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Digital, Partnerships | Jun 16, 2014
Sports and data in a connected world

Gaming is now mass-market. It’s bigger than films; far bigger and more engaging than music. People have grown up with computer games; the average player is older and gaming is no longer a phase they go through. And the audience for sports gaming dwarfs anything the real game can pull in.

These were some of the highlights of the keynote speech given by Peter Moore, COO of Electronic Arts, at the 2013 Leaders Sport Business Summit.

Moore started off by comparing the audience for EA’s FIFA 13 game with that for the UK Premier League, for which it is the technology sponsor. The attendance at matches last year was 13.2m people, with between 5m and 6m of those being season ticket holders, reducing the number of unique attendees at a match. In comparison, he said, FIFA 13 sold 15m copies and, when people passing the game on are included, he estimated twice that number had engaged with the game.

“We’re seeing 200m minutes of engagement with FIFA 13 a day,” he said.

Moore went on to discuss some of the changes that have happened to create this global gaming community around the FIFA franchise, and some of the implications of the size of that community.

A significant change is what Moore descibed as the move to thinking of games “as services”.

“Games now never end,” he explained. “We used to do what we call launch-and-leave. Now 40% of our development teams are working in live operations.”

As an example, Moore mentioned Mario Balotelli’s adoption of a “Hulk” pose as a goal celebration. EA’s programming team in Vancouver saw it and the pose was incorporated into the game overnight.

“Sports fans appetite for content is insatiable,” Moore said. “So we’ve got to generate content that engages consumers.”

The other big change is that gaming is no longer something you do in the evening “before your mum tells you to go to bed”.

“FIFA used to be appointment gaming, but the paradigm is changing. We need to engage with customers as they wake up and check their smartphone to find out what’s going on. We need to understand the phenomenon of persistence; we need to have constant contact with our customers. If we’re marketers and we’re out of touch with them, someone else will be in their wallets.”

The result of these trends is that EA now generates astonishing quantities of data – one terabyte a day according to Moore. And all of it, he pointed out, is opt-in data.

“People are willing to share their data because they want to be engaged and involved,’ he said. “And data is the future of how we interact with our fans. We analyse it to make the game experience better. It’s also the basis of our relationship with the clubs. We want to develop programmes with them to acquire, develop and engage fans.

“Tracking fans and sharing data is what we do; seeing who’s selecting which players and where they’re playing them.”

Moore explained that EA has licence deals with FIFA right down to individual players. Deals with the clubs are three-pronged. There’s the commercial aspect – paying for advertising. There’s sharing data, for example fans’ email addresses, for outbound marketing. And there’s sharing technology, using the game engine to generate forms of promotion that the clubs can’t do in real life.

Moore’s flagship examples for technology sharing were Manchester City and FC Barcelona.

“Manchester City wanted to bring their kit launch to life but the kit itself wasn’t quite ready. We were able to generate it out of bits much more easily to create a launch they could use on their own channels.

“Barcelona found it difficult to explain to fans what they’re about, what they stand for and what makes them different from any other club in the world. They couldn’t use real-world content because they wanted it done in the off-season, so we built content for them that tied into interviews with players and they put it out in their channel.”

And Moore outlined the quality that makes for a successful relationship between EA and a club.

“The club has to be progressive; they’ve got to want to work with the data,” he said. “We don’t talk about marketing at EA any more, we talk about conversations. You’ve got to listen to the fans, understand them. The clubs on the cutting edge realise it’s all about conversations.”

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