Upper Deck's 2006 NHL Cards, Contest Continues Company's Product and Marketing Commitment to Next Generation of Players, Collectors
Nov 3, 2006
Hot Rookie Offerings, Unique First-Year Player Promotions Triple Upper Deck's Hockey Business in '05
CARLSBAD, Calif. (Nov. 3, 2006) -- In 1995, speaking to the future of hockey in the U.S., NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said: "The interest level is huge among kids, but we won't really see it for 10 years. We are now where the NBA was in the '80s."
While he couldn't predict the coming of Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and other recent rookies, Bettman's timing was right on target. A decade later, interest in hockey with young fans is taking off faster than the speedy Crosby down the ice on a two-on-one breakaway.
According to a newly released Simmons Market Research study, 24 percent of the NHL's fan base are between the ages of six and 17, the second highest among all professional sports leagues. And, an American Sports Data survey noted that nearly twice as many kids are playing the sport at the high school level now than they were in 1990.
Using this knowledge -- and riding the new wave of young talent in the NHL -- many league licensees are now leveraging this passion for the puck among preteens and teens. A prime example: trading card leader Upper Deck.
A 15-year NHL partner, the company plans to unveil its Backstage Pass sweepstakes to kids next week in conjunction with the launch of its Power Play set -- a collection centered around its Prospects cards (inserted at a 1:4 ratio), rookies and second-year players that entered the league in the second half of last season.
Said Chris Hunt, Upper Deck hockey marketing manager: "The goal of the sweepstakes is to literally follow the company's product mission of taking the young collector from the middle of their living room to the middle of the on-ice action." Among the contest's monthly grand prizes: the chance to be a stick boy, girl at the Young Stars Game during NHL All-Star Weekend (January) and an NHL suite at the winner's choice of venues (February).
Hunt went on to detail the Backstage Pass sweepstakes. Taking the alphanumeric number found on the back of each Upper Deck Power Play card ($2.99 a pack), kids can enter them at www.upperdeckkids.com to register their cards to win one of the contest's monthly grand prizes. In the process, they will also collect points toward other rewards like iTunes songs, video games or Upper Deck Authenticated hockey products.
More on Power Play Prospects, Upper Deck's Young Player, Young Collector Commitment
Along with its Prospects cards -- and its Power Play Prospects Impact! parallel cards (25 of the top 34 rookies, set off with different foiling) -- Upper Deck's Power Play set will have 130 base cards in total and feature special inserts. Those inserts will focus on certain skill players (The Specialists), specific positions (Goal Robbers) and past champions (Cup Celebrations). Autographed and jersey-worn cards will also be found in the offering.
Power Play made a successful debut in 2005-06, with this year's rookie-centric set seen by the industry as a continuation of Upper Deck's long-term product commitment to the NHL's next generation of players.
The thought process behind this product/promotion strategy, said Hunt, "is that the next generation of players will grow -- and grow with -- the next generation of collectors, many of whom are only a couple years younger than the league's new stars."
Hot Rookie Offerings, Unique First-Player Promotions Triples Hockey Business in '05
Hunt went on to explain that this focus on young players, young collectors has already dramatically upped the company's hockey business. Last year, Upper Deck saw a triple-digit sales increase in the category versus the lockout year of 2004-05, when it was the only collectibles company to produce NHL-licensed cards.
The reason for the success in 2005-06: its sought-after rookie offerings and unique first-year player promotions, including one that involved Crosby, who Upper Deck had signed to a multi-year exclusive deal.
"Last year we had a once-in-a-decade draft class," said Hunt. "There's no doubt that helped drive the business."
"But we also had to be creative, as player talent only set the foundation," he continued. "To that, we developed some never-before-seen marketing efforts surrounding these players -- like our 'Where's Sidney?' sweepstakes. The contest made young collectors talk to each other, work together to find hidden icons on cards, at point-of-purchase, in industry trade pubs. In the end, it was a highly successful viral campaign that quickly built our product's word of mouth."
"This year we knew we needed to up the interactive ante to continue to capture kids' attention," said Hunt. "Enter in our kids reward web site, which has seen more than 80,000 signups and nearly 5 million cards registered since it launched in April."
About the Upper Deck Company
Founded in 1988, The Upper Deck Co. is a premier global sports and entertainment-publishing company that delivers a portfolio of relevant, innovative and multi-dimensional product experiences to collectors, sports and entertainment enthusiasts.