Unlike Bunt and Kick, Huddle is in a very unique situation that really does put the app at a relative disadvantage when building content. Where Bunt and Kick have full licensing for the leagues in which they represent, Huddle only has licensing with the Player’s Association, thus preventing them from using team logos and the like.
What Does Licensing Dictate?
To put it in basic terms, to use any team jerseys, logos, or trademarks, you need the NFL’s permission. To use many of the player names and everything that stems from the guys on the teams, you need the PA to give you their license. Huddle only has the PA, which limits them from producing the content that the other apps can produce.
The first thing that a full license would do, is open up doors to negotiate for rights with legend players. Because the PA only represents the licensing for current players, no legends can be used. With a full license, Topps would be able to work with the other representatives from retired and Hall of Fame players to produce content. That’s why you never see guys like Joe Montana in Huddle.
Better Looking Cards
Without a league license, Huddle cannot produce cards that have anything that resembles a team’s color scheme, jersey, helmets or logos. This means that they can theoretically produce cards like the action shots we saw at the beginning of the year and last year, but it has consequences too. You dont want to circumvent the league when trying to negotiate a deal for a full license. No one wants to make an enemy of the NFL, and that is a good way to do it. So, head shots it is.
With a full license, it would be just like all the other apps, and I can only imagine how amazing the cards would look. Think about the sig cards with a full license, think about what the Super Bowl could have been with all the fanfare we saw. It would be unlike anything ever seen in Huddle.
For me, Huddle has the best designs of all three apps combined, but they dont have a way to truly use their look and feel to the fullest extent. Its really a shame, and I am beyond excited for what is possible if they can figure out a way to get everything locked down.
Right now, Bunt is untouchable in the size of its fan base. The user level in Kick has to be higher as well, as the international audience and full license help that much. But, if Huddle were to get the full license, it would increase the number of people almost instantly. With the way people search online and the way Apple does their searches, having the full license would put Huddle on a competitive landscape ahead of some of the most well known apps that exist for the NFL already.
It would also attract more Bunt users to make the transition, and of course, it would look better and have less attrition for the existing users. Although customer service and gameplay are a complaint, the biggest issue with new people is the usage of head shots.
With a full license, there is more ability to go outside the box the way Bunt has in a lot of ways. Stadiums, Mascots, and other fun cards would all be in scope, and we would be able to see exactly how creative the team can get. There are only so many things you can do with a head shot of a player.
There is no more attractive marketing vehicle than patterning after an event schedule. Bunt and the All Star Game/World Series was a huge thing for Baseball, and it would be for Huddle as well. The NFL is much more of a year round experience with the draft and free agency, so you can see why the license is so important.
Right now the Super Bowl is THE biggest event in sports, save the Olympics and the World Cup, which both only happen once every four years. To be able to capitalize on the game and the history would be incredible.
Getting a license is really pretty easy – as long as you are willing to foot the bill. The negotiation and political aspect of the process is usually what holds people back, and that part is not easy. Apple/Google/NFLPA already take a significant amount of the money made on any purchases, which means that adding more licensing will cost more money. Its possible that the game’s exchange rate could go up to help subsidize that spend, or something else may have to change.
Licensing is worth the investment from a lot of perspectives, but it is also a pretty expensive investment in terms of what it brings with it. Topps Digital is on quite the upward trajectory, and that means that there will be people that want to copy what they have done. With more competitors in the market comes more leverage for the league in the way they can negotiate, and that means more money to be spent.
From the most selfish perspective, I want a full license for Huddle. I want everything that was mentioned above, and I will pay more to get that. However, I might be in the minority there, but its something that is yet to be seen. In my opinion, Huddle will not be able to achieve its full potential without the full license from the league, so you might as well see what that potential is worth.