Future For NBA Rookies Griffin, Hansbrough Is In The Cards

NBA prospects signing autographs for Panini at The NBA Store (left to right): Thabeet, Jennings, Hill, Hansbrough, Griffin.June 25, 2009: Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough lead a group of five players who have signed exclusive autograph deals with Panini, the company formerly known as Donruss, which this October will release its first NBA sets of trading cards and stickers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Sports card collecting has taken a significant hit since its heyday in the 1990s (and in the 1960s for old-school collectors), but the NBA plans to reinvigorate the category with Panini, the league's exclusive card company. The deal with Griffin (Oklahoma), Hansbrough (North Carolina), Jordan Hill (Arizona), Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) and Brandon Jennings (Lottomatica Virtus Roma, Italy, via Oak Hill Academy, Virginia) was unveiled on June 24 at the NBA Store in New York. They will be featured in marketing support that includes print, online, packaging and POP. Griffin is the consensus No. 1 pick (going to the Los Angeles Clippers) in the NBA Draft on June 25.

"We are very marketing driven," said Michael Eisenstein,'" CEO at Panini America, based in Arlington, Texas, which acquired Donruss in March. "So we plan to get the message across in a big way. We want the next generation of trading card collectors to grow up with Panini. Rookies are a key part of the trading card business and these players will be the focus of that growth."

The first sets of cards are due in early October and will be available at mass merchants including Wal-Mart and Target, as well as the NBA Store and hobby shops. Panini said there will be 100 rookie cards in the Prestige set, always a prime target for collectors, and that the autographed cards of Griffin, Hansbrough and the others will be randomly placed and, thus, much more exclusive. Panini also was the official trading card of the 2009 NFL draft

Top NBA Rookie Flexes His Marketing Muscle

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