EA Readies Madden 08 Launch

LOS ANGELES Monday Night Football will take on a whole new meaning when Electronic Arts launches the latest version of its top-selling videogame at midnight on Monday with a campaign that includes tie-ins from major brands and a TV show chronicling the game’s history.

Gamers looking to pick up Madden NFL 08 will be assailed by offers from Pepsi, Visa and Snickers, in addition to an integrated campaign from Wieden + Kennedy.

For Visa, the promotion is two-fold. Gamers who reserve their copy of the game at an GameStop location using a Visa card will be entered into a sweepstakes to win a Super Bowl prize package, including tickets and accommodations to the game. (Gamers who buy the title using a Visa will also be entered to win.)

Snickers takes the Willy Wonka route with a vending machine promotion that allows fans to win copies of the game if they get a specially marked candy bar.

Pepsi’s under-the-cap promo (covering 10 of its brands and 750 million bottles) begins in September and involves entering a cap code at Callyourplay.com. If the online video shows a touchdown, consumers win prizes including a GMC Sierra and a trip to the Super Bowl.

“This allows us to leverage our partnership with the NFL and the number-one video game franchise that is a powerful 1-2 punch,” said Chris DeMarco, senior manager of national promotions at Pepsi North America. “Our brands are able to deliver an impact at point of sale.” Pepsi developed the effort in tandem with promo shop Tracy Locke.

Pepsi is also aligned with another videogame that is expected to become a blockbuster seller this year, Microsoft’s Halo 3. However, that effort is not on the same large scale as with Madden. “Our promotion with Halo 3 is focused on one brand: Mountain Dew. The EA program is across all our carbonated soft drinks,” said DeMarco.

The annual iteration of Madden is expected to be the top seller for EA, the same as it was last year. It will run on nine platforms, including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 as well as the Game Cube. No other EA game plays on more than seven systems.

“When you talk about a brand as large as Madden, you talk to so many audiences. From a marketing standpoint we do different things for different audiences,” said Chris Erb, director of marketing at EA Tiburon. “We do block and tackling [online videos] with our core gamer audience, TV gets the mainstream audience, and cross promotions [such as Visa and Pepsi] reaches outside audiences that we wouldn’t normally see.”

Last year, EA introduced the “Maddenholiday,” a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign from Wieden. The effort stemmed from the insight that hardcore Madden players were taking the day off from work to play the game when it came out, so the day of release should be deemed a national holiday.

This year, “Maddenholiday” will be largely PR-driven, with midnight sales and competitions targeting hardcore gamers, though Wieden’s work does retain some elements of the concept.

For example, in “Why We’re Here,” which began airing on Friday, shows a guy using the office copy machine to set up a Madden tournament and features lines such as, “We’ve got more excuses for missing work to play Madden than the Chinese lunar calendar has days.”

Also, Spike TV’s Monday night Game Head will devote an entire episode to all things Madden, with developer and player interviews and a look at the music of the game.

“The campaign is a small documentary on the day in the life of a Madden fan. We started the campaign with getting in line for hour and hours,” said Jose Cabaco, cd at Wieden. “The first spot [aired earlier this year] was about that moment.” Other spots praise the sofa, the coffee table and the TV. “The gaming area is the Madden stadium in a way,” said Cabaco.

In addition to TV there is Maddenitesunite.com, done by Freestyle Interactive, in consultation with Wieden, as well as print.

Wieden has crafted a total of six spots for the campaign.