Author: Kayla Wilkinson

Fanatics Signs 20-Year Tennis Card Deal With Winners Alliance

As collectible prices boomed in recent years, multiple tennis stars’ trading cards sold for over $10,000 each. Yet, the biggest manufacturers have not made a robust product for the sport. That could change as soon as this year.

Fanatics Collectibles and Winners Alliance—the for-profit affiliate of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA)—announced a new partnership Thursday to create an annual series of cards for the next two decades. Men’s and women’s players will be represented in the sets, which will be made through the Fanatics-owned Topps brand.

“With Fanatics Collectibles’ focus on reaching new audiences and enhancing the collector experience, we’re thrilled to be bringing the trading card hobby to tennis fans around the world for the first time,” Kelvin Smith, Fanatics Collectibles VP of global licensing and partner development, said in a statement.

While the PTPA has not announced how many players have already signed up for its group licensing program, the organization’s goal is to represent the top 250 men’s and women’s competitors. Its not clear how many players would be represented in each year’s set of cards, though it would likely include a mix of new entrants as well as established champions. Individuals could also sign their own autograph or memorabilia deals with Fanatics. Star players from Novak Djokovic to Serena Williams have popped up in previous trading card sets made by smaller companies such as NetPro and Ace Authentic.

In 2020, Djokovic announced the formation of the PTPA, a players association separate from the ATP or WTA. Last year, the organization raised $26 million to launch Winners Alliance, an entity to help players monetize their fame. The group hired OneTeam Partners CEO Ahmad Nassar to be the PTPA executive director and Winners Alliance CEO.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time the last few months talking about the theoretical,” Nassar said in an interview. “‘Hey, players in tennis should have a Players Association. Players in tennis should have an independent voice. Players in tennis should have more commercial deals.’ And this is really the first time we’ve been able to say, ‘And here it is.’”

Fanatics Collectibles has emerged as a power player in the cards business since acquiring baseball, football and basketball-related licensing rights in 2021, followed by the Topps acquisition for roughly $500 million early in 2022. With tennis, they’ll look to chart largely unexplored ground.

Bill Ackman Is Helping Tennis Players Earn More Money Off the Court

Billionaire is helping athletes profit from their own brand

Licensing for video games, trading cards among group’s plans

Billionaire Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation and investment firm Prysm Capital led a $26 million investment in a new organization designed to help professional tennis players pursue business opportunities off the court.

Winners Alliance, a for-profit affiliate of the Professional Tennis Players Association, appointed Ackman as chairman of the board. Among its first initiatives, the organization plans to set up a licensing program for players to get paid for their likeness being used in video games, trading cards and related areas.

The board also includes Christina Francis, president of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Prysm Capital co-founders Jay Park and Muhammad Mian, and Ahmad Nassar, who formerly led athlete agency OneTeam Partners and NFL Players Inc. Nassar, who was named executive director of PTPA and CEO of Winners Alliance, also participated in the fundraising.

For tennis players who have reached the pinnacle of the sport such as Naomi Osaka, Emma Raducanu, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, prize money is steadily supplemented by lucrative partnerships with brands like Sweetgreen, Tiffany & Co., Richard Mille and Mercedes-Benz. But for hundreds of other lesser-known contenders, injuries or winless spells can make the professional tour financially challenging.

“With the launch and funding of Winners Alliance, we are now well resourced to make a material difference in players’ lives,” said Vasek Pospisil, who co-founded the PTPA with 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic.

Read more: Djokovic’s US Open Bid Is Foiled by Holdover Rule From Pandemic

“I have had a lifelong passion for tennis, both as a player and a fan, but have long recognized the challenges that most professional tennis players experience due to the sport’s inferior economics for all but the very top of the rankings ladder,” Ackman said in an emailed statement.

Ahmad Nassar Named CEO of Winners Alliance, Executive Director of PTPA

The Professional Tennis Players Association has announced Ahmad Nassar as the first Executive Director of the player-focused group started by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil in the fall of 2020, as well as the launch of a for-profit business to benefit professional tennis players called the Winners Alliance. And the PTPA now has $26 million to fund its efforts for the foreseeable future after a funding raise co-led by Winners Alliance Chairman Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation, private equity firm Prysm Capital, and Nassar. Nassar and the PTPA held a meeting with players Thursday night in New York ahead of the US Open (which begins next week) to better introduce the organization, Nassar, and the group licensing concept.

Nassar, who will serve as CEO of Winners Alliance, founded OneTeam Collective in 2016 and later led OneTeam Partners, before stepping down in June. OneTeam Partners, backed by the NFLPA, MLBPA and RedBird Capital Partners, successfully represented the commercial interests of men and women athletes in many different sports, including the US Women’s National Team, and players from the NWSL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, and NFL, creating better bargaining position in the market by aggregating athletes’ commercial rights. Winners Alliance will try to emulate OneTeam’s success for tennis players, starting with the establishment of a sustainable group licensing program for video games, trading cards, and related areas.

