The former Klutch Sports agent gives Boardroom the inside story on taking his talents to Fanatics Collectibles as Head of Athlete Relations.
Recently, Fanatics Collectibles announced its Head of Athlete Relations, Omar Wilkes. Prior to joining Fanatics, Wilkes was the Head of Basketball at KLUTCH Sports Group, the powerhouse sports agency that has signed over $2 billion in contracts and has represented NBA and WNBA All-Stars, most notably LeBron James.
In his new role, Wilkes will be tasked with building and strengthening current and new relationships with athletes, celebrities, sports leagues, teams, agents, and influencers. This is all to further Fanatics’ initiative of creating exclusive products and experiences for collectors and fans in the space.
Boardroom caught up with Wilkes to discuss his background, why the move to Fanatics, and much more.
BRETT PICKERT: We’ve seen top agents leave to run NBA front offices. Why the move to Fanatics?
OMAR WILKES: I made the move to Fanatics because I believe in the vision of the company. Fanatics is already an established and transformative company but as CEO & Founder Michael Rubin has stated “it’s only the first quarter”. The ambition for continued growth is what intrigued me most. Fanatics’ core business is catering to a very integral part of the sports ecosystem — serving the fan. Having spent my career on the athlete representation side, I really feel as though the relationships I’ve cultivated and the skills that I have developed will translate into helping the company grow by finding unique and cool ways to connect the athlete with the fan.
BP: What are you looking to achieve in your position at Fanatics?
OW: In my role, I’m looking to build and strengthen relationships with athletes, entertainers, influencers, sports leagues, and teams with the goal of creating better products and more unique experiences for the fans and collectors. In essence, I’m serving as an ambassador between Fanatics Collectibles and the athlete and entertainment communities.
BP: What are some opportunities you see in the collectibles space?
OW: I think there’s a huge opportunity to educate fans on how historically relevant and cool trading cards can be. Trading cards have always been a cornerstone of sports and fan merchandise, but the space has been under-marketed with minimal innovation over the last 70 years. At Fanatics Collectibles, I think we have a responsibility to make the hobby more mainstream, diverse, and more ingrained in the fabric of being a fan. Trading cards are unique because they encapsulate historical moments in culture and allow fans to follow and invest in their favorite athletes throughout their careers.
BP: How can Fanatics innovate more from an athlete relations perspective?
OW: I think we have the opportunity to build deeper relationships with our athletes and become a brand that they can be extremely excited and honored to be associated with. Our goal is to have a more active role in their careers and amplify their profile on and off their respective fields of play and part of that is identifying innovative and fun ways to activate with them and engage more deeply with our fans.
BP: What are your thoughts on digital collectibles/NFTs?
OW: I think digital collectibles, when tied to physical products, are extremely compelling from an ownership and asset perspective. I’m not heavily involved with NFTs personally, but I think there’s absolutely a place for them in the collectibles space and it will be interesting to see how it evolves and brands integrate them into their core offerings.
BP: What are your thoughts on fractional investment platforms?
OW: I think fractional investment platforms can be very cool. Whenever there is a team element involved it inherently makes the process more fun because you get to engage and root for success with others. It also gives more access to consumers and fans for investment opportunities.
BP: Are you a collector? If so, what’s your origin story?
OW: I collected various sports trading cards as a kid. It was something I did with my brother; we used to memorize the stats of athletes and quiz each other. It was honestly how I learned some of the nuances of sports and remains one of my fondest memories. I’m excited to ramp back up and hopefully get to introduce my children to the hobby so we can collect together.
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