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Volume 26 No. 227
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EA Sports Takes On Bigger Marketing Role In New NFL/NFLPA Deal

The NFL and NFLPA both finalized deals today with EA Sports to extend the exclusive Madden video game franchise through at least '25, with an option for '26.

The deal is the "biggest and widest-reaching gaming deal” yet for the league, the parties claimed, making EA Sports a key player across all aspects of the NFL and the union’s efforts to develop new young fans through digital platforms -- including social media strategy, esports, new NFL-themed games and content marketing.

“The last time we did this deal, we weren’t thinking about things like integrating broadcast, things like fantasy, and how all those things can come together in a singular platform,” said EA Sports VP/Global Brand Management Anthony Stevenson. “Those just weren’t conversations we had. Whereas when we sat down for this, it was really at the center of it.”

The remit is open-ended, but one example might be an integration with Fanatics, so if a fan buys a Texans sweatshirt in real life it would also be available to his or her created players inside Madden, Stevenson said.

The NFL has moved more cautiously than some leagues in esports, but the league is a big believer in the power of casual gaming and the digital ecosystem in general to make NFL fans out of teens and children -- perhaps replacing prior generations’ pattern of being introduced to full game broadcasts by their parents.

"They’re growing up playing games on mobile or Twitch, and they’re getting exposed to the NFL through games, through friends, and that represents a really awesome opportunity for us,” Stevenson said. Madden will remain the “pinnacle” of an expanded ecosystem, he said.

EA will have to share video game development rights with competitor Take-Two Interactive outside of the core, realistic game-simulation category. The NFL signed Take-Two to non-exclusive rights in March, after EA and the NFL had been negotiating this extension for 10 months already. Stevenson said they welcome the competition.

A source claimed the deal will bring the NFLPA members the highest athlete royalties in any video game to date, but specific terms were not disclosed. It was the first deal negotiated for the NFLPA by OneTeam Partners, the firm created by the NFLPA with RedBird Capital and the MLBPA to create an athlete commercialization business across many sports.

Terms were not disclosed, but a source familiar with the deal valued the pact at between $900M-$1B for the NFL, and between $600M-$700M for the NFLPA depending on sales.