Before this year, most collectors knew little about Panini Group. That’s about to change as the worldly company begins to make its suddenly strong presence felt in American sports cards.
Mixing some of what collectors like about Donruss/Playoff products with its own ideas and marketing savvy are two factors in how Panini America plans to attract a greater share of the sports card marketplace.
Panini, which won the exclusive right to produce and distribute NBA trading cards in February, bought Donruss just a few weeks later, capping a whirlwind courtship that ended in a deal last week.
Panini Group Licensing Director Peter Warsop has been out in front of the Italian based company’s early efforts to connect with the U.S. trading card market.
In an e-mail Q&A, Warsop told Sports Collectors Daily that the first sports card products produced under the auspices of Panini will be out "as early as April when the first football products start to roll out. Collectors are likely to have to wait until October until they will find the first Panini NBA series being launched."
Warsop said Panini has retained the entire Donruss/Playoff sports card staff to this point and has also brought on additional help. "We have already added some staff into the group and we will continue to look at additional needs to further strengthen the team in the weeks and months to follow."
Look for Panini to try and hook new collectors in ways American manufacturers may not have tried.
"For us marketing support is a fairly wide term and encompasses a multi-layered approach to trade and consumer activity designed to make the hobby more appealing, exciting and easier to enter than it is presently," said Warsop.
Panini has experience marketing to a wide variety of customers around the world through its collectibles, including the widely popular soccer products. It’s not a stretch to say they will seek to expand distribution of American sports cards.
"First and foremost we need product that is correctly targeted at the identified consumer," said Warsop. "And when the right level of distribution and trade service system is in place properly the marketing support program can be put in place. This is an instrumental element of our successes in Europe but also in Asia and Latin America."
Panini is hoping to leverage the good name Donruss/Playoff has built with sports card collectors over the last 28 years, but will bring some of its own ideas to the table in an effort to increase its bottom line.
"We recognize that that there is an awful lot of good associated with Donruss and we will be working to maximize this great strength and heritage," Warsop explained. "In addition Panini will bring an influence to bear in terms of branding, greater clarity on the purpose of some series and their positioning within the overall range of series and of course within the marketing of products where we feel a lot more can be done to make the hobby more attractive to a greater number of people."
Donruss on eBay