Cultural relevance and appeal to a wider range of casual gamers is in EA Games’ sights with this year’s new and improved FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) United Global Team Building competition.
FUT United is a variation of the classic fantasy football leagues and allows users to work with players from their region to build the best national team possible. Entrants compete for competitive prizes, in-game rewards, and an exclusive player kit as they strive to reach the top of a global leaderboard. The online platform is an EA-owned ecosystem created by Digitas Australia, powered by the international FIFA football community and acts as a marketing and community engagement offering in one.
As of this year, the digital platform has been localized in 12 markets in six languages, with new regional approaches in Asia Pacific and Latin America now available.
It also takes advantage of an individual player ID, dubbed “EA-ID,” launched last year to better capture data on player participation on-site, engagement, in-game performance and spending within. of the platform. This first-party data treasure is increasingly used to strengthen the connection within FUT United and improve both the content and the digital experience. FUT United runs from October to the end of March.
Roots of content creation
Liam McClure, head of creative strategy and player engagement in Asia at EA, originally worked for Digitas and was part of the early version of the FUT program. He said Marketing director the platform initially started in the Middle East as an influencer content creation program.
“The idea was that we wanted to bring together a group of creators and give them a platform from which to work,” he explained. “We called it the ‘Fursan’ project, using a Middle Eastern term for a group of knights. We went all out, creating kits for them so that they could stand out in the crowd for the content they created. It was very connected and people were very interested in it. I think it was because it was a mix of extremely talented designers and also the first instance of EA as a global brand engaging in the region on a cultural level.
One of EA’s first motivations was content that encouraged users to share socially, thereby disrupting social feeds.
“For example, we built a mechanic where you could enter the platform, register and enter the contest. Then, to get extra points, you can share the platform’s content on social media, ”McClure said. “We had a leaderboard and people started sharing football or EA related content.
“We followed the same principle of leveraging content creators to tell the story of our live service from our game. We had creators working on ‘beats’, creating content, and we were inspiring people. with the ability to win prizes including a mix of in-game rewards.
FUT United has since grown, taking more shape and reach thanks to the work undertaken by the Digitas team. In its fourth iteration, the platform is an ongoing community program, updated and improved every year.
One of the most significant advancements was the introduction of EA Identity Login.
“It allowed us to start to understand who the players were coming to the FUT United platform. We could see what content they were engaging in, what was bringing them back and also what they were going to then engage in the game with. This then shaped how we create a more information driven content plan around the game. program, ”McClure said. “It also helps us understand the behaviors of the players. This, in turn, helps us put players first in our approach.
“Being able to understand who we are talking to and how they are engaging is now part of the platform for us. In the world of data, the importance of building a platform that allows you to understand the players is very important. I think we’ll see a lot more people doing this.
Another big plus for McClure has been the way FUT United helps EA run a global campaign in a culturalized way.
And it is this broader understanding and reach of the platform, along with the new digital features, that McClure sees as key to expanding the appeal of EA’s FIFA games outside of a grassroots gaming community. . This year, the focus is on the marketing campaign supporting FUT United as well as the game influencers involved in educating and inspiring new people to enter the platform.
In each market, game influencers as FUT United national team captains will share tailored content via social media and communicate the latest game innovations and prices in the local language. To help, Digitas streamlined the captain’s briefing and content creation to ensure optimal influencer output this year. He also created a dynamic image generation to allow users to share their vote on social media.
A streamlined onboarding process is another innovation this year, explaining what the team process is, what the platform is, and more what you’re going to see and actually do, continued McClure.
“For those who already know and are going straight into it, they step into a much more community-driven platform where the community actually picks the team, which players are added during the season. At the end of the season, you have this optimal team that can win. It’s a long-term buy-in to potentially win with this great team, ”he said.
A regional ranking has also been introduced so that users can see how they rank regionally, and the platform has been extended to Latin America and Asia, double the regions available before.
“Initially, this platform was very focused on the main players – people who knew the creators that we were using, and those who were very focused on the platform and the title,” continued McClure. “But the game went beyond that thing in a corner. I see it in the same vein as music, art and film, or some other hobby or interest.
“After initially focusing on this target audience, we want to increase brand awareness, bring more people into the game.
“We know we have die-hard fans on the site, but we also have intermediate and occasional players coming in now as well as larger football fans. It doesn’t capture everyone … but we definitely make it interesting to a wider range of people as well.
Other tactical activations include beat selections, as well as simplifying how users choose a player on their squad. Logged-in users now also see the teams and can dig in which region selected which, as well as the team’s overall ratings and their chemistry – another strong connection to the FIFA game itself.
“We’ve thought long and hard about the platform’s user journey, so the whole experience is a smoother, more linear process,” said McClure.
“We’ve also added streaks, as we’re looking to exploit hooks in people’s behavior. So if you do things multiple times, you are in line for the big jackpot. It’s about thinking more about user behavior and psychology to try and make the platform as immersive as possible. ”
Using data, EA is also examining the connection between its platform and in-game behaviors. platform, ”McClure said.
On a broader level, EA is also engaging in social listening as an additional way to understand gamers and the community around its games so that it can be leveraged to influence campaigns and shape product roadmaps as much as possible with the voice of its players. EA has two game creation studios in Asia: Seoul and Shanghai.
When it comes to the FUT United support campaign, EA is adopting geo-targeted social media content, cross-merchandising assets on the Sony PlayStation home screen and through in-app banners, promoting through the FIFA Companion app.
For McClure, FUT United is instrumental in other EA campaigns as well as the broader quest to build brand authenticity and credibility.
“When we have global rhythms coming, we can tie FUT United to that. Through this platform, we have built a brand known in the equity regions which is a reliable source of information, ”he said. “People can go there and our social channels to find information and get a different take on the pace, the player or the map. It is really a support tool for our live service.
Digitas Executive Creative Director Simon Brock said the platform is a true companion to live sports gaming.
“The most effective modern marketing isn’t always about notoriety, slogans and celebrity support. The idea behind FIFA Ultimate Team United is to find relevant audiences, engage them in relevant experiences and leverage data, information and technology to develop deeper connections with the brand, ”he said. he commented.
McClure said short-term measures to gauge ecosystem success include video engagement, social conversations, spikes when content is online, views, likes and engagement.
“It’s in the longer term that it gets interesting,” he said. “What we want to measure is the share of voice we get through this platform and what that adds to the overall FIFA brand in the region. We also want to seek to better understand the players and this player. coming back year after year. From there we could expand the platform even more.
“We want to be the most authentic football experience possible. And we want to blur the lines between the game and real life. I want people who love football to play FIFA with their friend and then come out and watch their football play. favorite team We are part of the lifestyle.
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