In an interview late Tuesday afternoon, Panini America Marketing Director Scott Prusha discussed his company’s headline-making exclusive agreement with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, driving home a desire to have Kobe sign only on-card autographs for the basketball hobby.
“It is our sincere hope that Kobe does not sign any stickers for our hobby audience,” Prusha said late Tuesday afternoon from an airport in Los Angeles. “Touching the card, feeling the card, actually signing the card, those things are extremely important to Kobe. It’s going to take a lot of effort and coordination but that’s something he wants to do.”
Prusha also revealed that Panini America officials will attend every Bryant signing and will affix Bryant’s special authentication sticker to the back of every autographed card. The first Bryant signing session took place earlier this month and Kobe’s first Panini autographs — all on-card or on-patch — will appear in net week’s release of 2009 Prestige Basketball, which according to Prusha, shipped 100 percent redemption-free.
In addition to the international prospects of such a huge deal (as a child, Bryant spent time in Italy, Panini’s homeland, and is a huge soccer fan), it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Panini America could parlay the signing into the launching of a memorabilia division, although that’s merely speculation at this point.
Stay tuned to Beckett.com tomorrow for updates to this story, including an exclusive gallery of Bryant’s 2009 Prestige autograph cards.
— Tracy Hackler
Click here to watch CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell’s interview with Kobe regarding, among other things, his new deal with Panini.