SBJ/April 23-29, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Panini renews NFL trading card license, sees indicators for a strong season ahead

Following a tumultuous 2011 NFL season in which the league’s labor difficulties made business difficult, Panini America has renewed its NFL trading card license while also renewing complementary rights with the NFL Players Association.

The deal includes cards, stickers and sticker albums.
The multiyear deal includes licenses for cards, stickers and sticker albums. It also includes international rights. The deal expands the number of annual card set releases to 18 from 15.

Panini America CEO Mark Warsop described it as a long-term deal but did not reveal precise terms.

Compared with a year ago, when long-lead-time licensed product manufacturers like trading card companies and video game producers were among those most affected by the NFL’s labor woes, this coming season looks particularly strong, Warsop said.

“Beyond the QBs that will go one-two [projecting Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the top two picks in this week’s NFL draft], it is a deep draft — and beyond the quality of the draft, you’ve got heavily collected players like Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow changing teams,” Warsop said. “So in terms of total distribution, I would assume that this year total football card sales will surpass total baseball card sales on the basis of that rookie strength and the lack of a [baseball] rookie like Stephen Strasburg this year to pump up the baseball market.”

Warsop said he’d been working on the renewal for six to nine months.

The first product under the new agreement will be the 2012 Prestige NFL set in late May, which will feature likely top draft pick Luck. The set is the first that will show next season’s rookies in Nike’s new NFL uniforms.

Since entering the U.S. market in 2009 with an exclusive NBA license, Panini has acquired Donruss and then obtained its own NFL license two years later. It also acquired a license in 2010 from the NHL and NHL Players’ Association. Last year, it obtained an MLB Players Association card license.

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