Why Kobe Holds The Cards In New Marketing Deal

Kobe Bryant signed an exclusive deal with Panini, then began signing cards.September 30, 2009: Kobe Bryant has added another notch to his marketing belt, signing a multi-year deal with The Panini Group, the NBA’s exclusive trading card partner, to become its "official company spokesman and global trading card ambassador." Financial terms were not disclosed.

Bryant’s deal with Panini includes autographs, memorabilia, and a joint charitable component, according to the Dallas-based company. Panini is not underestimating the power of Bryant to move merchandise, saying in a statement, "The deal is a landmark one for the trading-card industry and will help to re-energize the basketball collectibles market both in the United States and internationally."

Panini’s inaugural NBA trading card release, Panini Prestige Basketball, is scheduled to launch Oct. 7 featuring the first Panini autographs from Bryant. He also will appear on Panini’s packaging for future NBA trading card releases and in TV and radio spots now being planned.

Bryant, who in 2008-09 won his fourth NBA title as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, earns about $15 million annually in endorsements from such companies as Nike, Vitaminwater and 2K Sports.

Panini signed a deal with the NBA this past January to will become the exclusive trading card partner of the NBA beginning with the 2009-10 season. The Panini Group purchased trading card company Donruss in March and formed a new subsidiary, Panini America, Inc. Since then, Panini has signed other deals, including an exclusive marketing and advertising partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The company also has trading card deals with the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. and exclusive contracts with FIFA for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

The signing of Bryant comes at a time when such companies as Topps and Upper Deck also are seeking to regain shares of the trading card marketing, which had a hey-day in the 1990s but has since declined.

“Kobe is going to be the face of Panini basketball and help to get kids excited about NBA trading cards,” Peter Warsop, Panini Group licensing director, said in a statement. “He will serve as the greatest of ambassadors for Panini basketball products around the world. We couldn’t be more proud to be associated with one of the most spectacular and transcendent athletes on the planet.”  

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