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EA Sports' "Madden NFL 13" was released today, and the video game company this year enlisted actor Paul Rudd and Ravens LB Ray Lewis, a former "Madden" cover athlete, "to appear in a series of five viral videos," according to John Gaudiosi of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The "humorous video series details new gameplay features in Madden, including the ability for Kinect for Xbox 360 players to call 360 to make pre-snap adjustments and audibles on offense and defense with their voice." Rudd shows that Kinect "can work defensively by yelling 'Spike' before Lewis was about to score on offense." The game’s replay feature "is showcased as Rudd shows a missed tackle over and over again before Lewis explodes." It also is "revealed that Rudd taught Lewis his pregame dance and the two toured together in 'I’m Not Rappaport' before Judd Hirsch muscled his way in" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/24).
REVIEWS ARE IN: YAHOO SPORTS' Matthew Darnell reviews "Madden NFL 13" and writes, "It's not perfect. If you want to play the game while looking for something that's wrong, or off, or somehow not as realistic as you want it to be, you'll find it. But you're also going to find a game that feels infinitely smoother and more flexible than it ever has." "Madden" finally "acknowledges that it needed to try something big." The pre-game intros "are better, the graphic packages are better, the on-field atmosphere is better." Darnell: "The effort here, and the significant change it produced, makes this year's Madden, at the very least, a respectable title. It's earned my recommendation" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/28). BLEACHER REPORT's Patrick Clarke writes, "Users experience realistic, exciting hits and movements that make for a much more entertaining gameplay experience." Details are "captured flawlessly, especially in the new Nike uniforms." The addition of CBS' Jim Nantz and Phil Simms "makes for a much more enjoyable experience." This year's game "feels much more realistic," and the presentation "earns an A" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 8/28).
HITS & MISSES: USA TODAY's Brett Molina wrote, "The overhaul of the game's on-field physics produce results as inconsistent as a rookie quarterback." The biggest change on the field "is with tackling, highlighted by new physics technology called Infinity Engine." Also, "Madden '13's" shift to Connected Careers, combining Franchise and Superstar modes of past versions of the game, is "a surprise, considering EA Sports overhauled the game's Franchise mode last season." The game also features "a fictional Twitter feed where reporters drop praise and criticism on a player's draft picks or free agent moves." "Madden" is again a "strong representation of the NFL," but for "every step forward EA Sports continues to make off the field, their on-field game needs a bit more polish" (USATODAY.com, 8/27). ESPN.com's Jon Robinson wrote Nantz and Simms "sound great in the game when nothing is happening, but during long touchdown runs or exciting plays, you might as well have the game on mute." The two "seriously have no excitement whatsoever, even if you make an unbelievable play" (ESPN.com, 8/27).
Nike is "on the verge of signing the deal to be the official kit provider" for the England men's national soccer team, according to Lawton & Bellwood of the London DAILY MAIL. Nike is "believed to be launching a new England away strip as early as next spring, despite the fact the existing deal with Umbro was supposed to run until 2018." The move will "be seen as a fightback after German rivals adidas dominated the Olympics by supplying Team GB." Umbro's connection with England "dates back to the 1950s." The current deal is US$31.6M a year, and it "stipulated that only Umbro could supply the England team." But Nike announced in May its plan to sell Umbro, and "made a proposal to the FA that the governing body seem ready to accept." Nike "offered the FA the chance to sign a lucrative new deal or stay with a company facing an uncertain future, given how important the England contract has been to the brand for so many years." Nike also has "taken over the contract" Umbro had with EPL club Manchester City. The club in '09 signed a 10-year deal with Umbro worth US$9.5M a year (London DAILY MAIL, 8/28).
Many of EPL club Manchester United's "millionaire superstars have been banned from accepting free luxury sports cars as part of a lifestyle crackdown from hardline manager Sir Alex Ferguson," according to Martin Rogers of YAHOO SPORTS. ManU recently completed "a lucrative sponsorship deal with car giant Chevrolet that will kick into place in two years time and will see the company's logo featured on United's club jerseys." As part of the deal, Chevy has "immediately offered the United squad free choice of its fleet of high-end vehicles." However, only players "above the age of 23 will be allowed to accept sports-car models, as Ferguson attempts to ensure his young squad members do not fall into the lifestyle traps that have disrupted many a promising career." Ferguson "remains unapologetic over his stance and is adamant that maintaining tight controls over the lives of his less-experienced stars is necessary to enable them to fulfill their potential" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). A ManU spokesperson said, "As with most automotive partnerships, Chevrolet will be offering players a car. The model will be dependent on their time at the club and driving experience" (London DAILY MAIL, 8/28).
