SBJ/Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Because of coming shift in gaming consoles, EA Sports ready with an extra ‘Madden’ rollout

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EA Sports will essentially double its launch marketing efforts this year for the forthcoming “Madden NFL 25” video game, thanks to the arrival of the gaming industry console transition.

The video game publisher will conduct its usual promotional blitz for the game, set for release Tuesday on gaming platforms. Legendary running backs including Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin and Barry Sanders are scheduled this week to visit the Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN, EA Sports’ longtime business partner, for appearances on programs such as “SportsCenter” and “Mike and Mike in the Morning.”

The popular game comes out for existing consoles this week.
EA Sports was also set to air the fifth annual “Madden NFL Pigskin Pro-Am” Sunday night on NBC. The publisher also introduced a $99 promotion in May that included a special 25th anniversary edition of the game along with a year of NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV.

But with the releases of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 scheduled for November, marking the first major video game hardware transition in eight years, EA Sports will ramp up the “Madden” promotional machine once again. “Madden NFL 25” will be one of about two dozen games available at launch for both of the new consoles.

The company will air another made-for-TV special, the “Madden NFL 25 Skills Challenge,” this fall on ESPN and the NFL Network, pitting former stars in a skills competition aboard the USS Midway in San Diego.

EA Sports has aligned with GameStop to allow purchasers of the Xbox 360 version of the game to upgrade to the Xbox One version for $10. Also, ESPN is working with EA Sports to further embed “Madden” game simulations into its coverage this fall on “Monday Night Football” and other football studio programming.

“Madden” promotional spending has generally hovered in the low eight figures. EA expects an increase this year, but efficiencies of scale should keep the percentage small.

“It’s a bit of a challenge to balance the message between the platforms. We’ve had hardware transitions before, of course, but this is a unique situation. Particularly so, given this is the 25th anniversary of the game, too,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports director of marketing.

“But what we’re trying to convey is there’s no wrong answer. We think the NFL season will help carry ‘Madden’ along, with the current-generation version coming out at the beginning of the season, and the next-generation coming out towards the end.”

“Madden NFL” each year is one of the most popular sports video games in the world, and the company earlier this year said the franchise has sold more than 99 million units in its quarter-century lifetime and generated $3.7 billion in net revenue. A cover vote in the spring yielded Sanders as the choice for the current-generation cover and generated more than 40 million votes, more than twice the total for the cover vote in 2012. EA Sports later announced the runner-up in this year’s vote, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, will be on the cover of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game.

ESPN executives said the spike in the cover vote total and the additional “Madden” integrations into their content represent the further growth of a partnership now in its ninth year. “We’re considerably ahead of where we were last year in terms of involving ‘Madden’ in what we do. This is a situation where our programming department, technology group, social media teams, and so forth, are all in lockstep,” said Brian Dailey, ESPN director of games and partnerships.

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