If you are unfamiliar with the Rookie Premiere, today is the main event. The rookies put on their NFL uniforms for the first time, and head to the stadium for their first dress rehearsal as part of their new teams. Obviously, if you are not a fan of Panini, this day is going to be torture, but at least we can see some of the incredible things that Topps Digital is doing with their apps.
If you expected them to spend the day taking action shots of the guys running simulated scenarios on the field, yeah you picked the wrong company to follow. Even though Panini had the entire field to work with for most of the day, it looks like they spent just as much time taking rookies off the playing surface and using them for stupid gimmicks that dont involve the reason why everyone goes to the event.
Back when the event was conceived, it was to provide a place where the card companies could simulate photography that look like in game shots. Because some of the rookies wouldnt see the field during their first year, at least in time for actual photos to be available and processed, the Premiere offered a unique opportunity. Similarly with all photos taken at the premiere belonging to the companies themselves, there was no cost to acquire rights. Those principles are still in place today, and for many years Panini has completely made terrible use of this opportunity.
Their signature is avoiding the visually stunning photography that can be generated at this event, instead opting for goofy posed pictures of the rookies without their helmets on, or in a room constructed for them to pretend to tear a football in half. If anyone wonders why so many cards from Panini feature this type of horrible looking pictures, its because they spend so much time at this event generating it.
In fact, for some of their cards, instead of retouching college action shots for use in NFL branded cards, like they did in previous years, all retouching was done on publicity head shots taken around the NFL draft and during the premiere’s opening days. Yes, it seems as though Panini is DELIBERATELY moving away from photography that looks the best on a trading card, in favor of the inexeplicable Human Bobblehead and other questionable uses for the time spent during the event.
This is why I hate Panini’s cards. They opt to produce them in a way that literally drives me up a fucking wall. I love football for action on the field, not glamour shots in a studio. From the looks on the rookies’ faces, I can tell they probably feel the same way. Considering that the field is there for the best results, and they choose consistently to avoid it, makes me angry. What is the point of this event if they are not going to use it for what it is worth?
For the first time, Topps is appearing at the event without a physical license. As a licensee with the NFLPA under their digital license, Topps was granted space on the field, but likely no access to the players running around for Panini’s photography. Obviously Panini wants the event to themselves, especially when the Topps Digital team has just signed a long term deal with their exclusive physical provider.
Huddle has shown that the market for football cards on the digital side is a booming industry, much the opposite of the slowly collapsing physical side of the card business. With tens of thousands of users, Huddle likely has more people engaging with their product on a regular basis than Panini does with their new physical products at any given time.
Topps had some great ideas for the event as well, with live signatures and drawn plays by the rookies all to be featured in beautiful cards featured in Huddle. It also looks like they made use of their tent space, looking for ways to get photos of the rookies for the app, despite not having the field to work with.
Topps has always produced better cards than Panini has from a design perspective, and its clear that they know what they are doing on the digital side as well. With new content delivered multiple times PER DAY, at ANY TIME of the day, collectors can engage with the app at their leisure without leaving their homes.
This is the first time the Huddle app has been NFL licensed at the time of the rookie premiere, and its going to be very cool to see how they adapt to life without the anchor of a physical license in their back pocket. Where Panini seems to be absent of a thought of the difference between their ass and their elbow, Topps continues to innovate across the brands they have left.
As we have seen from Panini, all they care about is cardboard cutouts of instagram windows and ripping off Topps’ old ideas than actually doing anything creative on their own. This is as sad as I have ever been for Football cards, and the rookie premiere is the first experience of what life will be like when Panini has full control. What. a. fucking. joke.