SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

EA builds people power into 'Madden' launch

Following strong success for the “Madden NFL 12” cover vote effort in the spring, EA Sports will again lean heavily on fan input, grassroots marketing and social media for the release of the game Aug. 30.

The video game publisher today begins “Club 100,” a five-day promotional effort in which fans can vote on which players should have a coveted maximum ranking of 100 in the game in each of five key skill categories. EA Sports partner ESPN will lead the vote effort, as it did for the cover vote that led to a victory for Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Exclusive Club 100-related content will be distributed through EA Sports’ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube extensions, as well as ESPN’s SportsNation.com.

Results from the voting will be worked into a downloadable roster update available at the launch of the game.

During the NFL season, fans will be prompted to vote on a weekly basis for “Madden” power rankings of teams, with results listed on EA Sports’ Facebook page.

“We are looking to leverage as many tools as possible to make the fans feel part of the franchise,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports marketing director. “The fans and their passion are what literally make ‘Madden’ what it is, and what we saw in the spring for the cover vote made it a natural to look to go a similar route for launch.”

The cover vote, running March 21-April 27, drew 12.7 million votes.

Again eschewing large-scale, launch-day festivals such as the previous “Maddenpalooza,” EA Sports will run its now-annual “Pigskin Pro-Am” Sunday on NBC. Filmed in New York’s Bryant Park in late July, the flag football game featured a mix of football hall of famers and Hollywood celebrities.

EA Sports is also running coupon and awareness campaigns for “Madden” with GameStop, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Gillette, Procter & Gamble and Papa John’s, among others. EA Sports’ internal marketing budget for the launch, estimated in the low eight figures annually, is roughly the same this year, but with the partner activation, Stevenson said, the overall spending this year on “Madden” promotion has increased.

“Madden NFL” sold more than 5.5 million copies last year, but during the NFL lockout, financial analysts suggested the potential for at least a 50 percent cut in sales. EA Chief Executive John Riccitiello had warned of a $250 million revenue challenge to EA, fueled in part by the lockout.

But with labor peace and fan interest in football again surging, analysts are expecting strong returns.

“I project it will do everything it did last year, and about 10 percent beyond, somewhere around 6 million,” said Michael Pachter, video game industry analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities.
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