A partnership that launched when Mickey Mantle was still an unproven youngster from Commerce, OK will continue for at least seven more years. Major League Baseball and The Topps Company announced what most had expected: an extension of their exclusive global partnership for MLB-licensed trading cards. The new deal will run through 2025. There was no word on the fee Topps will pay MLB to keep its license.
Topps has been producing baseball cards in some form since 1951 and its first comprehensive set hit the market in 1952. MLB granted Topps an exclusive license in 2009, shutting out competitors like Upper Deck and Panini America, which had purchased Donruss that same year. In 2013, that agreement was extended through 2020. While Panini has continued to produce baseball cards through its deal with the Major League Baseball Players Association, it can’t use any MLB team logos or names on its products. Thursday’s news means collectors who had been hoping for a return to competition between fully licensed manufacturers in at least one sport will continue to wait.
“Baseball and trading cards go hand-in-hand, eliciting memories of the legends of our game and showcasing the stars of today and tomorrow,” said Noah Garden, MLB Executive Vice President, Commerce. “Topps vibrantly remains a part of the baseball lexicon that conjures images so many of us have cherished. They have re-invigorated the trading card business with innovative products such as Topps NOW, which offers our fans the opportunity to memorialize great moments throughout the season. It’s with great pleasure that we continue this long-term partnership.”
The deal will continue a trend toward market exclusives. Panini landed the NBA in 2009 and its current contract with the league was renewed for multiple years in June of 2017. The Dallas-based company also has an exclusive deal with the NFL that started in 2016. Upper Deck owns the NHL’s exclusive trading card contract after signing its own exclusive with the league in 2014.
Topps’ recent efforts to innovate beyond boxes and packs have been given generally positive reviews in the sports business world and become a fresh source of revenue for the company.
In addition to Topps NOW, the company added its Living Set concept this year, touting it as the “first cross-generational set”, one it plans to continue without cessation year-round, leveraging Topps iconic 1953 design.
“Topps has always strived to be at the forefront of innovation,” said David Leiner, Topps Global General Manager of Sports & Entertainment. “We constantly look for new ways to bring joy and excitement to baseball fans whether they have been collecting for decades or just starting out. Our exclusive MLB license gives us the opportunity to continue as the category leader.”
Topps has partnered with MLB for contests that include trips to the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game as well as private dinners with some of baseball’s greatest players and legends, such as Cubs superstar Kris Bryant and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, through its pricey Transcendent Collection.
“Collecting baseball cards is such a personal experience for so many and we look for ways to enhance those moments, whether it’s through opening a pack of cards with your friends or winning a contest to throw out a first pitch,” Leiner said. “MLB and Topps aim to be a part of baseball fans’ lives from their childhood and this partnership will allow that to continue for years to come.”
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