Time Frame: August 2009 – February 2010
In August 2009, under the leadership of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, the Topps Company became the first exclusive baseball card company of Major League Baseball in 30 years, as the company looked to expand its ongoing efforts to invigorate the category, continue launching groundbreaking products, improve the retail and collecting experience and make cards more relevant to a new generation.
DKC was charged by Topps to strategize and execute a multi-tiered PR campaign tied to the announcement of the Topps/MLB exclusive deal. DKC created a program around the launch of the 2010 Topps Baseball Series 1, entitled ”Topps Million Card Giveaway.” Topps purchased over one million original Topps cards, including every Topps base card produced since 1952. They had some in their vault, purchased some from hobby shops and some from avid collectors. These cards included rare rookie cards of Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr.
The special code cards were then inserted in one out of every six packs of 2010 Topps Baseball Series 1. Once a fan received a code card they entered the code online and received an original vintage Topps card which was then shipped to them at home.
Topps’ target audience ranged from adults to children; however, it focused primarily on adult sports fans who had stopped collecting cards. The hope was that these newly released cards would stir up nostalgia for this generation; and Topps would be able to re-connect fans with the original vintage cards that ”their mother threw away.”
DKC developed a plan to leverage the nostalgia of collecting baseball cards and aligned that emotional experience with the Topps Company through a layered approach. First, DKC would break the news exclusively with one major outlet prior to the release of the announcement of the deal between The Topps Company and Major League Baseball. DKC wanted to target the business community in addition to consumers who have a history as card collectors.
Next, DKC would leverage the excitement garnered from the exclusive to generate the coverage in the time leading up to the unveiling of the cards. Additionally, DKC chose a brand ambassador who not only aligned with the values and identity of Topps, but also would resonate with the target audience.
DKC secured Cal Ripken Jr., a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and an avid card collector in his youth, to be the brand ambassador. As ambassador, Ripken did a national media tour to promote the new brand offering. Ripken resonated with his target audience as an inspirational figure, and someone who, like them, had a mother who threw away his card collection”¦a perfect fit for the brands messages.
For the initial Topps/MLB deal announcement, DKC secured an exclusive first break story in The New York Times written by sports business writer Richard Sandomir; the feature allowed Topps to reach the business community and spread the word of the announcement among the most influential people in corporate America.
This was followed up with a piece on the Associated Press, which reached consumers in hundreds of markets across the country. The story was picked up nationally by hundreds of outlets including SI.com, ESPN.com, Forbes.com, Yahoo.com and CBSSports.com, to name a few.
DKC then secured an additional New York Times feature to launch the Topps Million Card Giveaway followed by a national media blitz that produced hundreds of stories featuring the giveaway, all of which reached Topps’ target audiences. The New York Times feature included an interview with Ripken, and Topps executive Warren Friss.
Special features appeared in key outlets such as USA TODAY, New York Daily News, AOL FanHouse, SI for Kids, Yahoo! Sports, etc. DKC also secured segments and interviews with Ripken and Topps executives on outlets such as CNBC Power Lunch, MSNBC, FOX Business, ESPN, FOX & Friends, MLB Network, ESPNews and national sports radio shows, among many others.
The tremendous media coverage surrounding the campaign significantly increased Topps cards sales – by 70 percent – and was successful in elevating the public perception Topps and the trading card industry as a whole. To date, there have been a total of over one million cards unlocked via the ToppsMillion.com website as well as 30 million page views resulting in a more than 500% increase in typical website traffic.
Due to the overwhelming success of the program, Topps and DKC developed a similar PR campaign for the brand’s 2010 Football product in August 2010 titled ”The Gridiron Giveaway.”