One of the marketing world’s biggest ever rebrands goes live today. After a disagreement about money, EA Sports has taken a huge gamble by ditching its partnership with FIFA – and with it the 30-year heritage of its FIFA football video game.
The latest edition of the game launches today under the name EA Sports FC 24. The rift began when FIFA reportedly wanted to double the amount it was charging EA Sports for use of the FIFA name and yesterday, EA removed all previous editions of FIFA from digital stores (although hard disk copies will still be around).
The FIFA name might have a lot of negative associations with greed, corruption and resistance to change, but it’s still the biggest mark of authenticity that football has got. But EA Sports has retained access to the 19,000 footballers, 700 teams and 30 leagues who feature in the games, and Manchester City’s Erling Haaland has agreed to be its cover star.
The new edition of what is more an entertainment franchise than a mere video game has some important changes. For the first time, it allows women players to be included alongside the men in Ultimate Team, which players can assemble for themselves and accounts for more than 50% of the game’s overall revenue.
Research from Ampere Analysis suggests that in 2010 the Fifa video game franchise was worth $513m (£332m) in net revenue to EA. This had grown to $2bn (£1.6bn) by 2020.
Uncommon Creative Studio kicked off the massive rebrand back in April with a film starring rapper Dave. The agency sold the new brand as one that’s been “hiding in plain sight” for the past 30 years – the logo was taken from the triangular player control indicator that appears above players in the match. In August, the agency helped to orchestrate a large scale “Welcome to the club” launch event in Amsterdam, where Haaland himself was the big draw.
Just as “X” is still Twitter in the public consciousness, it will take a while for the EA Sports FC brand to take hold, and the window for doing this may be limited: Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, is threatening to use his brand name on rival games in the future. Last year he said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans.”
All the extra publicity about the new name and the FIFA fallout have got to boost awareness, but proof of the EA Sports FC rebrand will ultimately be in the sales.