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is appearing in a new regional Papa John's Pizza ad in which he makes his rap debut. The ad, called "Hip Hop Jerry," promotes the pizza chain's Cowboys 5-Star Combo and will run in the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin and Waco markets through Super Bowl XLVII in February (Papa John's). In DC, Matt Brooks noted this is "not the first time Jones has busted out his dance 'moves' in the name of pizza." Two years ago, he "broke it down in the locker room." He also went "toe-to-toe with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder as part of a Sunday Night Football promo" in '10 (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/27). In N.Y., Justin Tasch writes the “publicity-hound owner of the Cowboys is searching for the spotlight again.” Tasch: “It’s bad enough to make the Bears’ ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ sound like a Jay-Z hit” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 8/28). SPORTING NEWS’ Vinnie Iyer wrote it is “a lot more ‘Flight of the Conchords’ than Jay-Z” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar: "As a rapper ... Jones is going to have to practice to get up to Weird Al Yankovic level" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/27). USA TODAY's Chris Chase: "That clip of Jones and the pizza delivery man jumping off the stairs is the stuff of which legendary .gifs are made" (USATODAY.com, 8/27). NFL Network’s Eric Davis said, “He hit them with the Slim Shady.” NFL Net's Nicole Zaloumis: “He’s an owner, GM, now a rapper. Does he have a future in the music biz? I say yes.” NFL Net's Steve Wyche: “Maybe in the video biz? Not the music biz.” Zaloumis: “He’s appealing to a whole other audience, like my dad.” Wyche: “To the Papa John’s Pizza audience there" ("NFL AM,” NFL Network, 8/28). SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis: "Who doesn’t like Papa John’s? But still, to go out there and start rapping? I mean, c’mon” ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 8/27).
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT: Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh said, “It’s bad TV. ... You know what though? It is entertaining. That is Jerry Jones. I think that there’s some elements that would be entertaining to be around on a regular basis.” WSCR-AM’s David Schuster said, “Is there some kind of epidemic going on with NFL owners? Isn’t Robert Kraft doing the same thing with acting?” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 8/27).
IMG College, which manages media interests for the Univ. of Oregon, and its counterpart at Oregon State Univ., Learfield's Beaver Sports Properties, “have made a number of joint pitches to companies regarded as potential sponsors and advertisers" in the wake of the launch of the Pac-12 Network, according to Kerry Eggers of the PORTLAND TRIBUNE. Beaver Sports Properties GM Steve Sullivan said, "We just secured Wells Fargo together as a Civil War partner. Beaver Sports Properties’ relationship with IMG has grown. It’s worked out well.” Broadcasting at Oregon and Oregon State “was previously taken care of in house.” The schools "will continue to handle everything but television for now, including radio, multi-media rights, sponsorship, game-day promotions and signage." Sullivan said, "The only thing we lose is TV, and that’s OK.” IMG College VP & Oregon Sports Network GM Brian Movalson said, "TV was maybe one-tenth of our overall business. Most of the money in the business is from our overall partnership with the Ducks. The average TV production costs for a football game in HD is $40,000 to $45,000. Your inventory has to be a pretty high number to cover that cost." Sullivan added, "We’ll know more after the end of the season, but our hope is we’ll work hand in hand with the conference to bundle inventory to benefit all of us. The Pac-12 Network also now owns the wireless category, which is a big win" (PORTLAND TRIBUNE, 8/24).
Citizen Watch Company announced that it has signed top-ranked tennis player Victoria Azarenka to endorse the brand in its "Unstoppable" media campaign. Print ads featuring Azarenka will break in late fall along with TV, digital and in-store activation. Citizen also counts tennis player Kim Clijsters among its athlete endorsers (Citizen Watch Company). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reports the three-year deal "does not require Azarenka to wear a watch while playing tennis but rather during social occasions." Azarenka, who is also sponsored by Nike, Wilson and Iovate, "did not previously have a watch deal, a key category for top tennis players" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/27 issue).
ZERO'S HEROES: Coca-Cola announced that Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp have signed deals to endorse the Coke Zero brand. New radio and in-store ads featuring Urlacher will appear in the Chicago area starting this weekend, while Sharp's ads will appear in stores later this fall. The deals also include merchandise giveaways, interactive banner ads and social media elements. Financial terms were not disclosed (Coca-Cola).
STAYING ON THE TEAM: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reports the NFL Panthers have re-signed realtor Allen Tate Co. to a multiyear deal, "extending a partnership that began in 2007.” That deal followed “recent news of a contract extension with Pepsi as the team’s soft drink and the addition of Buick/GMC as an auto sponsor.” The Buick/GMC deal “explains the sudden proliferation of Buick displays at the stadium for the first two exhibition games.” In addition, WCCB-Fox “completed a three-year extension with the Panthers” to air pre-season games and coaches’ shows (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/24 issue).