NFL, Panini Formally Announce Exclusive Deal

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NFL Panini Logo

By Kevin Isaacson

The National Football League and Panini America have formally announced a new long-term physical and digital trading card and sticker agreement. The agreement, first reported today by Sports Business Journal, takes effect in April, 2016 and makes Panini America the sole manufacturer of traditional trading cards and stickers licensed by the NFL and NFL Players.

“This announcement symbolizes a landmark achievement for Panini America, and we are extremely proud to be awarded the exclusive license for traditional trading cards and stickers,” said Panini America CEO Mark Warsop in a prepared statement.

The new agreement displaces Topps, which has shared traditional football trading card licensing with Panini. Beckett Media had initially reported on Panini’s exclusive NFL agreement in October, after company executives had shared the pending announcement with key distribution partners.

Leo Kane, the NFL’s senior VP for consumer products, said in a prepared statement, “We are pleased to expand our partnership with Panini America in order to better serve NFL fans, from children opening their first packs to long-time hobby collectors. Since entering the U.S. market in 2009, they have proven to be leaders in product development, innovation and marketing, and we look forward to working together to continue to grow the football trading card category.”

The NFL agreement, coupled with Panini’s ongoing NBA relationship, affords the Dallas-based company exclusive trading card rights in half of the country’s major sports – an amazing accomplishment in less than a decade since entering the U.S. market. D.J. Kazmierczak, Panini’s VP/sales and product development, termed today’s announcement a validation of his company’s work ethic and committed approach to collectibles manufacturing.

“Obviously, this is an exciting time for everyone at Panini,’” Kazmierczak said. “It is a validation to our team that, with successful products and healthy business relationships, anything is possible.’”

In preparation for 2016’s expanded release schedule, Panini’s development team is integrating successful legacy brands from the Donruss, Playoff and Pacific portolios. Concepts like Tools of the Trade will be reintroduced, and the company’s key distribution partners are playing critical roles in developing the 2016 release schedule.

“It has been and will be a true collaborative process,’” Kazmierczak said. “Between our product team and our distribution partners, we have the benefit of tremendous industry experience. One of the key benefits [of the exclusive] allows us to make the right numbers and types of release for the every channel, something that would have been more challenging to do in the past.’”

Kazmierczak acknowledged that some collectors will not embrace the Panini football exclusive, regardless of how the company’s products perform in 2016 and beyond.

“Consumers love choices. I am a consumer myself, so I get it,’” he said. “But I would like to think that an exclusive relationship, when executed correctly — and we have certainly demonstrated that with the NBA – allows a greater level of investment by the company that holds the license. If people do not think we are making the investment, then it is up to us to change that perception. But I sleep well at night, knowing how aggressively we invest and will continue to invest in the categories we serve.”

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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14 comments

  1. David D 17 December, 2015 at 18:06

    For this collector, this announcement ranks with the following:
    1. Fleer losing their license
    2. Donruss losing their license
    3. Upper Deck losing their licenses
    4. SIXTY years of Topps football saying “Good By”

    So very, very sad that Panini controls another major sport!!!
    My wife has wanted me to stop collecting for decades now…. she may finally get her wish………

  2. Kevin 17 December, 2015 at 20:27

    This the worst move the NFL could have made. Giving Panini complete control of the football cars stinks. It is impossible to make sets of their cards with their lousy collation.

  3. card opinionator 18 December, 2015 at 01:19

    A lack of competition is never a good thing. Many industries fight monopolies, this industry wants them. Sad.

  4. Mike Pereira 18 December, 2015 at 01:59

    Has Panini become the EA Sports of the card world? If you can’t beat them buying them out policy. Topps hasn’t helped themselves either I think. Both companies are moving far away from the average collector opening a box and into high premium high risk low reward items that only a very few can afford. Hopefully Panini doesn’t go down the path of EA and then fired it’s R & D and just shovel the same old crap out with a shiny price tag and useless gimmicks.

  5. Josh 18 December, 2015 at 09:24

    Panini paid $300 million to secure a 10-year exclusive NFL license. Good luck making that money back!

  6. Tom 18 December, 2015 at 09:55

    As a long-time team (base) set collector (Cleveland Browns, 1950 Bowman through 1955 Bowman; 1955 Topps through 2016 Topps), my perception is that Topps has mailed it in the past decade when it comes to football cards. First, they paralleled their baseball design for several years, showing minimal creativity. Second, this is a large anniversary year for their football issue, and they have put out no special products (unlike the last time when they issued a retro set based entirely on the 1955 All-American design which was a popular design). The only anniversary celebration that I saw was a Duke Johnson card on a retro design.

    I like tradition as much as anyone else (at least Detroit and Dallas still play on Thanksgiving Day), yet at least as to the base sets and anniversary celebrations, Topps has been less innovative. I cannot comment on their innovation in higher end sets (like Topps Fire) so I respect anyone that feels like Topps is doing their best in football cards.

  7. Paul 18 December, 2015 at 12:33

    So since Panini referenced basketball, you can expect to see super high end releases coming out in the near future for football.

  8. Josh 18 December, 2015 at 13:56

    I agree with Tom … It seems like Topps football sets of the past decade or so haven’t been as innovative (too many parallels, too much rookie focus. Sets like Archives were fun, but those sets were too far and few between. Sadly, Panini’s football offerings haven’t provided much to be excited about, either.

    It’s a shame. Innovation in the hobby was strongest when multiple companies created all sorts of cards covering various price points. The products today all feel pretty much the same, and an exclusive license will only worsen those concerns.

  9. Jordan L 19 December, 2015 at 15:57

    Looks like I can focus on filling in previous year set needs for the next 10 years. NFLPA made a great disservice to fans/collectors by doing this. I don’t blame Panini for securing a monopoly in the sport, Topps would have done the same thing if given the chance. The end result will be tired retreads mixed with $6,000 packs of cards.

  10. David D 20 December, 2015 at 00:39

    Could not have worded it any better, Jordan….Get ready for the SIX THOUAND DOLLAR ( or more) pack of football cards….how exciting?!?

  11. Chris M 25 December, 2015 at 12:23

    Panini is such a train wreck with their customer service. I have refused to buy their products for the last several years. I only collect football, mainly topps products since Upper Deck lost their license. 30+ years of collecting will now come to an end. I will not deal with Panini in any form or fashion.

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