What’s Panini’s Basketball Card Manufacturing Strategy?

With an exclusive NBA license, Panini is at will to do whatever they want with basketball cards. Minus having the 2 most premier players autographs in the set (Jordan & LeBron).

That hasn’t slowed them down from attracting some of the games best players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin into the fold, but outside of Kobe Bryant, those players (and others) fail to draw in the big bucks like a Jordan or LeBron auto always seem to do.

During the 2013 calendar year, Panini came out with over 15 different brands of basketball cards. During the same period there were about 10 releases from Upper Deck and Leaf. That amounts to a new set of basketball cards hitting the market almost weekly to date.

The set designs and set names are often different, requiring countless man-hours to come up with a new design each time. For each card.

Not to mention the overwhelming confusion it inflicts on new collectors.

Just looking within the industry, one of the oldest companies – Topps – used to make basketball cards, but only makes NFL and MLB cards at the moment. They have basically the same design for ‘Base’ Topps and Topps Chrome for both Baseball & Football. They make Bowman, Bowman Chrome and Bowman draft all very similar for baseball.  Topps Heritage is a re-hash of a set that’s come out before. Allen & Ginter looks about the same every year. Basically, Topps designs a card once, and re-uses it many times.

Lazy?

Yes.

Economical & Sustainable?

Yes and probably Yes.

Panini does the same thing, they just don’t repeat it enough with their strong brands for fans to see what many call “brand synergy.” Recently Panini announced Panini Prizm Draft Picks for baseball, and I think this is a quality use of the Prizm ‘brand’ – and is better than just coming out with a product that’s called “Panini Draft Picks” for instance. Just inserting the word “Prizm” in the title will surely lead to more sales of the product.

Our friends over at BMW have basically been doing the same thing for decades in the automobile world.

They come out with 1 design of the 3-Series Sedan
Then you got the 5-Series
Then a 7-Series

You can buy one for about $35,000
You can buy one for $135,000 too.

They both look like the exact same car. Just ones 9 inches longer, has 2 extra cylinders under the hood and costs you a 100 grand more.

Why design 10 different cars when you can design one?

Make the guy buying the $35,000 dollar 3-series feel like he’s getting a taste of the one that costs 3x more.

Same thing for sports cards.

Why design 16 different brands – when you can re-use strong ones like Prizm, Hoops, Elite, Limited, Select, Preferred and National Treasures?

Have a low-end and a high-end price point (and possible a 3rd middle tier) product line!

Just like BMW. Mercedes. Apple (recently).

Topps.

We as collectors have to wait all year for Prizm, Limited, or Select to come out, why not let us taste the good stuff more than one time per year? I’d rather dilute my good brands than create new ones that end up doing the same thing!

Sure would cost the company less money to re-use a set branding that worked than try to come up with a new one each time.

When you pay people by the hour, they tend to work harder … not smarter. Panini suffers from employees that are trying to re-invent the wheel, rather than just rolling with the one that got them to the dance. Panini is trying to convince us the next set is the coolest thing they’ve done, when they could let the strong brands they have do all the talking.

Cheers to another year of 18+ different brands of basketball cards this year, where we will only remember 8 of them … and only could afford 2.

Guess I’ll have more money to save up for that BMW anyway.

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