SBD/January 5, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

EA Sports Reiterates Its Support Of Tiger Ahead Of Augusta Game

Woods was aware, and supportive, of EA Sports' partnership with Augusta National

EA Sports President Peter Moore said Tiger Woods is not being downplayed in the annual golf video game and that the publisher remains firmly behind the troubled golfer despite yesterday's high-profile announcement of Augusta National Golf Club becoming a central component of the upcoming version of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour." Woods is not featured on the cover art for the primary Wii, XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, replaced as the central image by the iconic Masters flag, and sales of last year's iteration were down sharply compared to prior years. But Moore insisted they are not backing away from Woods, who has yet to win a PGA Tour event since his return last year from personal scandal. "Tiger remains very special to us, and no one should read anything into this," Moore said. "We've been together for 13 years, he's been aware of this relationship with Augusta National for some time now, and has been very supportive. He's delighted to share the stage." He added, "Obviously it was a difficult year last year, but you saw toward the end of the season Tiger starting to get back to his old ways. We all as both a sports industry and sports fans are hopeful he comes back in full force in 2011." Moore added he is "very optimistic" for a strong sales rebound with The Masters elements after the sluggish returns for last year's version. Woods will appear on the cover of an enhanced collector's version of the game for the PlayStation 3.

PICTURE PERFECT: There are no immediate plans to feature Augusta National in either EA Sports' browser-based version of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour" that debuted last year or its new Facebook-based casual golf game, "PGA Tour Golf Challenge." A key reason for that is the extreme level of graphic fidelity and technology needed to recreate digitally the Augusta National course -- something currently available only through the gaming consoles. "Our ability to truly bring to life this iconic course was crucially important - and rightly so," Moore said. "There are people who can tell you if a single azalea is out of place." The laser scanning process needed to map Augusta National for the game, set to be released March 29, is more than two years in development, and will likely be used for other prominent golf courses (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? KOTAKU.com's Owen Good reported while EA Sports and Augusta National had "been in agreement on bringing The Masters to a video game for several years, only when the course was perfected for presentation and playability would Augusta National approve its inclusion." "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" Exec Producer Nick Wlodyka said that "pulling all of this together required an effort 'potentially more secret' than any sports game deal done before." Wlodyka: "We’ve been working on this for a number of years, and it’s been in discussions for even longer than that. It’s hard to believe we haven’t had a leak. But if people heard that we were working on it, they might think ‘No way,’ thinking if we ever were going to have The Masters, we would have had it by now" (KOTAKU.com, 1/4). Augusta National Chair Billy Payne "first raised the idea of The Masters being part of video games two years ago while expanding the multimedia aspect of the tournament's website" (AP, 1/4).

Deal with EA Sports the latest effort by
Augusta National to make itself more visible
ON THE CUTTING EDGE? ESPN.com's Jason Sobel wrote this move is the "latest in a recent trend from Augusta National to not only grow the game globally, but make itself more visible." In recent years, The Masters has "been the first major shown in both high-definition and 3-D television, the first to offer live bonus coverage on the Internet and the first to allow free admission to all children under 16 accompanied by an adult." Each of those decisions has "helped the Masters appeal to a younger generation, and its inclusion in the video game continues along that pattern." Sobel: "Consider it a refreshing departure from the previous exclusivity of the course" (ESPN.com, 1/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Shane Bacon wrote, "It's a cool idea, and just shows that even Augusta National is becoming, dare I say, hip" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/4). GOLFWEEK.com's Adam Martin wrote Augusta National's "move into the video-game realm is an admirable move," and another "progressive move from an organization known best for its strict adherence to tradition." The inclusion in the "Tiger Woods" video game franchise will "help introduce golf to a younger audience," and at the same time "provides a much-needed boost to the Tiger video game franchise, which suffered a steep drop-off in sales in light of Woods’ personal struggles" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/4).

THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE: In Augusta, Scott Michaux writes, "While nothing can ever replace standing on the 12th tee during a Sunday of the Masters, we're all invited for a taste of the experience while helping grow the game at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 1/5). Golf Channel’s Gary Williams said Augusta National’s participation in the video game is “another great example of the evolution of this club with respect to its interaction with a fan base that not necessarily can get on the property.” Williams: “It is, without question, a genius stroke … by these gentlemen to understand that they are evolving and they are doing it at breakneck speed." Golf Channel’s Erik Kuselias: "This is more about the symbolism of Augusta, just sort of opening up and allowing everybody ... just a little bit more access so you can see exactly what it's like” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 1/5).

BEST IS YET TO COME: TIME's Doug Aamoth noted the "Tiger Woods" game franchise has "had its ups and downs," but this upcoming version is "shaping up to be the most dynamite title in the series." EA Sports has "completely overhauled the audio presentation" of the game. Early iterations of the game with Gary McCord and David Feherty as announcers "were bright days," but the '12 game features Feherty "and none other than Jim Nantz himself." Aamoth: "It ought to be wonderful" (TIME.com, 1/4). USA TODAY's Mike Snider notes a new "Masters Moments" feature in the upcoming game "lets players attempt to repeat tournament highlights such as Woods' chip-in on No. 16 in 2005 and Arnold Palmer's eagle on No. 13 in 1958" (USA TODAY, 1/5).

ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Augusta National yesterday announced that its proceeds from the partnership with EA Sports will be used to help support a newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which will invest in golf development programs around the world. Financial terms of the EA Sports-Augusta deal were not disclosed (Fisher). Meanwhile, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter indicated that he "sees a sales boost of 200,000 or more thanks to the inclusion of Augusta National, and that works out to a $10-12 million boost to the top line for EA" ("InsideTrack With Deirdre Bolton and Erik Schatzker," Bloomberg TV, 1/5).

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