Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Main Event Fight Nights

Press Pass set up the Main Event Fight Night to celebrate and promote the release of Main Event in September. I actually attended a few fight night events in the greater Chicago area. This was the fourth trip I’ve taken this year to visit stores in various parts of the country and it is easily my favorite part of my job.

I really enjoy the chance to get out and meet our fans. It is awesome to give out prizes to our fans while they’re opening packs looking for cards of their favorite driver or for a ‘hit’. I attended two Main Event Fight Nights, one at Matt’s Sports Cards in Joliet and one at Chicagoland Sportscards in Arlington Heights. Multiple rounds of prizes were given out at both locations for various criteria such as driver with the most wins or tallest driver (all based on the information on the cards you pulled in a pack).

Both events were well attended and I got to see multiple boxes of Main Event opened. I also visited a few other card stores in Indiana, Wisconsin, and in the greater Chicago area. Overall in four days I flew 1500 miles and drove another 750 miles to visit a total of seven stores in three states. I got to meet a few dozen fans NASCAR Trading Card fans.

This year I’ve also visited New Hampshire, Texas, California, and of course the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. It was quite a fun year of meeting our great collectors throughout the country. Look for us to continue these trips in 2011.
Trevor McGregor

Here are some pictures from my trip to Chicago.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The NASCAR Trading Card Monopoly

We have a monopoly on the NASCAR trading card market. We have no competition. There isn’t another company making better NASCAR trading cards. If someone wants NASCAR trading cards, they have to buy our products. So we can just put the company on cruise control and churn out run-of-the-mill products, right? Wouldn’t that make our lives simpler?!

Earlier in the year amidst all of the discussions about the pros and cons of exclusive agreements with leagues and trading card companies, several people echoed the concern that if a company doesn’t have competition, they have no incentive to be creative and come up with new ways to excite collectors. As a Product Manager for a company that essentially has a monopoly on the NASCAR trading card market, this statement struck a chord with me, and I constantly find myself thinking about all of the reasons why that statement is wrong…and here are a few of them.

Competitiveness – I hate losing. I have to win the race off the line when the red light turns green even though the car next to me has no idea we’re racing. The term “self-motivated” is seen on résumés a lot, and to me it means “paranoid”…paranoid that somewhere out there someone is doing my job better than I am. That paranoia drives me, and as a result I want my products to be perfect, and I want you to love them. I want each release to win some sort of “Best Product in the History of Trading Cards” award, though that has yet to happen. This competitive drive is shared among many others in the office, and it keeps us on our toes and motivates us to constantly improve our business.

Customer Focus - Over the past two years, we have spent a lot of time talking to customers on the phone, through email, in focus groups, and in hobby shops. We have asked you to give us feedback on what we’re doing right and what we need to improve on. Many of you have praised our company for our customer service, and it is this customer-centric approach to our business that helps us produce products that you enjoy collecting. By focusing on what the consumer wants, rather than what another company is doing helps ensure our customers stay happy.

The Press Pass Family – Nestled a few miles north of the Queen City, Press Pass occupies roughly half of one floor of a six-story office building. There are 18 of us: Kevin, Kevin, Terri, Terri, Kristen, Kirsten, Allison, Trevor, Debbie, Lisa, Tonya, Eric, Robert, Aaron, Nick, Tom, DJ, and Jesse. None of us owns a Mercedes. We all just have one home, and $2.50 Healthy Choice meals are the preferred lunch fare. We are a family of simple, honest, hard-working, happy-go-lucky people, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Much like within a family, there is a bond between us that ties us all together. In fact, I see these people more than I see my own family. The members of this family are my incentive and motivation to produce good quality products. We all rely on each other to do our jobs and there is a sense of duty and accountability to make this company better than it was the year before. When the economy took a downturn a few years ago, I started thinking about my role in the company and how it affects everyone else. If I make a bad product, you don’t buy it. If you don’t buy it, people in my “family”, including me, may lose their job. That pressure motivates me to work harder and smarter.

Press Pass’ focus was never to become the exclusive manufacturer of NASCAR trading cards. We didn’t shell out millions of dollars to push other guys out of the sport. We didn’t undercut everyone’s prices to make them go away. We just built a business that people could rely on. We listen to our customers, and we make products that deliver value, excitement, and authenticity. Our products are our “kids”, and we love them all. However, rest assured that next year’s “kids” will be way better.

Jesse Leadbetter

Friday, September 10, 2010

“Playoffs? Playoffs!!?

As the NASCAR schedule continues with tomorrow night’s race in the smoking mecca of Richmond, it also signals the last race of the “regular season”. This is the last of the 26 races drivers can qualify for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, “The Chase for the Cup”.

As you may recall NASCAR implemented “The Chase” back in ’04 to help drive excitement, intrigue and exposure during the end of professional sport’s longest season winds down during football season. It started with only 10 drivers qualifying for the postseason, but has since been expanded to 12 to increase the chances of popular drivers (i.e. Dale Jr.) making the field.

Personally I think 10 is the perfect number pun intended. Most lists are the “Top 10”, not 12 or 15. In college the number 10 works as The Big 10 conference has 11 teams, 12 next year, but they have kept the same moniker. X is cooler than XII, ten is easier to spell than twelve, most people have 10 toes and fingers, and, well you catch my drift.

