SBJ/Aug. 25-31, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Campaign for new Madden tilts toward digital

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“Madden NFL 15,” the flagship annual football video game for EA Sports set for release Tuesday, will have a digitally focused marketing plan for the first time, centering on a 3 1/2-minute video starring actors Kevin Hart and Dave Franco.

The football gaming franchise, now in its 26th year, is undergoing major changes as EA Sports parent Electronic Arts transitions from much less of a packaged goods company to one focused on year-round digital entertainment services. As a result, digital will have a dominant share of the launch marketing budget for “Madden,” traditionally one of the industry’s top-selling sports gaming titles with about 5 million units in annual sales. It’s all part of EA Sports’ effort to seek out digitally native consumers on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and mobile.

The video with Hart and Franco, titled “Madden Season,” also features several NFL players, including “Madden NFL 15” cover athlete and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. The video focuses on the theme of vengefulness and how “Madden” turns longtime friends into rivals. The long-form version was cut into several shorter versions to be used on social channels, EA Sports’ website and ESPN platforms.

“Shifting to digital like we are allows us to reach our consumers in a much more engaged state,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports vice president of global marketing and brand. “Digital, specifically this video, is really the heartbeat of our campaign this year. It also allows us to be much more targeted in who we’re reaching, how we’re reaching them, and when, over the course of the entire year.”

To that end, the “Madden” release this week will not carry the same upfront marketing blitz as in past years, and activation will be spaced out more during the next year. Among the specific changes is the discontinuation of the “Madden NFL Pigskin Pro-Am,” a flag football event featuring retired stars and Hollywood celebrities that was televised nationally and was used as a prominent marketing vehicle to herald the release of “Madden.”

 
“Nobody loved the Pro-Am more than me, but when we’re thinking about marketing budget for ‘Madden,’ it used to be that 75, 80 percent of that was
 
A 3 1/2-minute video starring Kevin Hart and Dave Franco as friends turned Madden foes will be split into shorter versions for social media channels, EA Sports’ website and ESPN platforms.
spent at launch, and things like the Pro-Am were part of that,” Stevenson said. “We’re really a live services business now, and that requires live service marketing and tools that allow us to attract a new audience, a younger audience.”

EA Sports executives declined to detail the marketing budget for “Madden.” Traditionally, the company’s spend has hovered in the low eight figures annually. Stevenson said this year’s figure is similar, but with the transition to digital and the heavy use of corporate partners such as ESPN and Microsoft for co-promotional activities “we’re much more efficient than we have been,” he said.

Sherman earlier this year prevailed in a “Madden” cover vote campaign that started later than usual to align with the league’s new offseason schedule. Continuing the youth-driven theme for “Madden,” none of the 16 players who were candidates for the cover were older than 27.

“Madden NFL 15” will be released on the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

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