In my opinion, Contenders is one of the products that is LEAST deserving of the brand equity it has delivered on a yearly basis. To me, it seems as though the legacy this product has built stems not from good looking designs or innovative approaches, but the fact that it was one of the first products to truly use rookie autographs as its cornerstone. Not only is that bullshit in today’s day and age, but the continued lack of attention to the look and feel of the product is staggering.
Here is what 2014’s foray into Contenders looks like:
For some god forsaken reason, Contenders has a ton of people that buy it, despite the fact that the design is fucking horrendous more years out of the run than it is good looking. It has had its moments, but so many times, the fabled Panini “design team” (in quotes for a reason) has marred the face of the set in the worst possible way. Yet, because it was the first of many thousands of products that have put out autograph based sets, collectors give it a pass on its brutal approach.
This type of concept extends into 2014 with another year of lacking design performance, as CLEAR mistakes were made in who chose what design for which subset, and the addition of a myriad of unneeded variations and parallels to extend a print run. It doesnt help that one of these variations is a fucking goofy studio shot, something I cannot see why Panini is so obsessed with. Adding in that the Parallel structure was changed to accomodate a bloated print run, and all of a sudden there are new reasons why Contenders is a horrible excuse for a product.
My main gripe is that Panini had a nice TICKET based design in the Rookie Ink subset. Make that the ticket design for 2014 and it changes much of the outlook of the set. Sure, there are still the other issues at bay, but those become more tolerated with a good ticket design. It baffles me how this happened, where the obvious ticket is used for a minor subset, and the design that should have been the Rookie Ink is used for the ticket. Someone at Panini is running around with blinders on, and that blindfold angers me to no end.
Add in that someone decided that throwing in points cards was a good idea, despite the fact that the reaction to pulling one requires a barf bag near by. Nothing says “I could give a flying fuck about this product” than adding points cards, and Contenders should have been taken more seriously. Collectors are saying that its “added content” but that is crap. Points cards cost as much to create as those kid reporter cards, and they are worth about that much in tow. Its a cheap way to extend out a print run while providing zero extra value to anyone who gets that in their box.
Putting that issue aside, I just cant get over this horrible design. Im also convinced that no card at Panini can be created without checking off most of the following boxes:
- Separated defined space for the autograph (cordoned off from the rest of the design)
- Giant product logo
- Giant text
- Goofy ass studio shot picture
- “Dad Joke” play on words subset name
Its literally nauseating to think that these assholes are going to likely take over the entire licensed card area eventually, and that should be fucking scary for everyone. They have more money than they know what to do with, and they are acting like that guy at the gym who lifts enormous weights in a public area and laughs at the weaklings next to him. “DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO?” That’s Panini. They can bully their way around because italy has given them a blank check, even though they have done NOTHING to deserve that in sales performance. They dont care what things look like, how they are done, or who gets the screw job at the end (most of the time its us and the local card shop).