Ackman, Djokovic, and Pospisil reached out to Nassar before he sold his equity stake in OneTeam seeking advice on how to move the PTPA forward. The week after Nassar divested his OneTeam stake, he flew out to Wimbledon and had a three-hour dinner with Djokovic and Pospisil – it was Pospisil’s birthday, so they got him a cake and sang him happy birthday.
“It’s one of those surreal moments in your career where you’re like, ‘what am I doing here?’” Nassar said, chuckling. “I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be having this conversation a year ago, or even six months ago.”

Nassar got confirmations from the PTPA that it would be representing all pro tennis players, including women, and that it wasn’t attempting to launch its own tour. Both would have been deal-breakers, he said. Additionally, Nassar added that the PTPA does not want to replace the ATP Tour Players Council and that the PTPA isn’t concerned with membership numbers; if a person is a professional tennis player, then the PTPA is looking out for their interests, he said. Nassar hopes to meet with key tennis stakeholders during the next two weeks of the US Open.

“My view is that having a truly independent voice and organization representing the voice of all players will help the sport over the long run, and I don’t mean just for players,” said Nassar, whose hire was aided by TurnkeyZRG. “This is not a ‘players out for themselves and everybody else good luck’ mantra. It helps grow the game; it helps attract the best athletes to play the game.”

Nassar will report to the Winners Alliance board, which is headed by Ackman, who has backed the PTPA from its beginning in September 2020, and Prysm, which worked with Nassar previously in several of his players association projects. Prysm co-founders Jay Park and Muhammad Mian will take seats on the Winners Alliance board. They’ll be joined by Christina Francis, President of Magic Johnson Enterprises and former CMO of the Orange Bowl and NFL Players Association.

The PTPA, and Nassar, will be based in Washington, D.C. High on the organization’s to-do list is forming a players’ executive committee and finalizing bylaws before the end of the year. Besides staffing up the organization in the US and globally, likely 10 people in the first year, Nassar said, the PTPA will be launching a Player Services Platform to provide players with discounts, benefits, insurance options, travel and logistics support, player concierge amenities, tax advisory and legal network, discipline appeals support, access to financial planners, player charity support, and media and public relations counsel. While Djokovic is unable to enter the US due to his unvaccinated status, Nassar will be at the US Open meeting with players and tennis stakeholders.

Fanatics and Winners Alliance Announce Exclusive Annualized Trading Cards Partnership for Professional Tennis Players

– Growing Number of Tennis Stars Join Historic Group Licensing Agreement, Backed by Fanatics’ Long-term Commitment to the Sport and Its Players –

Washington, D.C., March 23, 2023– Winners Alliance, the for-profit affiliate of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), has partnered with Fanatics Collectibles to provide professional women’s and men’s tennis players the opportunity to be included in a broad-scale group trading card set program through the company’s cornerstone brand, Topps. This is the first group licensing agreement in the history of professional tennis.

As part of the groundbreaking deal, Winners Alliance grants Fanatics Collectibles the right to use the name, image and likenesses of professional women’s and men’s players who opt into the group licensing agreement. Fanatics Collectibles will produce an annual set of player cards every year of the partnership.

Fanatics Collectibles has committed to creating an annual series of player trading cards for the next two decades. Men’s and women’s players who opt in to the PTPA group licensing agreement will have the opportunity to participate in the deal. In the upcoming months, the PTPA will further expand the program and welcome additional players on board. This initiative is a key part of Winners Alliance’s overarching vision to establish a sustainable group licensing program that generates incremental revenues for the players while also contributing to the growth of the sport.

“What an amazing opportunity for players to be part of an annualized tennis trading card program featuring dozens of women’s and men’s players. The group licensing model is key to including athletes in wide-ranging licensed products like this. This deal, and the future deals to come, will not only increase the financial upside for players – but they will also help grow the game for generations to come,” said Ons Jabeur, the fifth-ranked women’s player in the world.

“The PTPA and Winners Alliance are true leaders in the sport of tennis, and we’re incredibly excited for Topps to be their exclusive trading card partner,” said Kelvin Smith, Vice President of Global Licensing and Partner Development, Fanatics Collectibles. “With Fanatics Collectibles’ focus on reaching new audiences and enhancing the collector experience, we’re thrilled to be bringing the trading card hobby to tennis fans around the world for the first time.”

“Celebrating this unprecedented agreement with Fanatics Collectibles, we’re excited to continue supporting athletes in maximizing their collective power and achieving their full potential,” stated Ahmad Nassar, Executive Director, PTPA & CEO, Winners Alliance.

