Mar
14

Upper Deck Proves Company is Making Major Strides to Improve Redemption Process for Collectors

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I remember early in my career with Upper Deck working in the Customer Care team where I was talking with a very irate collector about delays on his Ken Griffey Jr. redemption card. He shared, “If you don’t have the card, don’t put a redemption in the pack in the first place!

I thought to myself, “That makes a lot of sense.” What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was how could you not include someone the caliber of Ken Griffey Jr. in a pack? He’s too important to just leave out. Also, if Upper Deck was to just completely pull some of these cards, they wouldn’t hit the insert ratios published on the packs. On top of that, as many of these cards are numbered as part of a set, there would be obvious holes which collectors really tend to despise.

But that collector had a point and as we heard others share the same sentiment, the company made a variety of fundamental changes to improve the way Upper Deck handles redemption programs. These changes were not really things that collectors have noticed, but they have most certainly had an impact. All of these changes are designed to give collectors the best pack opening experience in the industry by eliminating the total amount of redemptions in new UD products.

  • Increase signing time: Wherever we can we are giving athletes more time to sign and return items to UD for inclusion in new trading card sets.
2012-Upper-Deck-All-Time-Greats-Barry-Sanders-Signing-Session

Giving someone like Barry Sanders who has a lot of demands on him time to sign helps reduce the use of redemptions in new Upper Deck products.

  • Strong network of witnesses: Upper Deck has developed an incredibly comprehensive database of witnesses to assist with signing sessions not only in North America, but throughout the world.
Gary-Payton-Autograph-Signing-All-Time-Greats-Basketball-2013

Having a strong network of witnesses who can get to athletes like Gary Payton here for signing sessions helps decrease the use of redemption cards.

  • Paying on time: Athletes are more apt to participate in signing programs if they are paid in a timely fashion and Upper Deck has really improved how quickly the company pays partners.
Shane-Black-Iron-Man-3-Photo-Upper-Deck-Cards

Shane Black, director of Iron Man 3, takes a moment to pose for a picture after a signing session with Upper Deck for a new Marvel trading card set.

  • Avoiding use of slower signers: Athletes who have a track record of being a problem signer are not receiving new trading card deals from Upper Deck. There are some exceptions of course; those superstar athletes who have so much on their plate and only do a couple signing sessions a year still are used in sets. These athletes always sign, but we hate making our collectors wait too long there so we typically limit their use when long wait times are expected.
Michael-Jordan-North-Carolina-Upper-Deck-Letterman-SP

Superstars like Michael Jordan only have time to do a couple signings a year with Upper Deck so there are times redemption cards may need to be issued, but fans don’t normally mind waiting on an autograph of someone like MJ.

  • Delaying product launches: Shop owners are not big fans of this one, but if we can push the release of a product back and get a couple thousand more autograph cards live in packs, we can provide collectors with a better pack opening experience.
  • Pulling redemptions from new products: Much to the collectors delight in my early example, we have been following his advice over the last couple years in particular. If the cards we are waiting on are of fringe players, more often than not we will pull them from packs. Now that means we will have to produce less product and ultimately make less money, but it is for the good of the product and the brand as a whole. If including redemptions for sub-par players who are going to take forever to sign is going to make the company a few extra bucks today, it will ultimately lose the company money as collectors have a bad experience with the product and don’t come back. We want to avoid that whenever possible.
  • Mystery redemptions: Most collectors I speak to tend to have mixed feelings on these programs, usually their feeling on it is tied directly to the random player they ultimately receive. Having some groups of redemptions listed as a “mystery” helps us by producing less redemption cards than we have cards outstanding for and then seeing who returns the cards back first. Once we have enough in we can begin fulfilling to fans and cut ties with the others who haven’t signed yet. This reduces situations where a collector is waiting over six months for a redemption card to be fulfilled.
  • Autograph labels: A lot of manufactures use label cards because they are just really easy to execute, but we have heard loud and clear collectors do not like them. While they do help in reducing the potential for redemptions, they give the feel of a less quality product. Upper Deck avoids using autograph labels on higher-end products, but they do have a use in more mainstream releases and products with lower price points.
  • Seasoned athlete relations team: Upper Deck has ramped up the company’s athlete relations team over the last year in particular and has some of the most seasoned employees in the industry running point at working with the company’s stable of athletes. We have cultivated good relationships that are paying dividends with getting cards back from signers.
  • Improved turnaround time on items in house: If we have a card available in house, it is our goal to get those cards to customers as quickly as possible. Where that process used to take months, it is now just taking a matter of weeks and at times just days from when a customer redeems as card.
Upper-Deck-Redemption-Customer-Happy-Ryan-Nugent-Hopkins-NHL-Autograph-Rookie

A happy father posted an image of his son with his Ryan Nugent-Hopkins redemption card that only took three weeks to receive.

