that it has signed to this broader class of partnerships.
Already a partner on the school’s online and in-stadium store, Fanatics will now become the official gatekeeper for all products bearing the Sooners logos or branding. That means the world’s largest seller of licensed sports apparel will produce hundreds of Oklahoma products and manage the relationship with dozens of other licensees.
The school’s long-standing partnership with Nike and its Jordan Brand will remain unchanged.
Though financial terms of the deal weren’t released, these deals contain a signing bonus plus a guaranteed share of royalties over the course of the partnership. (Fanatics’ 10-year deal with Oregon, as an example, was $1.5 million upfront and another $21.5 million in guarantees.)
Oklahoma has one of the most successful athletic departments in the country. The Sooners have won 38 team national titles, including 10 in the past five years. Its football team has made four College Football Playoff appearances and claims seven national titles of its own.
No matter how strong the fanbase, however, merchandise sales tend to ebb and flow depending on the success of the football and basketball teams. The guarantee in these deals provides a stable revenue stream, which might be especially relevant coming out of the pandemic, as athletic departments across the country reassess even the smallest facets of their finances.
The Sooners were able to balance their budget for 2019-20, a year that included a normal football season and a canceled March Madness tournament. In July, the athletic department imposed salary reductions and other cuts that will trim $13.7 million in operating expenses in its 2020-21 fiscal year. In pre-COVID times, the athletic department’s overall budget was in the $155 million range.
Fanatics’ deeper push into college sports started after the company purchased Fermata Partners in 2017. It now has five 10-year deals of this nature—with Oregon, Notre Dame, Miami, Florida and now Oklahoma.
In addition to a more stable revenue stream, these deals typically create a greater assortment of products and the ability to speed up the creation of new products to react to big moments on the field. They also allow the school to tap into data Fanatics has amassed over years of being the dominant force in licensed sports apparel.
This is Fanatics’ first major college deal since its September acquisition of assets from Vetta Brands, which included headwear licensee Top of the World. Based in Norman, just a few miles from the Oklahoma campus, Top of the World has been a Sooners partner for more than 30 years and will see increased rights under this deal.