With March Madness putting the spotlight on the stars of tomorrow, Upper Deck is already plotting their future. The staple sports and entertainment trading cards memorabilia company is hitting 25 years and recently announced a new deal to become the exclusive licensed manufacturer of NHL Trading Cards. The company is also launching multiple activations for its silver anniversary, including a 250-card, 25th-anniversary multi-sport set, brand-new versions of its popular Legendary Deck Building Game, and a series of social media contests and promotions.
As Industry Summit, the sports card and collectible trade show, gets underway in Vegas this week, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Upper Deck President Jason Masherah about 25 years, surprises and the NHL.
Masherah on the company’s 25th anniversary: The big thing for us is that we view it as an opportunity to engage not only our current collectors but also collectors who maybe haven’t traded cards in several years. The way we are doing that is through social media, and we’re doing outreach, giveaways, contests through our Facebook page, our Twitter page and our blog. We are also going to be doing some activation in some of the key shows in our industry. This anniversary also marks an opportunity for us to reach out and engage collectors who may not have collected for 5, 10 or 20 years and try to engage them again and bring them back to the hobby they love. What is really gratifying is to see fathers who grew up with Upper Deck now going to their kids and sharing the pastime that they loved with their kids and create a hobby where they get to spend time together.
On social media: The beauty of social media is that it’s an opportunity to get honest feedback, both good and bad, from the consumers and really be able to adjust our product offering and content for the fans. It also allows us to engage and do some things directly with the fans. We just introduced a program, the Random Acts of Kindness, where people can submit different stories to us and it allows us to change or affect the lives of people who have unique stories. Over the past 12-18 months, we’ve really been activating behind these stories.
On the biggest pleasant surprise: We were surprised by how well collectors reacted to a lot of the programs that we’ve run like this. As a company, we are in a position of privilege and get a chance to interact with the world’s biggest athletes and the world’s biggest brands, both on the sports and entertainment side. The ability to give back and do things for these organizations, like Operation Gratitude, and see people engage and react to that has been really eye-opening and very rewarding.
On the NHL deal: Hockey has been extremely important to us from the beginning. As much as the US consumer thinks about Upper Deck and that original Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, for the Canadian consumer, it harkens back to the beginning of our brand and what it means to hockey. We’ve always embraced hockey, it has always been a priority for us. So, to return as the exclusive licensee for the NHL Players Association and the NHL is an honor and a big responsibility for us and we take it very seriously.
On the Industry Summit: It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the hobby shops and our distributors and to do it in a very close knit setting. To hear what’s going right or wrong in the distribution chain, it helps to get feedback from the collectors and their shops. So we will say thank you to those guys and are giving away a set that harkens back to the 1989 design that will be built exclusively for those in attendance. You will probably see a lot of those cards pop up on eBay. We will do a couple of player signings to promote from products and then go through with them what our plans are as well as talk about some of the promotions we have coming up.