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Upper Deck still figuring out Plan B for 2010 ...

I interviewed Upper Deck’s marketing director the other day about the company’s plans in light of the recent decision by Major League Baseball to grant Topps an exclusive license for next year, and two rather important points were abundantly clear.

Those would be – in order of importance – 1. Upper Deck will be making baseball cards next year; and 2. The way in which those cards will be presented either hasn’t been decided yet or isn’t yet ready to be rolled out to the public.

Kerri Kauffman made No. 1 perfectly clear; No. 2, I was left for me to infer from her comments, which understandably couldn’t be all that specific at the moment.

There was another question I asked her which I understood she certainly couldn’t answer, but still one I think bears a good deal of public airing. How much money do you suppose Upper Deck ponied up to Major League Baseball over the 20 years that the Carlsbad, Calif., behemoth has been producing baseball cards?

I know, I know, in business it’s more about what have you done for me lately, but even in that department, Kauffman insists Upper Deck could make a pretty good case for itself. I still think the 20 years and what must have been way past $100 million ought to count for something as well.

While the prevailing business mantra would seemingly dismiss the relative importance of monies proffered many years earlier, it’s worth remembering that the executives who make the decisions (both licensors and licensees) thankfully see their own remuneration handsomely aligned to all of their earlier efforts. It’s kind of a handy double standard, you could say.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be mad as the dickens if I had paid big bucks for two decades to an ostensible business partner, only to be tossed over the side when the seas got rough (I love nautical analogies). And what makes it tougher for Upper Deck in this instance is that it can’t really express all that outrage because ultimately it needs/wants to get back in the boat.

The interview with Kauffman will be in my column in the Sept. 25 issue of SCD and will likely be posted online at some point as well.


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