How baseball cards are a perfect example of content marketing

Jul 10, 2017

A lot of businesses we talk to struggle with the concept of content marketing. What does it mean, and how is it supposed to work?

Content just means something of substance, something that’s useful or interesting. You create content to attract attention, build trust and increase the likelihood of future sales.

Ultimately, the key idea is that instead of pushing someone to purchase, you pull them in by offering something valuable.

This isn’t a new idea. For instance, in the late 19th century, Americans valued the emerging technology of photography. So, businesses started producing small photos, often of beautiful places or famous people, with information about their brands on the backs.

These were first called trade cards, because companies used them to promote their trades. But people started actually trading them with each other when companies began producing cards with baseball players on them, a.k.a. baseball cards.


The rarest, most expensive baseball card in the world – Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner.


It was tobacco manufacturers who led this trend, partly because inserting a stiff card helped protect cigarette packs anyway. They produced countless millions in the late 1800s and early 1900s, creating a valuable industry in and of itself.

And while some of these companies no longer exist, their cards live on. The most expensive baseball card in the world, of Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, was printed by the defunct American Tobacco Company more than a century ago. In 2016, one of these cards was sold for more than $3 million.

Meanwhile, at least one company left the cigarette industry to focus primarily on trading cards. Ever heard of Topps? Its founders first owned American Leaf Tobacco.

Long story short: give and you shall receive. All commerce is a value exchange, and creating value above and beyond your products and services increases the chances you’ll receive something valuable in return.


This article was written by Lee ProcidaIt first appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short.

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