Cannes Lions

“Yeah that’s where sports and art combine, as far as I’m concerned.” - Ted Lasso

ELECTRONIC ARTS (EA), Burnaby / EA GAMES / 2023

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Overview

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Overview

Background

In September 2022, EA SPORTS released FIFA 23, featuring over 700 real-life clubs from around the globe. The game prides itself on its authenticity to sports and on its realistic teams and players that get enhanced with each video game iteration. Given the complexity of the modern-day gaming community, the brand sought to expand its reach and create relevance with the everyday, non-sports fans — with the goal of getting them to stream and participate in the latest release. But for core gaming fans around the world, the game’s sports simulation is deep and complex, and great strategy is put into managing teams and bringing players up the ranks. Thus, the decision to add a fictional team to the game was a tough tightrope to tread to ensure its enjoyable and well-received among long-standing fans and newcomers.

Idea

AFC Richmond and their coach, Ted Lasso, became the first ever completely fictional team to be playable in this world-renowned sports video game.

But for gamers to accept it, it couldn’t feel like branded sponsorship — which meant no TV show branding at all. To energize the modern football community audience ahead of the launch, Ted Lasso’s official Twitter account kicked off the partnership with a teaser featuring the back of his head getting a 360º motion capture scan. Thousands of fans of Ted Lasso and the video game immediately began speculating about the possibility of Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond being in the game. The next day, the game confirmed the partnership in a launch film that garnered a massive amount of global placements across multimedia platforms.

Strategy

The inclusion of Ted Lasso characters was part of a strategy to meld pop culture and entertainment partnerships to put the brand at the epicenter of sports, culture, and gaming while also reinforcing the brand’s position as the most authentic interactive global football experience.

A three-prong PR strategy drove strong coverage around the moment:

• Demonstrate a culture convergence centered around the game and Ted Lasso bolstered by an interview with key talent, with the goal of securing a feature article.

• Provide a first look at the partnership with media to generate anticipation for the announcement and spotlight the moment as a broader cultural crossover.

• Publish a dedicated release for the announcement and generate day-of media blitz using the integration to reinforce position at the epicenter of sports, culture and gaming.

The collaborative integration united individual audiences in the modern football community — gamers, streamers and sports fans

Execution

After debuting the teaser video that energized and created organic buzz among thousands of fans of Ted Lasso and the video game, the next day the partnership was confirmed in a launch film that garnered a massive amount of global placements across multimedia platforms.

In alignment with the organic social strategy, the team secured an exclusive interview with ESPN and Phil Dunster, one of the show’s stars, discussing the release of the feature, details on player ratings and AFC Richmond’s immersion into the game. The exclusive went live alongside the launch film, in addition to widespread earned media outreach with the ultimate goal of breaking through in new verticals outside of sports and gaming. It was met with success, with entertainment and lifestyle outlets chiming in through their platforms to share excitement for the collaboration and detail the intersection of sport, culture and entertainment.

Outcome

The integration, which generated significant in-game engagement, social conversation and earned media coverage, from gamers and football fans, further reinforced the brand’s position as a leader in the evolution of sports fandom and entertainment. Through a combined tactic of targeted media placement and widespread outreach, the brand drove some of its most positive engagement and sentiment numbers throughout the video game release. The collaboration is the perfect modern-day example of how listening to and leveraging fan interest brings tangible value.

Results:

• 13.2 billion earned media impressions in the first 30 days.

• 17th most played team in FIFA 23 (out of over 700 REAL teams).

• More than 2,000 articles written globally about the partnership.

• With no paid media, the partnership got more social buzz than when the show won four Emmy Awards.

• Streaming of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ increased 35%.

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