Hagen: ‘Incredibly positive’ sales trends for baseball cards

Trends looking up for Baseball Cards

Despite an offseason that featured a significant amount of negative media publicity, sales of MLB-licensed products for this season – including trading cards – are “incredibly positive,” according to Colin Hagen, VP of hard goods for MLB Properties.
In an interview airing this week on Sports Collecting Radio, Hagen said the first four months of the 2008 baseball card season have been good in terms of sales. He said a new release date for Upper Deck’s first series helped the brand “outperform all of our expectations” and that sales of the other 2008 releases to date have been equally strong.

Among the other topics Hagen touched upon in the interview:
On whether the reduction in baseball brands and licensees implemented in 2006 has had the impact licensors had hoped for:

“Yes, and some of those things have happened on a more accelerated time schedule than we thought. We were blown away that the infrastructure that we imagined would take place and the things that Topps and UD would do creatively and in terms of their reinvestment into the category, and what the players association was doing and what we were continuing to do, would all take hold as quickly as it has. It’s provided that base to get this category back going where it needs to go.”

On the importance of succeeding in getting baseball cards into all of the MLB team stores, something that wasn’t taking place just a few years ago: 

“The teams are an incredible resource for MLB-licensed goods. We were not tapping into that at all with baseball cards. The only things in there were some repackaged crap, for lack of a better word, and when somebody would be buying, it was doing more of a disservice to getting more users in because people were getting cards of guys who had been out of the league for five or 10 years and there was no incentive for that person to keep collecting. So it was a program that we put in place to get new card product being sold there. Year after year, it has grown to the point where we probably have 1,000 percent growth from where we first started.”

On whether the marketing efforts to get kids aware of baseball cards are translating into more kids becoming active card collectors:

“It’s not an easy answer.  We continue to do a good job of tapping into our resources to get products into kids’ hands. Where we fell down before on this was, the category was a mess. We were bringing somebody into something that was overwhelming, that they couldn’t wrap their arms around, and they were ultimately confused by it and weren’t able to start collecting and collect the same things their friends were collecting. Now, when they go into a hobby store or a retail location, it’s a more manageable marketplace for them to get involved with and not feel like they’re making the wrong choices.”

On how the increased marketing efforts can also inspire more adults to get back into the baseball card collecting:

“Until recently, there weren’t a lot of positive messages out there about baseball cards. A lot of it was value driven. You weren’t seeing traditional advertising and marketing efforts showing how incredible the cards are. What goes into products today, in terms of photography and the product content, blows away what we collected when we were kids. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to tell that story to attract people back into collecting. Now, those efforts are able to do that.”
The interview with Hagen can be heard by going to Sports Collecting Radio Listen for more about baseball card trends.

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