Mint Musings: Engaging Younger Collectors in the Hobby, Part 3Mint Musings: Engaging Younger Collectors in the Hobby, Part 3 – For the last column of the year, we continue talking to some of the leaders in the hobby about the engagement of youth in the world of trading cards. This week, we had the chance to catch up with Panini’s Jason Howarth for his company’s take on the matter.

KS: What do you feel is the state of the hobby in engagement of younger children and collectors?

JH: I can’t really speak for the state of the hobby in terms of engagement of younger children and collectors – but I can tell you that Panini has been committed to growing the space amongst a new generation of young collectors and that we are uniquely positioned on a number of fronts. I think everyone likes to talk about getting younger kids engaged in the hobby – but from an execution perspective it’s not an easy thing to do and a lot of work goes into growing collectors and building that affinity as a collector.

Panini does that on a number of levels and we take a full 360 approach with multiple touch points:

  • Product: beginning with our sticker collections and mass retail trading card products.
  • Grassroots/Sampling: through our long-term exclusive partnership with Pop Warner where we are focused on engaging year-round from their scholarship program – to the Pop Warner Super Bowl and our Panini Skills Clinic that is held each year in the Super Bowl host city. Working with and visiting Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide through basketball programs or youth sports tournaments as part of our mobile tour stops and sampling both trading cards and our sticker collections at NBA Arenas or NFL Stadiums or through NBA and NFL team-specific kids clubs.

Our Panini Super Bowl Kid Reporter initiative is a great platform and focuses exclusively on targeting kids to get engaged with trading cards at both the mass retail and hobby level. Trent Dilfer’s involvement as an ambassador and someone that works with our winner has been a great advocate.

  • Advertising: we target youth through national advertising campaigns to promote and build awareness for our trading cards and stickers where kids are – for our NBA, NFL and soccer products on broadcasting/social networks including Disney XD, Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and YouTube.

We interact with passionate young collectors at every event we do and their engagement and interest in participating is growing.

Mint Musings: Engaging Younger Collectors in the Hobby, Part 3KS: Overall, how much of a focus does your company place on engaging children in the hobby?

JH: It’s a huge focus of ours and one that we back up with some of the products we deliver to younger or new collectors. From iconic brands like Score and Donruss from new products like Complete Basketball, we offer a wide variety of products that are tailor made for younger audiences. In addition, the growth among younger collectors around our officially licensed sticker collections both within sports and entertainment continues to rise.

KS: How important does your company feel it is to get younger people interested in the hobby in order to cultivate that next generation of collectors?

JH: It’s extremely important for us to engage younger fans and collectors. That’s a fundamental driver behind our exclusive partnership with Pop Warner and why we continue to partner with people like Ultimate Breaks Mint Musings: Engaging Younger Collectors in the Hobby, Part 3to produce the Free Kids Case Breaks at the National Sports Collectors Convention every year.

KS: What does your company feel is the best way to engage children and get them interested in trading cards?

JH: Providing compelling products that are exciting in terms of photography and design while also delivering the opportunity for certified autographs and player-worn memorabilia. That’s a solid recipe that has worked well on the trading card side. And as it relates to stickers, we continue to be impressed and enthused by the reaction to our sticker swaps and trading days that appeal to collectors of all ages.

KS: Given the current prevalence of mobile technology in today’s world, especially among youth, how is your company using technology in order to better reach younger collectors and even collectors in general?

Panini CollectorsAppJH: We’ve recently launched two exciting new digital trading card apps with NBA Dunk and NFL Gridiron and the early response to those has been positive. As the apps mature and grow more robust, we expect those to grow incredibly. The opportunity to deliver real-time stats and special event cards appeals to collectors of all ages, but there’s no denying the appeal to younger collectors. We also have a Panini Sticker Collectors App that allows kids to keep track of the stickers they have and the stickers they need.

KS: One of the concerns about the hobby today is that it’s too expensive for children to actively engage in it. How do you respond to that?

JH: That’s just not true. There are more higher-end products than ever before, but we remain committed to delivering products across all price points, including those that skew to younger audiences. Our sticker collections and proud brands such as NBA Hoops, Score and Donruss will remain staples in our product portfolio and will continue to be affordable and engaging.

KS: How does the bigger presence of retail stores vs. hobby stores impact engaging younger collectors into the hobby?

JH: We value both retail and hobby outlets greatly and both are vital to sustaining and NBA Dunkgrowing the industry. Retail often provides a starting point for collectors who might not be lucky enough to have a hobby shop in their area. The hobby shops offer great customer service and that strong sense of community that makes this industry so fun. Together, they provide the backdrop for our industry to continue to thrive.

KS: You’ve had great success with your sticker products, including Frozen and World Cup. What is it about the sticker lines that resonate so much with younger collectors?

JH: They’re affordable, they’re exciting, they’re fun and they have a finite ending point. There’s a clearly identifiable goal to completing the sticker collections and the opportunity to engage with other collectors is undeniable. We’ve also seen continued growth for our NFL, NBA and NHL Sticker Collections. I recently watched three teenagers step away from playing video games to sit down with the NFL Sticker Collection for a break. They ended up spending the next four hours opening, placing and trading stickers and ended up not going back to the video games. That’s a huge statement.

Mint Musings: Engaging Younger Collectors in the Hobby, Part 3KS: You have some incentive programs such as Father’s Day packs and Black Friday packs that are geared towards providing collectors an extra bonus when buying some of your product. What kind of reception have you seen for those with younger collectors?

JH: The success of our Black Friday and Father’s Day programs has been remarkable. And when you look at the social media response to those promotions, you see so many pictures of kids participating. Like so many of our products and promotions, those tend to break down age barriers. Our Father’s Day program was something we were committed to developing with the goal of bringing Dads and kids into the hobby shop – it’s such a critical element for today’s collectors to pass on and share that experience of collecting with their kids and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing those experiences take place.

For more information about Panini America sticker collections and trading card products, visit the company’s official website and their blog, The Knight’s Lance.


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

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