I love the Las Vegas Industry Summit. I’ve talked about why I think it is such a great event before and I will be sharing a rundown on what happened this year with you tomorrow. There was one portion of the show however that got a little uncomfortable for me personally. There is a lot of great programming throughout the event so I try to take in as much as I can. I sat in the audience for a panel on “Industry Promotion in a Digital Media World” with Mike Smeth from Cardboard Connection, Rich Mueller from Sports Collectors Daily, Ryan Tedards of Sports Card Radio and Bill Sutherland of Beckett Media. Things got uncomfortable for me very quick.
One of my key responsibilities here at Upper Deck is to help get the word out about our upcoming products and programs. The panelists went on and on about what a terrible job manufacturers do with regard to disseminating information and to hear that I was not doing my job was a little hard to stomach initially. I wanted to jump up and say, “You guys don’t know what you are talking about. What about when we did this, that and the other???” I refrained however and really tried to listen from their perspective. And by doing that I was able to have a moment of clarity where I realized, “Maybe I don’t provide enough resources to bloggers, communities and publications to help them get our message out.” And then as I reflected on it more that evening and looked at some of the sites out there; I realized I really could do more. And that’s going to change starting today.
One of the key points for me was when Rich Mueller basically said he had never been contacted by a manufacturer with information that he would have happily posted on his site. “What a missed opportunity,” I thought to myself.
If you have a sports card blog, manage and online community or work with a publication, I want to invite you to receive some weekly content about new UD products and programs that you can’t get anywhere else. I’m talking preliminary checklists, images and details we typically don’t release until the week a product goes live.
Please understand, I cannot make this information available to everyone. To sign up to receive this information, you need to run a sports card blog that is well read, an online community that has a lot of activity or a publication with a large reader base. Just email us at UpperDeckMarketing@upperdeck.com with the title in the subject line “Exclusive UD Content.” Please include your name, address, phone number, email address, url for your business and information about what you do. Please get me that email by Tuesday, March 27 as I would like to send the first message our on Wednesday, March 28. I will review with our team here and we will add partners we feel will do the best job of sharing our messages with our collector base. We will give everyone a response one way or another.
I’m excited about pulling back the curtain about what goes on here back for some partners by providing exclusive content. At the same time, I want to share why we can’t do some things that seemed to be a source of frustration for some of the people on the panel and that I have dealt with before.
Checklists – Collectors in particular are troubled because we don’t frequently offer information about checklists until the day a product releases or shortly thereafter. Collectors frequently ask, “How am I supposed to know what to collect?” I totally get that and the reason why these are not shared until so late in the game involves a paradigm shift.
Redemptions have become Public Enemy No. 1 here at Upper Deck and we want to do all we can to eliminate them. The best way to avoid situations with redemptions is to just not put them into a product in the first place. We will delay releases where we can to make sure as much live autograph content is packing out into the product as possible. That has helped a lot with many recent products like 2011 World of Sports and 2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series Two releasing with ZERO redemptions. One of the ways we make this happen sometimes is by pulling redemption cards from the set, even if the athlete still has the cards. We can make less cases because of this and ultimately less money, but for us it is worth it because we know our customers will have a better pack opening experience.
This is the major reason why final checklists are released so late. The dust has not settled from the pack out process and we want to make sure we know exactly which cards made it in the product and which cards did not. We confirm all the counts and finalize the checklist from there. Unfortunately, at least for the immediate future, there is not a way to get the information out much quicker. What I can do however going forward is share a preliminary checklist noting that the autograph cards on the list may not happen. That should give collectors a good feel for the product however and provide bloggers some great content to write on.
A question I am frequently asked when I share this new strategy is, “What happens if the athlete sends the cards back to you after you pulled their redemption cards?” Well we usually try to kill the deal when we pull the redemptions, but there are occasions where we receive these cards back signed. We used to save them to use for redemption replacements, but collectors would often think they had completed a set and then see new cards pop up in the market and go crazy trying to figure out where they came from. Therefore we feel it is better to insert them immediately in another similar product as soon as possible as a bonus hit. This happened this year with Eric Lindros’ autograph cards in Parkhurst Champions which were inserted into 2011-12 NHL Black Diamond. And more recently in 2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series Two where some surprise Champ’s autographs were included. We update the checklists when this happens and share the information through The Upper Deck Blog to try to create awareness for it.
SP Lists – I frequently hear that fans would like to know about these earlier, but it is important for us to allow the product to have some activity before we share these in most cases. We like for collectors to feel out the secondary market for which cards they think may be short before we confirm the lists. Sometimes there is frustration that we only release a ratio and not an exact quantity on these cards which I can understand as well. The reason why we do not is because although it would increase the value of some of the more limited ones, it would greatly devalue most of the more available cards in that set. We produce collectibles and we do not want to provide information that would make them be perceived as less collectible.
Surprise Content – Sometimes we intentionally do not release information on a certain new insert because we want the market to find these cards and react to them. A perfect example of that is with the 2011-12 NHL Upper Deck “Day with the Cup” cards. Collectors started stumbling upon these, talked them up online and the next thing you know there was huge buzz about them. Not sharing information on them seemed to make them even more collectible with our fans.
Sponsorships – I must get about 15 emails a week asking me for complimentary product to use with customers for online box breaks. While I would love to send everyone a box who has a video camera, that’s just not something that we can do. I really receive a very limited allotment of product and we use that with some of our top partners. Additionally, I usually don’t receive it until after the product has been released so the idea that an online video will greatly help the product does not really have a lot of merit.
Exclusive Card Requests – I also frequently get requests for exclusive images from different sites. In the past it has been seen as though Upper Deck is playing favorites if we provide one site with exclusive images and not the other. Things have changed a lot however and I am more willing to help out with this where it makes sense. Our Pre-Press department that mocks up these images is VERY busy, but if you get me your request early, are specific about what you need and provide me some good details about how you will use it, I am willing to try to make it happen for you.
I hope that information helps provide some more details on why we do certain things. In the meantime I hope to hear from many of you so we can ramp this up. I feel inclined to share that I was surprised this particular panel was so poorly attended. Yes there was other things going on for many of the retailers in attendance, but I think I was one of the only manufacturers in attendance. That proved to be a fortuitous opportunity for me though. Had I not been there things would have likely remained status quo. And status quo is just not acceptable to us here at Upper Deck.