Panini Confirms NFL, NFLPA Exclusive Starting in 2016

Panini Confirms NFL, NFLPA Exclusive Starting in 2016

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.

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Trey Treutel

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Trey is a lifelong sports fanatic. He is a huge fan of the NBA and NFL, as well as soccer, college basketball and college football. As a kid, he collected football and basketball cards. In more recent years, he started collecting basketball cards again on a whim and has since expanded to other sports and entertainment options.

User Comments

  1. I really dislike exclusive deals. With no competition there will usually be stagnant products. Just look at the MLB side, I like the Donruss(panini) better than any topps product despite there being no team names or logos.

  2. You forgot to mention that Leaf has exclusive rights to “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” cards… so they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice.

  3. So I’m surprised at the press release that Panini thinks an exclusive deal for NFL will be better for the market, when they are trying to compete in MLB by producing a superior product to Topps (ie. free market working). This defies all logic and basic economics, but good try.

  4. This brings up the question – “Which one of the three companies will be the first to go out of business?”

  5. This is terrible! WHAT numb skull thought of this, some NFL guys looking to line their pockets? With out competition the fans will get a poorer product. A take it or leave it atmosphere in the card world has developed since exclusive deals have taken over. At least two companies should be in every major sport, just to keep fresh ideas in the works.

  6. This is how all 4 leagues will negotiate with the manufacturers when it comes time to renew the respective licenses. “You have an exclusive license with us and it’s the only major sports license you have – How much are you willing to pay to keep it?” In the end the manufacturers pay up which really means the collectors will have to pay up! End of negotiations.

  7. What about the long history of Topps Football Cards! As a football card collector I think the NFLPA is making a major mistake. Let the Collectors decide where we want to spend our money!

  8. Any word if Topps will continue to make their base and chrome product lines? Or will this be the end? I have been collecting Topps since the mid 80’s. This is a terrible development!

  9. Greed is the American way in business these days and sadly, it worked it’s way into the trading card “hobby” years ago. Exclusivity is never a good thing in business because that eventually breeds complacency. The manufacturers know cards are an addictive, gambling type “hobby” for many so they all bank on the fact that you’ll keep ripping whatever they put out since they’re the only game in town with a license. I like Panini products but not all. Same with Topps and Upper Deck. Remember when SPA and Exquiste Football dominated the football card market. It’s pretty apparent the effect UD losing their NFL license had on their football releases. A large faction of collectors just aren’t interested in NCAA releases no matter how nicely the products are designed.
    It’s a shame that a hobby icon such as Topps Football is no more after 2015. Boy have things changed since I was a kid ripping Topps wax packs in the mid ’70s.

  10. I don’t think that people should be freaking out. Yes competition amongst company’s is good but Panini has done quite well over the last few years as the sole producer of NBA licensed cards. As for the question asked earlier about company’s going out of business first if there is one I would hope upper deck would so that Panini could get Michael Jordan into NBA licensed cards, as well as making old Fleer inserts like PMG’s, Cut Above, Jambalaya in NFL & NBA uniforms.

  11. All this is going to do is turn into a bidding war the next time these contracts come up again. This is basically the 4 major sports saying “pay up” to collectors. And make no mistake about it, this is greed at its finest. Does the NFL care about tradition? Heck no! Look what has happened to the NFL the past 10 yrs. It’s all about money and that couldn’t be any sadder. And I’d be willing to bet they don’t even know that technically Panini isn’t even an American Company. All Panini (Italia) has done with the NBA contract is spit out products that cost ridiculous amounts of money. Now you will see that with the NFL. Do you think Panini really cares about tradition? No. They are in it to make as much money as possible despite what they may say. All our sports leagues are just as greedy as anybody to. So this should come as no surprise I guess. But eventually something’s got to give. We’ll see how many collectors stay on for the ride in the years to come..

  12. Good or bad, this is the current dichotomy the world is heading into as far as the whole economical scenario is concerned. Competition will actually rise as companies (Panini, Topps) try their best to out do each other.

    Until I actually see the products, I have to reserve my critique. I can say that Mr. Mike Smeth whom had voiced his opinion in this subject (Economical) and not product wise was most displeased with this occurring.

    I have not been in the hobby of collecting football cards for very long but I am saddened at the thought of the inability to purchase my two favorite Topps go to product, Chrome and Platinum.

  13. Looks like 2015 is the last year I collect football cards. Panini cards stink

  14. I agree that this is no good for the collectors or the companies. I am an avid fan of Football as well as Topps Chrome. I can say without any doubt, that I will be buying 2016 Topps Chrome Baseball in place of ANY Panini football product! Panini eat your heart out….

  15. I can’t beleive this! Everything Panini makes is of low quality and plain stupid. The amount of seriously lame patch cards is insane and the quality of card is just awful!!!!! Plus Panini and their rediculas sets that are just so repitive and stupid makes me sick. I thought everyone hated Panini lol Topps is king and Upper Deck — even with the issues they always have is queen. Panini is just outright garbage, such terrible products and everything about them is terrible.

