Story Copyright 2009 Beckett Media
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The NBA announced today that it has entered into an exclusive, multi-year agreement with Italian collectibles company Panini to become the sole manufacturer of NBA licensed trading cards and stickers beginning with the 2009-10 season, and running through 2012-13. The deal calls for the production of 15 to 20 products per season.
Panini is established in more than 100 markets worldwide, but its U.S. market involvement has been modest by comparison. Panini plans to “re-create the domestic trading card market” and has announced that a new business will be set up immediately called Panini America Inc. with offices in the New York area.
The announcement follows weeks of industry speculation regarding the future of the NBA trading card market as manufacturers in every sport continue to struggle with harsh economic times.
“We’ve had a strong relationship with the NBA, but the deal they made with Panini does not make economic sense for Topps,” said Topps in a statement. “It may be great for the NBA, but the value wasn’t there for us and we’ve decided to invest elsewhere for the time being. We wish our colleagues at the NBA well and look forward to working with them in the future.”
The Panini Group, founded in 1961, recorded net revenues of 579 million Euros as recently as 2006 and employs more than 700 people worldwide. The company distributes its products – ranging from World Cup cards and NHL stickers to Disney entertainment products devoted to Hannah Montana and High School Musical — through a global network.
“As we look to the future of our trading card business, there is general consensus, including with our current partners, Topps and Upper Deck, that moving forward with an exclusive partner is the best way for us to energize the category globally,” said Executive Vice President of NBA Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca in a news release.
“Our exclusive partnership with Panini provides us with the best opportunity to recreate the trading card market by developing the key retail channels with a variety of products and promotions geared towards all consumer segments.”
Said Beckett Senior Market Analyst Keith Hower: “It will be interesting to see what Panini can bring to the table regarding basketball cards. Known primarily for their sticker sets, it remains to be seen what sort of basketball card product they will be capable of producing. That said, the NBA has always had a strong global market, and Panini has a strong presence in markets previously untapped by basketball cards in both Europe and Asia. While it’s unclear how the domestic market will respond to Panini products, overseas markets should be pretty strong.”
Officials from Upper Deck could not be reached for comment, but through a press release Upper Deck’s VP of Sports, Bernd Becker, said: “Our focus remains on delivering great products to the loyal collectors and consumers who have passionately supported Upper Deck basketball products. We are confident the remaining 2008-09 NBA sets will be some of the best our industry has ever seen.”
Said Eric Jahnke, Beckett Basketball editor: “This is very big news for basketball collectors, perhaps the biggest since Fleer and the basketball card revival of the mid-’80s. Collectors will certainly be wondering what Panini will bring to the market. It’s exciting, but at the same time the ‘unknown’ is always scary, however, Panini has proven to be quite savvy in the card market with its soccer and non-sport products, so we can’t wait to see what 2009-10 will bring for basketball cards.”
— Tracy Hackler