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SPORTS

Topps Hits a Hot Market Home Run

By Glenn Demby

A Topps official described it as “the perfect storm.” 285-pound Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon is a beloved player with a cult following who also happens to play in New York. And he picked the perfect time to strike his blow—a Saturday evening game on national TV airing just a few minutes after the Kentucky Derby.

But while luck played a part, Topps’s spectacular success with the Colon card was really the product of design. The TOPPS NOW program, which began at the start of the season, enables the veteran MLB licensee to create trading cards to commemorate special moments literally within hours after they occur. Cards are produced on-demand, which holds down production costs. Making the cards available for only 24 hours adds to the excitement, not to mention the card’s value. The Colon card, which retailed for $9.99 per individual unit, is reportedly selling for $75 on eBay.

Of course, Topps didn’t invent or even perfect the strategy of selling special merchandise tied to “micro moment” in sports. Plenty of other sports licensors and licensees are following the same playbook. But the Colon case is a textbook illustration of how effective the strategy can be when the perfect moment is combined with the perfect mechanism to exploit it.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

6:11 PM, ET: Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon ignites the Internet by hitting a homerun, the first of his 19-year career. At age 42, Colon becomes the oldest big leaguer ever to homer.

15 seconds later: Topps commissions a special trading card to celebrate Colon’s feat.

16 seconds after that: Colon finishes his 31-second trot around the bases.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

11:30 AM, ET: On-demand internet sales of the special Bartolo Colon home run card begin.

Monday, May 9, 2016

11:30 AM, ET: Topps sells a record 8,826 cards before ending production exactly 24 hours later.

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