First, the fallout from the Tiger Woods scandal, which couldn’t have helped sales of exclusive autographs.
There was the lawsuit filed by Konami over counterfeit Yu-Gi-Oh cards that ended in a settlement and revealed some less than flattering details about what went on during the process.
Then, Major League Baseball filed suit after Upper Deck used team trademarks on on its first three baseball card products produced this year. That, too, resulted in a settlement in which the company had to pay up.
Late Wednesday came news that the NFL would not be granting UD a license to produce cards this year. It would appear as if Exquisite will be its last NFL trading card product–at least for awhile.
It’s autograph business may be sound, but taking licensed cards out of the equation can’t help that part either.
A resurgence by Tiger could make the company’s move to stick behind him look shrewd, but there’s no guarantee the public will fall in love with Tiger that much again.
Upper Deck still has some coveted exclusive autograph arrangements and its college and NHL card deals as well as an MLBPA license, but overall, it’s clearly no longer the force it once was. That’s sad from a competition standpoint and from a marketing perspective, Upper Deck has probably been the most aggressive of any of the card companies over the last two decades.
What does the latest setback mean for the future? It’s hard to say, but when a company makes its name in sports cards and that part of its business is watered down this much, it’s going to take some serious business moxie to keep it relevant.