UPDATE: Although long suspected, Panini has now confirmed their exclusive for both the NFL and NFLPA starting in 2016. This makes them the only place to find licensed trading cards and stickers for the NFL. They also hold a non-exclusive license for digital cards. This will apply to their Panini Gridiron app.
Panini CEO Mark Warsop conveyed his excitement on the news through a press release on the Panini blog, saying “This announcement symbolizes a landmark achievement for Panini America, and we are extremely proud to be awarded the exclusive license for traditional trading cards and stickers. We are committed to continue building compelling products that honor and celebrate the NFL and look forward to working closely with the NFL to continue to grow the football trading card category in the U.S. and globally.”
Leo Kane, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products for the NFL, echoed that sentiment, saying “We are pleased to expand our partnership with Panini America in order to better serve NFL fans, from children opening their first packs to long-time hobby collectors. Since entering the U.S. market in 2009, they have proven to be leaders in product development, innovation and marketing, and we look forward to working together to continue to grow the football trading card category.”
Sports Business Daily was the first to report on the deal.
While it had been rumored for several weeks, Panini officially announced that they have entered into an exclusive agreement with the NFL Players Association. The multi-year deal is set to begin in 2016 and specific terms of the deal were not disclosed. Currently, Panini and Topps both have an NFL license.
Under the current agreement, Topps and Panini are each permitted 17 releases per year, but the new agreement will allow Panini more options for their NFL product lineup. In 2009, Topps briefly lost their license, but regained it shortly thereafter. 2010 was the last major change for the NFL license as Upper Deck lost their license and Panini essentially took their place.
Keith Gordon, the president of NFL Players Inc., which is the marketing side of the NFLPA, explained the process for the decision. "In the last four years, we have had discussions about extensions and kicked around the idea for an exclusive deal. We became more receptive to the idea based on the conditions of the market. We also looked at other leagues and associations. This wasn’t a quick decision. We have to plan in advance to not disrupt the current deals, make sure the exclusive partner can take over the reigns, and make sure the other partner can land the plane so to speak."
At a meet and greet with collectors at the National, Topps did say that they were committed to continue making football cards after their deal with the NFLPA runs out and Panini's exclusive kicks in. What that might look like is still uncertain.
This news puts to rest the final major domestic sport not under an exclusive for sports cards, as the NBA (Panini), MLB (Topps), NHL (Upper Deck) and MLS (Topps) licenses are all currently held by one company. Panini also holds the sole license for the FIFA World Cup. Panini replaced Upper Deck as the exclusive company for college/NCAA cards as well, reaching deals that include all schools except for Notre Dame, which will remain with Upper Deck.
As collectors, what do you think about this outcome? Tell us your thoughts on this news in the comments.