EA Explains Why Its Bonkers Madden NFL 15 Ad Makes Sense

"If you can get people to talk about your brand, to talk about your product in a positive way, ultimately that's what's going to lead to sales," EA says.

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This week's new commercial for Madden NFL 15 gathered a lot of attention, not because it focused on gameplay or talked about new features (it didn't), but because of how over-the-top it was. It didn't need to focus on the game itself because if you can get people to talk about your brand positively, then that will lead to sales, EA Sports vice president of global marketing Anthony Stevenson tells GamesIndustry International.

Stevenson says it's a blessing and a curse that the Madden franchise is now 26 years old. It's a blessing because it means it has a dedicated fanbase, but it can also be a curse because EA needs to find a way to reach the younger, "digital native," audience. "For a franchise that's 26 years old to appeal to that audience while still pleasing our core that's grown up with us is really a challenge," he says.

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Stevenson explained that 2014 marks the first year EA is focusing its energies at winning over that new generation and bringing them to Madden. That's what the new Madden Season ad campaign is all about. The full clip is three minutes long, and while EA plans to splice it up and release 30-second versions on TV, the real heart of the campaign will live online, he says.

The Madden NFL 15 ad features actors Dave Franco and Kevin Hart, and it wasn't by chance that EA decided to seek them out. Stevenson said EA queried consumers last year about which celebrities they would like to see involved with Madden, and Hart was a "universally" popular choice. The commercial also features Epic Meal Time host Harley Morenstein, who appeals to a younger audience; and the NFL stars featured in the spot (Colin Kaepernick, LeSean McCoy, Dez Bryant, Von Miller, and Damian Lillard) are all 26 years old or younger.

The commercial has racked up close to 5.5 million views on YouTube alone, and though responses have been largely positive, some have called EA out for not including any gameplay or talk of new features in the ad. Stevenson says that wasn't the purpose of the commercial in the first place.

"You're not going to attract a new audience with a feature," Stevenson said. "You're going to attract a new audience by catering to what they're passionate about, which in this case is football, competition, and the celebrity talent they like that are in the creative. If you can get people to talk about your brand, to talk about your product in a positive way, ultimately that's what's going to lead to sales."

This reminds me of the famous Dead Island trailer. Some gamers were irked when the full game didn't evoke the tone of that trailer. But from a marketing standpoint, it was genius; it got the world talking about the game. And it looks like it worked. After all, Dead Island is now a massive franchise that spans not only games, but also movies.

The crux of any well-positioned media campaign targeting "digital natives," Stevenson says, is creating share-worthy content. In doing so, the content you create will sell itself. "We're a week or so away from launch and now we have to make sure the whole world knows," he said. "And how do you do that? You put out something that's share-worthy and you let your audience basically become brand evangelists. They become a louder bullhorn than anything you could put on TV, or any amount of money you could put behind something on TV."

Madden NFL 15 launches next Tuesday, August 26, for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. If you're looking to upgrade to an Xbox One, Microsoft and EA Sports have teamed up for a special Madden NFL 15 bundle that includes a system and a copy of the game for $399.

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