Topps Reportedly Gets Exclusive Baseball card Deal From MLB

Posted by Marty Brochstein on August 06, 2009

The New York Times reports today that Topps has become MLB’s exclusive trading card licensee, the latest step in an ongoing move by the major sports leagues toward exclusivity.

For baseball, that pattern reached a fever pitch in the early part of this decade, when it announced six major long-term exclusivity deals in apparel and headwear that netted it hundreds of millions of dollars in guarantees.

The Times article notes that Upper Deck, which has previously had a piece of the MLB business, last month renewed its license with the MLB Players Association. Theoretically, Upper Deck could thus market cards with player images, but without team uniforms, logos and trademarks — not exactly an enticing proposition for collectors.

The theory behind granting exclusivity — which has also become a major factor in the sports videogame business –  holds that a licensee who gains sole rights will commit more resources to marketing and building a business that it knows it controls, rather than one in which it has to fight against competitors with comparable product for shelf space and consumer recognition.