Published November 13th, 2020 at 4:43 PM3 minute read
How would you like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hanging around the house this holiday season?
It’s possible, sort of, for less than $25.
Mahomes is the 26th member of Hallmark’s long-running Keepsake Ornaments Football Legends series. A 5.25-inch styrene replica of the 6-foot, 3-inch Mahomes is back in the lineup of holiday sporting ornaments for the second consecutive year.
“The 2020 Mahomes ornament features him in his classic throwing stance,” said Charles Young, Hallmark’s Keepsakes product development manager. “For the 2019 Mahomes ornament, we intentionally featured him throwing left-handed to celebrate a key moment in the game against the Denver Broncos.”
Young, who has spent his 18-year career in Hallmark’s Keepsake department, said work on the sports ornaments involves 18 months of lead time and a variety of people both inside and outside of Hallmark.
“We work with each of the leagues — as well as the athletes’ agents — through licensing agreements,” said Sam Phelps, a Hallmark licensing account executive. “For the NFL, we actually work directly with the NFL Players Association to license those players.”
Hallmark’s NFL sports ornament lineup this year includes Mahomes, New England Patriots running back Sony Michel, Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. Other sports figures this year include St. Louis Blues hockey player Jordan Binnington, Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team star Alex Morgan.
All told, there are 450 ornaments in the 2020 Keepsake line.
While Phelps handles the business side of the line, Young and his team are the creative brains behind it. Choosing what players will be in the line reminds Young of playing fantasy football.
“We look at the player’s stats and their contracts — since we begin working on these early, we want the player to still be with the same team the year their ornament is in market,” Young said. “We also look at the player’s personal history, are they active in the community, etc.”
“Once we have our players selected, we pull photo references for the pose and look for the expression we want. If the player has a signature move/pose, we try to capture that or a specific ‘moment in time’ that’s highly recognizable,” Young said. “We work with the player’s agent on approval of the players likeness and the NFL to ensure uniform accuracy.”
Creating Mahomes and the other figures in the sports line is a collaborative process. Exactly how many people “touch” the project varies.
“I’d have to say three to four people are involved in the physical creation — not counting several other people in the Keepsakes studio and licensing department,” Young said. “I work with very talented sculptors one-on-one to develop the sculpt to a point that we feel best represents the player based on the scale of the ornament. Some of our sculptors work digitally (i.e. computer sculpting) so we can sculpt and apply color together. If the sculptor is a hand sculptor, we need to have the sculpt cast in a material (epoxy resin) that then is painted by a different person.”
Once complete, Hallmark marketing goes to work with images appearing in the Keepsake Dream Book for customers to order. Mahomes’ ornament is also available through Hallmark stores across the country.
Mahomes is one of several Chiefs that have become Hallmark Christmas ornaments.
“We’ve worked with several Chiefs players over the years, as far back as Joe Montana in our 1995 model line,” Phelps said.
Although Montana finished his career as a member of the Chiefs, he appeared in the line’s debut as a San Francisco 49er. He was joined by NBA center Shaquille O’Neal and baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan.
Other Chiefs players who have been featured in the past include Jamaal Charles, Tony Gonzalez and Marcus Allen. The Kansas City Royals have been represented by Salvador Perez and George Brett.
Mahomes is not the only player to appear twice. Allen has had two appearances in the sports line – both as a Chief and an Oakland Raider. Montana has also appeared twice. Gonzalez made the line up one year, but in both a Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons uniform -– reflecting his late-career trade.
Legends ornaments are only available for purchase in the year they appear.
“While the athlete Keepsakes are new every year, we do offer team Keepsake ornaments and a selection of Hallmark-branded sports ornaments that are available over multiple years,” Phelps said.
Hallmark declined to share sales figures on the sports line ornaments.
For more information on the Patrick Mahomes Legends ornament or any of the 450 holiday ornaments, visit the Keepsake Ornament page on Hallmark.com. Ornaments cost $21.99, plus tax.
Ruth Baum Bigus is a Kansas City-based freelance writer and nonprofit communications professional.