Lionel Messi, arguably the beautiful game’s greatest player of all time, has partnered with Icons.com, a football memorabilia giant, to launch the world’s first official card collection devoted solely to a single player. The card series, launched on April 12th, contains a total of 104 cards with glossy photos of Leo Messi (5 per pack) both on and off the pitch.
In a recent article from fcbusiness.co.uk, the managing director for Icons.com, Dan Jamieson was quoted saying, “We can all remember trading our prized cards with our friends in the playground looking for that much-coveted final card in the collection. But football card and sticker collections traditionally involve multiple clubs and multiple players.“We’ve taken a different approach by focusing on one player and with Leo we’ve been able to create a collection that spans not just the football career of the world’s best footballer, but the man himself. This is the world’s best player and the perfect person to launch an individual card collection.”(Click here for the full article).
The collection of cards will be available for fan purchase at multiple retail outlets and channels, including shopping malls, convenience stores, mini-marts, supermarkets, and kiosks. There will also be 4 golden cards that will come with a special prize of some sort – a bit too Willy Wonka-ish for me. However, these cards will give Messi a whole new way to engage with his fans, further proliferate his brand as a player and as a person, and will showcase some of the great things he does off the pitch as well, including his vast charity work with young aspiring footballers.
Though card collecting has somewhat lost its level of interest and popularity in the United States, similar activities are still very much alive elsewhere in the world, particularly in South America and in other Hispanic corners of the globe. Paninis are a very popular vehicle for sports memorabilia collection in such markets, allowing fans to buy stickers for every player and country involved in the World Cup, so that they may commemorate the event and have something to look back on years later.
Although I have no doubt that the Messi collection will sell quite well in these markets, especially in his home country of Argentina, I am skeptical about the success of the collection on a global scale. A true football fan, whom for the sake of argument is indeed a sports card collector, would be more apt to purchase cards for multiple top class footballers, rather than multiple packs of the Messi series, in order to have a well rounded collection.
The people who are going to purchase, or will attempt to purchase, the entire Messi line of collecting cards are going to be die-hard Messi fans, not your average football fans. While I know he has many out there, I am interested to see if he has enough, with the spending capacity, to make this a sustainable merchandising tactic for Icons.com and the Messi brand.
Perhaps, if proven successful, we could see a line exclusive to Christiano Ronaldo, or even retroactively Pele and Maradona, along with other greats of the game. Who knows? Icons.com does have an Economist heralded “football merchandising guru” at the helm, Edward Freedman, formerly responsible for the Spice Girls merchandise explosion in the 90s, and is the former Man United merchandising director as well. So, maybe he knows what he’s doing. As with all things though, only time will tell.