Hoping to Get Hip Again, Topps Turns to Spike Lee

Baseball Card Company Wants to Reach New Generation Weaned on Video

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NEW YORK -- Baseball-card collecting is about to stage a comeback, if filmmaker Spike Lee and his team over at urban-marketing and entertainment-branding shop SpikeDDB have anything to do with it.
Topps has tapped SpikeDDb to make bsaeball-card collecting relevant again.
Topps has tapped SpikeDDb to make bsaeball-card collecting relevant again.

Topps, the international marketer of kid favorites from candy (Bazooka bubble gum, Ring Pops and Push Pops) to sports trading cards and that vulgar 1980s trend, Garbage Pail Kids, is making a big play in the hopes of baseball cards becoming a hip hobby again.

Make collecting relevant
"The challenge is trying to make collecting relevant again to a generation of kids raised on Xbox," noted Joel Johnson, managing director of SpikeDDB. The Omnicom Group agency recently was tapped by New York-based Topps to handle advertising of its baseball-card line, first introduced in 1951.

Not that Topps hasn't taken advantage of the opportunity the sports video-game market has presented; over the last two years the company has inked promotion deals with video-gamer makers 2KSports and Electronic Arts. As a result, "We've actually gained some traction in the demographic from 8-10 [years old]," said Mark Sapir, director of marketing for Topps. Research has found that children in that age range that actively collect and trade baseball cards have jumped from 9% to around 38%, he said.

"We've seen a shift but we also know that we can't stop now. ... To grow the category, we have to bring in new collectors," Mr. Sapir said. "The medium of card collecting is big with kids," he said, citing Pokemon cards as an example, but "we just have to figure out how to get baseball cards more relevant and in the mix."

Spike's a fan
That's where SpikeDDB comes in, the agency selected to work on Topps' account -- at least in part because of the involvement of Mr. Lee. Not only an award-winning film director, Mr. Lee is apparently an avid baseball-card collector and trader who has passed the tradition on to his son, Jackson. "This is one project that is near and dear to my heart," Mr. Lee said in a statement.

The agency is currently creating Topps' first TV campaign, which will target children between 8 and 14. Spots are expected to feature several Major League Baseball players -- the first work is timed to break at the start of baseball season -- and additional print and online executions likely will follow.
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