Videogame giant EA and FIFA, the world governing body for football, are in the final stretches of one of the longest-running partnerships of the industry's history. EA's current licensing deal with FIFA is ending (opens in new tab) and FIFA 23 will be the final game released (September 30 for PC), after which the publisher is going on to re-brand the series as EA Sports FC.
This is a risk for EA. The FIFA series is nothing less than a golden goose that lays billions of dollars' worth of eggs every year, and one can't deny that part of the series' success was the partnership with FIFA and how the word became synonymous with videogame football. EA's CEO has talked tough about it just being "four letters on the front of the box" but the publisher knows it needs an awareness and marketing campaign like no other to maintain the series' momentum and visibility as that default videogame football option.
The re-branding has already started in earnest, and now EA has announced one of its biggest and most all-encompassing deals, and one that is surely a harbinger for a slew of similar announcements. Spain's LaLiga, one of the top leagues in the world, is going to be utterly plastered with EA Sports FC. The deal it has reached with EA is as comprehensive as it possibly could be.
La Liga's statement (opens in new tab) calls the deal "a one of a kind, multi-year partnership that will allow both parties to deliver groundbreaking experiences for global football fans." The Spanish football daily Marca is reporting that EA will pay €30 million a year (opens in new tab) for, per the official release, "title naming rights for all LaLiga competitions, a complete rebrand of LaLiga with EA SPORTS including all logos, graphics, fonts and other visual elements, while also delivering new in-game integration, broadcast highlights, and joint commitments to supporting grassroots initiatives."
The partnership will incorporate the first and second divisions of LaLiga, as well as LaLiga Promises (the youth tournament) and eLaLiga.
"The visible reach and scale of this partnership is deeply exciting," says David Jackson, a brand VP at EA Sports. I bet it is David. "As is the opportunity to deliver incredible experiences for fans through in-game innovation, interactive entertainment and grassroots initiatives."
Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga, calls the agreement "a commitment to providing the next level of innovation to all football fans, a fusion between the virtual and real worlds of football."
What this means: one of the biggest leagues around, with crown jewels like Barcelona and Real Madrid, is going to look like an EA Sports FC product from top-to-bottom. And that is presumably just the start. While Konami struggles to sign up this or that team for the seemingly doomed eFootball (opens in new tab), EA Sports is in all likelihood going to quickly reach deals like this with every major national league (it already has existing partnerships (opens in new tab) with the Premier League, Bundesliga and UEFA, though this La Liga deal is way more comprehensive)
The publisher certainly has the money to do so and, if your problem is losing the brand that's currently most-associated with football, making 'EA Sports FC' appear everywhere around real football is an obvious marketing approach. This is going to be an absolute marketing juggernaut by the time 2023 rolls around, and you probably won't be able to watch a major game from anywhere without seeing that logo.
EA Sports looks raring to go. Spare a thought for poor old FIFA, which seems to have tried to play hardball and ended up losing it all: it's a bit of a disaster (opens in new tab).