Over the last few years, Upper Deck has done pretty well creating products under their exclusive for the NCAA. Since 2010, most of their success in basketball has been tied to one of two things – the first is their brand names, which are the best in sports, and the second is their long standing exclusive deal with Michael Jordan. Even though Panini has held the exclusive in the NBA for years, they cannot reach their full potential without the biggest name in all of Sports Cards.
Here is what Michael Jordan is capable of:
It doesnt stop with cards, as UD Authentic can still sell Bulls Jerseys and other licensed gear:
The Industry Summit has a deserved reputation as a colossal waste of time, but Upper Deck did make the most of it this time around. Today, they announced that they have managed to complete a new long term deal with Michael Jordan, something that I was personally shocked to see. Rumors had been flying around that Jordan hated signing autographs, and that he was ready to put down the pen and not sign for anyone any longer. Now that Upper Deck has found a way to keep him around, what does that mean now that Panini has taken away their exclusive?
Upper Deck has overused Jordan in recent years, mainly because he was worth so much to the success of their products. Coupling Jordan with their concurrent exclusive deal with Lebron James, and using them ad nauseum in their products is going to be a winning formula, especially considering how enormously unsuccessful Panini has been in cultivating brands of their own in the basketball space compared to UD.
Now that Jordan is back in the mix with autograph content, Im curious if this is a way to get the fish back on the hook in a potential sale of the company and its assets to Panini. Right now, Panini has only managed a few marginally profitable years in their run as the exclusive NBAlicensed trading card company, and it has a lot to do with collectors choosing to stick with Upper Deck, even if it means buying and selling only older products.
If Jordan is part of Upper Deck’s assets, getting him, the Exquisite brand (among others), and Lebron James in a deal for the company would be a humongous addition to the over-payment they have committed to the NBA for the exclusive deal in the first place. Jordan has not had an officially licensed new NBA card for almost 7 years, and collectors are literally foaming at the mouth for new stuff. If Panini could make that happen, all of a sudden they become much more able to market to people who have since sworn off their terrible looking and horribly conceived basketball products. Even existing Panini collectors would kill for officially licensed Jordan cards, and that makes this long term deal even more important.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Upper Deck has found a way to keep themselves relevant in a new era without any licensing. For as long as I can remember, Upper Deck has always produced some sort of licensed card during the year, but this is now a different era. Even though Panini does not produce the best cards in any sport, they will soon own the exclusive in all but 2. Now thanks to this deal, they will have to do it without their biggest target.
I am someone that despises exclusive licenses, and I still think part of the solutions to the hobby’s woes is encouraged competition among all brands for all players. But I completely understand why this deal is important for UD.