SBD/July 12, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

No Sharpie Needed: Stu Sternberg Behind Launch Of Digital Autograph Company Egraphs

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Egraphs, backed by Sternberg, will initially cost $50 with prices to be altered later
Egraphs, a new Seattle-based outfit seeking to develop a niche in digital autographs, formally launches today with the company incubated in part by the Rays and team Owner Stu Sternberg. The Egraphs product involves a player, following a fan order online, signing his autograph and a personalized greeting on an iPad with a special stylus and recording a voice message to go along with that digital autograph. Both the autograph and voice message are authenticated using a variety of high-end biometric processes developed by Egraphs. The Egraphs product seeks to restore a level of personalization and genuine fan connection now often lost and commodotized with physical autographs, while at the same time allowing many options to print out, e-mail, view on mobile devices or share on social media. The company was developed following a series of conversations between Rays Senior VP/Business Operations Brian Auld and his brother, David, who has a background in technology and worked for several years at Microsoft. "We're trying to bring back a certain amount of magic that we think has been missing from autographs," said David Auld, who now is the CEO of Egraphs. The company has aligned with more than two dozen players and coaches at launch, including Red Sox DH David Ortiz, Rays P David Price, Yankees P CC Sabathia and former MLBer Kerry Wood. The introductory price for Egraphs will be $50, with prices to alter following a short launch period, but staying generally below those seen for physical autographs. Resale value is all but eliminated due to the highly personalized nature of the product. Following an initial baseball-focused launch, Egraphs intends to move quickly into football, other sports, and general entertainment (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

$IGN OF THE TIMES: In Charlotte, Scott Fowler notes NFL Panthers QB Cam Newton's appearance at an autograph-signing session this weekend in Charlotte will cost fans between $125-175. IMG’s Carlos Fleming, Newton’s marketing agent, said that Newton “agreed to sign a memorabilia deal in part to deal with the fake and unauthorized merchandise that is rampant in the sports collectibles industry.” Fowler writes Newton has “the right to charge three figures for his autograph in his backyard, just as I have the right to disagree with him doing so.” Newton "shouldn’t charge for autographs in his current hometown" because that is "part of just being part of the community” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/12).
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