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Go ALL-IN: Fanatics, Inc.'s amazing celebrity sweepstakes to feed those in need

In the middle of March, Michael Rubin began to realize how bad the COVID-19 situation was getting and decided he needed to do something.

As fate would have it, that same weekend Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania called him to ask for help in assisting with the production of masks and gowns for health care professionals.

Rubin is the owner of Fanatics, Inc. a $4.5 billion company known as the leading online retailer of sports apparel and fan gear. He had already been exploring the possibility of having Fanatics use its massive manufacturing plant in Easton, PA to help with the shortage. Within days of that request, the company repurposed its facility, using the fabric that was to be used for Yankees and Phillies MLB jerseys to make masks and gowns. Rubin called the MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to see if the league was OK with stopping production of its baseball jerseys. Commissioner Manfred loved the idea and asked how quickly it could get started.

The MLB commissioner issued this statement: “Fanatics continues to show the creativity and flexibility that has defined them as a company. Those qualities are what drew us to partner with them in the first place. We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation.”

The goal is to make 1 million masks and gowns. So far over 500,000 have been produced and distributed across nine states, the first ones having been sent to hospitals and emergency personnel in Pennsylvania. MLB and Fanatics are splitting the donation of $3 million to absorb all the costs necessary to manufacture these items.

A week later, with that problem being addressed, Michael started to think bigger. Which is something he’s been doing since he was 12 years old.

That’s when Rubin started his first business, a ski-tuning shop in his parents’ basement. Before entering college, he had grown that business into five ski shops. He attended Villanova University, but dropped out his freshman year, sold the ski shops and created an athletic closeout company, KPR Sports, that reached $50 million in sales by the time he was 23.

Five years later, Rubin created Global Sports, which would turn into a multi-billion dollar e-commerce company, and at 38 he sold it to eBay for $2.4 billion. With the proceeds from that sale he bought Fanatics in 2012 and built out the company to be the powerhouse it is today.

The idea that Rubin came up with to help on a bigger scale was to create the largest digital fundraising campaign ever, utilizing sports figures and celebrities to offer up the ultimate in VIP experiences for people to bid on or enter a sweepstakes to win. One hundred percent of the donations would go to four charities to feed those in need during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

He then reached out to one of his closest friends, entrepreneur Alan Tisch, and then communications strategist Gary Vaynerchuk, to launch the movement. Through conversations with his friends in sports and entertainment, Rubin knew there would be an immediate interest in helping raise money for this important cause.

Within two weeks of coming up with the idea, Rubin, Tisch, Vaynerchuk and the entire team at Fanatics worked non-stop to get the platform launched.

On April 14, Rubin kicked off the “ALL-IN Challenge” by nominating Kevin Hart, Meek Mill, Magic Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Charli & Dixie D’Amelio to donate their most prized possessions and/or create a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would be available for online auction or as enter-to-win giveaways.

Rubin started the campaign by donating the Ultimate Sports Fan Experience: tickets, travel and lodging for every sports championship! Everything: the World Series, the College Football National Championship, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals and the Final Four; the Masters Tournament, the men’s and women’s U.S. Open tennis championships, the Daytona 500 and the Olympics! And best of all, the winner and 20 friends will live the suite life at the Super Bowl after joining in the Fanatics party and tailgating with famous athletes and celebrities. The winner also receives a $100,000 gift card to spend at Fanatics to get geared up for a lifetime. This sweepstakes ends May 8.

Once it kicked off, the ALL-IN Challenge spread like wildfire, similarly to how the Ice Bucket Challenge exploded years ago, as sports figures and celebrities jumped on board to donate.

I first heard about the ALL-IN Challenge when Tom Brady posted his VIP Experience on Twitter and encouraged his wife, model Gisele Bündchen, his good friend Drake and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to also go ALL-IN to raise $100 million through this effort.

Tom Brady offered up his first home game with the Bucs for four people to be his guests for a Game Day Experience: enjoy the game and meet up afterwards for dinner or a workout with Tom, and receive his game-worn jersey and cleats. That auction finished yesterday and went for $800,000.

Within two weeks of launching, the ALL-IN Challenge has raised over $27 million, and $10 million has already been distributed to charity. The website currently lists over 200 sweepstakes and auctions that readers can enter or bid on: unbelievable experiences that can only be compared to wishes on a bucket list, each more enticing and exciting than the other.

If you enjoy unlimited funds and appreciate the fact that all the money being donated goes to Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, and America’s Food Fund (benefiting World Central Kitchen and Feeding America), you too could share an MLB World Series game and dinner with Bob Costas and Al Michaels, or play in a doubles match vs. Andy Roddick at the home of the US Open. You could choose to play golf at Pebble Beach with Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray. If movies are your thing, you could bid to appear in a walk-on role in a Scorsese film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

As a huge sports fan, I would love to win a Texas Football Experience with Matthew McConaughey or enjoy the Parade & Big Game Experience at Rose Bowl Stadium on New Year’s Day. Being a wine and foodie girl, the Wine and Dine at Villa Joe Montana in Napa Valley, California would be totally amazing.

The fundraiser is already a quarter of the way to its $100 million goal. According to a Fanatics spokesman, the Challenge will continue for as long as celebrities are donating experiences and people are bidding on them.

Michael Rubin states on the ALL-IN Challenge website, “I believe when the world faces a crisis, businesses and sports have an obligation to step up and make a difference.”

Times of adversity test us to get creative, think outside the box, and utilize our talents to find solutions to problems. Michael Rubin has definitely done that to help fight COVID-19.

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