'Madden: The Movie' Might Make Your Eyes Explode

EA Sports, Heat Go Way Over the Top to Promote Latest Installment of Franchise

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EA Sports and its agency Heat are known for going way over the top when it comes to promoting the Madden NFL franchise. Last year, to promote Madden NFL 15, they created an outrageous music video starring actors Dave Franco and Kevin Hart in a totally ridiculous game of one-upmanship. This year, to usher in what's come to be known as "Madden Season" and the arrival of Madden NFL 16, they've turned up the rivalry in what could be the film trailer to obliterate all other film trailers, promoting the fictional "Madden: The Movie."

Mr. Franco returns in the nearly five-minute long online film. This time, he plays the renegade "Blade Johnson" alongside his real-life buddy Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who portrays his sidekick "Janet." They're joined by NFL players Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, as well as Buffalo Bills Coach Rex Ryan, playing ridiculously-named badasses Half-Top, Trick Montalban, Sticky Bun and Lil' Pepper, while 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernik plays Al Pacino's blind character from "A Scent of a Woman."

Together, they make up a band of "playmakers" who attempt to take down an evil Madden overlord. The trailer is like a crazy mashup of "Mad Max," "The Fast and the Furious" and various Quentin Tarantino cliches, with a dash of "Jurassic Park." It splices together romance, retribution, vengeance, violence, tragedy, high-octane fight scenes, Bollywood and even dinosaurs. See the "Making of" film here.

"We call this time of year Madden season, when even friends become rivals," said Dana Marineau, VP of the global creative team at EA. "This time around, we wanted to take the idea of Madden rivalry to an epic new place. The campaign continues to center on something that fans will not only love, but will also want to be part of."

The goal for this year's push was not only to engage the current fanbase of the 27-year-old franchise, but also to continue to attract a whole new generation of football fans and gamers, Ms. Marineau added.

While the film will be the cornerstone of the project, over the next week or so EA Sports will be rolling out additional content on various channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. It will comprise both repurposed content, as well as original content but "everything will be smart for the channel in which it lives," Ms. Marineau said. For example, YouTube content is mindful of "skippability," while Facebook content will be mindful of the platform's autoplay function. The game hits stores on August 25.

There's more to come, said Ms. Marineau. "We feel it's important to have a conversation that extends through both the NFL and Madden season, so we'll have another piece of content as the NFL season begins that will allow fans to continue the conversation in a real-time and relevant manner."

As for casting, Ms. Marineau said it was a no-brainer to bring Mr. Franco back on board. He's a big Madden fan himself and was "incredible last year." In the case of Mr. Mintz-Plasse, "he and Dave are close friends in real life, they've done a ton of work together on Funny or Die, and we thought, 'wow, this couldn't be more perfect. They're the perfect friends and frenemies.' And we couldn't pass up on that incredible chemistry, surrounded by some of the NFL's biggest playmakers."

To direct, EA and Heat once again tapped Hungry Man's Wayne McClammy, who steered last year's music video (see below). "He's a great partner and brings special sauce and his crazy genius to the project," said Ms. Marineau.

As for the agency, "Heat has done a really great job pushing us to take smart risks with the brand." On last year's music video, "it was an uphill battle" getting buy-in from the higher ups, but this time around, the project's success "helped us have the company believe that Madden has the credibility to pull off a story like this without people thinking we're crazy."

Last year's campaign earned eight Cannes Lions, multiple Ad Age Small Agency Awards and about 36 million views on YouTube and Facebook combined. More importantly, it helped to land Madden NFL 15 on 2014 videogame best-seller lists, and sales rose 14% despite a category sales drop of 13%.

The new film is "definitely over the top, but it fits right into the culture," said Ms. Marineau. "It's just another story about Dave Franco playing a new Madden rival."

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