Have these changes really made any difference? They have indeed. Check out these stats on products Upper Deck has released with zero autograph redemptions redeemable online over the last four years and see the different these changes have made in the last two years in particular.

Year     % of products with 0 auto redemptions
2009    17 of 64 products – 27%
2010    6 of 30 products – 20 %
2011    16 of 30 products – 53%
2012    15 of 31 products – 48%

Worthy of note, in 2011 and again in 2012 six of the products that had redemptions had less than 3% total in the product. So the total amount of redemptions that can be found in those products is incredibly low.

Now does this mean everything is perfect with the company’s redemption programs? Certainly not. There are a myriad of situations that can arise when you handle sending and receiving hundreds of thousands of cards from players all over the world throughout the year. We understand it can be frustrating waiting for your favorite athlete to sign and we will continue to put the pressure on our signers to get their cards back in an expeditious fashion. We also believe there is still room to get better at redemption fulfillment even though huge strides have been made. We felt inclined to share the company has made a drastic improvement however with regard to these programs and fans should expect to see more of that.

For reference, here is a list of the products going back to 2009 that packed out with zero autograph redemptions redeemable online.

UD Product Name with Zero Auto Redemptions Release
2008-09 NHL Upper Deck Series 2 2009
2008-09 NBA Skybox 2009
2009 MLB First Edition 2009
2009 Upper Deck Soccer 2009
2008-09 NHL O-Pee-Chee Update 2009
2008-09 NHL Be-A-Player 2009
2009 MLB UDx 2009
2009-10 NHL Victory 2009
2009-10 NHL Fleer Ultra 2009
2009 NFL Upper Deck 2009
2009-10 NBA First Edition 2009
2009 NFL First Edition 2009
2009-10 NHL Artifacts 2009
2009-10 NHL Upper Deck Series 1 2009
2009 NFL UD Black 2009
2009-10 NHL MVP 2009
2009-10 NHL Black Diamond 2009
2009 USA Baseball Box Set 2010
2009 Iron Man 2 2010
2010 Upper Deck Soccer 2010
2010 Sweet Spot Football 2010
2010 SPX  Football 2010
2010-11 NHL O-Pee-Chee 2010
2011 Upper Deck World of Sports 2011
2010-11 NHL Upper Deck Series 2 2011
2011 Thor 2011
2011 Upper Deck UNC Basketball 2011
2011 Upper Deck Soccer 2011
2011 Marvel Beginnings I 2011
2011 SP Legendary Cuts Baseball 2011
2011 Captain America 2011
2011 Marvel Kree Skrull 2011
2011-12 NHL Victory 2011
2011-12  NHL Artifacts 2011
2011112  NHL O-Pee-Chee 2011
2011 Upper Deck Oklahoma Football 2011
2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series 1 2011
2011 UpperDeckUniversity of Texas Football 2011
2011 SP Game-Used Soccer 2011
2011-12 NHL Black Diamond 2012
2012 Upper Deck World of Sports 2012
2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series 2 2012
2012 Avengers 2012
2012 Upper Deck Football 2012
2012 SP Signature Baseball 2012
2011 USA Football Box Set 2012
2012 Marvel Beginnings II 2012
2012-13 NHL O-Pee-Chee 2012
2012 Upper Deck Alabama Football 2012
2012-13 NHL Upper Deck Series 1 2012
2012 All-Time Greats Multi-Sport 2012
2012-13 NHL Black Diamond 2012
2012 Marvel Beginnings III 2012
2012 USA Football Box Set 2012
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12 Comments

1

This is all fine and dandy marketing speak. I will give UD some credit for improving the redemption process and the number of redemptions in products does appear to have been reduced. With that being said you can’t claim that redemptions are a necessary evil if you want to hit your insert ratio but then tell a collecter with an expired redemption card he is out of luck. Most of the redemptions are not “wildcards” or bonus hits but the auto or mem that is supposed to fulfill the published insert ratio. If 2010-11 spx hockey is supposed to have 299 copies of a tyler seguin jersey auto but a third of the cards aren’t redemeeded because the redemption is expired a mere two years after the product is released, UD Is now sitting on 99 tyler seguin auto stickers they will gladly use in another UD PRODUCT. Doesn’t sound like you mind creating “holes” in sets after all.

