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Volume 20 No. 42
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Panini signs Luck for memorabilia business

Panini America has signed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to an exclusive memorabilia deal. As the first NFL athlete to join the card marketer’s Panini Authentic business, Luck will serve as a cornerstone of that business, which also includes NBA players Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant.

Panini America CEO Mark Warsop said his company is not trying to build a huge memorabilia business, like a Steiner Sports, but noted synergies with the core trading card business.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the first NFL player to sign with Panini Authentic, a unit that launched in 2009.
“With our marquee athletes, this allows us to control the value of their autographs, since they won’t be diluted by other parties,” Warsop said.

Luck, the NFL’s top draft pick,

has already signed a number of Stanford and Colts photos, balls, helmets and mini-helmets. Those products will go on sale this week at the site and at hobby dealers. Pricing will range from $199.99 for autographed 16 x 20 photos and mini-helmets to $299.99 for autographed authentic footballs to $499.99/$549.99 for autographed authentic Colts and Stanford helmets.

Panini will eventually offer game-worn items from Luck, who had previously signed non-exclusive trading-card agreements with Topps and Panini.

Panini launched its Authentic business with the signing of Bryant in 2009. Warsop said that revenue from his memorabilia business doubled last year. Forecasts for this year anticipate growth of 50 percent or more, “but we’re keeping it small,” he said. “Don’t expect us to have 50 or a hundred players two or three years from now.”

Wasserman Media Group’s Will Wilson, Luck’s uncle and agent, said that the memorabilia deal grew out of the trading-card relationship with Panini.

“We share a less-is-more kind of philosophy,” Wilson said.

Luck’s other endorsements are with Nike; Pepsi for Gatorade, Quaker Oatmeal and granola bars; and EA’s “FIFA 13” game.

Based on Luck’s early success, Wilson offered his read on the supposedly depressed athlete endorsement market. “Maybe I’m biased,” said Wilson, adding that he was close to completing an additional local market endorsement, “but we’ve turned some other offers down. So I would tell you there is money out there for the right guy.”