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08 . 05 . 18

Xbox: Gaming the system

Words by: Print Power
How Xbox’s FIFA 18 match report in the London Evening Standard showed print media can be reactive, relevant – and cool
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At a glance:

  • Wowing your customer with celebrity-fronted campaigns or shiny new tech is secondary to using a language they understand
  • Newspapers enable brands to insert themselves into a relevant, topical context with a huge audience

Videogames are big business – doubly so with sports titles. But when McCann London was tasked with plugging EA’s footballing cash cow, FIFA 18, for Xbox, they shunned the Hollywood ball in favour of something with a little more finesse – and in print, no less. 

It took Christiano Ronaldo to pull off perhaps the greatest Champions League goal of all time to plant the seed for a newspaper ad that was part match report, part videogame manual.

“With our biggest competitor spending a lot on a huge global marketing campaign for FIFA 18, we had to promote the game in a new, innovative way,” says Jim Nilsson, senior creative at McCann London.

Throughout the season, McCann produced reactive social posts that translated football highlights into Xbox commands. For example, shoot is B, pass is A, etc. (Take a look). They also created a first-of-its-kind video in which Real Madrid players performed certain actions as the corresponding Xbox commands lit up in neon in the background.

But the pièce de résistance was a clever twist on the humble newspaper match report (above). A far cry from the glitz of the celeb-fronted spot, the print creative spoke to fans in a language they understood all too well. 

“Instead of just telling you to buy the game, this match report taught you how to play the game,” says Nilsson. “If you’re a FIFA fan, you can read this copy and completely understand how the goals happened. And what better inspiration than the clash between footballing giants Real Madrid and Juventus?”

He adds: “With this match being such a big event in the world of football, we knew that newspapers would be writing about it. It gave us a rare opportunity.”

Which the agency seized. And the end result proved old-school print can be reactive. More than that, the wider campaign whipped up 100 million media impressions and helped to build the buzz that delivered 650 million spectators for each of the 12 Real Madrid Champions League clashes.

“While it may not be as instant as social media, there’s a certain gravitas that comes with print,” Nilsson concludes. “The match report is a good example of how brands can insert themselves into a relevant, topical context and reach a huge audience.”

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