07/12/21: TOPP’s breaks down its new pop culture resurgence


Medias First Morning Read


Monday July 12, 2021

While the pandemic was raging, TOPPS executives reimagined the company and its role with fans. While the collectable business has exploded overall, the longtime MLB partner found ways to reach new audiences by forging ties to artist recreations of traditional cards, with results exceeding expectations. TOPPS two latest efforts involve the use of award-winning cartoonist Andy Friedman along with an on air partnership with FOX, bringing the work of their street artists to FOX’s “MLB Game of the Week” and now for the first time to the MLB All-Star game. Driving innovation is Jeff Heckman, TOPPS’ Global Director of Ecommerce. We asked Jeff to update us on the FOX partnership, the explosion of the street artist programs, and what could be on the horizon for collectors and casual fans.

Heckman on the FOX partnership: Our talented, diverse group of artists have done great work on projects like Topps Project 2020 and Project70, which have been well received by collectors and in the pop art world. Partnering with FOX has introduced the wide Game of the Week audience to just how much effort and skill these amazing creators have put into their reinterpretations of classic cards and unique designs. And we expect the All Star Game to take it to an even higher level, with baseball fans from across the country tuned in to see the great work of artists like Gregory Siff and Brittney Palmer, who are working on special Field of Dreams Game canvases and are among nine artists creating dual cards representing All-Stars at each position this year, dropping on Tuesday, called Topps Project70 All Star Select.

On the expansion beyond street artists: Andy Friedman is an accomplished artist, writer, singer and songwriter, and his caricatures have appeared in the New Yorker since 1999. He’s put together the art for Topps Spotlight70, a collection of 70 watercolor images reimagining favorite baseball cards mostly from the 70s and 80s (think: Bucky Dent, Gary Matthews, Manny Sanguillen, Luis Tiant) that is launching this month. That relationship will pull in followers from his eclectic background in all of those worlds, in much the same way the breadth of creators in Project70 has helped us find new audiences.

On learning about consumer demand with this unique TOPPS collection: A lot of people who weren’t necessarily considered collectors before the pandemic went back into their attics and garages and got nostalgic for their baseball cards from their youth. That both stoked the demand for original cards from those eras, and heightened interest in the Project 2020 and now Project70 work that has utilized those players and designs that they remembered but in a new and updated way. Both of these sets are issued in a similar way to our hugely popular Topps NOW platform, limiting the run of each card to just the number ordered in a specific time frame. That scarcity helps drive proportional interest and demand for each card.

On the sales explosion: Project 2020 was comprised of 20 cards each by 20 renowned pop artists, so 400 total cards plus artist proofs, which sold almost 3,000,000 units from March 2020, baseball’s scheduled Opening Day, through the rest of 2020. Project70, which began in February 2021, is an even bigger program with 51 premier creators and designers from Snoop Dogg to Craola to the Project 2020 pop artists (representing the year 1951 when Topps first produced baseball cards, 70 years ago) each making 20 cards of their own player and card year design choice. We issue four cards per day so we anticipate getting through the series by next Spring.

On what’s next with TOPPS and pop culture: FOX will give a sneak peek at Gregory and Brittney’s Field of Dreams game canvases that they have been working on, highlighting the August 12 game between the Yankees and White Sox in Iowa, a Fox broadcast property. Gregory is doing a piece with all-time greats Luis Aparicio and Babe Ruth, and Brittney’s subject is new Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The possibility for additional media like murals, posters and books featuring the amazing variety of work across these programs.


ESPN aced a new extension to continue serving as the home of The Championships, Wimbledon in the US courtesy of a new 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis Club that begins with the 2024 Championships and extends through 2035. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will continue to present 140+ hours of coverage over the fortnight but will add live coverage on ABC of play on the middle weekend of the event. ESPN+ will have live streaming of all courts throughout the fortnight and will be the only place to get full match replays for all matches. In addition, ESPN+ will have exclusive live coverage of the qualifying rounds and access to all ancillary content produced by AELTC, such as films, classic matches, highlight shows and press conferences.

Meanwhile, Tennis Channel and the All England Lawn Tennis Club agreed to a new media rights partnership through the 2036 edition for The Championships, Wimbledon that adds 12 years to the existing relationship. Under the new arrangement, Tennis Channel will produce a daily afternoon/evening show with highlights, match segments, original features, exclusive interviews and commentary throughout the annual competition.

On the ratings front, the NHL ended its long-running partnership with NBC with the conclusion of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup as the Tampa Bay Lightning took home the crown. The company’s final broadcast of the league drew an average of 3.6 million viewers to the Stanley Cup Final on NBC. Overall, the series averaged 2.52 million viewers, according to Nielsen. .

