12 Part Blog Description

Are you looking to learn as much as you can about the business of sports licensing? Then please read the 12 Part "An Insider's Guide to the World of Licensed Sports Products in 12 Parts: Practical Lessons from the Trenches" - all 12 parts of the blog can be found within this site. Click here to start with the Introduction.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How online ecommerce stores / retailers / etailers selling licensed sports products can find suppliers / licensees / manufacturers who will sell to them and drop ship for them

Greeting folks!

This note is written by Scott Sillcox in early 2020 in response to a lot of readers asking me two questions:

A. You wrote and posted many of your blog postings several years ago, is the info still relevant today? Short answer - absolutely! The basics of sports licensing change very little over the years, so I strongly suggest that if you are trying to learn about sports licensing, read away! I have also tried to update certain areas where there have been significant changes, so I feel comfortable in telling you that this information is still highly relevant.

B. You mention that you are a consultant and might be able to help me, do you still do consulting? Short answer - absolutely. I work in the licensing field virtually every day of my life, so if you have questions or would like my help, contact me! The two primary ways I work are hourly telephone consulting ($175US/hour) and face-to-face meetings where I come right to your office for a full day ($1500US/day + $500 travel).

Many thanks and happy reading -
Scott Sillcox



I am getting asked the following question almost every day, so I thought I should post both the question and my answer in this blog posting.


For someone who is starting out as an online ecommerce store / retailer / etailer of licensed sports products, how do I build a relationship with licensed sports products licensees who will sell to me? How do I find a list of the licensees? How do I find out which ones will do drop shipping for me? Can you tell me about distributors and if they will do drop shipping for me? Where do I go to read your blogs?

Dear current or future online ecommerce store / retailer / etailer:

1. Last question first: My blog can be found here. It is primarily directed at licensed sports products LICENSEES, ie companies which are currently licensees of one or more of the North American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Nascar, NCAA, MLS, etc.), or companies/individuals wishing to become licensees of a sports league(s). But there are a number of postings that would apply to retailers/potential retailers like you and I encourage you to read away.

2. You may see other online ecommerce stores / retailers / etailers who seem to have drop shipping programs with various licensed sports product licensees (manufacturers) that you would to have relationships with. I think it’s very important that you understand as much as you can about a company called Kynetic which operates the online stores for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Nascar and ESPN. Please read this blog posting.

The same company, Kynetic, also owns a company called Fanatics (aka Team Fan Shop). Fanatics operates online stores for dozens and dozens of organizations and teams (see their list of partners here). This company (Kynetic + Fanatics) buys product from all sorts of licensed sports products companies (licensees), warehouses the product, and then ships the product - they do not ask the licensees to drop ship. This company (Kynetic + Fanatics) is the largest seller of licensed sports merchandise in the world (not just the largest online seller, the largest seller in total). So when you are trying to figure out who drop ships and who doesn’t, keep in mind that Kynetic/Fanatics does NOT ask the various licensees to drop ship for them – they buy the product outright and warehouse it themselves.

I mention all this because it is entirely possible that a website you admire and think has a drop shipping program established with a licensee (manufacturer) might in fact be a Kynetic/Fanatic website, in which case they don’t actually have a drop shipping program in place with the manufacturer.

3. If you are trying to find licensed sports product licensees (manufacturers) who will drop ship for you, here is my advice:

A. Decide what you are going to specialize in, ie NFL apparel.

B. Go to my searchable online directory and use the Advanced Search feature to find all the companies listed which sell the products you are most interested in. In this case you would search for companies which have the following characteristics: 1. Softgoods - Apparel/Jerseys/Outerwear/Tshirts and are licensed by the NFL - you should find approximately 26 companies. This is a paid directory, and costs $59 for three months use. If you're not sure if this database would be worth the investment, check out this 3 minute video that gives you a sense of what to expect.

C. Figure out which of the 26 sells product that you like (each company's website is right there on my website).

D. Pick up the phone and call each company's sales department - the phone # is right in the database as well. Ask if they have a drop shipping program for ecommerce retailers. If they do, great. If they don't, ask if they can suggest to you a DISTRIBUTOR of theirs who you can work with. To be clear, a Distributor is a company that buys product from a variety of manufacturers (licensees), stores the product in their warehouse, and then sells the product to retailers. Yes it costs you more than if you were able to buy the product from the manufacturer (licensee) directly, but not outrageously more. And most distributors have drop ship programs for online retailers like you. My online directory www.licensedsports.net also has a list of 19 distributors of licensed sports products in the USA and 9 in Canada (use Advanced search and search for 4. Licensed Sports Products Distributors and Country = USA). You can visit each of their sites to see if they carry NFL apparel, then go ahead and contact them to find out if they will drop ship for you.

For more on Distributors, please read this blog posting, especially the last portion.

4. You asked how to build a relationship with these companies (licensees and/or distributors)? By picking up the phone and calling them, and by treating them with respect and paying your bills on time (at least initially you will have to pay for everything by Credit Card, so paying on time isn't really a way to differentiate yourself since all bills will be paid immediately). If/when you become a decent sized customer, they will take note and start to do extra things for you, and one day you will wake up and find that you have built a relationship with them.

I hope this helps!

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me.

PS from Feb 2013
I hear from a lot of retailers, both bricks and mortar and e-commerce retailers, who want to buy jerseys to sell from their store but seemingly can't buy jerseys. Here's the best way I can explain things:
There are actually two distinct issues:
1. Identifying which officially licensed companies make replica or authentic jerseys.
2. Figuring out if any of them will sell the jerseys directly to you.

To explain, let's use the NFL and their jerseys as the example:

A. Nike is the official on-field jersey licensee for the NFL (I am using layman's terms), but they may only sell to a certain, select type of bricks and mortar retailer and to a select type of e-commerce retailer. I am not privy to their criteria for who they will and will not sell to - you have to work the phone with Nike's sales team and find out if they will sell to you or not. If they will not sell to you directly, you need to ask them if one or more of the entities they sell to (I would refer to these entities as a distributor, but Nike might call them something quite different) would in turn be willing to sell to you. And that's the key for you - you need to figure out who you can buy from - I do not have this info but Nike does. If anyone can share with me the names of a "distributor" who will sell Nike jerseys to independent bricks and mortar retailers and independent e-comm retailers, please let me know - there is a flood of companies wanting to buy from you. Also, please keep in mind that Nike sells several different "grades" of jerseys: they sell a Game Jersey which looks more or less like the on-field jersey and retails for $100-ish; a Limited Jersey which is a funky jersey not worn onfield and retails for $135-ish; and an Elite Jersey which appears to be the actual onfield style jersey and which retails for $250-ish).

B. In addition to Nike, Mitchell & Ness (owned by adidas/Reebok), also has an NFL jersey license, albeit for Throwback Jerseys ($250-ish retail) and Replica Jerseys (these appear to be throwbacks but are a different quality than the Throwback jersey line - these Replica jerseys retail for $140-ish). So you might also want to speak to M&N and see if you can buy directly from them or if not direct, could you buy through a "distributor"?