Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gatorade product placement on baseball cards

When I left the employ of Krause/F+W publications in May, 2006, I arranged to buy about a million sportscards that had accumulated in the company's warehouse.
These were mostly cards that had been sent to our sports collectors' periodicals (SCD, Tuff Stuff, Baseball Cards/Sports Cards, et al.) by the card companies for product reviews, cataloging, etc.

The vast majority of the cards were from the 1990s.

I spent the next five years sorting more than 180 monster boxes down, separating the wheat from the chaff (OK, these were 1990s cards, so it was mostly separating the chaff-ish from the chaff). Mainly I was setting aside cards and sets that I felt had a value of $1 per card or more, or might in the future.

As I shuffled through these cards, a couple of themes caught my attention, and I thought it might be fun to see how many cards I could find that fit that theme. I limited my searching to baseball cards, though I imagine the same, or similar, themes could have been found among the football, basketball and hockey cards. 

One theme that I noticed was cards of players drinking Gatorade, or with the product prominently visible in the background. 

By the mid-1990s the proliferation of card companies, and the proliferation of card sets from each of them, flooded collectors with new cards. At the peak of (over)production, there were at least 20,000 new baseball cards being produced each year.

Most of these cards used at least two, and sometimes three, photos on each player's card. This created unprecedented demand for player photos . . . portraits, candids and game-action. And, since the jug of Gatorade is ubiquitous in major and minor league dugouts, it's no wonder that in the rush to get enough unique player photos for each new set, it's not surprising that some of the photos featured the "product placement" of Gatorade.

I came up with a dozen cards that fit that theme; there are probably more. Putting together a collection like this proves that the card hobby can still be fun, and isn't exclusively the province of superstars, autographs, game-used inserts and 1/1s. I'm including Craig Lefferts' card from 1993 Topps in this "collection," despite the fact that it looks like Topps airbrushed away the sports drink's logo from the cup in his hand.

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