Digital sports cards would appear to be the next frontier of competition for at least a couple of trading card manufacturers. Just a couple of days after Panini revealed its upcoming 'HD' autographed product, Upper Deck answered by putting a quick end to the mystery product it was touting via teaser videos and news releases.
“I founded Upper Deck on innovation and even today we continue to reinvent the trading card,” said Richard McWilliam, Upper Deck’s owner and CEO. “I have always dreamed of bringing this type of technology to market and we are pleased to be the first to do so as the leader in the category. I believe Upper Deck’s ‘Evolution’ trading cards will capture the imagination of sports fans around the world for what trading cards can be and how far they have come.”
The cards will be inserts in the product. Four 'cards' comprise the initial launch: running back Adrian Peterson, quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and linebacker Patrick Willis. Each of the booklet-type cards, which measure in at the same height (3.5”) and width (2.5”) as a regular trading card, are just over half-an-inch thick.
The question that can't be answered yet for either company is whether collectors will actually see these as collectible cards or simply novelties. With highlights available online at the click of a mouse or smartphone button, only autographs or game-worn swatches attached to the product might keep them in the former category for those who like inserts.
“From the onset, it was important to us that this new insert was a trading card first, otherwise it would just be a video player,” Jason Masherah, Upper Deck’s vice president of Marketing. “The cards are built like our premium booklet trading cards with a video monitor built into the card. The beauty behind these cards is that they are self-contained. You don’t need any other gadgets or a computer to play them. You simply open the cover and press play. A video screen with 60 seconds’ worth of highlight reel footage of the player immediately starts playing. The card also has a port so it can be recharged as well.”
Upper Deck doesn't have an NFL license so the company will utilize its partnership with Collegiate Licensing Company, signed in 2009, to launch the product. Therefore, each of the aforementioned players – and their video footage – is shown during his collegiate playing days.
“Our partnership with Upper Deck has allowed us to bring our fans new and innovative products never before seen in the trading card market,” said David Kirkpatrick, CLC’s vice president of Non-Apparel Marketing. “We are excited to share such in such an important launch, and are confident that collectors and college fans alike will embrace this revolutionary new product.”