When you're in the business of building simulations of real sports, how do you engage with the people who are fanatics about those sports? That's what EASports
is trying to figure out via its content marketing efforts.
Whether it's predicting the outcomes of real events through its online play data, evaluating a team's real season, or simply asking topical questions, the brand looks for ways to merge its digitized world of sports with what's happening on the field of play week by
week. It's doing so by building what David Tinson, vice president of integrated communications at EA Sports, calls a "virtual newsroom."
"Certainly the industry had changed dramatically, but … [all along I've] felt like we are a content company," he says.
However, whereas the content once was exclusively games and promotional materials, it's becoming more and more like brand journalism.
Building the newsroom
EA Sports has built content marketing efforts for years, Tinson says. It has come to realize that in addition to pitching to newspapers, magazines, and
broadcasters, it now has the option of publishing its own content.
That's really taken off in the past six to nine months, as EA Sports has hired lots of new hands, many with journalism experience. Those former journalists
sit on what Tinson calls the "digital communications team."
"They're editing copy. Sometimes they're writing copy. They're storyboarding content," he says.
They're also working with the actual developers of games to document their stories and offer input based on comments and responses to the content they've
published, Tinson says. It's an ongoing cycle of information.
"Our communicators, our content creators, are largely based in the studios where our games are made," he says. "They sit hand in hand with the developers
of the products."
EA Sports' newsroom has about 30 people in it, but it's virtual because it's not centralized. Teams are spread out in Orlando, Vancouver, the United
Kingdom, and other offices.
Those teams meet weekly, if not more often, to make sure they're creating the right content at the right time, Tinson says.
"In a perfect world, everyone is represented at the table because they're all content creators," he adds. The silos are being broken down.
Whether it's social media, marketing materials, or brand journalism, "It's all an external message," Tinson says.
The content teams look to what's happening in the real world of sports—championship games, playoffs, season openers, even off-season news—to craft
"The conversations that we engage in, the conversations we start or insert ourselves into, that relate to people's passions for their favorite team, their
favorite sport, their favorite player, are consistently where the highest engagement is," Tinson says. "We're not trying to do stories. We're trying to
notice trends and see what's engaging."
The team also aims to not be overtly promotional in any of the content it creates. It's more about using tools EA has already built—its games—to comment on
the sports news of the day.
"It's got to be spot-on. It's got to be exactly consistent with the real world," Tinson says.
The content itself lives all over the Web. It's on EA's website, Facebook, YouTube, and elsewhere. EA Sports doesn't have any immediate plans to create a
central hub for all its content marketing material, similar to Sony's PlayStation blog network. But Tinson
says it's a possibility.
A post on EA's FIFA soccer Facebook page seems pretty simple. It's
a screenshot from the "FIFA 13" game and the question, "Would you shoot or pass?"
Yet that simple question was one of the most popular that things EA Sports has ever posted. It reached 1.76 million people. About 31,000 people "liked" it.
Another 38,000 commented. It produced nearly 350,000 clicks.
It's a prime example of what EA is trying to do with content marketing, Tinson says.
"It was the most simple thing," he says. "It was an asset from our game, but it was something that happens in the real world. It helped generate
conversation in the context of our game."
Reactions to posts like that justify the content marketing approach, Tinson says. There's another reason to keep it going, too: the internal benefit of
embedding the customer voice, through the digital communications team, in the development process.
"We highly value the input we get on the product and how it makes the products better," he says.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.
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