Months after its historic merger, Fanatics and Topps plan to expand its trading card reach to include college athletes.
Fanatics, which purchased Topps last year, announced Thursday deals with more than 100 NCAA universities to produce “exclusive and non-exclusive” trading cards featuring collegiate athletes as well as official university logos and trademarks.
Through the partnership, which will begin between 2023-25, Topps will have exclusive rights to create official trading cards with athletes and official university trademarks from more than 35 universities, including such Power 5 schools as Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Penn State, Texas A&M and others. Topps will have non-exclusive rights to produce college football and college basketball cards with athletes from more than 100 other schools, including Oklahoma, Duke and North Carolina.
The landmark deal falls in line with the NCAA’s new NIL rules, which allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.
"Fanatics has been closely monitoring the ever-evolving NIL landscape, and we felt this was the perfect time to launch multiple, strategic college trading card programs that will allow schools and current student-athletes to create new levels of direct engagement with fans across hundreds of the top programs nationwide," said Derek Eiler, EVP of Fanatics College. "There are tremendous opportunities for this untapped area of the hobby and to expand further across the collegiate sports landscape."
The deal will allow Topps to produce both physical and digital cards featuring both current and former college athletes.
It already has signed NIL deals with nearly 200 college football and basketball players, including such current stars as: Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young (Alabama), Stetson Bennett (Georgia), Bo Nix (Oregon), Caleb Williams (USC) and basketball players Dereck Lively II (Duke) and Nick Smith Jr. (Arkansas) and women’s basketball star Aliyah Boston (South Carolina). Cards will be released under the Topps BowmanU brand.
“This collection is the first offering of officially licensed collegiate cards featuring current athlete NIL rights,” said Dave Leiner, Topps Global VP and GM. “We’re thrilled at the opportunity to launch these comprehensive programs that combine premier student-athletes and elite institutions to create a best-in-class collegiate trading card product for fans and collectors.”
"I’m so excited to team up with Fanatics and Topps on this new trading card partnership, which will allow me to create an even deeper level of engagement with fans and collectors everywhere," Williams said in a statement released by Fanatics and Topps.
Panini had held exclusive Collegiate Licensing Company rights since 2015.
Fanatics, which acquired the rights last year to produce trading cards for MLB, NFL and NBA, has spent several months negotiating deals with major universities to expand its portfolio to include college athletes.
It acquired Topps for $350 million late last year to jumpstart its new partnership with MLB and the MLB Players Association. It will expand to include official NFL and NBA cards when its rights with those leagues and players associations kick in over the next three years.