How Fanatics stays one step ahead of Amazon and Alibaba

Sportswear company Fanatics has carved out a lucrative slice of the $25 billion global sports licensing market. It has licensing rights with North America's four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB), plus the PGA, Nascar and Major League Soccer.

Their deals with the major leagues average around 15 years and they've take a fast retailing approach -- like H&M and Zara -- which means they can capitalize on what it's chairman Michael Rubin calls "micro-moments."

Examples include Odell Beckham's one handed catch earlier this year, or when Jeremy Lin seemed to come out of nowhere in 2012 and Linsanity fever took hold. Another one of those unpredictable moments came a few months ago when Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villaneuva stood for the anthem while his teammates stayed in the locker room and demand for his jersey suddenly surged.

Fanatics capitalizes on the big moments too.

Like when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year and Fanatics used Ubers to get championship gear in fans hands within minutes.

Fanatics designs, develops, and manufactures the majority of what it sells.

The company's chairman Michael Rubin says Fanatics is the largest verticalized company in the world -- and that's their competitive advantage against online retail behemoths like Amazon and Alibaba, which also sell fan gear but on a smaller scale.

But that doesn't mean Amazon, which is pushing deeper into the clothing business, couldn't become a bigger threat. To stay ahead, Fanatics is accumulating licensing rights across all sports and going global to capture emerging markets.

It's also attracting investment from Japanese conglomerate Softbank, which invested $1 billion in the company earlier this year.