The prolific exec discusses joining Fanatics Collectibles as Chief Commercial Officer and how his time at Jordan Brand helped shape his journey into the world of collectibles.
Fanatics is preparing to dominate the collectibles space and has built a team filled with all-stars to help them do it, including former Red Bull North America Executive VP Ken Turner and former KLUTCH Sports agent Omar Wilkes. The latest prime mover to join the Fanatics Collectibles team is Avery Jessup, who recently joined the company as Chief Commercial Officer. He arrives from Jordan Brand, where he was the Head of Marketplace: Direct to Consumer & Partners.
As he embarks on his next chapter, Boardroom caught up with the prolific executive to discuss what he brings to the company, as well as how his time under the Nike, Inc. umbrella at Jordan Brand has prepared him for this moment.
Stick around to hear what Avery Jessup thinks is next for the hobby and what made Fanatics Collectibles an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BRETT PICKERT: Can you give a little background on yourself, specifically what you did at Jordan Brand as the Head of Marketplace?
AVERY JESSUP: I spent almost a decade working at Nike, and half of that time with Jordan Brand. As the Head of Marketplace for the Jordan Brand, I led a cross-functional team that managed the marketplace strategy and revenue of DTC and wholesale partners in North America.
BP: What will your role entail as Chief Commercial Officer at Fanatics Collectibles?
AJ: My focus at Fanatics Collectibles, in conjunction with our leadership team, is to create strategies for how the card trading ecosystem will operate for years, if not decades, to come. My team and I will be responsible for the development and execution of the organization’s commercial strategy and identifying growth markets and opportunities. Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate a dynamic marketplace and capitalize on the opportunity to grow the category and inspire the next generation of collectors.
BP: Why the move from Jordan Brand to Fanatics Collectibles?
AJ: There is a tremendous opportunity to grow the collectibles category and inspire the next generation of fans by making the hobby more accessible through commercialization of our products. I’m also passionate about growing the hobby by reaching more diverse fans and collectors, and a huge part of that will be driven by how we execute our commercial strategy.
BP: How has your position at Jordan Brand prepared you for this role?
AJ: Both Jordan Brand and Fanatics Collectibles – specifically the Topps brand – have such rich heritage and history in their respective industries and truly tap into the heart of the consumer, with a strong focus on fans and community. There are many adjacencies with how each company thinks about driving a scarcity model, drop culture, and reimagining the experience we want our consumers to have at retail.
BP: Has the growing trend of sneakers becoming collectibles made your decision to move easier?
AJ: It’s certainly helped me relate to the deep love and passion our partners and consumers have for the collectibles industry. Most consumers remember their first pair of J’s no matter how long ago it was! Similarly, if you talk to any card collector, they can tell you their favorite card, when and where they got it, and what the emotional attachment to it is.
BP: Sneakers, much like trading cards, had their own niche audience and began to crossover to mainstream audiences. Where do you see collectibles right now? And where do you see it in the next 3-5 years?
AJ: The trading card industry has grown significantly in the last few years by transforming into an online marketplace, driven by passionate collectors and fans, along with more mainstream audiences and influencers getting involved in the hobby. I believe that by evolving the way we bring products to market, specifically making them more accessible to both current collectors and sports fans that don’t currently collect cards, the industry has the potential to grow exponentially in the next 3-5 years. At Fanatics we always think about how every collector is a fan, but not every fan is a collector. That in itself presents a really exciting opportunity for us.
BP: What are the similarities and contrasts you see between sneakers and collectibles?
AJ: Believe it or not, there are many more similarities than contrasts between the two businesses. They both sit at the intersection of sport, entertainment, and culture, there is a chase and scarcity model component that brings energy to product launches, and they are both huge industries with a lot of runway. I’m most excited about how we can continue to support the hobby ecosystem, grow the industry by bringing more collectors in, and continue to bring innovations into the space that excite collectors.
BP: Jordan Brand has experienced insane growth thanks to collaborations with those who aren’t professional athletes such as Travis Scott, Billie Eilish, and Teyana Taylor. Do you see similar crossover opportunities with Fanatics Collectibles to help build that community?
AJ: Absolutely. I think there’s a big opportunity to reach new audiences through cultural icons and non-sports IP. Topps has historically always had a mix of non-sports IP (like Star Wars) and our other brand, zerocool, at Fanatics Collectibles, is solely focused on entertainment franchises like Dune, Stranger Things, etc. Our priority at Fanatics Collectibles is to support and grow the hobby, and you’ll see us invest and explore opportunities to connect with more fan bases across the globe.
BP: What are the biggest opportunities for Fanatics Collectibles? Short-term and Long-term.
AJ: Our CEO, Mike Mahan, has talked about significantly growing the category, and that’s something we all wake up to every day and obsess over how we will make it happen. In the short term, we are hyper-focused across all of our functions to continually improve the collector experience, provide education for new collectors to more easily come into the hobby, and ultimately create differentiated experiences to bring fans and collectors closer than ever before to their favorite moments in sports and culture. Two key things that bring this to life are marketing and product innovation, which we’ve invested heavily in. Fans will see more campaigns where we are working closely with our partners (leagues, players), like our Topps Series 1 launch with Julio Rodriguez in February of this year.
On the product front, we will continue to work on exciting innovations like the MLB Debut Patch, where we created the first-ever memorabilia made in partnership with a professional sports league specifically for inclusion on trading cards. These are the types of product innovations that are truly meaningful for fans and bring them closer to significant moments in a player’s career.
BP: Are you a collector yourself? What are some of your favorite collectibles or your favorite athletes to collect?
AJ: I am just getting back into collecting again and it’s amazing! I was an avid collector of basketball cards growing up. I would carry my card binder everywhere I went and memorized every card bio and statistic. I was obsessed! This is a full circle moment to work on a business that was a passion of mine growing up.
My favorite card is definitely the ’86 Jordan rookie card — go figure. I don’t have it in my collection… yet!
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