SBJ/August 20-26, 2012/Media

ESPN joins EA’s ‘Madden’ launch efforts

EA Sports will expand its launch marketing for the coming “Madden NFL 13” video game by bringing five pro football hall of famers to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., for a full week of high-profile promotion.

The video game publisher on Aug. 27 will have legendary quarterback Joe Montana visit ESPN and appear on several platforms and programs, including “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” “SportsCenter” and “First Take.” Barry Sanders, Warren Moon, Lawrence Taylor and Curtis Martin will follow, each making the rounds on a different day that week.

Former NFLer Cris Carter hauls in a pass during the pro-am flag football game set to air two days before the “Madden NFL 13” release.
Photo by: DAVID BANKS / GETTY IMAGES FOR EA SPORTS
The former stars will be discussing the new “connected careers” mode of the video game, which allows players to combine accomplishments achieved in individual modes. It is among the major new features in this year’s version of the popular football game.

“Madden NFL 13” is set for retail release Aug. 28, and the ESPN content is a key fixture in a media-heavy marketing program that also includes next Sunday's airing on NBC of the fourth annual “Madden NFL Pigskin Pro-Am.” The event, taped in June in Chicago, features NFL legends and stars playing flag football and discussing the video game.

“ESPN is the loudest bullhorn out there, and
getting these legends up to Bristol is another new marker in the tremendous relationship we’ve built up,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports director of marketing. “This is a big opportunity to showcase these all-time greats to a new and younger audience while also giving a ton of exposure to the game as we prepare for launch.”

ESPN and EA Sports have held a formal partnership since 2005. For the last three years, the pair has collaborated on a successful fan vote to select the game’s cover. The most recent fan vote, held this past spring, yielded Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as the winner and drew 19.6 million votes, 54 percent more than last year.

“What we’re doing is really sort of a no-brainer,” said Raphael Poplock, ESPN vice president of games and revenue strategy development. “This partnership generates great content across all our platforms, and ‘Madden’ hits a real sweet spot among our audience. The trick is to keep innovating and pushing, which we think we’ve done here.”

EA Sports this year is also using social media to market “Madden,” again letting users vote through Facebook on individual player ratings in the game as well as creating a #Madden13Demo hashtag campaign on Twitter to promote last week’s online release of a demo version of “Madden.” The effort includes daily giveaways of a full version of the game and other prizes, such as high-end headphones.

The social media activity complements more traditional promotions planned by retail partners such as GameStop, Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

“Our fans want to be marketed with, not marketed to,” Stevenson said. “It’s all about engagement now, not impressions, and that dictates a very different way about how you interact with your audience. But our base of hard-core gamers is really one of our biggest assets and one of our biggest marketing vehicles.”

The marketing budget for the “Madden” campaign runs in the low eight figures, a spending level that has held steady in recent years. EA handles the campaign itself.

“Madden NFL 12” sold more than 5 million copies, again ranking as the top-selling sports video game in the U.S. Preorders for the new version are up 25 percent, the company said in a recent earnings release.

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