Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball Products – Interview


Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball Products – Interview Transcript

Editor’s Note: Some text has been altered from original audio for grammar and clarity.

KS: Hi everyone, welcome to another edition of Hobby Musings. I’m Kelsey Schroyer, joined today by Panini’s Brandon Kennedy. We’re going to talk some basketball products. Brandon, thank you for joining us.
BK:
Thank you for having me, Kelsey. It’s a pleasure to be on here with you.

Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball ProductsKS: So, you’ve got a lot of basketball coming out pretty soon. What more can you tell me about that?
BK
:
Yes, sir. It’s an exciting time for basketball releases. We’ve got a lot in the pipeline, getting ready to get released out to collectors, most notably with the Prizm basketball release. We’re looking at a slight delay of about a week or so, but we’re hoping this one will be out shortly after the week after All -Star break here. We’re hoping for a Wednesday release the following week after All -Star, with some of the First Off the Line boxes getting shipped to consumers a little bit before that as the normal schedule falls. This program should do very well. There’s a new chase element added back into the program this year, which has not been in there for the last couple of years, which is the one-of one Black Shimmer FOTL exclusive Prizm. So that’ll obviously be a nice little chase element for collectors to go after and get those Black Shimmer FOTL Prizms of top players, including the rookies and your veterans.

There’s also a new short print insert added into the Prizm program this year. Only in hobby and FOTL boxes, and that one’s called Prizmania. Those ones are very hard to pull. So, if you are lucky enough to get one of those in one of your boxes, make sure you know what you have there, because that one is new to the program, and it is a very rare insert. So, collectors should be on the lookout for that one. Of course, you’ve got a few new parallels added into the Prizm program. There’s a white one added into the base hobby run. I forget what that one’s numbered to. So, I’m not going to go ahead online and say something and be incorrect. So that one, they’ll have to check the checklist to see what the white Prizm/s numbered to, and then there’s also an unnumbered snakeskin Prizm that was added in there. I know it’s been kind of a popular Prizm parallel for a few of our different sports releases on the Prizm side. We figured that one would do well added into the program this year.

Before we get too far into the 23-24 releases too, we don’t need to forget the Flawless Basketball release from 22-23. Very, very strong rookie class there. It’s going be headlined by the rookie content with Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jaylin Williams, Keegan Murray and the list goes on. But the program also is going to be represented very heavily by a lot of the NBA’s top superstar talent, including Steph Curry, Luca Doncic, Nikola Jokic, and we’ll also have autographs from previous year’s Flawless cards that were not ready to go in time for those releases. Giannis Antetokounmpo cards, as well as a few other players along the lines of that, most notably Scottie Barnes’ rookie cards from last year. So, all Scottie Barnes’ Flawless rookie autographs, including his patches, patch autographs and Logoman
autographs will be be able to be pulled this year in the program. With getting named to the All -Star Game kind of last second, that should definitely be a nice little chase element in there as well.

Another important thing I wanted to mention about the Flawless release, specifically the First Off the Line component of it, which we’re very excited about, is the the new thing that was introduced into the First Off the Line release for Flawless this year is each First Off the Line box, not case. Each First Off the Line box will be getting a one-of-one game-worn Bill Russell number six patch that the players wore on their jerseys during the 22 -23 season in honor to commemorate Mr. Russell. It’s a 300-card set. Top players like Luka, Steph, LeBron, those guys. They should all have three of the cards, each of them being a one-of-one with a different image used on them, as well as top rookies, but those should be very, very collectible and sought-after cards.

Kelsey, I know you were around, and you should probably remember the Flip Saunders patch cards that were done in 15-16 Flawless release I believe. That was something that was done mainly just for the Timberwolves team as they wore those commemorative patches on their jerseys that year, but the cards will look very similar. They will remind some collectors of the Flip Saunders patch there. Again, that’ll be in addition to your FOTL gem card in your Flawless box this year and purely a bonus card on top of all your other content in there.

Even even though a lot of people have their minds already shifted to 23-24 and the new rookie class, it’s important not to forget about Flawless, because it’s going to be a very strong release. As we all know, it’ll get a lot of buzz and hype generated across social media, which is always good to see. We’ll get back kind of into the 23-24 releases. Again, I didn’t want to get too far and forget about the 22-23 stuff, because we got a big one on our hands there.

Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball ProductsKS: Well, I was going to say, aside from Prizm and Flawless, what else do you have coming up?
BK:
I think the next one that’ll be releasing, we’ll get on to the 23-24 releases, is going to be Court Kings. Court Kings, we actually just saw the QC case of that this past week. The cards look great. It’s got that canvas feel that Court Kings always has. A lot of emphasis this year on the insert content, especially the super short print ones in there. The Aurora cards look great, the Paint By Numbers look great. There’s actually a Victor Wembanyama rookie exclusive card in there that should be pretty collectible, that a lot of people will be chasing. Then obviously the rookies, I, II, III and then the super short-printed rookies at Level 4. Personally, I love the Level III look this year. I think it’s one of the best, if not the best, looking rookies levels that we’ve got this year and definitely in recent years. So those ones will be popular for collectors to chase and get the full run of their favorite rookies. But it’s also got a decent amount of good autograph content, as well as memorabilia content in there as well. Court Kings is always a fun, more affordable product for collectors to open. So we’ll be on the lookout for that one. I believe that one is going to be releasing some time, 23rd or maybe the 28th, somewhere around then. So, the collectors will be able to see that one here pretty soon.

It should be followed up by Donruss Elite, which I won’t go too much into, but the one thing to note on Donruss Elite this year is we did change up the configuration a little bit on that one. As collectors know, that one had, I believe, 20 packs in the hobby boxes and the FOTL boxes. The past few years, we figured that that one was a lot of packs, some of them that weren’t delivering a ton of content in there. So we made the decision to change up the configuration and lessen the amount of base cards that were being used in there. And I believe we changed them to their own exclusive substrate being used on them. So, it’ll look a little bit different. It’s still going to deliver the same amount of content, the same number of parallels and inserts in there. Again, we’re really just cutting down on the amount of base cards that were being delivered in there. In turn, it should speed up the breaks and make them a lot more fun and enjoyable to watch and be a part of there.

Elite’s one of my favorite programs every year, especially because of the parallels. We’re taking the parallel structure back to, or the design back to how it was in 2021-22 with that nice kind of micro-etch and sort of like a gold vinyl pattern, if you will. We’ve introduced a couple of new parallels into that run. So again, really looking forward to seeing how those are received from the collector standpoint, because again, I don’t want to be biased, but I love them. I think there some of the best parallel cards that we make as an NBA collector. There’s some of my favorite ones to go after and chase, after the product comes out.

And then, just a couple more upcoming ones to highlight. Not gonna go too deep into them, but Crown Royale and Impeccable will be two of our hard autograph programs that will be coming up that collectors can really look forward to most notably for the first offerings of Tim Duncan autographs, especially Tim Duncan on-card autographs. Crown should be the first program that will have his hard autos in there for a Panini product.

Again, Kelsey, you know, with yourself being around the industry for as long as you have, you know the significance and the impact that this should have, being able to introduce him into our product line, especially in a year like this year, right? So, it’s going to be really interesting to see the reaction and to see the early sales and sales data that we get from these first few autographs at the market. So, I’m really looking forward to that.

Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball ProductsKS: Let me ask you about Duncan there specifically, because he has had certs in the past, it’s been a long time though from what I can remember. Why did he decide, or how were able to get him to sign now?
BK:
That’s a good question, Kelsey. I wish I had the honest answer for you, but to be honest with you, I really don’t know what it was that made Mr. Duncan want to, you know, finally come and sign trading cards again. I will tell you that it’s been something that we’ve been persistent on. We’ve tried year after year after year. Made countless offers and for whatever reason, we were able to get something going this year and we were able to execute a deal with them. It ended up being an exclusive autograph deal, which makes it even nicer. But, you know, the one thing I will say there is, and I can’t talk about them highly enough, is our acquisitions team. Stating at the top and all the way down to the bottom, they’ve done an incredible job, not only just with Mr. Duncan, but there’s been a lot of other athletes who they’ve gone out, been able to get in touch with and been able to execute a deal with and allow the product development team to plan these guys out and get their signatures back in products, right? A lot of guys that are very collectible that have not been featured, you know, for several, several years in our basketball program. Beyond Duncan, the acquisitions team has done a wonderful job there, and can’t talk highly enough about them as a whole.

KS: You and I were talking a little earlier about some new licenses you have coming out for basketball. What more can you tell me about those?
BK:
The most recent one that we’ve announced and made public is the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague partnership that Panini and the EuroLeague basketball group has come together on. It’s a very fun, new exciting license that we’ve been able to work on in the basketball product development team. In this first year, the 23-24 season, we plan to have three releases, which is going to be led by the Donruss collection. The Donruss Collection will include Opti-Chrome components in Donruss Optic similar to what some of the football SKUs do, and I believe how the WNBA first year did it for 18-19 WNBA Donruss. It’ll also have Downtowns in there for collectors to chase. The players list will be collectible, not only to those overseas, you know, the big EuroLeague fans, but I believe it’ll also be able to capture some of the NBA collectors as well.

We’ll have ex -EuroLeague players that were once superstars over in the EuroLeague but may have come over and continued their careers in the NBA, or made a name for themselves elsewhere aside from the EuroLeague. It should be a really fun product for basketball fans and basketball collectors in general to go after and get their hands on. So again, three programs we look to introduce this first season, and as we grow into future calendar years, we hope to expand upon this release calendar for the EuroLeague license. It’s one we’re very, very excited about.