    If Topps can’t make something happen or their hands are now tied, I’m not buying anything football until garbage Panini is gone and Topps is back. Panini is just GARBAGE this is insane! Trash garbage!

    I officially quit collecting until Topps is back or buys the garbage Panini company. Upper Deck and Topps need to join forces to get rid of this panini garbage trash people. I thought no one bought that trash?

    A sad day to learn about this. My favorite hobby is gone thanks to trash panini. BOYCOTT PANINI!!!

  16. I’m sorry, but Panini completely blows! Why would the NFLPA cut an exclusive deal with the WORST football card maker there is? Simple. …..GREED. Topps has been king of football cards forever, while Panini has always had low quality, poorly designed cards with higher prices and lower resale value. This deal is BS and driven by nothing but greed. Thank you NFLPA for ruining a great hobby for millions of people. I agree w dude in the comments above. …..BOYCOTT PANINI!!!!!!

  17. WOW !!! This is deva-stating to the Hobby… The Hobby has shifted and is clearly a dying breed…. I have been in this Hobby 40+ years…. The last of the last is collected and cherished is Vintage Topps Baseball, FOOTBALL , etc…. Where is the value in the Hobby… most definitely not in this garbage PANINI era… mass produced cards making you think oh boy #d to 25… except that there are three different poses, 5 different colors, and -and -and etc… we all know this is nothing more than a modern day gimmick !!! The hobby will suffer a major blow because of this !!! PSA / BGS this will kill you in the future… what a slap in the face to millions of Iconic Pop Culture collectors and there collections !!! This clearly puts my collection and probably several other millions into retirement !!! I would say that maybe 1% of the Panini product produced has any secondary market value… As a matter fact since they started making football cards we probably have about 5 Contenders rookies that have touched the hobby… other than that 99.9% of all the retail dollars anyone spends on Panini is like burning your money !!! I hope The NFLPA realizes that when everyone who is 40 yrs old+ in this hobby hangs it up… the kids taking our place are very scarce these days, YOU have just made it 1000% worse on a dying industry !!! By the way take a stroll thru the National Sports Convention the past 5-8 years… besides the big companies and the few idiots selling wax 10% over cost, who is left….not to mention the attendance is awful and there are hardly any KIDS with there dads…. truth hurts this hobby is DOOMED !!! BYE BYE !!!

  18. panini sucks and i won’t touch there product or any nfl card in 2016 that has there name on it

  19. Money is money. That’s all the NFL Players care about, and more money right now is miles better than not more money right now. “Ancillary benefits” of branding, strategy, etc. are just empty words producing smoke with no fire.

    This deal is good for NFL Players, and good for Panini, and bad for collectors and consumers.

    This deal is really a license for Panini to crank up the NFL foilboard printing press until it explodes.

    Here’s some spin-free common hobby knowledge: Panini is far and away the least innovative player in the market, given their huge, and increasing, spread of licenses.

    Normally, that lame distinction would ironically go to long-ago innovative Upper Deck, but that undead zombie shrunken raisin of a company finally painted itself into a corner of practical irrelevancy under the collective weight of repeated shady business practices.

    For Panini, their painfully retrograde design aesthetic and branding style appears to be stuck in 1999, with one product virtually indistinguishable from another, or even one year of the same product from any other.

    On the shelf at Target, the crush of Panini’s bland sameness, even across separate sports licenses, just amounts to noise, surrounded by Pokemon on one side and Magic: The Gathering on the other.

    It’s nice of Panini to try to talk big about a digital presence for NFL, when Topps just got their digital license *expanded* to finally include NFL logos as well as the current NFLPI player likenesses. Topps has a *four year head start* in digital over Panini.

    Panini’s efforts making apps have been amateurish and not compelling thus far (e.g., FIFA World Cup last year). The history of designing card-based games (e.g., Adrenalyn XL or however the Hell it’s spelled) is similarly weak, as the game mechanics often seem to be an afterthought, and make shallow competitor products like Topps Attax look like Settlers of Catan by comparison.

    Panini is wrong to assert that the “older collector’s market is dwindling”. I’ll believe that statement when I see that Panini stops making high-end product that costs over $150 a box or more, because the market of adult-sized budgets actually “dried up”. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone under the age of 30 take a Panini sports product to a cashier, outside of a hobby shop, in a decade.

    It’s not the market that’s dwindling when customers just leave you. The market is there–it’s just that Panini products just don’t interest them anymore, or haven’t given them reasons to be interested.

    Contrary to my comments, I actually want Panini to make better products, get more variety, be more thoughtful, and be less lazy about their product designs and composition.

    I made a wallet-based vote of no confidence in their products several years ago. I’d be willing to be surprised, but the product record shows that exclusive licenses are in turn more of a a license to remain lazy and uncreative, rather than “innovate” and improve.