2

Chris,

Excellent work by UD.

I have only UD products in my collection. I stopped buying that Panini nonesense after 2009 and if you see their items as of late, a laughing walk of shame. redemptions everywhere just to print more trash products. have you seen their NBA? wow…23 products of the same stuff.

UD has always produced quality. even if the player on the card was not great, there is a quality to what UD has done.

I intend to keep supporting UD.

Adrian (from Hong Kong)

3

hi chris,

i’m an avid UD collector but after seeing this posting, I have a lesser sense of satisfaction with this process. Case in point, I redeemed on UD’s site a 2011 Goodwin Michelle Wie autograph card. This was done back in late 2011 and there is still no update. Why is that? what’s taking so long? Why is Leaf able to put out Michelle Wie certified auto cards in their golf products yet UD still can’t fulfill these?

thanks and a little disappointed,
TU

4

Sjb,

We do not tell people with expired redemptions they are out of luck. We developed a program just for them and do our due diligence to let fans know when products are about to expire, just check this out: http://upperdeckblog.com/2012/09/upper-deck-announces-a-program-to-assist-collectors-with-select-expired-autograph-redemption-cards/

5

Adrian,

Thanks for the kinds words. You are definitely the type of collector we are working to please!

6

TU,

As I shared, there are a myriad of situations that can arise with redemption programs. This particular one was a case where we were trying to add additional value to a product by working with an athlete we had not worked with prior. Negotiating a deal was very difficult and when we had an approved image, we commissioned an artist to paint it for the Goodwin set. When they received the cards her representatives would not approve the artwork. So we went back to the drawing board (literally) and had another photo approved, another painting commissioned and another batch of cards done. Same thing happened where they would not approve them. So now we are doing something we have never done to get this situation resolved and actually having the cards reprinted with a photo they approved instead of a painting. Those will be done in a couple months and we are hopeful she will sign at that point, but it has been a long difficult road to this point with lots of extra costs we have absorbed. Should you not wish to wait any longer, we can absolutely replace the card, but you should know we are still working to get them done.

Also, this was another case where we anticipated there may be issues and pulled a lot of the redemption content for her out of the product. Ultimately we produced less and made less money at the time, but it was worth it to avoid having more customers go through this long wait. We apologize for the delays and want to reassure you we are working to get this done.

7

Hi Chris.

I have been waiting on this card for quite some time now:

GABRIEL LANDESKOG
2011-12 NHL ULTIMATE SIGNATURES CD# US-GL NO #’ING

Since this set came out, many other Landeskog autographed cards have come out (including Cup cards). Will the Ultimate card be made?

Paul

8

2009    17 of 64 products – 27%2010    6 of 30 products – 20 %2011    16 of 30 products – 53%2012    15 of 31 products – 48% ” Upper Deck makes 33 less products a nd ONLY reduced their redemption products by 2 , which is 17 in 2009 down to 15 in 2012 and you claim this shows an improvement in less redemptions issued in your products. Thats not a very convincing argument. Lets see if you reply or delete this. :-/

9

Andy,

We are pleased we are making strides to improving this process. Our customers have shared they don’t like it so we felt inclined to put a lot of effort to improve it. We think it is important to share with fans what we are doing so they know we are listening.

10

Paul,

Another interesting situation. The Cup cards and the Ultimate cards were mailed to him at the same time. He only had time to sign one group before he left for Europe so we asked for him to do the Cup cards to prevent more redemptions in packs, hoping to secure a session with him while he was away. That didn’t happen unfortunately, but we are working on a signing session with him very shortly where these should be completed. We appreciate your patience!

11

I have a problem, my son bought a pack of your basketball cards but instead of getting a autograph he got a redemption card ,my son wanted to buy a couple of packs of your 2012 SP card, but the sale person ended up selling him a pack of 2007 trilo3y, which was very wrong of that person to take a vantage of a 10 year old. so when he got home he ask me to redeem the redemption card he got ( he had scratch off the card for the code already)so when I tried , the code would not work. what can we do for my son to get the redemption card he got redeemed? please let us know what we can do about this.

thanks,
jimmy ma

12

HI Chris,
It’s been a year later since you’ve responded to my comment in this article (see #6). My concern now is with the 2014 SP Golf product now out and with Michelle WIe auto inserts, when will the Goodwin Auto Redemption ever be fulfilled? Based on your comment it seemed to be soon.

thanks
TU

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