Brand Velocity Group’s acquisition of Score Sports, a Wilmington, Calif.-based manufacturer of uniforms and equipment for youth sports, highlights the trend of private equity investments in sports-adjacent categories. Youth sports, in particular, represents an industry sub-sector that has grown substantially in recent decades, with parents increasingly advocating for their children’s participation in sports, according to Brand Velocity.

The deal was former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s first transaction since joining the New York City-based private equity firm as a partner in January 2022.

Pro Athletes in PE

In recent years, professional athletes have increased their participation as investors in venture capital, but less so in traditional private equity. Brand Velocity has been an early adopter of recruiting prominent athletes into the fold of its portfolio companies as investors, advisors and brand ambassadors.

Manning was instrumental in fundraising with institutional investors, family offices and fellow professional athletes. He also played a role in developing Score’s post-acquisition marketing and business development strategies. Manning came into the fold at Brand Velocity first as an investor in BBQGuys and serves as a brand ambassador for that company.

Score Sports was founded in 1975 by two sisters and prides itself on affordability, access and inclusion. The company aims to remove barriers restricting youth sports participation. To that end, Brand Velocity recruited legendary soccer star and diversity equity and inclusion advocate Abby Wambach to join Score’s board of directors.

Three Years in the Making

The deal, roughly three years in the making, was interrupted by the Covid pandemic. As pandemic-related restrictions started to loosen, Score’s founders began to seriously re-engage in a sales process. Brand Velocity had an existing relationship with the founders, and ultimately gained exclusivity to acquire the company.

For more Deals of the Year coverage, see Mergers and Acquisitions Names the 2023 Middle-Market Deals of the Year.