There was a time – like February – when I could’ve crammed everything I knew about soccer on the back of one of those little officially licensed Panini World Cup stickers. (And there would’ve been plenty of room left to also jot down . . . oh, I don’t know . . . perhaps the complete history of the Brazilian national team.)
So imagine my surprise-treading-on-euphoria last week when I discovered my face on the front of one of those little officially licensed Panini World Cup stickers. Actually, my face was on 15 of them, tucked magnificently inside an altered Panini World Cup sticker album.
There were 12 affixed to a sheet, one already placed on the first page of the album, one inserted into the pack of stickers on the front of the album and one secured safely in an inch-thick brick of Lucite. And this was my reaction: “. . .”
Indeed, I was speechless. I mean, come on – how would you react to unexpectedly seeing your very own collectible sticker for the first time? I must have gazed longingly at that sheet of me for 20 solid minutes – like Narcissus at his own image in the reflecting pool – until I came to one stark realization: I need a haircut. More sticker albums wouldn’t hurt, either.
The personalized stickers and albums were distributed by Panini as a means to promote a wildly successful FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 sticker release that really needs no promotion. The product launched in early May, roughly six weeks ahead of the start of the 2010 World Cup, with more than 250 million packets distributed into more than 100 countries. At the time, according to Panini America CEO Mark Warsop, the company was producing roughly 20 million sticker packets per day to meet worldwide demand.
There’s a phenomenon at work behind Panini’s sticker albums that makes them as addictive as Lay’s potato chips or Carmex. I know because I’ve witnessed it firsthand. I’ve got two sons – one 9, the other 6 – who care for soccer about as much as they care for Barbie dolls. But I brought them each a World Cup sticker album and a few packs of stickers and watched them go to town.
They opened the albums, looked at the stickers and immediately got it. Thirty minutes later, all of their stickers were placed in their appropriate spaces and we were on our way back to Walmart, where we bought more World Cup sticker packets, two of Panini’s “How to Train Your Dragon” albums and about 16 packs of “Dragon” stickers.
As for how a soccer know-nothing like me warranted a place on Panini’s soccer radar? Well, in the span of just a few months I became something of a soccer-knows-a-little-bit while putting together Beckett’s special 2010 World Cup Guide magazine in conjunction with renowned soccer writer Steve Davis.
Personally, I think it’s a great magazine (and I’m not just saying that because we spent tons of man hours on it). If you’re a soccer fan, do yourself a favor and check it out. As for the prospects of winning the 2010 World Cup, I like either Argentina – for no other reason than the incomparable Lionel Messi – or Warsop’s England largely because of striker extraordinaire Wayne Rooney. Most true experts, though, give the edge to Spain or Brazil.
Regardless of who wins the World Cup, I’ll be watching for the first time in my life. And there’s something to be said for that.
Stay tuned. In the coming days I’ll share with you all the behind-the-scenes details of another special card that has no business being made.
Tracy Hackler is the editorial director for Beckett Media. Have a comment or question? Send an e-mail to him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.