The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer

Joachim Hilke, “From Hamburg To The World”

June 2, 2021

Joachim Hilke, is a German sports marketing Veteran with an colorful career across NFL Europe, UFA/Sportfive early growth story,  HSV (Hamburg Football Club) and now with Fanatics in Europe.  Lots of great stories on how the NFL started in Europe and the challenges around it, to an insider look into German Football Club thinking and off course a deep dive into Fanatics’ amazing online merchandise retail business globally.  Enjoy.


Key Highlights

  1. From his College thesis to the first job at the NFL Europe with Rhein Fire - great stories how the League and team started (Americana in Duesseldorf)
  2. Next stop, UFA/Sport 5 -
    • HSV (Hamburger Sport Verein – Bundesliga Club) great stories about selling their rights and sitting on the board of a major Club.
    • Naming rights of HSV Stadium – AOL Arena – focusing on sponsorship and marketing while the rest of the company is mostly selling TV rights
    • UEFA National Team deals – the good old days of maximizing 2nd & 3rd party rights both in TV and sponsorship (Double production – sell both sides of the pitch to different sponsors)
    • Front Runner of UEFA Qualifiers packages now managed by CAA Eleven
  3. 2nd run at HSV – Chief Commercial officer & Board member again – dream job for a kid from Essen. At that time, team was a regular in European Football and amongst top teams in the Bundesliga  (Emirates Airlines on the Jersey)
  4. Challenging six years on the pitch, legal structure of German Football clubs make it challenging with Fans having a large say and voting rights (Members Club) – lots of emotions which start influencing decisions
  5. Current role at Fanatics – Managing Director Global Partnerships – massive online Merchandise and Licensing retailer, valued US$ 12.8 billion (up from 6b mid last year) – representing all major US rights holders
  6. com – V-Commerce Model (vertical) – the ultimate online sports apparel and fan gear store (80% of revenue online)
    • Difference between official apparel of Kit supplier and other fan apparel merchandise
  7. Demand for Fan products stayed strong during Pandemic, especially after Leagues started playing again - Fandom is still alive and well
  8. International roll out – differences in Europe to US model with Leagues – in Europe deals are done with Clubs and not Leagues
  9. Some big names signed up in Europe, German and English FA, PSG (Paris St Germain) and Bayern Munich
  10. With large volume but thin margins in merchandise, wondering why European Football Leagues don’t bundle merchandise like the American Leagues?
  11. Opportunity to take global IP to Asia and other parts of the world. Hillhouse Capital (PE Fund), JV partner for China market launch. Office in Tokyo, dealing with Japanese Baseball and US Sports
  12. Counterfeit products not a major focus or concern -  focus heavily on Football/Soccer for now



2017 – today, Fanatics International, MD Global Partnerships

2011 – 2017, Hamburger SV (HSV Fußball AG), CCO

1998 – 2010, Sportfive, CEO International

1994 – 1997, NFL International, MD Rhein Fire


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