Sports

Angels’ Ohtani lands exclusive memorabilia deal

Los Angeles Angels luminary Shohei Ohtani is so electric, he rakes on his days off, too.

Global merchandise and memorabilia brand Fanatics announced on Tuesday a multiyear partnership as the exclusive distributor of Ohtani autographs, collectables and memorabilia. Ohtani will sign bats, jerseys, photos and select game-used items in both English and Japanese. The partnership does not affect sports cards.

“This is something we’ve been working towards for a while,” Fanatics executive vice president Victor Shaffer said. “[This] will be the first time fans are going to be offered a full array of [Ohtani’s] memorabilia products. The strength of his celebrity and his collectability extends well beyond the United States.”

Ohtani accounted for 28 percent of all 2021 All-Star Game merchandise sales. Fanatics started selling Ohtani memorabilia last week; not only did the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year quickly become baseball’s No. 1 athlete on the site, but his sales outrank the number two MLB player ten times over.

Since July 1, in memorabilia and merchandise, Ohtani is the top-selling athlete on Fanatics across all sports, which includes hundreds of professional and collegiate teams.

Ohtani called it “an honor to join Fanatics as their latest exclusive athlete,” an addition to a menagerie that includes Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Tom Brady, Trevor Lawrence, Sabrina Ionescu, Joe Burrow and Zion Williamson, among others.

“The rest of the industry is focused on a wholesale business model,” Shaffer says. “We have this advantage of mining data and [focusing] on players that are the most meaningful to the fans. The rest of the industry largely works on guesswork — some of it really good — but all of our decisions are data-driven.”

Fanatics evaluates demand not only for prospective additions, but once they’re onboard, tracks their collectability and monitors how specific items within each player’s silo sell.

“Our memorabilia sales are up 50 percent in the last twelve months,” Shaffer says. “We currently do not see any slow-down in the market.”

With any hot market with ascendant stars, especially sports cards and memorabilia, allegations of fraud are rampant. But Fanatics confirmed there’s an authenticator at every signing.

“These products leave the room, immediately go back to the warehouse, then the next destination is the consumer,” says Shaffer. “There’s very [few] hands touching it, [which] is what makes it so appealing to athletes as well.”

“Authenticity is of the utmost importance,” Shaffer says.

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