Winners Alliance, the PTPA’s for-profit affiliate, was founded in August of 2022 to generate and maximize off-the-court commercial opportunities for players and their agents, emulating the successful model of players associations in other sports. Among its first initiatives, Winners Alliance will establish a sustainable group licensing program for video games, trading cards, collectibles, and related opportunities.

About Winners Alliance

Winners Alliance, the PTPA’s for-profit affiliate, was founded in August 2022 to generate and maximize off-the-court commercial opportunities for players and their agents, emulating the successful model of players associations in other sports. Among its first initiatives, Winners Alliance will establish a sustainable group licensing program for video games, trading cards, collectibles, and related opportunities.

About the Professional Tennis Players Association

The PTPA is uniting and mobilizing tennis players from around the globe to create transparency and fairness throughout decision-making in professional tennis. It is an independent organization dedicated to the advancement and protection of professional women’s and men’s tennis players across their entire professional journey. Through the PTPA, professional tennis players are building an equitable and sustainable competitive environment for players today and for generations to come, including health and safety issues, schedules, rules, purses, benefits and education. The PTPA is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations globally.

About Fanatics Collectibles

Fanatics Collectibles is a new model and vision for the hobby fundamentally changing the experience for current and future collectors, leagues, and players across many professional and college sports. The organization secured long-term, exclusive rights to design, manufacture and distribute trading cards for several sports properties, including MLB, MLBPA, NBA, NBPA and NFLPA. In January 2022, Fanatics Collectibles announced the acquisition of Topps, establishing the preeminent licensed trading card brand as the cornerstone of Fanatics’ trading cards and collectibles business and jumpstarted its MLB and MLBPA rights to design, manufacture and distribute trading cards.

Media Contacts:

For Winners Alliance: david@mvppr.com
For Fanatics: mneumayr@fanatics.com

The Story Behind the Winners Alliance Brand

Want to know the story behind the Winners Alliance brand?

Every element of the visual identity ties back to Winners Alliance’s mission to empower athletes to win on and off the court.

The W, the brand’s core mark, is not only indicative of the company’s name – it’s indicative of what it looks like to win. The structure of the W was developed using inspiration from victorious icons throughout sports. The shape is reminiscent of a triumphant athlete with their arms raised in victory; a champion’s trophy; a celebratory toast.

The two overlapping shapes in the mark serve as a testament to the full athlete experience and Winners Alliance’s role in supporting athletes – and helping them win – both on and off the court.

Winners Alliance believes that winning is unlimited – that’s why the motion of the W’s edges are aimed skyward. Continue extending the lines of the mark, and a pattern is created that reflects a core element of the Winners Alliance brand: collective. Winners Alliance supports athletes at scale, and the strength of the brand stems from the collective power of athletes.

The brand’s shorthand of “Win All” is an homage to Winners Alliance’s role in the athlete experience. We create commercial opportunities for athletes so they not only win on the court – they Win All.

Winners Alliance Launched to Serve the Interests of Professional Athletes

WINNERS ALLIANCE RAISES $26 MILLION IN EQUITY TO SUPPORT OPERATIONS AND LONG-TERM GROWTH

– Funding will enable the PTPA to launch its Player Services Platform to serve professional men’s and women’s tennis players globally;

– Ahmad Nassar, Former OneTeam Partners Founding CEO and NFL Players Inc. President, Named PTPA Executive Director & Winners Alliance CEO;

– Bill Ackman, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P., and Co-Trustee of The Pershing Square Foundation, Appointed Winners Alliance Chairman of the Board –

NEW YORK, NY (August 26, 2022) – The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) – global advocates on behalf of men’s and women’s professional tennis players today announced the launch of Winners Alliance, the Association’s for-profit affiliate, to generate and maximize off-the-court commercial opportunities for players and their agents, emulating the successful model of players associations in other sports. Among its first initiatives, Winners Alliance will establish a sustainable group licensing program for video games, trading cards, collectibles, and related opportunities.

Former OneTeam Partners Founding CEO and NFL Players Inc. President Ahmad Nassar has been named the Executive Director of the PTPA and CEO of Winners Alliance. Winners Alliance Chairman Bill Ackman, via the Pershing Square Foundation, and Prysm Capital, a growth equity investment firm experienced in working with player associations, co-led the $26 million raise, alongside an investment from Mr. Nassar.

Said Ahmad Nassar: “I am excited to continue my career working to empower world-class athletes at the PTPA. Having a players association that unconditionally cares for every tennis player is incredibly important, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to take this organization to the next level.”

Nassar joins after serving three years as Founding CEO of OneTeam Partners, a group licensing, marketing, and media powerhouse representing the commercial interests of women’s and men’s athletes across multiple sports. Prior to OneTeam, Nassar led NFL Players Inc. as President and helped grow the NFL Players Association’s marketing and licensing business into one of the largest for-profit licensors in sports, doubling annual revenue and payouts to players during his tenure.

