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Fanatics is an online retailer of sports apparel, equipment, and merchandise, as well as the official partner to Nike and a number of national sports leagues throughout the US. With the Widen Collective® at the center of their content operations, Fanatics can quickly update and publish their product images in response to the fast-paced demands of the sports world.
The sports world moves fast. Wins, loses, trades, and other real-time events often dictate the images and content Fanatics needs to create, edit, distribute, publish, or even eliminate. With a popular e-commerce site and an impressive lineup of partners and customers, the stakes are high — and speed is of the absolute essence.
“We had millions of images previously stored on shared network folders…it was terrible to find one specific image,” said Christine Morrison, Director of Product Content Marketing at Fanatics. Whether looking for a product image or assets to support a big game, it was difficult to locate the files they needed. Often, it was just faster to shoot a new image than to find an existing one.
Without intuitive file-naming conventions and a search-friendly solution to house their digital assets, Fanatics was at a crossroads. They could either stay on the same path and jeopardize their revenue potential and winning reputation — or infuse some major speed into their operations.
Increase the ability to react to in-the-moment needs
Capitalize on more revenue-driving opportunities
Reduce content waste and production costs
Minimize manual work and time spent
After careful consideration, Fanatics determined that a digital asset management (DAM) solution was the answer to their speed and agility challenges. And in 2015, they implemented the Widen Collective, as the search-friendly DAM system they so badly needed.
“Metadata is the key at Fanatics because we’re searching for images so quickly,” said Christine. Metadata is information that describes a particular asset and makes it searchable within the DAM system. So rather than digging through folder after folder on their network drive, Fanatics (or any of their partners) can do a quick search in the DAM system to find or discover the assets they need. “That’s the advantage we’ve had,” said Christine.
A centralized distribution hub
The product content management team at Fanatics consists of 200 marketers and seven global studios that produce content for more than a million products each year and distribute assets to more than 700 internal teams, partners, and customers. The Collective centralizes and organizes all of Fanatics’ raw digital assets and product imagery, so their entire network of collaborators can now access exactly what they need, when they need it.
Audit and archive enablement
Team changes, licensing agreements, contracts, image copyrights, and many other factors require Fanatics to expire assets on a regular basis. “We have to eliminate assets quickly,” said Christine. This would normally be a lot of manual, error-prone work. But thanks to the Collective, Fanatics can automatically expire or pull down digital assets from the system and their e-commerce site based on critical dates or events captured in their metadata.
Furthermore, the Collective gives Fanatics access to data and insights that help them understand how their content is being used, and keep the system clean and organized. “We use the [Collective] dashboard and its reports, pretty much out of the box…What comes out of the box with Widen worked for us to be able to keep an eye on who’s uploading the most, who’s archiving the most, and what assets need to be either removed or archived if they’ve been expired,” said Christine.
“The ROI for Widen was [realized in] just under two years — and we’ve already recognized the savings.”
Director of Product Content Marketing at Fanatics
Speed and agility
Being able to locate and easily access their digital assets has been a game changer for the team at Fanatics. “For us, the accessibility [of our digital assets] is key to our speed-to-market, which of course increases sales,” shared Christine. With the Collective, Fanatics no longer has to waste time looking for assets or reshooting assets that already exist. Instead, they can find exactly what they’re looking for without breaking a sweat.
Centralized assets and cloud-based storage is helpful, but according to Christine the most impactful part of moving to the Collective is that someone can type a query into the DAM system and instantly be connected with the right asset for the job. “It doesn’t matter what studio shot an image; it doesn’t matter which distribution network needs the image, they can find it quickly and easily,” said Christine.
“At Fanatics, the ability to quickly locate an asset, manipulate it, and reuse it is key,” shared Christine. This not only helps Fanatics move faster, but it also saves them money. Rather than paying photographers to shoot or reshoot images, Fanatics can search the DAM system for an existing asset and either use it or edit it for their immediate needs.
In one example, Christine talked about how she and her team utilize blank team jerseys and team fonts that are stored in the DAM system to avoid extra production costs. In as little as eight minutes, they can download an image of a blank jersey, add a new player’s name and number in a design program, and have it up on their site or available in the Collective for their teams and partners to access. Christine estimates that the DAM system does the job of three full-time staff members, saving Fanatics a significant amount of money in employee salaries and benefits.
Capitalize on micro moments
“You can make a lot of money as a business on things that have a short window to capitalize, things that people just get excited about very quickly,” shared Christine. Take the “Rally Possum” for example. When Louisiana State University (LSU) made a huge comeback in a championship playoff game — immediately after a possum ran onto the field and paused the game — Fanatics was ready.
“We were able to get this [Rally Possum] T-shirt up on the site that night and get them to the team to wear as warmups for their next game and capitalize on that moment that really people only cared about for four or five days,” said Christine.
Fanatics uses Widen's API to integrate the Collective with seven other platforms in their marketing technology (martech) stack. These integrations allow Fanatics to upload new assets in the DAM system from external sources and even share metadata and assets between systems. What would otherwise be entirely manual is now easier than ever — especially with the help of the Widen team.
“Widen is incredibly informed and educated about how to use APIs, so reaching out to them is a great place to start even if you don’t have your own tech team to help you set up an API,” said Christine.