05/18/20: Topps breaks down the companies move to pivot


Medias First Morning Read
Monday May 18, 2020

The key to brand success of any size is being able to adapt and pivot in challenging times, and one of the companies that has been able to transform and evolve its business model over the last few years has been Topps. No longer a sleepy card company, Topps has emerged as a leader in digital engagement in the memorabilia and collectable space, as well as in digital engagement with its partners like MLB and MLS. That innovation has been even more front and center as sports has been in this hiatus, as the launch of Project 2020, which has taken some of the most iconic street artists of today and had them reimagine some of the most popular baseball cards in history. The initiative has now eclipsed not just sales projections to this point but for the entire season.

Cynopsis asked Jeff Heckman, Global Director of E-commerce for Topps, to walk us through some of the big efforts and changes for the company.

Heckman on innovation without games: Here are three ways that produced cards without any games being played: Turn Back the Clock Topps NOW- We pivoted our Topps NOW platform, where we create cards of the best plays and moments in MLB each day, to highlight historic moments in MLB history. Each day, we offer 1 card that captures a major accomplishment or milestone on that date. These cards are available for only 24 hours and then we highlight a new moment the following day. Bracket Contest- After the decision was made to postpone the MLB season, Topps decided to offer a bracket challenge contest to crown the best player in MLB. We selected 64 players, placed them into four divisions and allowed fans to vote for the best player. Cards were produced for the winners of each round and available for a limited amount of time on Topps.com. In an upset, fans voted Christian Yelich the top player beating out Max Scherzer. MLB The Show tournament- Topps partnered with MLB The Show to offer Topps NOW cards during the competitions hosted this spring.

On the success of Topps 2020 as a platform: We started working on Project 2020 in the fall of 2019. With the new decade coming, we thought it would be fun to pay homage to some of the most iconic baseball cards in Topps history. Our team has always been impressed and inspired by the collaborations we saw in the sneaker and fashion industry and we wanted to bring that creativity to trading cards. Therefore we decided to pick 20 artists and 20 cards and have each artist reimagine 20 cards in their own artistic style. The two biggest surprises is how well the program performed right as the pandemic hit and how excited the artists and their fans have become about baseball cards. It has been so awesome to watch the excitement unfold each day

On the resurgence of trading cards: The people who used to collect cards in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s have returned to the hobby. When the trading card bubble burst in the mid ‘90’s, a number of collectors left the hobby. However, as these collectors grew older, started their own families, and had some disposable income, they have returned to collect new and vintage cards. A number of them are in the process of passing the hobby down to their kids as they open packs with their sons and daughters. Rookie cards continue to be huge in all sports. In these uncertain times, people find comfort and joy in activities from their childhood. Adult males have fond memories of collecting and trading cards from their childhood. Then there is Case breaking; You can buy a spot in a case break and you get to experience the rush and joy of getting a card for your favorite player, an autographed card, or a rare parallel card. These case breaks are broadcast live on You Tube and social media and help to bring the collecting community together.

On the importance of legacy companies being able to pivot: It is invaluable for a brand like Topps to be nimble during these challenging times. We have transformed our ecommerce business model over the past several years to be able to offer products quickly almost in real-time. It started with Topps NOW five years ago where we were to create cards a few hours after games ended to highlight the top moments from the previous day’s games. We continue it today using our print on Demand model to capitalize on culturally relevant events with our Garbage Pail Kids cards. We recently offered cards from the Democratic primaries and the hit show, Tiger King, and we will continue to innovate in that way as well.


The 2020 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland will now take place on Oct. 3, according to an announcement from The Stronach Group Chairman and President Belinda Stronach and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. The shift means that the Triple Crown will now run Sept. 5 for the Kentucky Derby, while the Belmont Stakes sees the New York Racing Association explores a new date

Major League Baseball will host its 2020 MLB Draft remotely, according to ESPN. The report states that teams will not be allowed to have draft rooms and will instead make pics via video conference with the head of baseball operations for every team receiving a video kit and will be on camera with no audio during the draft. Day 1 of the draft (the first round) will be June 10 at 7p, while rounds 2-5 start at 5p on June 11.

