ABOUT THIS ENTRY
The Pro Bowl: Madden NFL 21 Edition Presented by Verizon was the first-ever major sporting event to go entirely virtual, completely reimagined on the virtual fields of Madden NFL 21.
How does this represent “Excellence in Engagement”?
The unique format of the event, featuring an esports/gaming integration and a star-studded NFL and celebrity player lineup transformed the Pro Bowl into a must-watch NFL experience - setting a precedent for the industry and for future sporting events to come.
Additionally, EA rolled out new opportunities for fans to engage with the Pro Bowl, including the Video Game Numbers Challenge, which empowered fans to place their favorite players on the official Pro Bowl roster by scoring touchdowns in Madden NFL.
This year’s Pro Bowl was a digitally-driven event with multiple live streams across a variety of social platforms meeting the next generation of NFL fans where they live online. This paid off by drawing increased viewership from younger audiences [+36% in 18-34 viewership during the NFL Network re-air].
With the success of the Pro Bowl and fans’ surging interest in gaming combined with the unique execution of a virtual event, EA SPORTS and the NFL’s efforts will serve as inspiration for other sports leagues, brands and partners in the future.
Objective: When the NFL canceled its in-person Pro Bowl for the first time in more than 60 years, long-time partner EA SPORTS was quick to step in with a solution - transform the Pro Bowl into an all-virtual event, enabling the League to keep it on the NFL calendar while also engaging a new generation of NFL fans who live on social. The result: an all-virtual Pro Bowl played in Madden NFL 21, the first-ever major sporting event to go virtual, reigniting widespread interest in the Pro Bowl and turning the brand-new way to play into an entertaining and star-studded must-watch sports experience. Main objectives included:
- Generate mass awareness, while engaging digital natives online
- Demonstrate how the collaboration is transforming sports consumption
- Drive appointment-setting through multiple channels and beats
- Secure mass tune-in with support from top talent
Strategy & Execution: To build momentum over 3+ months, the team conceptualized a campaign to engage fans, influencers, and media, including:
A narrative-setting announcement of EA SPORTS and NFL collaborating to transform the first major sporting event
The introduction of new ways for fans to dictate Pro Bowl roster additions through Video Game Numbers Challenge, which empowered fans to send their favorite players to the Pro Bowl by scoring touchdowns in Madden NFL.
Leveraging the power of celebrity by unveiling NFL athletes and entertainers representing the AFC and NFC
Throughout the campaign, the team created engaging social content across EA platforms, as well as larger media buys with partners including ESPN and NFL Network. EA also leveraged top talent including Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Jamal Adams, Bubba Wallace and Charissa Thompson to promote roles in the event via media interviews, driving national media coverage and social conversation. The main event resulted in an epic virtual experience, with players and celebrities showcasing their Madden skills with official Pro Bowl rosters to determine the winner. The Pro Bowl: The Madden NFL 21 Edition was live-streamed across NFL social channels, 28 NFL team Twitter accounts and Madden NFL Twitch to reach the next generation of fans. The virtual Pro Bowl shattered multiple records, with fans engaging across digital platforms:
The event generated 3.5M live views, a 121K combined average minute audience, and trended on Twitter in the US:
- Ranked as #1 most-viewed event on digital platforms in Madden NFL history
- Ranked as #1 highest viewed Madden live stream in NFL YouTube history
- Ranked as #6 highest viewed live stream in NFL YouTube history
- Fans engaged on social with 317K+ posts driven by top viral moments like Marshawn Lynch breaking his chair in excitement, and Snoop Dogg’s running commentary
This year’s Pro Bowl also brought in younger fans to NFL Network with the re-air of the event up +36% in 18-34 viewership as compared to last year.
From a PR perspective, across both pre and post-game initiatives, including the initial announcement to transform the event, the Video Game Numbers Challenge, celebrity, and talent lineup unveils and overall tune-in, the Pro Bowl generated over 1,200 earned media and broadcast placements with 74.9M UPVD. Top media coverage included pieces from CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Complex, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, Reuters, NBC Sports, USA Today, Engadget, GameSpot, and many more.
EA SPORTS, NFL, One Team Partners, Find Your Battlefield, Verizon, FleishmanHillard