Tomorrow sees baseball’s best and brightest stars take the field in Denver as the American and National Leagues collide at Coors Field at 8p on FOX. Joe Buck and Famer John Smoltz team up for their fifth consecutive Midsummer Classic while Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci round out the broadcast crew, providing exclusive inside information and in-game reports. Pregame starts at 7p. For the first time ever, the network will deliver the MLB All-Star Game in 4K, High Dynamic Range and production will be highlighted by more than 50 1080p HDR cameras, 75 microphones and a pair of the popular “Megalodon” cameras.

Beach volleyball’s best debut on Peacock this summer as the AVP returns to NBC Sports with live coverage of their 2021 season, beginning in Atlanta from August 13-15. Feature matches from all three tournaments will be presented live on Peacock, with NBCSN televising highlight shows in the days following each tournament’s conclusion. This summer’s AVP tournaments across Peacock and NBC Sports include stops in Manhattan Beach, Calif. from August 20-22 and Chicago, Ill. from September 3-5.

Amazon Prime Video will offer audiences around the world an inside-look at the 2021/22 season with Premier League football club, Arsenal, in All or Nothing: Arsenal. The next installment in the Amazon Original documentary series will launch exclusively on Amazon Prime Video next year in over 240 countries worldwide. All or Nothing: Arsenal will be produced by 72 Films, executive produced by Mark Raphael, Clare Cameron and three-time BAFTA winner John Douglas.

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Nominate yourself, your team and your work. Entries due 8/3.




The BIG3 is expanding the league’s partnership with Microsoft, naming the company as the Official Technology Partner for the org. The partnership will include Microsoft and Xbox as the official jersey patch partner, in-game signage, as well as product pop-ups. Of the 12 teams in the BIG3, six will have Microsoft branding on their jerseys and six will have Xbox. Microsoft will also present the “BIG3 Season MVP” and “Player of the Week,” the latter of which will be chosen by a fan vote during each week. Additionally, Microsoft will become the presenting sponsor of Young3, the BIG3’s youth program.

Major League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors announced the return of the joint “Play Ball Summer” effort, with a new focus on Sandlot play. Mayors’ Offices throughout the country and Puerto Rico will establish community-based events designed to connect families and communities to baseball and softball through fun-focused activities that will revolve around non-traditional play and skills building.

Meanwhile, MLB debuted a new :30 spot celebrating the historic first half performance of Shohei Ohtani leading into the T-Mobile Home Run Derby and t MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. The spot showcases Ohtani’s versatility as MLB’s first two-way All-Star in history and finishes with “It’s Sho-time,” running across FOX, FS1, TBS, during the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on ESPN and the All-Star Game on FOX, over all MLB media outlets including MLB Network, MLB.com, and MLB.TV, and across numerous digital and social media platforms.

After his championship press conference featuring no shirt and ice cold Bud Light, the beer brand announced the official signing of Lightning star Nikita Kucherov for Tampa’s upcoming Stanley Cup boat parade. The deal sees Bud Light ensure Kucherov and his teammates “continue having a legendary championship celebration by supplying all of the beer for the team at Champa’s Stanley Cup Parade” today.


Major League Baseball and DraftKings locked in a strategic sportsbook expansion and an extension of its existing Daily Fantasy Sports and sports betting relationship which will include expanded promotional rights and content inclusive of the sports betting category. Among the key components of the expanded relationship are rights to an innovative “Bet & Watch” streaming integration where fans with open and active MLB.com and DraftKings accounts will be able to watch a free, live MLB game within the DraftKings app. In addition, DraftKings and MLB plan to collaborate on future sports betting-themed game broadcast experiences that will live within the MLB.TV product. DraftKings is now a co-exclusive Official Sports Betting Partner of MLB, joining BetMGM. As part of the expanded relationship, DraftKings remains the exclusive Official Daily Fantasy Sports partner of Major League Baseball.


The LCS Championships found a home for 2021, and will take place at Prudential Center in Newark on August 28 and 29. Fans and press will be able to attend an LCS event for the first time since the 2019 Summer Finals in Detroit. The event will also serve as its first LAN event since our 2019 Summer Finals in Detroit. Before the matches begin each day, the LCS will be hosting an outdoor pre-game Fan Fest experience for ticket holders. Held in Championship Plaza and along Mulberry Street, fans can expect food, games and merch from LCS teams and partners.

Engine Media Holdings announced that its subsidiary, Frankly Media, entered into a partnership with Esports Media, a multimedia company that powers the news outlet Esports.gg. Frankly Media drives digital content monetization for esports, news, and lifestyle publishers through its advertising solutions, services, and technologies and will allow Frankly to provide expert guidance and day-to-day management to monetize Esports Media’s digital properties including the news outlet Esports.gg through direct and programmatic advertising. Christian Bishop, Esports Media’s Founder, commented, “We are thrilled to announce this partnership with Frankly and be able to work with its experienced management team. There are a lot of great publications in esports working hard to build a sustainable business. This partnership, along with previously announced partnerships with Midnite and Razer, will play a critical role in our ability to scale up our content creation across the board and create new innovative content for our community.”

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1954: The Major League Baseball Players Association is founded.

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