NBC Sports serves up live coverage of the remainder of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season starting May 31, on NBC and NBCSN at 3p. All seven races will now take place at Rice–Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Ralph Sheheen, five-time Supercross champion and seven-time Motocross champion Ricky Carmichael, host and former racer Daniel Blair, and reporter Will Christien will call the remaining seven races.

The hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be selected at an online meeting of the FIFA Council on June 25, with the organization selecting from among Brzil, Colombia, Japan and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand. The 2023 World Cup will be the first to feature 32 teams.

The Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association are extending their shutdown of play. In an announcement, the ATP revealed that that eight more events – in Hamburg, Bastad, Newport, Los Cabos, Gstaad, Umag, Atlanta, and Kitzbühel – have been called off. The WTA scrapped four events in Bastad, Lausanne, Bucharest and Jurmala.

Quibi unveiled a new documentary series focusing on the Houston Astros cheating scandal, currently titled Sign Language, from Uninterrupted and The Cinemart. In addition, the new platform is launching another sports-centric series titled ‘Blackballed’ today that “highlights the five days during the 2014 NBA playoffs, when players and coaches led an unprecedented movement to hold racism accountable.”

Ready to get back to the business of sports? Join Cynopsis for free The Great Sports Disruption: Preparing for Success In A Post-COVID World on June 9 from 1-5p. This VIRTUAL event will give you the chance to interact with your peers and hear from A-List speakers as they break down the new ways of doing business and how these methods will shape the risks and rewards that lie ahead. Learn more and register here. Speakers are set to include:
· Sarah Hirshland, CEO – USOC
· Larry Scott, Commissioner – PAC-12 Conference
· Chris Davis, Chief Marketing Officer and SVP Merchandising New Balance
· Craig Neeb, EVP & Chief Innovation Officer – NASCAR
· Naz Aletaha, Head of Global Esports Partnerships – Riot Games
· Cole Gahagan, President & CEO – Learfield IMG College
· Kathryn Tappen, Host & Reporter – NBC Sports Group
· Sam Flood, EP & President, Production – NBC Sports Group
· Jon Patricof, CEO & Co-Founder – Athletes Unlimited
· Gwen Svekis, Softball Player/Executive Committee – Athletes Unlimited
· Foluke Akinradewo, Volleyball Player/Executive Committee – Athletes Unlimited

PBR unveiled a new 40-hour televised team competition that will run June 5 – July 12, beginning at South Point Arena in Las Vegas and culminating in a championship weekend that will welcome fans to ticketed events at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota July 10-12. The first four weekends of the team challenge in Las Vegas will be closed-to-the-public on June 5-28 using the safety protocols PBR debuted during three previous event weekends in April and May, including a scaled-down crew, medical testing, functional separation and social distancing.

RIP to Phyllis George Brown, the first female sportscaster to work at a major network, who died on Thursday after complications from a blood disorder. George was hired at CBS as an NFL reporter in 1974 and joined CBS’s pregame series, The NFL Today a year later as a co-host, working with Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Jimmy Snyder.

The Great Sports Disruption: Preparing For Success in a Post-COVID World
Virtual Event: June 9 | 1 – 5PM ET

Join Cynopsis for this virtual event and interact with your peers as A-list speakers break down the new ways of doing business and how these methods will shape the risks and rewards that lie ahead for all segments of the sports sector. Hear from leaders at: Athletes Unlimited, Learfield IMG College, NASCAR, New Balance, NBC Sports Group, Pac-12 Conference, Riot Games, United States Olympic Committee and more.



With a return to competition following coronavirus shutdowns
, NASCAR is expanding its partnership with Clean Harbors for infectious disease prevention and decontamination needs. Clean Harbors was tapped to disinfect and decontaminate Darlington Raceway to ensure the safety of all drivers, crew and personnel for upcoming races. “As NASCAR returns to racing, it’s essential that our drivers, teams and staff are safe at the track,” said John Bobo, NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations. “We appreciate the expanded partnership with Clean Harbors during these unprecedented times, as they will play a critical role in the ongoing disinfection of our facilities leading into and during race weekends.”

