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Topps Co. uses QR and NFC technology to attract MLB fans

The Topps Co. incorporated near-field communication and QR code technology in its displays at the 2013 MLB All-Star FanFest to give baseball fans a deeper engagement.

Fans have been able to scan QR codes on giant baseball cards, which feature MLB All-Stars, for a chance to win special prizes. They can also touch the cards with NFC-enabled smartphones to activate the feature.

?We?re always looking for ways to enhance the consumer experience and make baseball cards more relevant today and leveraging technology and tapping into today?s kids and today?s consumers,? said Marc Stephens, marketing manager at Topps, New York. ?Mobile is a good way to do that. And we felt that a cool way to do that would be QR and NFC.

?It?s something we?re testing out,? he said. ?Hopefully, if this works out we?ll do this in some of regular card products.?

Interactive baseball
Topps partnered with Scanbuy to create the interactive campaign.

The new technology was rolled out specifically for the 2013 MLB All-Star FanFest that began on July 12 and ends today. The event has been taking place at New York?s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Topps created oversized baseball cards featuring MLB All-Stars such as David Wright, Mike Trout and Mariano Rivera. Each poster has a call-to-action about the size of a CD that reads ?Enter to win, scan or touch? with a QR code and an NFC image.

To activate the NFC technology, fans must be close to the posters since it only works within three centimeters.

The FanFest attracts large crowds, and Topps decided to also include a QR code that fans can scan from a distance. Additionally, QR codes are more ubiquitous compared to NFC-enabled phones.

Whether fans use the QR code or the NFC technology, they will be directed to a site, where they are entered into contests to win prizes such as card sets, Topps? new Big League Minis and autographed memorabilia.

Some fans will win immediate prizes, the rest will have the option to enter their email address as part of a daily contest.

Trigger technology
Two of many new trigger technologies that marketers are experimenting with are QR codes and NFC. Topps chose to use these two to give their users maximum opportunity.

?The most popular [trigger technology] is certainly QR,? said Mike Wehrs, president/CEO of Scanbuy, New York. ?The number of devices that have a QR reader in it is very high. The awareness level of the consumer that if they see a QR code they know what to do, it?s at least known by a reasonable percent of the population.

?NFC, by contrast, is the up-and-coming technology to allow for end-user engagement trigger as well,? he said.

?The reason we put the two together is that some people desire to be on the leading edge of technology and NFC is particularly cool. It?s the latest, greatest, it?s got a lot of wow, sexy factor to it. QR is something that has a lot more scale and a lower cost to employ.?

So far, the executives claim that the new features are exceeding Topps' and Scanbuy?s expectations.

Mr. Wehrs attributes the success to the prominent placement of the posters and the clear call-to-action.

According to Mr. Stephens, Topps was expecting about 5,000 to 10,000 scans, and they have already had more than that.

?Our objective was to generate some excitement and see how the technology worked, and we?ve already seen so far that it works and consumers are engaged with it and they like it,? he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York