We all wondered where Lance Fensterman was off to when he left ReedPop….and it turns out he running a brand new event arm from collectible powerhouse Fanatics, called, fittingly, Fanatics Events. Fensterman is joining the company as CEO, reporting to Fanatics Chief Strategy Officer Tucker Kain.

UPDATE: in news that will surprise no one, former ReedPop VP – New Initiatives Mike Armstrong is joining Fanatic Events as Sr. VP., as he announced on Facebook. Armstrong left ReedPop in May. 

According to the PR, the new company will focus on “the collectibles space, finding entry points to put a fresh spin on the biggest card shows and collectible 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 & entertainment in a format that is inviting and exciting for all fans.”

The branding will extend beyond sports to music, top tier athlete and celebrity appearances, and big brands. Fanatics Events is majority owned by Fanatics, but has partnered with the agency IMG, a division of the massive agency Endeavor, which owns things like the UFC and the WWE.

“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,” said Fensterman in a statement. “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.”

Paul Caine, President of On Location and IMG Events added, “We are excited to partner with Fanatics to produce best-in-class experiences for sports fans everywhere. 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.”

The new company comes at an interesting time for the fan event space: ReedPOP, parent company RELX, FanExpo (owned by Informa) and other established companies struggled during the pandemic shutdown and have been finding their footing since. 

On the other hand, Fanatics, like other collectible companies, grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic, with a mix of trading cards, merch, fashion and even sports betting. A detailed story at Yahoo Sports has more:

The new events will provide yet another avenue for Fanatics to further promote the business of its athlete, team, league and union partners, many of which are also Fanatics investors (or in the case of athletes, investors in Fanatics ventures such as Mitchell & Ness). Fanatics has mushroomed from a $6 billion business to a $31 billion business in just the last few years, largely on the back of its database of sports fans and its network of partners. With each new vertical the company launches, it can instantly market that product to more than 90 million fans globally, and utilize relationships across nearly every major sport.

With in person the new hotness, the collectibles market is shrinking but live events are growing again, so the timing is certainly of note.

Fanatics Events will focus on sports to begin with, with new events expected to begin in 2024. But with Fensterman’s deep background in pop culture – and IMG’s deep bench of clients, ranging from Corona Beer to Dolly Parton –  all kinds of partnerships and events could result.  As Yahoo put it:

Starting next year, Fanatics Events will create fan festivals that feature athletes and brands from across the industry, including those in the Fanatics orbit. The vision is have ticketed events that resemble Comic Con or the NFL Experience held annually at the Super Bowl. 

Events that the new entity might put on include:


    • Fan & Collector Education – Access to industry experts providing guidance to the most seasoned collectors, while also providing the basics that aspiring collectors need to foster the next generation of hobbyists.
    • B2B Content – Helping hobby shops and professional collectors grow their business.
    • Collectibles – Unparalleled access to event exclusive cards and memorabilia, plus limited-edition product launches from a wide array of Fanatics partners
    • Trading Floor – Collectors will have the opportunity to buy, sell trade cards and collectibles in a familiar but improved environment.
    • Athletes – Opportunities to engage with the best talent from past, present, and future that will extend well beyond the typical autograph opportunity and into shared experiences that will create memories to last a lifetime.
    • Activations – Presence and offerings from major brands in collecting, footwear, apparel, and more. Fanatics will also work closely with the major sports leagues to bring premium content to the events.
    • Live Stage Events – Watch your favorite athletes discuss their career & passions, see new product reveals, live card breaks, and more.
    • Merchandise & Apparel – Unique, limited-edition product drops and collabs, plus a full-scale merchandise installations
    • Exhibitions – World-class trading card & memorabilia collections on display, hall of fame caliber memorabilia, and more.
    • Evening Entertainment – Live performances from the hottest acts in music and conversations with thought leaders from the world of sports
    • Betting & Gaming – Sports betting installations, free to play games, and customer sign-up touchpoints, in applicable jurisdictions
    • Pop Culture – Guests and content from the world of entertainment that cross over into collectibles and sports

Even with the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes, there isn’t much danger of SDCC turning into a sports event…the overlap between pop culture fans and sports enthusiasts has traditionally been small.

But…there’s a new $31 million player in town, and we’ll be watching to see where it goes from here.