Speaking of NASCAR, Motorsports Business Management and RoofClaim.com announced a partnership extension of the No. 66 NASCAR Cup Series team stating with Sunday’s race. “Our partnership with MBM Mortorsports and Timmy Hill has been a great success thus far,” said CEO Brian Wedding. “The partnership has brought great exposure to our brand and allowed us to further educate homeowners across the nation about our innovative services. We are excited to expand our partnership with MBM and Timmy and look forward to reaching more of the NASCAR community both digitally and at the track.”


In a move to celebrate the conclusion of The Last Dance, ESPN and The Undefeated launched a virtual experience called “House of ’98,” an extension of the ESPN House franchise. The dedicated website – complete with the look and feel of vintage internet –takes fans 22 years back in time and features 90’s rap and hip-hop music and other pop culture influences of the time.


The National Hockey League Players’ Association is launching the NHLPA Open, featuring Fortnite, today via a live charity tournament created by J.T. Compher and Zach Hyman. Over 60 NHL players will represent their cities as they compete as Trios in Fortnite. The three-hour live Fortnite tournament will be streamed on Twitch.tv/espnesports starting at 2p. The NHLPA Open featuring Fortnite will be highlighted by a $200,000 charity prize pool, which will be directed to player-chosen charities.

Twitter’s gaming lead Rishi Chadha revealed the company’s latest gaming + esports insights for April 2020. Included with lists that included the most talked-about games and personalities is the monthly list of most talked-about esports teams. Leading the list that month was FaZe Clan, with MiBR in second and G2 Esports in third. Rounding out the top ten were Fnatic, T1, paiN Gaming, GenG, Team Griffin, Cloud9 and 100 Thieves.


US Youth Soccer agreed to a strategic partnership with Major League Soccer for an alliance bolstering player development in the United States. With an ability to reach into every community in the country, the shared USYS and MLS goals will focus on: · Improving U.S. domestic youth player identification and selection processes · Building a more integrated pathway to advanced opportunities for both boys and girls · Creating a more inclusive and accessible pathway for a more diverse player pool · Reducing pay-to-play barriers and other access challenges for elite players · Expanding MLS outreach and opportunities through an expansive network of coaches and scouts · Building multi-tiered relationships that strengthen the U.S. talent pool · Supporting the MLS nationwide through player, club, & fan engagement designed to drive growth, participation and generations of new fans.

The adtech community is stepping up to the plate…


The Cynopsis Adtech Awards
Enter By May 28th

During a time when in-person events have been cancelled, the adtech community is stepping up. They’re helping to guarantee marketers upfront inventory and preserve revenue for media owners by using breakthrough approaches and solutions. Adtech providers are a group that lives on the cutting edge of innovation, which is why we are celebrating their platforms, campaigns, and strategies in more than 20 categories. View them all


On this Day
2004: The Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson becomes the 16th pitcher to throw a perfect game.

In the Know
Which famed composer was hired to create the Olympic Fanfare & Theme that resonated from the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Speaking of the Globetrotters, what is Curly’s actual name? Answer: Fred Neal. Kudos: Denis Barry-CBS/NY; Michael Ritz-Lenox Advisors/NY; Barbara Capella Loehr-Equal Opportunity Publications/NY; Roger Furman-The Leverage Agency/Greentown; Michael Goodman-Radio One/Atlanta; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Mike May-R2 Innovative Technologies/Wellington; Joe Lyons-ESPN/Dallas; Kohn Kukla-KDFW/KDFI/Dallas; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; David Hauptman/Denver; Greg Moloznik-GLM Media/Scottsdale; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Brian Robin-Bear Titan Publications/San Bernardino

Cynopsis Team

Chris Pursell
Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Roberta Caploe

Cynopsis Ad Sales
Mike Farina


Albert Nassour


Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
Trish Pihonak
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Responsible for working with show hosts, preparing the rundown of new stories, identifying and integrating guests, overseeing and executing the prod of key video & graphic elements w/guidance from the EP. 3+ yrs EP exp or overseeing newscast production. Full info HERE (6/2)

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Shop LC/Austin TX: Resp for launching our Shop LC brand on new and emerging media platforms outside of just cable and DISH television. 3+ yrs of exp in advanced media sales &/or digital advertising incl online media buying, campaign management and performance analysis is a must. Full info HERE (5/28)

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