But there are many groups of athletes who do not have the support they need when it comes to licensing programs. This can be critical in helping them supplement their off-field revenue, as well as allowing fans to celebrate their heroes with unique products. That is where REP Worldwide comes in.
Based in Washington, D.C., the full-service brand management and representation business is a subsidiary of NFL Players Inc., the marketing and licensing arm of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). After working to build the licensing business of NFL players for more than 25 years, the NFLPA established REP Worldwide to utilize its group player licensing expertise on behalf of other athletes. “We wanted to help other groups of players who did not have the resources available to build their own licensing program,” REP Worldwide President Steve Scebelo says.
Scebelo, who also is the vice president of licensing and business development for NFL Players Inc., explains that athletes of U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, the WNBA, U.S. Rugby and Major League Soccer had few or no licensed products featuring their name, image or likeness before REP was formed in 2017. When the idea for the business was pitched, it won immediate approval, with the USWNTPA and WNBPA joining NFLPA as founding partners and equity holders in REP Worldwide.
“The player leadership of the NFLPA enthusiastically supported the idea of launching a new business that had at its foundation the core concept of athletes supporting athletes,” he said.
REP, which is formed from the acronym for “Representing Every Player,” has since established licensing agreements for all of its partner Players Associations, with a varied portfolio of more than 35 licensees for products across a full range of categories. Player products have been available to celebrate major events including the Women’s World Cup, WNBA Championship, Rugby World Cup and MLS playoffs, with more on the way for 2020.
“We’re able to have licensees that can develop on-demand inventory for those retailers looking for a quick turnaround,” Scebelo says.
Today, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has signed more than 30 licensees since its program launched from scratch in early 2018. “We are signing more every day,” Scebelo reports, adding that some of the new products include vinyl collectible figures and holiday ornaments. “Winning the World Cup has allowed the Women’s National Team Players Association program to reach new heights.”
This has helped raise the profile of women’s sports and given fans the opportunity to show support. When the U.S. Women’s National Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, there were zero player licensed products available in the market. “They had just proven themselves to be the best in the world and there was no way for their fans to celebrate,” Scebelo recalls. But times have changed and a there has been a spike in sales. “It’s proving there’s demand,” he says. “We have product available now to meet that demand, and it’s something we can keep building upon.”