New Fanatics Events CEO Lance Fensterman Shares Vision for Creating Comic Con Experiences for Sports Fandoms
Fanatics, a global digital sports platform valued at $31 billion, and IMG, an events and talent management company that’s part of public company Endeavor Group Holdings Inc., have launched Fanatics Events to bring communities together at live events to celebrate all aspects of fandom, including sports, collectibles, memorabilia, fashion, music and entertainment.
Fanatics Events, which is majority owned by Fanatics with IMG as a minority partner, will create fan festivals that feature athletes and brands from across the industry, limited edition apparel drops, musical performances and celebrity appearances. The vision is to have ticketed events that resemble Comic Con or the NFL Experience held annually at the Super Bowl. The new venture aims to start holding events next year.
Lance Fensterman, who was tapped to serve as CEO of Fanatics Events, brings nearly two decades of experience building and executing some of the world’s preeminent live B2C and B2B events. Most recently, Fensterman served as president of ReedPop, a global pop culture live event and multimedia platform that’s owned by RX. During his tenure at ReedPop, Fensterman oversaw more than 40 events — including prominent brands such as New York Comic Con, MCM Comic Con, PAX and Star Wars Celebration — across 10 countries. He will report to Fanatics Chief Strategy Officer Tucker Kain.
In an exclusive interview, TSNN spoke with Fensterman about how the deal came about, what attracted him to the opportunity, his vision for building an events business from scratch with the assets and resources of two major players in the sports and entertainment industries, and his take on how the sports memorabilia events market mirrors the comic events industry of 15-plus years ago before Comic Cons rose to global prominence.
Watch the interview here:
According to its web site, Fanatics partners with a number of major professional sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, MLS, PGA and hundreds of collegiate and professional teams. The company has more than 8,000 employees.
Fanatics was last valued at $31 billion after a $700 million financing round back in December. Since then, the company has made a string of bold moves to build out its business beyond ecommerce. In January, Fanatics acquired Topps, a licensed trading card brand that has serviced collectors, fans and retailers for more than 70 years.
In March, Fanatics signed a 10-year deal with the NHL to become its on-ice uniform outfitter. In late June, Fanatics bumped up its bid from $150 million to $225 million to acquire PointsBet’s U.S. assets, which will give the company access to 15 U.S. states that the online sporting betting company operates in.
The launch of the new events business marks the latest move as the company heads towards what many predict is a long-awaited initial public offering.
“The launch of our new Fanatics Events business provides an opportunity to celebrate all aspects of fandom - including sports, collectibles, memorabilia, fashion, music, and entertainment — under one physical roof in a way that has never been done before,” Fensterman said.
He added, “Fanatics is uniquely positioned to innovate the live event landscape, and these new touchpoints will reinforce our commitment to enhancing the overall experience for fans and collectors globally.”
Fanatics Events will first focus on the collectibles space, finding entry points to put a fresh spin on the biggest card shows and collectibles gatherings. These events will be critical to Fanatics’ mission of growing the trading card and collectible hobby, welcoming new collectors, bringing current collectors together, and celebrating the fandoms of sports and entertainment in a format that is inviting and exciting for all fans.
The vision is then to expand beyond collectibles to celebrations of the shared cultures of sports and entertainment with top tier athletes and celebrity appearances, plus the biggest acts in music and the most influential brands in popular culture.
"We are excited to partner with Fanatics to produce best-in-class experiences for sports fans everywhere,” said Paul Caine, president of On Location and IMG Events. “Fanatics Events will be super-charged by the full power of Endeavor’s flywheel, global network, and events expertise to deliver once-in-a-lifetime moments that fans will remember forever.”
Fanatics expects the new company to begin announcing additional staffing hires, launch plans and deals in Q3 and Q4 2023 with eyes towards its first fan-facing events being live in 2024.