KS: Shifting gears back to the NBA, we are in All -Star season. Panini is going to have a major presence at the All-Star Game. What all do you have going on there?
BK:
All-Star Game, All-Star weekend is always an exciting time, especially on our end. I guess first we’ll start it off with some news I’m sure a lot of collectors have seen, and that is that on Friday night actually at the Rising Stars game, Panini will be the main head sponsor for the Rising Stars game. So it’ll actually be the Panini Rising Stars game. There will be a lot of athletes from last year that we have autograph deals with, as well as a few rookies from this year as well, that we have autograph deals with that will be playing in the game. So, we hope to get some good performances from them. That takes us into Saturday night with the 3-point contest, the dunk contest and the skills challenge. A lot of young, good talent being showcased in all those events as well.

One thing I will say is that Panini will have a lounge downtown, sort of as we do at some of our other larger events for different sports, but at the lounge, we’ll have various partners and team reps and customers that will be invited to come out and hang out at the lounge where we’ll plan on having some athletes come in. They’ll be doing appearances, they’ll be signing some of their cards and just hanging out, talking with people. There should be food and drinks provided for everybody.

That’s where we’ll be spending a lot of our time. We hope to meet with a lot of current athletes, get some stuff signed and get some good marketing activations going on there, as well as meet with a lot of our team and league reps out there. It’s one of the best times to be able to get to meet with a lot of those people. So, we’re hoping to get a lot of good face time with everyone out there.

Sunday night, All-Star Game, as always a fun one. We’ll get to see some new young talent featured in the games this year, so that’s always nice to see. We also have a few activations set up with some of the card shops up there, local in Indianapolis. I believe on Friday we’re going to be going and visiting three of the card shops across the Indy Metroplex.

sThen Thursday night, we’re going to be attending a trade night pop-up that’s going to be downtown that’s going to be put on by Proper Indy and Indy Card Exchange, one of the local card shops in Indy. We’re going to be attending that. We hope to do a little bit of Q & As, talk with some of the customers from the card shop and maybe have a sneak peek at an upcoming program as well out there. It’s going to be a great time. It’s going to be a little bit more chilly, a little bit more cold than it is here in Dallas, unfortunately. So, making sure that everyone one going out there is going to have their warm clothes and dress warm. All in all, everyone’s really excited, and looking forward to the weekend.

KS: Great. And one last thing I want to ask you with an eye towards the near future. We’re roughly a month away from March Madness. That means the new rookie class isn’t too far away for next year. Kind of an early sneak preview. Who are some of the upcoming potential rookies you think collectors should be keeping an eye out for?
BK:
The time just keeps going by, right? As you said, we’re getting close to that time as far as tournament, and then NBA combine, and then draft and then summer league. It’s about that time for collectors to start looking ahead and seeing who they’ve got to look forward to watching the tournament, or looking for draft college products coming up as we get closer to draft and then summer league. A few of the guys that I’d go out and say to keep your eyes peeled for, I guess we’ll start with the college side. Just really talking about guys who I think will be able to make an impact in the NBA, and guys who will end up in the lottery most likely. Of course, you’ve got your big at UConn, Donovan Clingan. I think they’re a team that will be going deep in the tournament. So, I think he’ll be one that will be on a lot of people’s radars. Not a freshman, I believe he played last year, he’s a sophomore this year, but he’s really leading that team and doing good things. So, Clingan’s one that should do well and be around, be relevant when it comes time to prepare for the draft and the combine. Ja’Kobe Walter at Baylor, he’s a pure scorer and a great two-way player for them. He’s been a little bit quiet as Baylor has a lot of offensive talent, a lot of guys who can score the ball. They play a lot more of a team-centered offense, but Ja’Kobe is a player who can erupt for 20 or 25 points at any given time against any team, the best defenders. He’s one I would say to keep your eyes out for. Rob Dillingham, a point guard for Kentucky, has been one who’s really, really shot up the draft boards this year. He should be a guy also that will have an impact definitely when it comes time for tournament season. Those are just a few of the guys that from a Panini standpoint we’re really watching closely and excited about.

There’s also a few guys international speaking and G -League speaking that are guys to keep an eye out for. You’ve got Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis with the G-League Ignite. There’s also a few international guys that are making a strong case for being a top-five pick. Zaccharie Risacher overseas and Nikola Topić as well, two international guys. The good thing about this year is I think the draft is wide open as far as top three, top-five picks, which always makes it fun when it comes time to tournament season, combine season. Really seeing how these guys progress and work to make a name for themselves as they get close to that big stage.

KS: That all sounds really good. Brandon, thank you so much for joining us today. Good luck with the upcoming products and the All -Star Game.
BK:
Awesome. Kelsey, thank you as always. It’s a pleasure to get to catch up with you and, you know, look forward to All -Star weekend.

Hobby Musings: Panini’s Brandon Kennedy Goes in Depth on Upcoming Basketball Products


Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Kelsey Schroyer

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