While 12 seems a little high from a participation standpoint, it’s actually low when comparing playoffs against stick and ball sports.

With 43 drivers in the field for each race and let’s assume they are the same 43 for every race. For all intents and purposes, six to seven of the bottom 43 drivers are interchangeable. Can you tell the difference between J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell? Using this math (12 out of 43), only 28% of drivers make the playoffs.

Consider the following sports:
NBA: 16 out of 30 teams: 53.3%
NHL: 16 out of 30 teams: 53.3%
NFL: 12 out of 32 teams: 37.5%
MLB: 8 out of 30 teams: 26.7%

Out of the so called four major sports, three (75%) have a higher qualifying percentage than NASCAR. NASCAR has floated the idea of expanding the field in future years and I for one hope it remains at 12 or decreases to the magic number of 10. I’m afraid if they expand the number, although making it closer to other sport’s participation %, it will dilute “The Chase” and will have Jim Mora proclaiming once again “Playoffs? Playoffs!!?

Kevin O’Neil

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Football Fan from the Beginning

Let me start off by saying that I love sports – all sports. I grew up in the country, and playing sports on the weekends or watching them on network television (we didn’t have cable in my community when I was a kid) was the way you filled your time. I really didn’t have much of a preference, either; baseball and basketball were my favorites, but I also enjoyed football and soccer immensely.

When I was 10 years old, my dad took me on the 30-minute drive to Knoxville, TN, and I attended my first real football game at Neyland Stadium. I’d been to see the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a preseason game in the same stadium when I was 4, but that doesn’t really count. I was too young to know what was going on and it was only an exhibition.
That Saturday, everything changed for me. As much as I enjoyed watching and playing the other sports, the electricity of the crowd that day, coupled with the speed and power of the game, led to football becoming my favorite sport to watch going forward, hands down.

As I began to follow the sport more closely, I realized how important every game was in college if you were going to have a shot at the national title, or at least a New Year’s Day bowl game. We also landed cable shortly thereafter and I began to follow my Dad’s beloved Steelers more closely and recognized again how important each win was in terms of playoff and Super Bowl aspirations at the pro level.

On top of the impressive athletes and enormous collisions, the importance of each weekend’s game was incredibly appealing to me, and that was the issue that further separated football from the other sports – where any single game was inconsequential – in my eyes.

Fast forward to today, and nothing has changed for me. I go into a funk after the Super Bowl ends, realizing that while I still have basketball and hockey to watch and although baseball is about to crank up shortly thereafter, my weekends will have a huge void for the next seven months.
I geek out over the draft in April, watch OTAs with bated breath through May and June and become giddy when training camps kick off in late July. Still, there is nothing quite like the feeling I get in early September when football returns to dominate the sports landscape. I love waking up on the Saturday before Labor Day to watch Herbie, Corso and the rest of the “GameDay” crew dissect the weekend’s games and, if possible (like last weekend), I’ll head into Knoxville and watch my Vols roll some undeserving opponent in the greatest college stadium in the country.
That’s just the appetizer, though. When the NFL returns the second weekend of September, things really get going. I’ve already made plans to watch the Steelers this Sunday, even though I’ve got some trepidation about how they’re going to perform while Dennis Dixon is under center. Every game is so important that the team has to play well over the next month – while Big Ben Roethlisberger is sidelined – if they’re going to have a shot at the postseason.

Between the college games on Saturday and the pro games on Sunday, I find it difficult to get much done this time of year. Heck, I’m having a hard time sitting here writing this. I’m ready to head to the house and get things ready for the Vikings/Saints kickoff game tonight.

That I have this much excitement and energy about a game featuring two teams in which I’m not emotionally invested just goes to show how passionate I am about this sport. It’s almost like . . . a sickness.

Yeah, a sickness! One that requires me to take the rest of the day off to, you know, “get better.”
Tailgating starts in 30 minutes. I’m outta here…

Nick Matijevich

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The NFL season is almost here!

Are you read for some football? I know I am, I love the beginning of football season. It means the beginning of fall and much better weather, it means my daughter is going back to school (she’s still young enough that likes going back to school) and it means almost every NFL fan has a chance to believe that their team can win the Super Bowl. Some teams in the NFL are clearly better than others and that also means some teams are not quite as good as others. Even with five elite teams and five rebuilding teams that leaves 22 other teams with fans all across the country excited about the possibilities for ending their season in Dallas with the Lombardi Trophy. The 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants showed that if you make the playoffs then anything is possible including a Super Bowl win. The New York Jets almost followed the same path last year.

Like any other year in the NFL I’m excited about certain things going into the season. How will Brett Favre hold up at age 41? Will the New Orleans Saints be the first team since the New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions? Is it possible for the Indianapolis Colts to win 12 games again? Most importantly for my western Pennsylvania-based family, can Troy Polamalu stay healthy and return the Pittsburgh Steelers close to the 2008 defense as opposed to the 2009 version.

Only one week to go till the Saints open up the season at the Superdome against the Minnesota Vikings. Here’s to a great NFL season!

Trevor McGregor