Fanatics Collectables and Topps have announced comprehensive agreements to produce collegiate football and basketball trading cards — partnerships that include nearly 150 universities and, separately, more than 200 name, image and likeness deals with athletes.
Beginning this fall, Topps (under its Bowman University brand) will release non-exclusive trading cards featuring current athletes from roughly 100 universities. The deals fall under NIL rights and put money in the pockets of some of college sports’ biggest names. Athletes won’t be restricted from signing for other trading card companies.
Deals can vary in value from player to player, and according to a source familiar with the negotiations, could be up to five figures.
“Both the schools and athletes benefit through rights fees and royalties paid on the sale of collegiate cards,” Fanatics said in a statement. “Higher profile universities and student-athletes command larger rights fees driven by demand from collectors.”
Some athletes who will be featured on the fall 2022 offerings for football are 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, CFP National Championship-winning Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Basketball stars include Duke’s Dereck Lively II, Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. and 2021 NCAA Division I women’s national championship-winning Most Outstanding Player Aliyah Boston of South Carolina.
Topps has also secured multiyear exclusive rights with more than 35 colleges, which include the majority of Power 5 conference schools. Beginning as early as 2023, the list will include Georgia, Kentucky, Miami, Oregon and Wisconsin. Some entering in 2025 are Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, LSU, Penn State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Those trading card offerings — the largest student-athlete trading card venture ever launched — will feature official university trademarks with NIL rights from both current athletes and former players.
“We felt the entire college NIL trading card category was an untapped area of the collector’s marketplace,” said Derek Eiler, executive vice president of Fanatics College. “Fanatics sells more college merchandise than any other retailer in the country. We have a keen interest in helping our college partners reach more fans; this category is exactly turnkey, perfectly cut for the NIL marketplace.”
In the trading card space, consumers have seen increasing usage of the following language on memorabilia cards: “The officially enclosed licensed material is not associated with any specific player, game, or event.” Fanatics and Topps say they want to put an emphasis on getting fans closer to the players they follow.
“Imagine your standard, high-end Topps collection, applied to college,” Eiler says. “You’ll have premier athlete image cards, autograph cards, player-worn memorabilia. There are still some NCAA regulations in place in terms of ‘game-used’ memorabilia but ‘player-worn’ is a key area of focus for these collections .”
Fanatics — which has made a slew of professional licensing deals in the last year, including the MLBPA, NFLPA and NBAPA — calls bringing officially licensed collegiate trading cards into the foray a “monumental” coup.