When Entertainment Weekly unveiled its best-of-the-decade list in December 2009, they reserved a spot for YouTube, which they lauded for “providing a safe home for piano-playing cats, celeb goof-ups and overzealous lip-synchers.”
Well, you can add box breakers, dedicated dealers and cutting-edge card manufacturers to YouTube’s cast of characters. These days, an increasing number of hobbyists and card producers are embracing the video-sharing phenomenon.
Topps, for example, regularly films YouTube videos that feature “rip parties.”
“There’s something special about opening packs and being surprised, and hopefully delighted by what comes out of them. Video is a wonderful medium to capture that,” explained Mark Sapir, Topps’ vice-president of sports.
Brad Lohr, premier account manager at Dave & Adam’s Card World in Amherst, N.Y., also frequently cracks boxes in videos to offer collectors a sneak peek at products.
Upper Deck also uses YouTube videos to promote many of their offerings.
“We started to get more and more into creating videos in 2008 in particular,” noted Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s sports marketing and social media manager. “It was easy to see that YouTube was blowing up and collectors were having a lot of fun with box breaks on there. We realized it was a low cost, high visibility way to promote products, programs and our athletes, so we jumped on it.”
Carlin adds that their 2009 Upper Deck NFL Rookie Touchdown Dance Challenge video boasts close to 250,000 views.
“You can get huge exposure for your brand if you have a concept that can get viral,” explained Carlin.
With over 300 videos online, Steve Laferriere, owner of Card Collector’s Paradise in Cumberland, R.I., is certain that his YouTube efforts have increased his sales.
“I ship to multiple countries every day,” said Laferriere. “And these customers have discovered me primarily on YouTube.”
Others aren’t as sure that YouTube has improved their sales numbers.
“I don’t know if I could tell you that we’ve seen a direct relation between our rip parties and purchases, but I can tell you that the videos get a tremendous amount of hits and I have to think they’re responsible for some level of conversion,” said Sapir.
Dean Hanley, owner of DeansCards.com, an exclusive online dealer, says his videos help put a face on his business. Also, the fact that videos can be uploaded for free makes YouTube an inexpensive form of advertising.
“You can shoot a fairly high-quality video with only a few hundred dollars start-up cost (to buy a camera),” said Hanley.
Of course, the ease at which videos can be posted on YouTube can also be dangerous. One criticism of YouTube is that videos are only reviewed after users flag them. This policy, combined with the proliferation of cell phones with recording devices, has left professional athletes vulnerable to damaging videos.
A recent YouTube video of Gary Carter signing at this year’s All-Star Game FanFest has some autograph show promoters rethinking their policies on cell phones. At this signing, fans were reportedly told that Carter would only sign a sheet of white paper (Search “Gary Carter Fanfest” on YouTube to view the video). Enter a cell phone-toting man with two kids attempting to have Carter sign 8-by-10 photos. Once he gets to the front of the line, he asks Carter if he’ll sign the 8-by-10s for his kids. When Carter declines, the man threatens the former Expo by saying he was going to put the video he’s filming on YouTube. The dad says it so quickly that he appears to have planned this attack. Carter eventually relents and signs the photos, but this awkward confrontation has landed on YouTube and has been viewed more than 55,000 times.
In the past, Mollie Ann Bracigliano, president and CEO of MAB Celebrity Services in New Jersey, has asked security to restrict cell phone use by customers at her events, but after watching the Carter video, she’s now considering a complete ban of cell phones in the autograph area.
“I’m not going to allow that (what happened to Carter) to happen to one of my players,” she said.
Carlin, too, found the Carter video “ a bit alarming.”
“We have not banned cell phones, etc. at signings, but we are aware of the potential for problems there and we have staff on site to make sure there are not major issues,” he said.
Sapir is also aware of the potential for damaging videos.
“We know virally how quickly these things can spread,” he said. “But we have to embrace technology and those things can happen, but I think the power of YouTube is too big to ignore and the risks are too small.”
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