Are Professional Sports Benefiting From Video Games?
How leagues and players' unions are utilizing relationships with video game developers to penetrate new markets
It’s no secret that sports have changed drastically during the coronavirus pandemic. As noted in last week’s blog post, leagues are getting creative in their fan engagement with the return of live sports. Today we’ll be exploring the both NFL’s renewed and new partnerships with Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive. What will the new NFL 2K game mean for Electronic Arts? Will this mean competition for the popular Madden game? And most importantly, how do video games drive fan enthusiasm in other areas?
Recently, the NFL and the NFLPA announced a six-year continuation of their partnership with Electronic Arts that is the biggest and widest-reaching interactive entertainment agreement in the history of the NFL. This renewal has also secured EA Sports’ spot as the NFL’s only authentic football simulator. EA can now take a chance and branch out into other eSports games and entertainment experiences on other platforms. Keeping a focus on their fans at all times, here are some of the ways EA shows their consumers that they are important:
• MADDEN 20 – EA Sports listened to fan reactions and insights and put the gamers first when designing this game.
• SUPERSTAR KO – one of Madden’s most popular modes has become a mainstay on the annual feature because of its three-on-three option that gives video gamers an easy way to engage with their favorite NFL players.
#SuperstarKO is your brand new fast to fun mode featuring your favorite NFL Superstars!
— Madden NFL 21 (@EAMaddenNFL) September 3, 2019
• YOUNGER GENERATIONS – EA Sports has closely tracked fan demographics which showed that younger generations played more than before, especially during the pandemic. As a result, EA Sports will make an enhanced effort to market to younger gamers.
The covers for Madden NFL 21.
Earlier this year, Electronic Arts signed a multiyear renewal with the NFL and the NFLPA worth more than $2 billion in total to make the game through at least the 2026 season. pic.twitter.com/FXlbHMIEw5
— Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport) June 16, 2020
Earlier this year, 2K Games partnered with the NFL to create non-simulation football video games. The difference between the two categories is that simulation games like Madden NFL are made to simulate the real NFL experience with all rules, regulations, and game play trying to simulate real game play as closely as possible, while non-simulation games are made to be “over the top” and more excessive than an actual professional football game.
EA’s video game NFL exclusivity for Madden is over! Well, sort of…
— IGN (@IGN) March 10, 2020
More recently though, it was announced that the NFL will now allow 2K to use over 2,000 of their athletes in several of their upcoming video games. This is a big win for 2K, with this deal being their first with the NFL since 2007 when an unlicensed All-Pro Football 2K8 game was released. If 2K activates this partnership in the right way, they will be able to grow exponentially and capture future untapped audiences. Let’s take a look at the details of this new deal and what it means for 2K below:
• NEW OPTIONS – this new deal will give 2K the opportunity to use over 2,000 current players, names, numbers, images, and likenesses in any of their new games.
ICYMI: We launched a partnership with @2K + OneTeam Partners that will allow the label to include NFL players in multiple football games in development, creating even more marketing opportunities for players: https://t.co/FhMh7d6vxM. pic.twitter.com/xPdwvMgSMG
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) July 31, 2020
• NEW CATEGORY – as we mentioned above, 2K’s new games through this deal will be in a different category than EA Sports’ Madden NFL game.
• NEW MARKET – this is a big step forward for 2K into the NFL’s video game market with the acquisition of new player names, numbers, etc…
The NFLPA has announced a partnership with 2K Sports.
2K can use the names, numbers, images and likenesses of over 2,000 NFL players.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) July 30, 2020
FANDOM AT A NEW LEVEL?
Note that younger generations make up a good portion of the video game playing demographic, a market that has driven sponsor dollars to eSports players and broadcasters with considerable speed. It’s also no secret that the Gen Z market is the new pink for marketing professionals looking to cement their position with the next wave of consumers and their disposable income. With these new and enhanced distribution models, the NFL is able to get their sport, product, sponsors’ logos, and more into the hands unique consumers early in their purchasing journey, potentially winning fans for life.
The distribution of the NFL’s product in this format taps into markets that they may not otherwise have gotten to do in other situations. This is a win for them because it helps drive traditional revenue dollars, but also their key partners. Overall, a bigger audience = more exposure = more $$$$.