“It’s an honor to join Fanatics as their latest exclusive athlete,” Ohtani said in a release. “Their global presence and reach throughout both the United States and Japan will help provide fans everywhere access to incredible products.” Ohtani, who both pitches and hits as a position player, made his MLB debut in 2018, winning the American League’s rookie of the year award.
The deal is in line with Fanatics’ billion-dollar aspirations for its memorabilia arm. Ohtani joins 140 athletes across various sports, including Tom Brady, Mookie Betts, Trevor Lawrence, Zion Williamson and Sabrina Ionescu. Items include but are not limited to signed jerseys, helmets, coins, photos and balls. Fanatics Authentic expects to do more than $200 million in sales this year.
For Fanatics’ non-exclusive clients, the company negotiates one-off contracts. Generally, terms are agreed upon before a game begins, but in some cases they are negotiated during the game or right after one ends. Athletes normally don’t sign any products until a week or two after the game. The delay allows the company to monitor what item is trending on the market and change inventory before an athlete signs.
Fanatics is owned by billionaire Michael Rubin, who created the current version of the company through a series of transactions in 2011. Since then the company has purchased Dreams Inc., the parent of collectibles company Mounted Memories, for $183 million. Fanatics also raised $320 million earlier this year, a round that values the company at $12.8 billion. In August 2020, Fanatics was valued at $6.2 billion.
“Shohei Ohtani is a once-in-a-generation baseball talent, and it’s incredibly exciting to welcome him to the Fanatics team,” executive vice president Victor Shaffer said in a release. “There is no doubting his growing popularity both in the United States and in his native Japan, and we look forward to providing fans everywhere with the widest assortment of Ohtani officially licensed merchandise and collectibles ever offered.”