EA Sports captures fans with video game release

EA Sports and AOR Fleishman-Hillard attempted to negate the impact of the impending NFL lockout on the launch of Madden NFL 12.

Client: EA Sports (Redwood City, CA)
Agency: Fleishman Hillard (New York and San Francisco)
Campaign: Madden NFL 12 Cover Vote
Duration: March 21 – April 28, 2011
Budget: $50,000

Last year, EA Sports let fans vote on the cover athlete for the 2011 edition of its Madden NFL video game from a field of three pre-selected players. The campaign was so successful that this year the company and AOR Fleishman-Hillard expanded it to a bracket-style vote on 32 players (one from each NFL team).

Communications director Rob Semsey notes there was some question about how the NFL lockout would impact the August 30 launch of Madden NFL 12.

“We had to generate awareness that it was still coming out; do it in a positive way; and create a platform to engage fans,” he adds.

Strategy
The team partnered with ESPN, which hosted voting on espn.com/maddenvote and promoted the campaign on its shows and social media properties.

Media relations and Madden NFL social media channels also drove voting and awareness.

The cover winner was announced during the NFL Draft in New York City. The photo shoot followed in Times Square.

“In years past, the cover was shrouded in secrecy,” Semsey says. “We wanted to accomplish the shoot, engage fans [in it], and tie it to the game.”

Tactics
Player candidates appeared on various ESPN TV and radio shows, and hosted weekly chats on Madden NFL social media channels and espn.com.

Voting updates were posted on Madden NFL Facebook and Twitter pages and issued weekly to media.

Fleishman-Hillard partner and SVP Steve Hickok says players covet the cover and campaign on their own social media channels. Other pro athletes and celebrities also posted comments and personalized videos on their social media pages. Many were re-posted on EA Sports' and ESPN's social media properties.

Additional national, regional, and local media outreach included pitching player stories. A San Francisco media tour targeted gaming media. Players and EA Sports' executives conducted numerous interviews.

Cover athlete Payton Hillis was announced April 27 on ESPN's SportsNation. Media and fans attended the April 28 photo shoot in Times Square. The team relayed to Hillis fan requested poses and questions submitted to social media sites. Journalists got to play a version of the game and interview executives. A national media tour with Hillis followed.

Results
The campaign generated nearly 13 million votes, a polling record for both ESPN and EA Sports. Game pre-sales are up 24% compared to 2010.

Madden NFL's Facebook page attracted 200,000 new fans and more than 33 million post views March 21 to April 28.

Fleishman-Hillard reports more than 1,550 stories, up 548% from 2010.

Future
Media are reviewing the game.

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