Said Vasek Pospisil, co-founder of the PTPA: “Ahmad is the perfect choice. He brings an unrivaled set of experiences and expertise working with women’s and men’s athletes across many sports. As we continue to build our player leadership and base, I know Ahmad’s perspective, background in licensing and marketing, and success in unlocking huge value for players and their associations will be a major asset. Players want an independent voice and a real seat at the table. With the launch and funding of Winners Alliance, we are now well resourced to make a material difference in players’ lives.”

The Winners Alliance Board of Directors reflects leadership across industries, with the inaugural board consisting of Chairman Bill Ackman, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P., and Co-Trustee of The Pershing Square Foundation; Christina Francis, President of Magic Johnson Enterprises and former CMO of the Orange Bowl and NFL Players Association; Jay Park, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Prysm Capital; Muhammad Mian, Prysm Capital Co-Founder & Partner; and Ahmad Nassar.

“I have had a lifelong passion for tennis, both as a player and a fan, but have long recognized the challenges that most professional tennis players experience due to the sport’s inferior economics for all but the very top of the rankings ladder,” said Bill Ackman. “I could not be more optimistic about the opportunity to partner with Ahmad and Vasek and the new team they are building to help revolutionize the economics of the game for the players, and to accelerate the growth and sustainability of the sport to benefit all participants in the tennis ecosystem.”
“I am thrilled to join the board and continue my work on behalf of athletes,” said Christina Francis. “Ahmad is best positioned to lead the association and Winners Alliance, as he and I both see the value and importance of advocating for the business interests and livelihoods of athletes. My track record throughout my career will support the PTPA, Winners Alliance and their mission.”

Players Services Platform (PSP)

The PTPA will launch the Player Services Platform to enhance professional players journeys in the sport by leveraging the group buying power and brand value of all the players. PSP services will include global discounts on travel, food, and accommodations and other player necessities, benefit programs, insurance options, travel and logistics support, player concierge amenities, a tax advisory and attorney network, discipline appeals support, access to financial planners, player charity support, and media and public relations counsel, among other benefits.

About The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA)

The PTPA is uniting and mobilizing tennis players around the globe to create transparency and fairness in professional tennis. It is an independent organization dedicated to the advancement and protection of professional men’s and women’s tennis players across their entire professional journey. Through the PTPA, professional tennis players are building an equitable and sustainable competitive environment for players today and for generations to come, including health and safety issues, schedules, rules, purses, benefits and education. The PTPA is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations globally.

About Ahmad Nassar

Ahmad Nassar built his career by dedicating himself to working with athletes to help them get more value out of their professional careers. His vision helped form OneTeam Partners in 2019 as a joint venture between the NFLPA, MLBPA, and RedBird Capital Partners. Established to maximize the collective value of athlete rights across group licensing, marketing, media and investing, OneTeam was the first company owned by athletes and capitalized by a major financial partner. Under Nassar’s leadership, the sports company evolved into a multibillion-dollar company representing the commercial business interests of world-class athletes represented by the NFLPA, MLBPA, MLSPA, the USWNTPA, the NWSLPA, the WNBPA, the U.S. Rugby PA as well as men’s and women’s collegiate athletes.

Prior to OneTeam, Nassar spent more than a decade at NFL Players Inc., the for-profit marketing and licensing business of the NFLPA representing 2,000 NFL players. He managed operations and led commercial negotiations with the NFL and partners such as Fanatics and Electronic Arts. The organization evolved into one of the most progressive business-to-business entities in sports, generating multiple years of record revenue growth. During his tenure, Nassar led the creation and launch of ACE Media, an NFLPA-owned business focused on athlete lifestyle programming; co-founded and led the OneTeam Collective, the first athlete-driven business accelerator, engaging early-stage companies by licensing NFLPA group rights in exchange for equity. Along with founding partners from the WNBPA and USWNTPA, Nassar helped launch REP Worldwide, a landmark group player representation business that offered licensing and brand management services to athlete-driven sports properties.

About The Pershing Square Foundation

The Pershing Square Foundation (PSF) is a family foundation established in 2006 to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable global impact. PSF has committed more than $600 million in grants and social investments in target areas including health and medicine, education, economic development and social justice. Bill Ackman and Neri Oxman are co-trustees of the Foundation. For more information visit: www.pershingsquarefoundation.org.

About Prysm Capital

Prysm Capital, LLC is a growth equity firm that partners with disruptive, category-leading companies in the technology, consumer, and healthcare sectors. With a long-term and company-first perspective, Prysm helps management teams achieve their next level of growth.

The PTPA conducted a global executive search process utilizing TurnkeyZRG, which recruited and vetted a diverse pool of CEO candidates from around the world.

Media Contact:

For PTPA: david@mvppr.com