Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Panini takes over America

Yesterday it was announced that Panini will produce basketball cards here in America. No more Topps or Upper Deck. Tons of bloggers have already posted about this and the way they feel. Many of them feel it's great that Topps and UD are getting challenged by other companies. This challenged should have been happening years ago, not just with basketball, but in all the sports.

A lot of bloggers also feel that Panini will destroy the basketball card industry. Just exactly how will they destroy it? By not having autographed cards or jersey cards? Please. I'll give the fact that Panini doesn't have a few of the worldwide superstars to use (Lebron with UD), but they might already be in talks about getting Lebron, or even be working with UD to be allowed to produce Lebron cards. Panini is a business, they'll get it together.

Face it, sports cards have been ruined for at least a decade now, if not longer. The people cards used to be catered to (read: kids), can barely afford packs just because the older generation are trying to cash in on triple event used relics of Kevin McHale's jockstrap from the 1983 Photo-shoot. Topps is no longer the company they once were. They make some nice Products, but for the most part, their stuff isn't great. The company lives off name brand only. Hell, for my 21st birthday last year I received a retail box of 2007-2008 NBA Series 1 Basketball. The cards were nice, but very cookie cutter and boring. And don't get on me for getting a retail box, it was a gift from my parents. Upper Deck (at least to me) makes better basketball cards, but nothing special either. My favorite set has been Hardcourt, and that's a mediocre set at best.

Panini is going to ruin the basketball industry because they are European company. What? They will produce basketball cards and get the NBA name-brand out overseas. It's already out there now. Shit, Greece team Olympiacos wants to sign Kobe or Lebron. You tell me people don't know the NBA? Panini will not ruin the basketball card industry, you bloggers and collectors will ruin the b-ball card industry by talking it down and not buying the product because you aren't sure what Panini is about. Look at it this way, Panini might even help America. People buying these cards might be more inclined to buy NBA merchandise and travel here to see the teams.

I'm all for Panini to make cards. Will they make stickers, sure they probably will. Do you have to buy them, no. There's another company that specializes in Football (Soccer) cards in Europe called Futera. I've blogged about them before. Their high end set (Futera Unique Football) caters to overseas collectors (read: American), by adding 1/1 auto's and memorabilia on the cards. If you think these companies don't know that not having these kinds of inserts in their sets will be good, you are crazy.

I'm very excited for Panini to start making basketball cards, because frankly this industry sucks and could use any sort of fresh air it can get. And if they do fail miserably (as in, nobody buys the cards) then it wasn't their fault, they tried, it'd all just come down to the collector being just as stubborn as the manufacturer's they love to hate.


Anonymous said...

Panini has been making soccer issued stickers and cards since 1962.

They also made NFL football, NHL hockey and MLB baseball product in the 1980's.

Add to that Disney and Stae Wars product and you can see a world wide marketing power.

There was a problem with the 1994 World Cup as Upper Deck had the right in the USA. But the Italian company squared things an won out in the end.

I think PANINI will do well.

Anonymous said...

The NBA has been trying to reinvent itself way too much. Yes they are bottom feeders when it comes to cards and tv ratings, but solutions to these problems are much more simple than this "new and fresh" approach that continues to alienate it's fans and collectors.

Problem 1: How do you get people to follow and watch our sport?

Solution: A complex problem requires a complex solution. (a)Tradition is a must. That means keeping teams in their cities so that generational support occurs. It also means building teams in long-term stable markets. (B) No more drama queen player behaviors. Bring respect and dignity back to the sport. Labron throwing up chalk should be a technical foul. You see a batter show off like that before an at bat in the MLB, he will have a fast ball in his face. Or a hockey player before a game, stick/fist to the face. Your watching a basketball game not a movie. NO MORE PANSY DRAMA! (c) Disparity. Nothing like watching a sport that only has 3 teams that have a chance in hell of winning it all. The support of the loser team fan bases will suffer and sales of the sport will drop. (d) Those are the big three but there are other smaller issues.

Problem 2: Our card sells suck!

