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eBay Consolidates Sports Offerings

Auction giant eBay, consolidating four separate sports-related business segments on its site, is launching eBay Sports as an umbrella area with its own URL -- www.eBaySports.com.

The new area is brings together offerings for sports memorabilia, event tickets and experiences, licensed merchandise and sporting goods. And the initial promotion for the site includes the auction of a number of athlete-inspired experiences and collectibles. Proceeds from many of these sales will benefit a variety of charities, eBay said.

San Jose, Calif.-based eBay said the sports category is expected to generate nearly $1 billion in sales of sports-related items this year, after doing about $750 million in gross merchandise sales last year.

The new area offers sporting goods in categories from archery to snowboarding. There's a Fan Shop with links to sales of items related to professional baseball, basketball and football as well as NASCAR and other sports. And of course there are baseball cards, one of the original staples for eBay's trading community.

One analyst thinks the move could suggest a broader strategic shift on eBay's part.

The company might be aligning itself "along groups of product categories, rather than around a broad marketplace concept," said Ken Cassar, an e-commerce analyst at Jupiter Research.

"If this is the case, eBay will have to carefully balance the potential for incremental revenue that would accompany greater focus with the higher costs that would inevitably result from such a strategy," he said.

eBay's aim, as outlined by Bob Hebeler, vice president and general manager of the Sports and Tickets area, is to let sellers of sports-related items and experiences, both individual and corporate, use the site in a variety of ways, from a complementary sales channel and media platform to charity fund-raising tool and brand-building vehicle.

eBay Sports includes merchandise and offerings from branded and non-branded retailers, manufacturers, liquidators and e-commerce entrepreneurs, as well as individuals.

"Creating a dedicated site shows eBay's commitment to our buyers and sellers in the sports category," he said.

The charity promotions include the auction of about 40 "experiences" (here's the list) such as shooting some hoops with Magic Johnson and playing golf with Jack Nicklaus, as well as fishing with various NASCAR drivers and a boxing lesson with Joe Frazier.

The charities include The First Tee, P.E.4Life and Pop Warner Little Scholars.