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Volume 20 No. 42
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Plugged In: Jason Masherah, Upper Deck

Upper Deck last month kicked off a slew of marketing initiatives to mark the company’s 25th anniversary. The man behind the celebration is Jason Masherah, who was appointed president of the trading card company last year and has been with the Carlsbad, Calif., business since 2006. He’s seen the fortunes of the memorabilia industry rise and fall with the economy, but he’s encouraged by some of Upper Deck’s recent innovations and a push into the college space.

There’s an incredible competition for entertainment, and it’s only been heightened in recent years. We’re no different. We’re a form of entertainment, except that we’re not a live event. Just like the games are exploring every way to improve the fan experience, we’ve got to make sure we’re doing the most innovative things.

The changes he’s seen: Our focus really is going back to the hobby shop, because they’re an extension of us. They are a walking billboard for the industry. That’s where you find your sense of community — in those shops. That’s the place where, as a new collector, you learn what to look for. That’s a focus for us going forward. There also are opportunities on the Internet, where communities have moved online.

About the 25th anniversary: We’re doing a lot on social media. We’re having contests, we’re doing a lot of direct-to-consumer advertising with chances to win prizes and talk about your collection. We’re going to have an enormous presence at all of the big trade shows, bringing in athletes and displaying collections all over the country and in Canada.

Doing business in the current economy: You’re seeing growth in online sales and an evolution to the more tech-savvy crowd. … On YouTube, there are literally thousands of videos of people opening boxes of trading cards. Shops are posting those videos to show the excitement, so it’s been interesting to see that change.

About the college sets: We’ve seen ways in which people are more passionate about their college teams than pro teams. There’s a strong allegiance there, and our school-specific sets have tapped into that. We’re going to have our first conference set this fall with SEC football, and that will be another great way to engage consumers in a way that’s never been done before.

A sweet spot with hockey: Canada is very important to us. We’ve got a deal with the Hockey Hall of Fame [in Toronto], and individual deals with some greats like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. Hockey is a strong piece of our business. The hobby [business] is really alive in Canada, and with Canada [winning the Olympic gold medal], we could see some lift from that.

— Michael Smith