Solution: TRADITION. You get rid of the american brand icons of Topps and Upper Deck, you will be the laughing stock of the rest of the collecting world. Think about it. Don't get me wrong, I believe Panini has the same ability to produce great cards as UD and Topps. But they are Panini and no matter what they pull out their a## they will always be second rate to the two American Icons. The solution?? KEEP Topps and UD BUT restrict what they produce. Let each company produce 5 products. Topps and UD will each have 3 large sets with rookie cards in the regular base (no sp cards just limit the amount of sets dont make 10 million sets). NO MORE PLAIN CARD INSERTS or NUMBERED PLAIN CARD INSERTS!!! Just print VETERAN and ROOKIE card base + auto and jersey card combo random inserts. Have your case hits be a redemption for a game used basketball or net or Labron's shoes or Duncan's jersey or head band or wrist band or tickets to a game (notice I said CASE HIT and not some contest bs) Come on people get creative! Topps and UD will also each have 2 high end sets which will be the one or two pack $100+ a box bs. I wish people would look more to solutions to problems rather than defend or attack. Tradition is what keeps collecting of ALL kinds going. Starting over is not going to help the situation.

Andrew said...

I don' think I understand what you mean by the NBA re-inventing itself.

RE: Problem 1:

Teams move because of the owners. Seattle still should have a team, it's ludicrous that they don't. The owner screwed them. Same happened to Cleveland with our NFL team. Moves happen, they are horrible but they happen. Lebron does his chalk routine prior to the first tip, so I don't see how that should really effect the outcome of the game, let alone get a technical foul. The marketing aspect of his chalk routine is staggering. There have been shirts and commercials made about it. And uh, part C, I don't know if you are talking about the NBA or MLB. I love baseball, but it's not fun to watch the Yanks and Red Sox all the time on ESPN (in fact, I don't even watch ESPN).

RE: Problem 2:
Panini might not do anything over here in terms of sales, but basketball fans will buy the cards, because who else is going to produce them? Also, Panini is a flagship sticker/card brand in Europe and the sales of NBA cards in Europe and the rest of the Eastern Hemisphere is a complete untapped market, Panini will make solid money off that.

Anonymous said...

"I don' think I understand what you mean by the NBA re-inventing itself." -Andrew

Direct quote from Lisa Goldberg, the NBA’s Senior Director of Trading Cards, Collectibles and Memorabilia when talking about Panini (Reinventing-executive-out-of-touch-with-collectors-jargon phrases in CAPS).

"What excites us the most is that we’re looking at somebody COMPLETELY FRESH AND NEW. There are no preconceived notions of what this one has done in the past and what that one has done in the past and hasn’t worked. There’s no “this brand usually does well then all of a sudden it tanked for varying reasons” or “this brand did great in one sport but it did terrible in another sport.” It’s all FRESH AND NEW and it gives us the opportunity to really get the hobby involved at the ground level; to get their ideas as to what they think works in products and what doesn’t work in products, timing of releases, what kind of content goes into it. It just gives us an opportunity to really START FROM SCRATCH, gather everybody’s thoughts and hopefully roll them all into a good product mix."

NBA teams move like their playing musical chairs. This eliminates tradition which results in sales suffering. I say 1/3 of the NBA teams need to be cut. Less teams means more talented teams. If your paticular team has a very good chance of making the post season each year the fan base will grow and tradition will be established and sales will be more stable or increase.

You are right in that Labron's chalk routine and any of his other theatrics do bring sales and attention BUT this incrases sales and attention for Lebron items/games, NOT the NBA. Having a commercial that shows an awesome play made by Lebron or any other player would put more emphisis on selling the sport and not some individual player.

"Lebron does his chalk routine prior to the first tip, so I don't see how that should really effect the outcome of the game, let alone get a technical foul." -Andrew

Your right it does not affect the game at all. If he mooned the opposing team before each game, that would also not affect the outcome, but would not be any more appropriate. I am not sure if Refs can give technical fouls beore a game starts but a player can be ejected from the game as soon as he steps foot into the arena. (Rodman et al.)

"And uh, part C, I don't know if you are talking about the NBA or MLB." -Andrew

The NBA. My whole response was towards the NBA. Disparity for the NBA means evenly distributed talent. The NBA does not have this for there are a few power house teams and then the rest. Unfortunalty a few big market teams are not going to make up for the poor sales of everyone else. This is a big reason why the sport suffers fiscally.

As for your response to Problem 2. You are absolutly right. The NBA is wanting a bigger market ($$$$) which is what Panini can deliver. But my problem with this is that all of those following the hobby have just been dumped on. Thier sets that they are use to collecting each year are suddenly gone. And all so the NBA can turn a quick buck. This is an incredible injustice to followers of the hobby.

UD and Topps have exclusive rights to several players and will continue to make basketball cards (unlisenced). Add Panini cards to the mix and I fail to see how this makes the hobby less cluttered and better.

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