  20. Ok everyone lets hold on a second here. I’m shocked to see all this Panini hate , have we seen a better , more all inclusive product than contenders ? I don’t think so, and judging by ebay sales I think that’s fair to say across the board.

    Will we miss Chrome ? Absolutely , how about Triple Threads – yes for sure …. now lets dig deep, Valor , Strata , Prime , Finest , Five Star , Supreme , Inception , Fire (worst product ive ever seen) Nope I really don’t think so, at all.

    Panini has done a great job with Contenders, Playbook, Certified, Spectra , Lets give them a chance..

  21. Why with all the hate on panini is because one all their products look the same. Two you pay thousands for a case and get 10 jersey cards and two sticker autos in a high end product which is terrible! All they care about is money. Charlie your wrong people will definitely miss inception and finest as well two of the most popular sets yearly. Panini with their point cards was a total joke as well giving point cards instead of hits smh. I won’t be buying any football cards after this year

  22. The announcement of Panini backing up an armored truck to the NFLPA’s door… err… “securing” an exclusive license with the NFLPA… puts the final nail in the coffin for my collecting current football cards. I said it last year and my stance has not changed – I will not spend one penny on Panini’s football products. Unimaginative, repetitive, ugly garbage. Any money I spend on football will be exclusively older boxes – I’d much rather spend $100 on a box of something from 1998, 2000, or 2005 (just to name a few years I like to target, for what should be obvious reasons).

    People complain about Topps and their product releases, like Fire – At least Fire is something original and different!! Panini is consistent at one thing – Cranking out over-priced product after over-priced product, each with an unimaginative design.

    When Panini has to advertise on the box (Clear Case FB), “Hits in every pack!”, that is a serious, significant problem. But as long as the sheep keep buying their garbage products, why would they care?

  23. Isn’t this a monopoly by panini? That’s kind of unfair unless they are the NFLPA now… On a personal note they both produce the same relics and autos but I think topps produces more on card autos imo.

  24. After the fiasco with National Treasures last year where Panini withheld the two biggest rookie cards we see this. I don’t might Panini products unlike many of the others … but after that rubbish to give them exclusive rights to production. It just makes me sad.

  25. The NFL is a joke. Goddell makes $44 million a year yet they call themselves non-profit. in 2004 there were 2 football video games. NFL 2K and EA Madden. 2K was far and away the superior product and it was not close. Then EA makes an ‘exclusive’ deal and the football gaming community is stuck with madden the past 10 years…now much the same with Panini…I hate the NFL

  26. Pannie just makes bad products period. look what the have done to there basketball cards. Why cant you get jordan on your cards?

    Football cards the make are crap. Period

  27. Where is Teddy Roosevelt to break up the monopolies? Bring back Pro Set.

  28. What are the biggest things we can expect from Panini besides garbage points cards? At least with a Redemption from Topps I know what card I will receive. Last years Topps Museum I hit Blake Bortles Triple Jersey Auto #ed15 & a Teddy Bridgewater Gold Auto #25 in one box you think Panini can do that? I think not. RIP Topps Museum & Topps Chrome.


  29. I have been collecting only Topps since the 70’s and they want me to buy cards branded “Panini”? I seriously only buy Panini’s that are edible. No thanks! After this year I will only search for the Topps cards I need to complete my player sets.
    Boneheaded move by NFLPA. I wonder how many dealers go under because of this. Surprised no one started a petition.
    NFLPA set to lose 3 generations of collectors and my son who would be a 4th generation. They are destroying a legacy but on the flip side maybe the Topps Football cards will become more valuable over the next 6 years of the agreement and we will save money by not buying a sandwich made from Italian bread that is usually toasted. Nuff said!

  30. You think it’s bad now wait until they start cranking out 36 products a year. RIP to the secondary market. It’s good for people who just buy certain cards because they may get it for cheap. Hope people are ready to actually “collect”.

  31. 2016 Panini Football has hit the secondary market. I just received a ’16, Prestige Xtra Point Platinum Foilboard xx/25 and it’s exactly the same as buying a Stadium Club foilboard from Topps or an OPC Rainbow Foil from Upper Deck. The hobby is just becoming more specialized. Panini definitely stepped up their game now that they are “Big Time” I used to despise Panini but I checked and the 2015 Prestige Xtra Pt. looks decent too, I picked up a Gurley UGA 2015 RC.

  32. Unfortunatly now that Topps is out of the collectors scene so will I be it’s a sad day for collectors. I will not waste my money on Panini products it’s to bad I’ve been collecting since the early 70s it’s not gonna be the same without Topps ?

  33. If we have topps redemptions for football, will they still be valid after the deal?

  34. It’s 2020 new CBA, please NFLPA let other companies produce cards. Panini 500-1000 dollar box of Football cards is just dumb

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